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List of 1939 Major News Events in History

  1. Nazi Germany attacks Poland on September 1 and France, Australia and the United Kingdom declare war on Germany.
  2. Manhattan Project
  3. Russian troops invade Finland
  4. "Gone with the Wind" premieres in Atlanta.
  5. Hewlett-Packard Company Created
  6. The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) is created in the United Kingdom
  7. Lou Gehrig retires from Major League Baseball after being diagnosed with ALS.
  8. Chillan Earthquake
  9. Dictator Francisco Franco conquers Madrid ending the Spanish Civil War
  10. The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland premieres.

More Detailed Information on each Event and those not included can be found below

What Happened in 1939 Important News and Events, Key Technology and Popular Culture

Major News Stories include World War II Begins, Albert Einstein and president Roosevelt begin the Americas A-Bomb programme, Spanish Civil war ends with Franco Victorious, LaGuardia Airport Opens in New York, Thailand Changes it's Name From Siam, Hewlitt Packard is formed.

1939 Germany and the Soviet Union attacked Poland and Britain, France, India, Australia and new Zealand declared war on Germany on September 3 , the United States decided to remain neutral but did begin rearming for war , which helped end the great depression. The United States also hosted the Worlds Fair in New York early in the year. Also after speaking to the physicist Albert Einstein president Roosevelt initiated the Americas A-Bomb programme.

What Events Happened in 1939

Poland --- Start of World War II

Nazi Germany attacks Poland on September 1 News Events , and France, Australia and the United Kingdom declare war on Germany. This is the start of World War II

More Information and Timeline for the World War II

1. At the end of World War I the Treaty of Versailles was signed to end the state of war between Germany and the Allied forces in 1919.

2. The Treaty of Versailles made Germany pay reparations to certain countries, give up land and the country was forced to disarm.

3. In 1929, the Great Depression hit the world economies, making life in Europe even more difficult as much of the continent was still recovering from the first World War.

4. Nazism rose in popularity in Germany along with other extreme political beliefs around the continent.

5. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and quickly took over the government and became a dictator.

6. In the name of German superiority and creating the Third Reich Hitler began a rearmament campaign in the country.

7. The Nazi government began to prepare for rearmament under the guise of of economic development at first but then became more bold.

8. In 1935, Hitler reformed the "Luftwaffe" German air force in direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles.

9. Leading up to the Second World War, much of Europe, especially Great Britain, subscribed to the policy of appeasement when it came to Germany's expansion, hoping that it would prevent further conflict and all out war.

10. Great Britain's Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was particularly associated with the policy of appeasement and had continually made concessions to the ever expanding Germany and had asserted that there would be peace in Europe.

11. In 1938, Hitler sent troops into Austria and annexed it with little to no opposition from the rest of the world.

12. Later in 1938, Hitler started to make claims on parts of Czechoslovakia and was further appeased when the Munich Agreement was signed in September. This allowed Germany to claim parts of Czechoslovakia with permission from France and the United Kingdom.

13. In early 1939, Hitler began building up the German navy and decided to take over the remaining parts of Czechoslovakia.

14. Germany then signed the Pact of Steel with Italy, guaranteeing their alignment in all matters of war , shortly after Italy had invaded and taken over Albania.

15. France and the United Kingdom agreed to support Poland and in August , German troops began to gather on the Polish border. By September 1st, Germany launched an invasion of Poland.

16. On September 3rd, France, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada declared war on Germany.

17. During the build-up to the Second World War, the United States maintained neutrality with several formal Neutrality Acts. However, there were "cash and carry" policies that were put into place that allowed the US to sell arms and war materials to the United Kingdom and France. The United States remained neutral until 1941 when German ships began to attack US ships and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

United States --- Manhattan Project

FDR Receives the Einstein-Szilard Letter on October 11th

More Information and Timeline for the Manhattan Project

1. In December of 1938 uranium fission is discovered and physicists begin to study nuclear physics.

2. Leo Szilard, a Hungarian physicist, concludes that it could be possible to develop a nuclear bomb and deduced that Nazi Germany had been making moves to research and develop such an idea.

3. On July 2nd, Szilard met with fellow physicist Albert Einstein and the two drafted a letter to President Roosevelt informing him of the potential to build a nuclear bomb and advising him to create and fund a government department to research nuclear weapons within the United States.

4. The letter was given to Alexander Sachs to deliver to FDR, which he did on October 11th. It had been planned for it to be delivered earlier, however the outbreak of World War II in August prevented Sachs from being able to meet with FDR right away.

5. The letter resulted in the creation of the Advisory Committee on Uranium on October 21st, .

6. From that committee came the eventual formation of the Manhattan Project which successfully produced the first atomic bomb in 1945, changing the world and warfare forever.

Cost of Living 1939

Average Cost of new house $3,800.00

Average wages per year $1,730.00

Average Monthly Rent $28.00 per month

Cost of a gallon of Gas 10 cents

A loaf of Bread 8 cents

A LB of Hamburger Meat 14 cents

Average Price for new car $700.00

Toaster $16.00

Due to increased number of users Electricity prices have been cut by 1/2 in ten years.

Hot Cross Buns 16 Cents per dozen

Campbells Tomato Soup 4 cans for 25 cents

Mixed Nuts 19 Cents per pound

Fresh Peas 4 cents per pound

Cabbage 3 cents per pound

Sharp Wisconsin Cheese 23 cents per pound

Below are some Prices for UK guides in Pounds Sterling

Average House Price 590

Born This Year

John Cleese October 27th

Tina Turner November 26th

Marvin Gaye April 2nd

Francis Ford Coppola April 7th

Ginger Baker August 19 -- London, England

Francis Ford Coppola April 7th -- Detroit, Michigan, United States

James Fox May 19th -- London, England

George Hamilton August 12 -- Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.

Paul Hogan October 8th -- Lightning Ridge, New South Wales, Australia

Ayatollah Khamenei July 15th -- Mashhad, Iran

Ralph Lauren October 14th -- The Bronx, New York, United States

George Lazenby September 5th -- Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Australia

Lee Majors April 23rd -- Wyandotte, Michigan, U.S.

Lee Harvey Oswald October 18th -- New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.

Neil Sedaka March 13th -- Brooklyn, New York, United States

Jackie Stewart June 11th -- Milton, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Terry Waite May 31st -- Styal, Cheshire, England

Other Major Events From 1939

Finland --- Russian troops invade Finland

Russia Invades Finland

More Information and Timeline for the Winter War

1. Russia tries to negotiate a land deal with Finland in October but both of the offers and counter-offers are rejected on both sides.

2. Russian troops invade Finland on November 30th, and the USSR begins to bomb Helsinki.

3. The purpose of the conflict was that the Soviet Union wanted to exchange certain lands with Finland so that the Russian city of Leningrad would be better protected as the Second World War began.

4. Although the Red Army outnumbered the Finnish defenses, it lacked leadership and organization. Lack of organization on the Soviet side coupled with a high morale among the Finnish side left a slightly different outcome then what was expected during the "Winter War".

5. Finnish troops were much better prepared for the harsh winter conditions and therefore had a decent advantage over the Soviets initially, many of whom stood out against the snow in their dark green uniforms.

6. After making slow progress and losing many more men than expected, the Red Army reorganized and would launch a huge offensive attack in February of 1940.

7. The Soviet Union eventually gained the upper hand and the Moscow Peace Treaty was signed between the two nations on March 12, 1940. The USSR ended up getting more land than had been originally requested.

8. While this was technically a win for the Soviet Union, it had really been somewhat of a political embarrassment and loss.

9. The Soviet Union had lost over 125,000 men compared to the 25,000 Finland had lost. There were nearly 200,000 injuries on the Soviet side compared to about 43,000 injures on the Finnish side.

10. These results made the Western allies lose confidence in the USSR's military and it gave Nazi Germany confidence against its enemies as the Second World War began.

United States --- "Gone with the Wind"

"Gone with the Wind" premieres in Atlanta.

More Information and Timeline for Gone with the Wind.

The classic film "Gone With the Wind" has its debut in Atlanta, Georgia on December 15th . The film starred Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable and the film was based on Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel of the same name. It was about the American South before and during the Civil War. The film won eight Academy Awards, including a win for Hattie McDaniel as the Best Supporting Actress making her the first African-American actor to be nominated for and win an Oscar. The film was directed by Victor Fleming. He was also the director of "The Wizard of Oz," another iconic film that had also been released This Year.

Hewlett-Packard Company Created

William Hewlett and David Packard create the Hewlett-Packard (HP) technology company during January. They created the company with just $538.00 while working together part-time in a rented garage in Palo Alto, California. The first product they created was a device called resistance-capacitance audio oscillators and were used to test sound equipment. Their first client was the Walt Disney Company who bought 8 oscillators to use in the development of the film “Fantasia.”

United Kingdom - Women’s Auxiliary Air Force

1. The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) is created in the United Kingdom during June.

2. The group was directed by Jan Trefusis Forbes and worked with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in a supplemental role.

