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Selected: December 23
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1931 — , December 23

  • CBI - China: Day 97 of 154 of the Japanese Invasion of Manchuria.

1936 — , December 23

  • Spain: Day 160 of 985 of the Spanish Civil War.

1937 — , December 23

  • Spain: Day 525 of 985 of the Spanish Civil War.
  • CBI - China: Day 170 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
    • Day 15 of 54 of the Battle of Nanking.
    • Day 11 of 50 of the Rape of Nanking.

1938 — , December 23

  • Spain: Day 890 of 985 of the Spanish Civil War.
  • CBI - China: Day 535 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
    • Day 73 of 81 of Japan's Operation GUANGDONG.

1939 — , December 23

  • Finland: Day 24 of 105 of the Russo-Finnish War.
  • CBI - China: Day 900 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
    • Day 39 of 381 of the Battle of South Guangxi.

1940 — , December 23

  • MTO - Italy: In a radio broadcast to the Italian people, Churchill says, "We have never been your foes till now" and blames Mussolini saying, "all because of one man."
    Spotlight...

    Winston Churchill broadcasts a speech to the Italian people

    Various sources, including interrogation of Italian POWs, made it clear that a great number of Italians were less than enthusiastic about the war and the direction that Mussolini's dictatorship was taking them. Churchill's speech was part of a longer campaign to turn the loyalties of the people of Italy. Some excerpts from that speech...

    "We have never been your foes till now. In the last war against the barbarous Huns we were your comrades. For fifteen years after that war, we were your friends. Although the institutions which you adopted after that war were not akin to ours and diverged, as we think, from the sovereign impulses which had commanded the unity of Italy, we could still walk together in peace and good-will."

    "We liked each other. We got on well together. And now we are at war – now we are condemned to work each other's ruin."

    "How has all this come about, and what is it all for? It is all because of one man – one man and one man alone has ranged the Italian people in deadly struggle against the British Empire and has deprived Italy of the sympathy and intimacy of the United States of America. After eighteen years of unbridled power he has led your country to the horrid verge of ruin."

    Winston Churchill related dates...

    Winston Churchill related WWII Store items...

  • ETO - UK: Day 109 of 258 of the Blitz.
  • MTO - North Africa: Day 15 of 63 of the UK's Operation COMPASS, their campaign in North Africa against the Italian troops in Egypt and Libya.
  • East Africa: Day 197 of 537 of Italy's East African campaign in the lands south of Egypt.
  • CBI - China: Day 1,266 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
  • CBI - Thailand: Day 84 of 221 of the Franco-Thai War (Vichy France vs Thailand).

1941 — , December 23

  • Russian Front - North: Day 107 of 872 of the Siege of Leningrad.
  • Russian Front - Center: Day 83 of 98 of the Battle of Moscow.
  • Russian Front - South: Day 55 of 248 of the Siege of Sevastopol, Crimean Peninsula.
  • MTO - Libya: Under continuous pressure, Rommel and his Afrika Korps start to evacuate Benghazi.
  • CBI - Burma: Day 10 of 164 of Japan's Invasion of Burma. The Japanese launch their first bomber attack on Rangoon. They suffer heavy losses to RAF fighters, but press home their attack, inflicting substantial damage to docks at Rangoon.
  • CBI - China: Day 1,631 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
    • Day 16 of 18 of the Battle of Hong Kong.
  • CBI - Malaya: Day 16 of 55 of the Battle of British Malaya.
  • PTO - Borneo: Day 8 of 107 of the Battle of Borneo.
  • PTO - Marshall Islands: Day 16 of 17 of the Battle of Wake Island, aka the Alamo of the Pacific.
  • PTO - Philippines: Day 16 of 152 of the 1st Battle of the Philippines. General Douglas MacArthur begins a withdrawal from Manila to Bataan.

1942 — , December 23

  • Russian Front - North: Day 472 of 872 of the Siege of Leningrad.
  • Russian Front - North: Day 35 of 59 of the Battle of Velikiye Luki, near Leningrad. This stalemate does help ease the siege a little, but mostly it keeps German troops from being sent to other fronts.
  • Russian Front - North: Day 233 of 658 of the Siege of the Kholm Pocket, USSR lays siege to the Kholm Pocket but the Germans hold out for a about a year and a half.
  • Russian Front - Center: Day 29 of 29 of the Battle of Molodoi Tud River, Russia. The battle ends in a stalemate, but has kept the German troops from going to Stalingrad.
  • Russian Front - South: Day 124 of 165 of the Battle of Stalingrad, bloodiest battle in human history.
  • Russian Front - South: Day 12 of 12 of Germany's Operation WINTER STORM. This attempt to take Stalingrad has failed so it is called off in order to regroup.
  • Russian Front - South: Day 12 of 69 of the USSR's Operation LITTLE SATURN, a successful drive into the Northern Caucasus and the Donets Basin pushing the Axis troops out.
  • MTO - Tunisia: Day 37 of 178 of the Battle of Tunisia. Elements of the US 1st Infantry Division, after relieving 2nd Coldstream Guards on Djebel el Ahmera, are forced to withdraw by a German counterattack. US 9th and 12th Air Forces provide Allied air support.
  • CBI - Burma: Day 3 of 104 of the 1st Battle of Arakan. British troops cross the Burmese border from India and head southeast toward Akyab.
  • CBI - China: Day 1,996 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
  • CBI - India: Day 4 of 5 of the Japanese Bombing of Calcutta.
  • PTO - Alaska: Day 200 of 435 of the Battle of Kiska, Aleutian Islands.
  • PTO - Malaya: Day 308 of 357 of the Battle of Timor Island, a long guerrilla war ending in Japanese victory.
  • PTO - New Guinea: Day 35 of 66 of the Battle of Buna-Gona.
  • PTO - Solomon Islands: Day 139 of 187 of the Battle of Guadalcanal.

1943 — , December 23

  • ETO - Germany: Day 36 of 135 of the Battle of Berlin (RAF bombing campaign). Berlin is attacked by 364 Lancasters, eight Mosquitos and seven Halifaxes. German fighters encounter difficulty with the weather and are able to shoot down only 16 Lancasters, or 4.2% of the force. Damage to Berlin is relatively small.
  • ETO - Netherlands: US 8th Air Force P-47s attack the Gilze-Rijen Airfield.
  • Russian Front - North: Day 837 of 872 of the Siege of Leningrad.
  • Russian Front - North: Day 598 of 658 of the Siege of the Kholm Pocket. USSR lays siege to the Kholm Pocket but the Germans hold out for a about a year and a half.
  • Russian Front - South: Day 122 of 122 of the Battle of the Lower Dnieper River, USSR. Soviets liberate Dnepropetrovsk and Apostolovo, Ukraine. With the exception of Nikopol, the Soviets have taken control of the lower section of the river.
  • MTO - Italy: RAF and US Air Forces provide air support for the Allied ground units.
  • MTO - France: US 15th Air Force B-26s hit the viaduct at Antheor.
  • CBI - China: Day 2,361 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
  • PTO - New Guinea: Day 96 of 219 of the Battle of Shaggy Ridge.
  • PTO - New Guinea: Day 93 of 162 of the Battle of the Huon Peninsula.
  • PTO - New Guinea: Day 9 of 597 of the Battle of New Britain.
  • PTO - Solomon Islands: Day 53 of 295 of the Battle of the Bougainville Islands.

1944 — , December 23

  • USA: Known as "Great Papago Escape," the largest Axis POW escape to occur from an American facility during WWII, 25 Germans tunnel out of Camp Papago Park, near Phoenix, Arizona, and flee into the surrounding desert.
    Spotlight...

    Phoenix Gazette, 28 Dec 44

    Camp Papago Park was built in 1943 and located in Papago Park, a public recreational area in eastern Phoenix. Initially, the camp was to be used for Italian prisoners, but by January 1944 it had been designated for use by the Germans only, most of whom were from the Kriegsmarine.

    The camp consisted of five separate compounds; one for officers and the rest for enlisted men. At its peak, the population of the camp was about 3,100, excluding the 371 American guards and officers. Camp Papago Park was a typical prison camp in terms of appearance, surrounded by barbed wire and watch towers, but it was unusual in that prisoners were not required to work or study. However, to combat boredom, many of the Germans volunteered to work in the nearby cotton fields and the like.

    The American commander of the camp made the mistake of putting all of the most troublesome and escape-prone inmates in the officer's compound together, instead of dispersing them. The camp's provost marshal, Captain Cecil Parshall, was the only one to see a problem with this arrangement.

    Work on the tunnel began sometime in September 1944 and was carried out by three groups of three men, who worked for ninety-minute shifts during the night. When the Germans completed their tunnel on December 20, it measured 178-feet long, from the bathhouse east to a nearby canal, with a six-foot vertical entrance shaft. Other preparations were made as well. New clothing and fake documents were secured for the men, including contact information for people in Mexico who would help them get back to Germany.

    The plan was to get as far away from the camp as possible before the guards realized they were gone. In order to buy some extra time, four U-boat captains informed the American guards that they and the other officers would no longer appear for roll call unless it was conducted by an officer. The American commander did not accept this and put the entire compound on a restricted diet for every day the officers refused to show themselves. The roll call strike began before the completion of the tunnel and lasted for sixteen days, ending with a compromise: All men, regardless of rank, would be present for roll call every morning except Sunday at 9:00 am and every afternoon at 4:15 pm. Thus, the Germans got the getaway time they needed to escape on Saturday, December 23, 1944, and avoid detection until after Sunday's 4:15 pm roll call.

    The unanticipated surprise for the escapees came when they reached the Salt River, expecting to float downstream in makeshift rafts to the Gila River, then on to the Colorado River and south to Mexico and the Gulf of California. But although the maps they had showed the Salt and Gila rivers as flowing, they rarely contain any water at all, thanks to upstream storage dams and diversions into irrigation canals to supply the farmlands of central Arizona. Recent rains had dotted the riverbed with nothing more than puddles of water.

    All of the escapees were eventually recaptured without bloodshed over the next few weeks, and although most were detained within Maricopa County, a few nearly made it south to the border of Mexico, about 130 miles away. The last of the German escapees was recaptured on 28 Jan 45 while walking the streets of Phoenix.

