World War II Day by Day: August 1941

The Allies continued fighting in North Africa, where they now faced General Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps, and the war in the Balkans intensified with Germany conquering Yugoslavia and Greece. In the Mediterranean and Atlantic, the Allies fought a bitter campaign to defend their vital sea-lanes. The Axis powers’ declarations of war on the Soviet Union and the United States proved a critical turning point. Germany undertook a bitter campaign on the Eastern Front, while Japan had to safeguard its conquests in the Pacific. The Axis powers had to face the might of the Soviet Union and the United States.

1 August

Politics, United States

The United States bans the export of oil except to the British Empire and western hemisphere states. Japan, which is entirely dependent on oil imports, is severely affected by this and has to choose between changing its foreign policy or seizing oil by force.

5 August

Politics, Vichy France

Admiral Jean François Darlan assumes responsibility for Vichy-controlled North Africa.

Eastern Front, Ukraine

Romanian and German forces begin a 73-day siege of Odessa. The Soviet high command sends reinforcements to try to help form a line on the east bank of Dniepr River. Meanwhile, troops delay the Germans on the west bank while industrial resources are destroyed or removed to beyond the Ural Mountains, where Soviet industry is being relocated.

6 August

Politics, Poland

Lieutenant General Wladyslaw Anders is appointed to form a Polish army in the Soviet Union. Anders eventually forms an army but will lack the supplies to fight, while the Soviets will not permit the Poles to serve on the Eastern Front.

12 August

Politics, Germany

Adolf Hitler’s Directive No. 34 outlines revisions to Operation Barbarossa, with the advance on Moscow being halted while the advance to Leningrad is resumed. The southern wheatlands and industries of the Ukraine have also become a higher priority than the Soviet capital.

Africa, Libya

Australian troops, at the request of their government, leave Tobruk; 6000 Poles relieve them.

14 August

Politics, Britain/United States

A meeting between Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt in Canada produces the Atlantic Charter. This asserts liberal policies that articulate their intentions not to acquire any territories or change national borders without the support of the populations concerned. People are also to be granted self-determination regarding how they are governed, and equal access is to be given to economic resources. The United States also secretly guarantees to defend any British possessions and to commence search-and-destroy patrols to support Atlantic convoys.

18 August

Eastern Front, Ukraine

Soviet forces in the Ukraine begin withdrawing across the strategically-important Dniepr River to form a defensive line farther north - the Bryansk Front - leaving the Thirty-fifth Army in Kiev.

Hitler plans to trap and then destroy the bulk of the Red Army before it retreats across the Dniepr. To achieve this the Germans have to make wide encirclements to trap Soviet units. This move, however, creates large gaps through which Red Army troops can escape east.

21 August

Sea War, Arctic

The first trial convoy to the Soviet Union from Britain transports vital supplies to the Russian port of Archangel. The Arctic convoy reaches its destination on the 31st.

23 August

Eastern Front, Ukraine

The German 2nd Panzer Group and 2nd Army Group strike southward aiming to link up with Army Group South to the east of Kiev.

25 August

Middle East, Iran

British forces move into Iran to safeguard oil supplies inside the country
British forces move into Iran to safeguard oil supplies inside the country

Soviet and British forces begin occupying Iran following fears that Germans are operating in the country. Allied forces seize vital oil installations and encounter little resistance.

30 August

Eastern Front, Ukraine

The Soviet Union launches a counterattack with the Twenty-first Army north of Kiev, but it fails and risks defeat by the 2nd Panzergruppe.