3. It was established by King George VI as the outbreak of World War II became more imminent.

4. Thousands of women joined the WAAF and in 1941 it became subject to conscription.

5. It reached its peak in 1943 with over 180,000 recruits.

6. The women of the WAAF were trained in and assigned a variety of jobs including cooks, code breakers, administration work, engineers, drivers, and electricians.

7. The WAAF became the Women’s Royal Air Force in 1949.

8. In 1994 it was fully integrated into the Royal Air Force.

U.S. --- Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig retires from Major League Baseball after being diagnosed with ALS.

More Information and Timeline for Lou Gehrig

1. Henry Louis Gehrig (Lou Gehrig) was born in New York City in 1903.

2. He went to Columbia University from 1921 to 1923 but did not graduate. He played several sports while there including baseball.

3. Gehrig was signed by the New York Yankees in 1923 but didn't garner much attention until 1926. He was a first baseman for the team starting in 1925.

4. He had a very good season in 1927 but was continually overshadowed by the charismatic Babe Ruth.

5. Gehrig continued to be a consistently great batter and in June of 1932 he became the first player to have ever hit four home runs in a single game.

6. Gehrig suffered from several injuries during the mid-1930s and had some issues that were likely symptoms of the disease that would end his career.

7. Throughout 1938 and 1939 his strength as a player deteriorated greatly and after playing in his 2,130th consecutive game (a record that would remain until it was broken in 1995) he voluntarily benched himself on May 2nd, .

8. Gehrig went to Minnesota's Mayo Clinic in June where he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, "Lou Gehrig's Disease"), an incurable disease that would destroy all motor functions of the brain while leaving the mind fully intact.

9. His retirement from Major League Baseball was announced by the New York Yankees on June 21st .

10. On July 4th of that year, Gehrig was celebrated as "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day" was declared at Yankee Stadium. Fans and fellow sportsmen honored him and it was there that he made his famous "Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth" statement. The team also retired his number, the first time in MLB history that had been done.

11. In his final years he worked as a public servant, becoming a New York City parole commissioner. He died on June 2nd of 1941 at the age of thirty-seven.

Chile -- Chillan Earthquake

1. South central Chile is hit with an 8.3 magnitude earthquake on January 24th at 11:33 PM.

2. The epicenter was the city of Chillan.

3. Between 30,000 and 50,000 people perished as a result of the quake, it was the deadliest earthquake in Chile's history.

4. The town of Concepcion was also hit badly and over 90 percent of the homes there were destroyed.

United States - Stagecoach Film Premieres

The classic Western film “Stagecoach” premiered during February. It was directed by John Ford, who won several Academy Awards for directing throughout his career. This film starred Claire Trevor, John Carradine, Thomas Mitchell, and the legendary Western film star John Wayne in what became his breakout role. Wayne already had many film credits to his name but was considered a B-movie star prior to his role in this film. “Stagecoach” was a hit and won 2 of the 7 Academy Awards for which it was nominated. The plot revolved around a group of strangers who learned about themselves and each other while traveling on a stagecoach through dangerous territory.

Spain --- Franco conquers Madrid

Dictator Francisco Franco conquers Madrid, on March 28th ending the Spanish Civil War

More Information and Timeline for the Spanish Civil War

1. The Spanish Civil War begins in July of 1936 after a rebel coup took place against the elected Republicans by the military-supported Nationalists.

2. The Nationalists were lead by then president Manuel Azaña, Francisco Largo Caballero and Juan Negrín. Overall, the support of the people was divided somewhat evenly on both sides with certain parts of the country leaning one way or the other.

3. The Nationalists were supported by Italy and Germany, while the Republicans were supported by the USSR.

4. Initially, after the first coordinated coup, the Nationalists were able to gain control of about one-third of the country in 1936.

5. Franco was appointed head of the Nationalist Army and chief of state in late 1936. By November the Nationalist forces made it to the outside of Madrid and began a siege of the capital.

6. The country was split in half by the two opposing sides and in 1937, the Nationalists gained control of many of the Northern provinces. They kept pushing North, forcing much of the Republican army to flee into France by the end of 1938.

7. Early that year, the Republican government also went into exile in France.

8. At the end of March the Republican armies started to surrender and on the 28th of March, the Nationalists captured Madrid.

9. General Franco announced the Nationalist victory on April 1st, .

10. There were many atrocities committed during the Spanish Civil War by both sides. Executions and death squads were rampant and those who showed opposition to the cause on either side were often killed. The estimated death toll was up to 500,000 people and nearly the same amount of people fled the country.

11. Francisco Franco would remain in power until 1975.

United States --- The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland premieres.

More Information and Timeline for The Wizard of Oz

On August 15, the much-loved classic film, The Wizard of Oz, held its Hollywood premiere. The film starred a young Judy Garland whose popularity soared after its release. The fantastical adaptation of L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful World of Oz" was released to a national audience on August 25th. The iconic movie featured songs like "We're Off to See the Wizard" and "If I Only Had a Brain," along with "Over the Rainbow" which was a popular song on the charts that year. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture , however it lost out to Gone with the Wind. This colorful, creative and quotable film tops many greatest films lists and is still enjoyed by audiences today.

United States --- America amends Neutrality Acts

America amends Neutrality Acts to allow sending military aid to countries in Europe.

More Information and Timeline for the Neutrality Act of 1939

After World War II began in September , the President Roosevelt pushed for another Neutrality Act that would expand the cash-and-carry policy that had been in place since 1937. The two previous Neutrality Acts had been passed in 1935 and 1937, banning the export of arms and forbidding U.S. Merchant ships from transporting arms to foreign countries that were at war. In the 1937 Neutrality Act, there was a cash-and-carry provision that allowed the countries at war to purchase items (excluding arms) from the United States as long as they transported them on non-U.S. Ships, paid in cash, and were approved by the President. The cash-and-carry provision had expired and President Roosevelt wanted to expand it to include the sale of arms in lieu of the outbreak of war. After resistance from isolationists in Congress the Neutrality Act was finally passed on November 3rd .

Technology 1939


The outbreak of World War II brings television broadcasting at the BBC to an end and it restarts in 1946

The first air conditioned car the Packhard goes on show

Hewlitt Packard is formed

Inventions Invented by Inventors and Country ( or attributed to First Use )

Frequency Modulation USA by Edwin H Armstrong - sound by radio waves

Popular Culture 1939

Popular Films

Gone with the Wind

The Wizard of Oz


Of Mice and Men

Wuthering Heights

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Popular Music

Glen Miller has a series of hits including "Moonlight Serenade."

Moon Love , Over the Rainbow with Judy Garland and Stairway to the Stars

Address Unknown by the Inkspots

Other News Events 1939

Worst ever bush fires

71 people die across Victoria in one of Australia's worst ever bush fires

Earthquake Chile

Earthquake kills 30,000 in Chile

Last public execution in France

Last public execution in France - murderer Eugene Weidmann is decapitated by the guillotine.

Worlds Fair

The Worlds Fair Opens in New York

LaGuardia Airport

LaGuardia Airport Opens in New York


The independent republic of Czechoslovakia is dissolved

Regular television

Regular television broadcasts began in the United States

drought conditions

Continuing drought conditions in the North Eastern US causing mass crop failure and hardship

Arab and Jewish States

Following the Royal Commission recommending the formation of Arab and Jewish States Palestinians revolt

"The Pact Of Steel"

Germany and Italy sign "The Pact Of Steel"

Assassination Attempt On Hitler

Assassination Attempt On Hitler fails by 8 minutes


Thailand Changes it's Name From Siam

Pope Pius XI

Pope Pius XI dies after failing health aged 81 after being the Pope for 17 years.

Calendar For The Year 1939

1939 Calendar

Major World Political Leaders 1939

Australia -- Prime Minister -- Joseph Lyons -- Till 7 April

Australia -- Prime Minister -- Sir Earle Page -- From 7 April

Australia -- Prime Minister -- Sir Earle Page -- Till 26 April

Australia -- Prime Minister -- Robert Menzies -- From 26 April

Brazil -- President -- Getúlio Vargas --

Canada -- Prime Minister -- William Lyon Mackenzie King --

Germany -- Chancellor -- Adolf Hitler --

Italy -- Prime Minister -- Benito Mussolini --

Japan -- Prime Minister -- Fumimaro Konoe -- Till 5 January

Japan -- Prime Minister -- Kiichiro Hiranuma -- From 5 January

Japan -- Prime Minister -- Kiichiro Hiranuma -- Till 30 August

Japan -- Prime Minister -- Nobuyuki Abe -- From 30 August

Mexico -- President -- Lázaro Cárdenas --

Russia / Soviet Union -- General Secretary of the Central Committee -- Joseph Stalin --

South Africa -- Prime Minister -- James Barry Munnik Hertzog -- Till 5 September

South Africa -- Prime Minister -- Field Marshal Jan Christiaan Smuts -- From 5 September

United States -- President -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

United Kingdom -- Prime Minister -- Neville Chamberlain --