    Some of the escapees expected severe punishment for escaping. However, their only consequence was to be put on bread and water rations for as many days as they were absent from camp. None of the American guards received serious punishment either, although the FBI launched an investigation into the "lack security" at Arizona's prisoner of war camps.

    Dates related to POW escapes...

  • ETO - France: Day 145 of 284 of the Battle of Brittany.
  • ETO - France: Day 100 of 236 of the Siege of Dunkirk.
  • ETO - Belgium: A German E-boat force is routed off the Scheldt Estuary, Belgium.
  • ETO - Belgium: Day 8 of 41 of the Battle of the Bulge. US 8th Air Force heavy bombers and fighters attack the rear area of the battle, downing 75 enemy planes.
  • ETO - Germany: Day 96 of 145 of the Battle of Hürtgen Forest.
  • Russian Front - Finland: Day 100 of 223 of the Lapland War. Finland and Russia have joined forces to kick the Germans out of Finland's most northern province.
  • Russian Front - Center: Day 70 of 206 of the Battle of the Courland Pocket in Latvia.
  • Russian Front - Center: Day 63 of 99 of the Siege of Memel, a border town of Lithuania and East Prussia.
  • Russian Front - South: Day 56 of 108 of the Battle of Budapest, Hungary. The Russians breakthrough to the southwest of Budapest, making a 60-mile wide gap in the German line.
  • MTO - Italy: US and Royal Air Forces provides air support for the Allied ground units.
  • CBI - Burma: Day 267 of 302 of the Chinese Salween Offensive.
  • CBI - China: Day 2,727 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
    • Day 251 of 259 of Japan's Operation ICHI-GO.
  • PTO - New Guinea: Day 362 of 597 of the Battle of New Britain.
  • PTO - New Guinea: Day 246 of 481 of the Battle of Western New Guinea.
  • PTO - Philippines: Day 65 of 299 of the 2nd Battle of the Philippines, aka the Liberation of the Philippines or the Philippines Campaign.
  • PTO - Philippines: Day 65 of 73 of the Battle of Leyte.
  • PTO - Philippines: Day 9 of 244 of the Battle of Luzon.

1948 — , December 23

  • Japan: Wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo is executed by hanging for war crimes. In his final statements, he apologizes for the atrocities committed by the Japanese military and urges the American military to show compassion toward the Japanese people.
    Spotlight...

    23 Dec 48: Wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo
    is executed by hanging for war crimes

    Tojo was Prime Minister of Japan during most of World War II, from 17 Oct 41 to 22 Jul 44. As Prime Minister, he was directly responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor. Although planning for the attack had begun before his appointment as Prime Minister, his previous position was that of Minister of War.

    He continued to hold the position of Minister of War during his term as Prime Minister. His popularity was sky-high in the early years of the war, as Japanese forces went from one great victory to another. However, after the Battle of Midway, and a series of subsequent military reverses in the Pacific, he assumed virtual dictatorial powers, taking over the post of the chief of the General Staff.

    But with the tide of war continuing to turn against Japan, Tojo faced increasing opposition from within the government and military. To strengthen his position, in February 1944, Tojo assumed the post of Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff. However, after the fall of Saipan, he was forced to resign.

    Tojo was tried by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East for war crimes and found guilty of the following...

    Count 1:waging wars of aggression, and war or wars in violation of international law
    Count 27:waging unprovoked war against the Republic of China
    Count 29:waging aggressive war against the United States of America
    Count 31:waging aggressive war against the British Commonwealth of Nations
    Count 32:waging aggressive war against the Kingdom of the Netherlands
    Count 33:waging aggressive war against the French Republic
    Count 54:ordering, authorizing, and permitting inhumane treatment of POWs and others

    Hideki Tojo accepted full responsibility in the end for his actions during the war, and made this speech

    It is natural that I should bear entire responsibility for the war in general, and, needless to say, I am prepared to do so. Consequently, now that the war has been lost, it is presumably necessary that I be judged so that the circumstances of the time can be clarified and the future peace of the world be assured. Therefore, with respect to my trial, it is my intention to speak frankly, according to my recollection, even though when the vanquished stands before the victor, who has over him the power of life and death, he may be apt to toady and flatter. I mean to pay considerable attention to this in my actions, and say to the end that what is true is true and what is false is false. To shade one's words in flattery to the point of untruthfulness would falsify the trial and do incalculable harm to the nation, and great care must be taken to avoid this.

    Many historians remain critical that the victorious Allies completely exonerated Emperor Hirohito and shifted all responsibility for Japan's wartime atrocities squarely on the shoulders of Tojo.

    Tojo's name was America's third Axis villain alongside Hitler and Mussolini. His grotesquely caricatured image was used to paint the face of a sadistic, twisted and downright evil enemy.

    Related dates (Tojo)...

    Related WWII Store items...

  • Japan: Wartime Japanese General Iwane Matsui is executed by hanging for his responsibility in the Rape of Nanking.

Day-By-Day listings for December 23 were last modified on Thursday, January 28, 2016
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