Normandy Landings Battle of France The Holocaust Attack on Pearl Harbor Battle of Britain Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Surrender of Japan World War II Israeli Declaration of Independence Nuremberg Trials Marshall Plan ENIAC
Above title bar: events which happened during World War II (1939–1945): From left to right: Troops in an LCVP landing craft approaching "Omaha" Beach on "D-Day"; Adolf Hitler visits Paris, soon after the Battle of France; The Holocaust occurred during the war as Nazi Germany carried out a programme of systematic state-sponsored genocide, during which approximately six million European Jews were killed; The Japanese attack on the American naval base of Pearl Harbor launches the United States into the war; An Observer Corps spotter scans the skies of London during the Battle of Britain; The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the first uses of nuclear weapons, killing over a quarter million people and leading to the Japanese surrender; Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the Japanese Government, on board USS Missouri, effectively ending the war.
Below title bar: events which happened after World War II: From left to right: The Declaration of the State of Israel in 1948; The Nuremberg Trials were held after the war, in which the prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany were prosecuted; After the war, the United States carried out the Marshall Plan, which aimed at rebuilding Western Europe; The ENIAC, the world's first general-purpose electronic computer.
Millennium: 2nd millennium
Centuries: 19th century20th century21st century
Decades: 1910s 1920s 1930s1940s1950s 1960s 1970s
Years: 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949
Categories: Births – Deaths – Architecture
Establishments – Disestablishments

The 1940s was the decade that started on January 1, 1940 and ended on December 31, 1949.

The Second World War took place in the first half of the decade, which had a profound effect on most countries and people in Europe, Asia and elsewhere. The consequences of the war lingered well into the second half of the decade, with a war-weary Europe divided between the jostling spheres of influence of the West and the Soviet Union. To some degree internal and external tensions in the post-war era were managed by new institutions, including the United Nations, the welfare state and the Bretton Woods system, providing to the post–World War II boom which lasted well into the 1970s. However the conditions of the post-war world encouraged decolonialisation and emergence of new states and governments, with India, Pakistan, Israel, Vietnam and others declaring independence, rarely without bloodshed. The decade also witnessed the early beginnings of new technologies (including computers, nuclear power and jet propulsion), often first developed in tandem with the war effort, and later adapted and improved upon in the post-war era.


Politics and wars


  • Arab–Israeli conflict (Early 20th century–present)
    • 1948 Arab–Israeli War (1948–1949) – The war was fought between the newly declared State of Israel and its Arab neighbours. The war commenced upon the termination of the British Mandate of Palestine in mid-May 1948. After the Arab rejection of the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine (UN General Assembly Resolution 181) that would have created an Arab state and a Jewish state side by side, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria attacked the state of Israel. In its conclusion, Israel managed to defeat the Arab armies.

Major political changes

  • Establishment of the United Nations Charter (June 26, 1945) effective (October 24, 1945).
  • Establishment of the defense alliance NATO April 4, 1949.

Internal conflicts

Decolonization and independence

David Ben-Gurion proclaiming Israeli independence from the United Kingdom on May 14, 1948
Mao Zedong proclaiming the establishment of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949.


  • US Population is 132,122,000c.
  • Unemployed in 1940- 8,120,000c.
  • National Debt is $43 Billion
  • Average Salary $1299
  • Average Teacher Salary $1441
  • Minimum Wage $.43 per hour
  • 55% of US homes have indoor plumbing
  • Life expectancy for women is 68.2
  • Life expectancy for men is 60.8
  • Auto Deaths 34,500c.

Science and technology

ENIAC, the first general-purpose electronic computer.


Atanasoff–Berry Computer replica at 1st floor of Durham Center, Iowa State University


Kon-Tiki, 1947

Popular culture


Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane in "Citizen Kane" (1941)

Although the 1940s was a decade dominated by World War II important and noteworthy films about a wide variety of subjects were made during that era. Hollywood was instrumental in producing dozens of classic films during the 1940s, several of which were about the war and some are on most lists of all-time great films. European cinema survived although obviously curtailed during wartime and yet many films of high quality were made in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the Soviet Union and elsewhere in Europe. The cinema of Japan also survived. Akira Kurosawa and other directors managed to produce significant films during the 40s.

Film Noir, a film style that incorporated crime dramas with dark images, became largely prevalent during the decade. Films such as The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep are considered classics and helped launch the careers of legendary actors such as Humphrey Bogart and Ava Gardner. The genre has been widely copied since its initial inception.

In France during the war the tour de force Children of Paradise directed by Marcel Carné (1945), was shot in Nazi occupied Paris.[5][6][7] Memorable films from post-war England include David Lean's Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948), Carol Reed's Odd Man Out (1947) and The Third Man (1949), and Powell and Pressburger's A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1946) and The Red Shoes (1948), Laurence Olivier's Hamlet, the first non-American film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture and Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) directed by Robert Hamer. Italian neorealism of the 1940s produced poignant movies made in post-war Italy. Roma, città aperta directed by Roberto Rossellini (1945), Sciuscià directed by Vittorio De Sica (1946), Paisà directed by Roberto Rossellini (1946), La terra trema directed by Luchino Visconti (1948), The Bicycle Thief directed by Vittorio De Sica (1948), and Bitter Rice directed by Giuseppe De Santis (1949), are some well-known examples.

In Japanese cinema The 47 Ronin is a 1941 black and white two-part Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail (1945), and the post-war Drunken Angel (1948), and Stray Dog (1949), directed by Akira Kurosawa are considered important early works leading to his first masterpieces of the 1950s. Drunken Angel (1948), marked the beginning of the successful collaboration between Kurosawa and actor Toshirō Mifune that lasted until 1965.


