1940s Facts: Historical Events & Pop Culture

The 1940s was a time of grief, suffering, and untold violence. The decade was also, however, a testament to human resilience and ingenuity.

The entire globe was deep in the battles of World War II. Heroic deeds, cooperation, and patriotism helped win the war and stopped oppressive regimes.

Here are some interesting facts about 1940s history and pop culture.

1) 1940: Two World War II Leaders Start Their Term

An interesting 1940 fact is that two of the most important wartime leaders were appointed/elected in the same year. On the British side, Winston Churchill was appointed prime minister, the same year Nazi bombers devastated London in the Battle of Britain. Across the Atlantic, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to his third term as president. He would go on to win a fourth time in 1944, the only American president in history to ever win more than two terms. Sadly, he died just three months into his fourth presidential term.

Photo: the USS Arizona burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941
Photo: the USS Arizona burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941. The ship is resting on the harbor bottom. Credit: National Archives and Records Administration; Wikimedia Commons.

2) 1941: A Surprise Attack and FDR’s Famous Speech

Sunday, 7 December 1941, is a date that – in President Franklin Roosevelt’s famous words – “will live in infamy.” On that fateful day, a surprise attack was launched by the Empire of Japan on the American naval base of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. It was one of the most devastating attacks in 1940s history.

The next day, December 8, Roosevelt delivered the “Infamy Speech,’ one of the most well-known political speeches of all time. Within an hour, Congress formally declared war on Japan, bringing the military might of the United States to the global conflict of World War II.

3) 1942: Japanese American Internment Camps

One of the sorrowful facts about the 1940s is that the United States had internment camps of their own. An Executive Order signed by President Roosevelt authorized the segregation of Japanese American citizens into various camps across the country. It even included a small group of people with Italian and German ancestry.

4) 1943: Italy Surrenders

The first of the Axis powers to surrender during World War II was Italy. On 3 September 1943, the Armistice of Cassibile was signed after the deposition of the Fascist leader Benito Mussolini. However, due to confusion among Italian troops, Germany was able to invade Italy shortly after and establish the Italian Social Republic puppet state. The King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III, was able to escape and reach Allied territory.

Photo: U.S. assault troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944
Photo: U.S. assault troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944. Credit: National Archives and Records Administration; Wikimedia Commons.

5) 1944: D-Day

The year 1944 marked a turning point for the Allies in World War II. On 6 June 1944, Operation Neptune, commonly known as D-Day, began with the invasion of Normandy. It was the single most massive sea invasion in 1940s history.

D-Day was a crucial part of the effort to free German-occupied France. The success of the operation led to a subsequent Allied victory that culminated in the invasion of the German homeland.

6) 1945: World War II Ends

One of the most significant 1940s facts came in 1945, which is the year World War II finally ended with an Allied victory. Nazi Germany officially surrendered on 8 May 1945, after the successful invasion of Berlin on April 29. Japan waited until 2 September 1945 to formally surrender, after two nuclear bombs devastated the cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

By the end of the war, casualties had reached 85 million. This was by far the most devastating of many 1940s statistics.

7) 1946: The Debut of the Bikini

With the war over, things started to return to normal for most parts of the world. One 1940s fun fact is that the bikini swimsuit first appeared as a fashion statement in Paris in 1946. It was designed by clothing designer Louis Reard and was named after Bikini Atoll, which made news for being a U.S. nuclear test site at the time.

Photo: Jackie Robinson in his Brooklyn Dodgers Uniform, 1950
Photo: Jackie Robinson in his Brooklyn Dodgers Uniform, 1950. Credit: National Archives and Records Administration; Wikimedia Commons.

8) 1947: The First African American Plays in Baseball’s Major League

With America in the 1940s still very much racially segregated, it was a huge achievement when Jackie Robinson, an African American, played in Major League Baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers. His inclusion in baseball’s top league signaled the end of segregation in professional baseball. Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

9) 1948: Introducing the Big Bang

In 1948, the world was introduced to a scientific theory that explained the origin of our universe: the Big Bang Theory. The term was first coined by British astronomer Fred Hoyle when he mentioned in a BBC interview how the universe “began as one big bang at a particular time in the remote past.” It was one of the most important scientific theories to come out during the 1940s.

10) 1949: George Orwell’s novel 1984 Is Published

An important 1940s pop culture fact is that 1949 saw the release of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. It describes a future totalitarian state where government surveillance violates the freedoms of ordinary citizens. It would go on to inspire the popularization of terms like “Big Brother” and “Orwellian’ to describe oppressive, authoritarian regimes.

Discover 1940s History with GenealogyBank

The 1940s were undoubtedly a time of sorrow and despair, but it was also a time of heroism and hope. Have you ever wondered how your ancestors were doing during this time? Well, you can see for yourself with GenealogyBank. Discover one of the world’s largest collections of obituaries, newspaper archives, and other historic data like 1940s census records.

Explore over 330 years of newspapers and historical records in GenealogyBank. Discover your family story! Start a 7-Day Free Trial

Related Articles:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *