1940 – 1949 World History
National Archives and Records Admin.
U.S. Army Photos
The Library of Congress Picture Collection
- Hitler invades Norway, Denmark (April 9), the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg (May 10), and France (May 12). Churchill becomes Britain's prime minister. Trotsky assassinated in Mexico (Aug. 20). Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania annexed by USSR. U.S. trades 50 destroyers for leases on British bases in Western Hemisphere. Selective Service Act signed. The first official network television broadcast is put out by NBC.
- Germany attacks the Balkans and Russia. Japanese surprise attack on U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor brings U.S. into World War II; U.S. and Britain declare war on Japan. Manhattan Project (atomic bomb research) begins. Roosevelt enunciates “four freedoms,” signs Lend-Lease Act, declares national emergency, promises aid to USSR. Orson Welles's Citizen Kane.
- Declaration of United Nations signed in Washington (Jan. 1). Nazi leaders attend Wannsee Conference to coordinate the “final solution to the Jewish question,” the systematic genocide of Jews known as the Holocaust. (For detailed chronology of the Holocaust, see The Holocaust.) Women's military services established. Enrico Fermi achieves nuclear chain reaction. More than 120,000 Japanese and persons of Japanese ancestry living in western U.S. moved to “relocation centers,” some for the duration of the war (Executive Order 9066). Coconut Grove nightclub fire in Boston kills 492 (Nov. 28).
- Churchill and Roosevelt hold Casablanca Conference (Jan. 14–23). Mussolini deposed. President freezes prices, salaries, and wages to prevent inflation. Income tax withholding introduced.
- Allies invade Normandy on D-Day (June 6). G.I. Bill of Rights enacted. Bretton Woods Conference creates International Monetary Fund and World Bank (July 1–22). Dumbarton Oaks Conference—U.S., British Commonwealth, and USSR propose establishment of United Nations (Aug. 21–Oct. 7). Battle of the Bulge (Dec. 16). Woody Guthrie records “This Land is Your Land.” Gunnar Myrdal's An American Dilemma.
- Yalta Conference (Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin) plans final defeat of Germany (Feb. 4–11). FDR dies (April 12). Hitler commits suicide (April 30); Germany surrenders (May 7); May 8 is declared V-E Day. Potsdam Conference (Truman, Churchill, Stalin) establishes basis of German reconstruction (July–Aug.). U.S. drops atomic bombs on Japanese cities of Hiroshima (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9). Japan signs official surrender on V-J Day (Sept. 2). United Nations established (Oct. 24). First electronic computer, ENIAC, built.
- First meeting of UN General Assembly opens in London (Jan. 10). Winston Churchill's “Iron Curtain” speech warns of Soviet expansion (March 5). League of Nations dissolved (April). Italy abolishes monarchy (June). Verdict in Nuremberg war trial: 12 Nazi leaders (including 1 tried in absentia) sentenced to hang; 7 imprisoned; 3 acquitted (Oct. 1). Goering commits suicide a few hours before 10 other Nazis are executed (Oct. 15). Juan Perón becomes president of Argentina. Benjamin Spock's childcare classic published.
- Britain nationalizes coal mines (Jan. 1). Peace treaties for Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Finland signed in Paris (Feb. 10). Soviet Union rejects U.S. plan for UN atomic-energy control (March 4). Truman proposes Truman Doctrine, which was to aid Greece and Turkey in resisting communist expansion (March 12). Marshall Plan for European recovery proposed—a coordinated program to help European nations recover from ravages of war (June). (By the time it ended in 1951, this “European Recovery Program” had cost $13 billion.) India and Pakistan gain independence from Britain (Aug. 15). U.S. Air Force pilot Chuck Yeager becomes first person to break the sound barrier (Oct. 14). Jackie Robinson joins the Brooklyn Dodgers. Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl published.
- Gandhi assassinated in New Delhi by Hindu fanatic (Jan. 30). Burma (Jan. 4) and Ceylon (Feb. 4) granted independence by Britain. Communists seize power in Czechoslovakia (Feb. 23–25). Organization of American States (OAS) Charter signed at Bogotá, Colombia (April 30). Nation of Israel proclaimed; British end mandate at midnight; Arab armies attack (May 14). Berlin blockade begins (June 24), prompting Allied airlift (June 26). (Blockade ends May 12, 1949; airlift continues until Sept. 30, 1949.) Stalin and Tito break (June 28). Independent Republic of Korea is proclaimed, following election supervised by UN (Aug. 15). Verdict in Japanese war trial: 18 imprisoned (Nov. 12); Tojo and six others hanged (Dec. 23). United States of Indonesia established as Dutch and Indonesians settle conflict (Dec. 27). Alger Hiss, former U.S. State Department official, indicted on perjury charges after denying passing secret documents to communist spy ring; convicted in second trial (1950) and sentenced to five-year prison term. Truman ends racial segregation in military. Alfred Kinsey publishes Sexual Behavior in the American Male. Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire wins Pulitzer.
- Cease-fire in Palestine (Jan. 7). Truman proposes Point Four Program to help world's less developed areas (Jan. 20). Israel signs armistice with Egypt (Feb. 24). Start of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—treaty signed by 12 nations (April 4). Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) established (May 23). First successful Soviet atomic test (July 14). Communist People's Republic of China formally proclaimed by Chairman Mao Zedong (Oct. 1). German Democratic Republic (East Germany) established under Soviet rule (Oct. 7). South Africa institutionalizes apartheid.