  • The most popular music style during the 1940s was swing which prevailed during World War II. In the later periods of the 1940s, less swing was prominent and crooners like Frank Sinatra, along with genres such as bebop and the earliest traces of rock and roll, were the prevalent genre.



Even with the challenges imposed by shortages in rayon, nylon, wool, leather, rubber, metal (for snaps, buckles, and embellishments) and even the amount of fabric which could be used in any one garment, the fashion industries wheels kept chugging slowly along, producing what it could. After the fall of France in 1940, Hollywood drove fashion in the United States almost entirely, with the exception of a few trends coming from war torn London in 1944 and 1945, as America's own rationing hit full force, and the idea of function seemed to overtake fashion, if only for a few short months until the end of the war. Fabrics shifted dramatically as rationing and wartime shortages controlled import items such as silk and furs. Floral prints seem to dominate the early 1940s, with the mid to late 40s also seeing what is sometimes referred to as "atomic prints" or geometric patterns and shapes. The color of fashion seemed to even go to war, with patriotic nautical themes and dark greens and khakis dominating the color palates, as trousers and wedges slowly replaced the dresses and more traditional heels due to shortages in stockings and gasoline.



World leaders

Military leaders

Activists and religious leaders



Perry Como as Nicky Ricci performing "Here Comes Heaven Again" in 1946 Doll Face.
Benny Goodman performing in 1943 Stage Door Canteen.


During the 1940s Sporting events were disrupted and changed by the events that engaged and shaped the entire world. The 1940 and 1944 Olympic Games were cancelled because of World War II. During World War II in the United States Heavyweight Boxing Champion Joe Louis and numerous stars and performers from American baseball and other sports served in the armed forces until the end of the war. Among the many baseball players (including well known stars) who served during World War II were Moe Berg, Joe Dimaggio, Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, Stan Musial (in 1945), Warren Spahn, and Ted Williams. They like many others sacrificed their personal and valuable career time for the benefit and well being of the rest of society. The Summer Olympics were resumed in 1948 in London and the Winter games were held that year in St. Moritz, Switzerland.


Ted Williams being sworn into the military on May 22, 1942.
Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg

During the early 1940s World War II had an enormous impact on Major League Baseball as many players including many of the most successful stars joined the war effort. After the war many players returned to their teams, while the major event of the second half of the 1940s was the 1945 signing of Jackie Robinson to a players contract by Branch Rickey the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Signing Robinson opened the door to the integration of Major League Baseball finally putting an end to the professional discrimination that had characterized the sport since the 19th century.


During the mid-1930s and throughout the years leading up to the 1940s Joe Louis was an enormously popular Heavyweight boxer. In 1936 he lost an important 12 round fight (his first loss) to the German boxer Max Schmelling and he vowed to meet Schmelling once again in the ring. Louis's comeback bout against Schmelling became an international symbol of the struggle between the USA and democracy against Nazism and Fascism. When on June 22, 1938, Louis knocked Schmelling out in the first few seconds of the first round during their rematch at Yankee Stadium, his sensational comeback victory riveted the entire nation. Louis enlisted in the U.S. Army on January 10, 1942 in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Louis's cultural impact was felt well outside the ring. He is widely regarded as the first African American to achieve the status of a nationwide hero within the United States, and was also a focal point of anti-Nazi sentiment leading up to and during World War II.[9]

See also


The following articles contain brief timelines which list the most prominent events of the decade.



  1. ^ "Holocaust," Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2009: "the systematic state-sponsored killing of six million Jewish men, women, and children and millions of others by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II. The Germans called this "the final solution to the Jewish question ..."
  2. ^ Niewyk, Donald L. The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust, Columbia University Press, 2000, p.45: "The Holocaust is commonly defined as the murder of more than 5,000,000 Jews by the Germans in World War II." Also see "The Holocaust", Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2007: "the systematic state-sponsored killing of six million Jewish men, women and children, and millions of others, by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II. The Germans called this "the final solution to the Jewish question".
  3. ^ Niewyk, Donald L. and Nicosia, Francis R. The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust, Columbia University Press, 2000, pp. 45–52.
  4. ^ Donald Niewyk suggests that the broadest definition, including Soviet civilian deaths, would produce a death toll of 17 million. [1] Estimates of the death toll of non-Jewish victims vary by millions, partly because the boundary between death by persecution and death by starvation and other means in a context of total war is unclear. Overall, about 5.7 million (78 percent) of the 7.3 million Jews in occupied Europe perished (Gilbert, Martin. Atlas of the Holocaust 1988, pp. 242–244). Compared to five to 11 million (1.4 percent to 3.0 percent) of the 360 million non-Jews in German-dominated Europe. Small, Melvin and J. David Singer. Resort to Arms: International and civil Wars 1816-1980 and Berenbaum, Michael. A Mosaic of Victims: Non-Jews Persecuted and Murdered by the Nazis. New York: New York University Press, 1990
  5. ^ DeWitt Bodeen, Les Enfants du Paradis, filmreference.com
  6. ^ [2] Gio MacDonald, Edinburgh University Film Society program notes, 1994-95
  7. ^ Quoted by Roger Ebert, Children of Pardise, Chicago Sun-Times, 6 January 2002 review oif the Criterion DVD release
  8. ^ http://www.womeninwwii.com/fashion/1940sfashion.asp
  9. ^ Bloom, John; Willard, Michael Nevin (2002). John Bloom and Michael Nevin Willard. ed. Sports Matters: Race, Recreation, and Culture. New York: New York University Press. pp. 46–47. ISBN 978-0-8147-9882-9. http://books.google.com/?id=kC4qYeafQzMC&pg=PA64&dq=isbn=9780814798829. 

External links

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