December 5th, 1941...Eight New Zealand passengers are among those drowned or killed when the passenger steamer Chakdina is torpedoed off Tobruk.
At 3 a.m., Moscow time, a massive blizzard whacks the German frontline at Moscow. The Nazi troops, newspapers stuffed in their boots to keep them warm, are barely able to stand. Snow is a yard thick. At that moment, the Soviet winter-equipped reserves from Siberia launch the long-awaited counterattack. 88 Soviet divisions storm into 67 German divisions along a 500-mile front.
German troops have to light fires in their pits under tanks for as much as four hours to thaw them out sufficiently to go into action. But the Soviets have something new to hurl at the dreaded Panzers: the T-34 tank, with its sloped armor, 76 mm gun, and American suspension.
The Soviet pressure is inexorable. In one day, the Nazis retreat 11 miles from Moscow. The scenes of shivering Germans staggering back in the snow resemble Napoleon's retreat from Moscow in 1812. Aware that his army is at the edge of annihilation, Hitler orders his men to stand at all costs.
The British, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and South Africans declare war on three of Hitler's allies: Finland, Hungary, and Rumania.
December 6th, 1941...Soviet troops maintain their blistering offensive in front of Moscow, eliminating whole German divisions. Nazi intelligence is baffled, completely unaware of the Soviet reserves.
In Washington, DC, a newly-formed US government subcommittee, named "S-1," meets. Its task is to establish, within six months, if an atomic bomb can be produced by the United States, and if so, at what cost.
Lead domestic American news stories that day are a car crash in Baltimore, a train wreck in Kentucky, the death of a Civil War veteran, and the murder of a 12-year-old girl at a "petting party." In Seattle, a gun-toting burglar breaks into a local doctor's home at 4:30 a.m., and makes off with a purse's entire contents: 15 cents. As there are only 16 shopping days til Christmas, newspapers are packed with ads, which link consumer goods to the defense push ("This Christmas...Give the 8 Freedoms of (Glover) Pajamas That Really Fit!") The New York Times headlines its story on Japan's aggressive tone: "Japan rattles sword but echo is pianissimo." Life magazine says "Japan is desperate and getting weaker every day."
That afternoon, Japan sends a the first segments of a 14- part message to its embassy in Washington, ordering them to present their final demands to the United States at 1 p.m. Washington time, tomorrow. This message is intercepted and decoded by the Americans faster than the Japanese can do it.
This intelligence lands in the hands of Lt. Cdr. Alvin Kramer of the Navy's Cryptographic Department, who drives around Washington that evening, showing the message to top officials. The message indicates that the Japanese intend to break off negotiations completely, and is filled with inconclusive posturing.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt reads the document, and says "This means war." He then sends a personal message to Japan's Emperor Hirohito, begging him to start negotiations afresh. Other American senior officers are less certain that the message means war. Some senior officers, like Gen. George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff, and Rear Adm. Richmond K. Turner, Chief of War Plans, cannot be reached that evening. No warnings go out to Hawaii, or anywhere else, for that matter.
When Roosevelt's message reaches Tokyo (after a long delay by the Japanese telegraph agency), US Ambassador Robert C. Grew passes it on to the Foreign Ministry and asks for an immediate audience with the Emperor. Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, the fiercest militarist, denies the American request.
At Pearl Harbor, all eight battleships of the Pacific Fleet are in port, and all three carriers are at sea.
On the battleship USS Arizona, YN3 Oree Weller stands zone inspection in the ship's navigation office. He just manages to clean up dripping red paint before CAPT Franklin Van Valkenburgh inspects the space. Weller's space passes inspection, and Weller is handed his liberty card for that evening.
"A river of white flows down Hotel Street" that evening as thousands of Sailors descend on Honolulu's main entertainment area, filled with shooting galleries, pinball machines, taxi- dancehalls, and cafes named the Black Cat, the Bunny Ranch, or Lousy Lui's. However, both the Shore Patrol and the Military Police have a quiet night...one Sailor is jailed for a "malicious conversation," and another from USS California for using a shipmate's liberty card. Only 80 out of 100,000 military on liberty or pass are carted off to brigs and guardhouses.
Many Sailors and soldiers enjoy simpler pleasures. PFC Aloysius Manuszewski has a beer at the PX, and then writes home to his parents in Buffalo, N.Y. Officers' clubs hold small parties and Dutch treats. ENS Victor Delano spends a properly respectful evening at the home of RADM Isaac C. Kidd, who is COMBATDIV 2. It is the last night Kidd will be alive.
A lot of Sailors go Pearl Harbor's Bloch Recreation Arena, where the main event is the "Battle of Music," a musical contest between ship's bands. The contest is won by USS Pennsylvania.
The band of USS Arizona finishes second. The musicians are rewarded by being allowed to sleep late the following day. Not one member of Arizona's band survives the attack.
At midnight, Hawaii's stern blue laws kick in. At bars and clubs throughout Honolulu, the National Anthem is played. Sailors and Soldiers snap to attention, face the music, then race for the doors, buses, and liberty boats.
Some have to work. The swing shift at the Pearl Harbor drydock puts new steel plates on the destroyer USS Downes and aligns boring bars on the USS Pennsylvania's propeller shafts, while loudspeakers blare "Moonlight Serenade." Japanese midget submarines use the work lights to navigate towards the base.
Radio station KGMB is ordered to stay on the air after midnight to guide in a flight of 12 B-17 Flying Fortresses due in from the West Coast.
North of Hawaii, the attacking Japanese task force increases speed to 25 knots, and six midget submarines are released from their mother boats off Oahu, in a bid to cause additional chaos at Pearl Harbor. Among them is a midget sub commanded by Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki.
On the carrier Akagi, Vice Adm. Chuichi Nagumo sends a message to his fleet: "The fate of the Empire rests on this enterprise. Every man must devote himself totally to the task at hand."