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1940 Major News Events in History

  1. The Battle of Dunkirk was a huge military loss for the Allies However, the evacuation, or "Miracle of Dunkirk" was a success
  2. Great Britain begins food rationing during World War II.
  3. Selective Training and Service Act signed into law as first peacetime military draft in United States history
  4. Franklin D. Roosevelt wins the election and becomes the United States' first third-term president.
  5. Nylon Stockings go on sale
  6. Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African-American actor to win an Academy Award
  7. The first Captain America comic book was published
  8. The battle of Britain begins on July 10 with the German Luftwaffe attempting gain air superiority over the Royal Air Force (RAF),
  9. Winston Churchill becomes British Prime Minister

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

What Happened in 1940 Important News and Events, Key Technology and Popular Culture

What happened in 1940 Major News Stories include Germany and Italy gain control of most of Western Europe, Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister and inspires British People With speaches including "We Shall Fight Them On The Beaches, Dunkirk evacuation of British Troops, Battle of Britain begins, Germany starts it's Blitz on London, Race Riots in Chicago, Harlem, Los Angeles and Detroit, Popular Movies include Gone With the Wind and the Great Dictator, Nylon Stockings Go On Sale .....", ... 1940 With the rearming of US forces the Great Depression was finally beginning to ease , and Americans were earning more and buying more so being able to buy goods and further fueling the economy . But outside of America things were not good as Germany invaded France which meant between Germany and Italy most of Western Europe was controlled by them except for England. In the US the feel good feeling of leaving the depression behind fueled the making of some great movies including "Gone With the Wind" and the "Great Dictator" , and Jazz sounds were the popular music of the day from the likes of Benny Goodman and Count Basie amongst others. The Nylon stockings invented the previous year were all the rage with women, FDR was elected for a third term but Americans were starting to believe they should help Britain in it's fight for survival with Germany and the first peacetime draft occurred in September which had ominous overtones for the future. Britain was being bombed incessantly and many believed it may only be time before America would be involved. And a worker in the New Factories appearing can earn up to $1,250 per year

What Events Happened in 1940

World War II 1940


Dunkirk nine day evacuation begins on May 27th of British Expeditionary Force

More Information and Timeline for the Dunkirk Evacuation

1. Germany begins an invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg on May 10th.

2. Germany begins an invasion of Northern France on May 12th .

3. By May 15th, German forces break through the French defenses and begin moving towards the English Channel.

4. The British government begins to plan an evacuation of the British Expeditionary Forces that had been sent to help support French troops at the beginning of the war.

5. German troops keep moving towards the Allied defenses and surround the French and Allied troops in Dunkirk. The two sides battle each other until May 24th when German troops were ordered to halt their advance.

6. Beginning on May 26th Operation "Dynamo," a plan to rescue British troops trapped in Dunkirk, is put into action.

7. The Allied troops had been able to fortify their defenses in the meantime and were more able to hold off attacks by May 27th, when the German advances resumed.

8. The German Luftwaffe continuously attacked the Allied troops on the beaches for the first few days of the evacuation, but the attacks did minimal damage as the sand of the beaches tempered the explosions.

9. The British Royal Air Force held off the majority of the Luftwaffe attacks and effectively defeats them during the battle.

10. It was expected that only 45,000 of the hundreds of thousands of troops could be rescued over a two day operation.

11. The British Admiralty called on British civilians to send their ships to help with the rescue and hundreds of small crafts volunteered to help in the evacuation.

12. The ships rescued soldiers from the beaches and what was left of the Port of Dunkirk.

13. British troops took priority at the beginning of the evacuation but near the end an equal effort was made to rescue French and Belgian troops as well.

14. The evacuation ended on June 4th with several thousand, mostly French, troops being left behind to be taken as prisoners of war by the Germans.

15. A total of 861 ships had been used to stage the evacuation and around 338,226 people were saved. Of those people rescued 198,000 were British troops and 140,000 were French and Belgian troops.

16. Paris fell to the Germans on June 14th.

17. The Battle of Dunkirk was a huge military loss for the Allies as they were clearly ready for defeat had the evacuation failed. Allied troops also lost large amounts of military gear like tanks and other resources as a result of the evacuation.

18. However, the evacuation, or "Miracle of Dunkirk" as it was called, was largely successful as thousands of people were saved who would have been killed or captured otherwise. It also made a statement to Germany that Britain would not fall easily and that the Allies would not be divided.

Axis Powers win The Battle Of France and Take control of Paris on June 14 News Events .

Following the German invasion and occupation of France, Britain opened fire on the French fleet killing 1,200 French sailors

Cost of Living 1940

Average Cost of new house $3,920.00

Average wages per year $1,725.00

Average Monthly Rent $30.00 per month

Cost of a gallon of Gas 11 cents

Average Price for a new car $850.00

Radio $16.95

Battery for Torch 10 cents

Hoover $52.50

Campbells Tomato Soup 25 cents for 3 cans

Chewing Gum 12 cents for 3

Flour 25 cents 5 Pound bag

Fresh Chickens 55 cents per pound

Born This Year

John Lennon October 9th

Manfred Mann October 21st

Percy Sledge November 25th

Richard Pryor December 1st

Jeffrey Archer April 15th -- London, England

Mario Andretti February 28th -- Motovun

Frankie Avalon September 18th -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.

Peter Fonda February 23rd -- New York City, New York, U.S.

John Gotti October 27th -- The Bronx, New York City, New York, U.S.

John Hurt January 22nd -- Shirebrook, Derbyshire, England

Tom Jones June 7th -- Pontypridd, Wales, UK

Ted Koppel February 8th -- Lancashire, England,

Bruce Lee November 27th -- San Francisco, California, U.S.

Jack Nicklaus January 21st -- Columbus, Ohio, U.S.

Chuck Norris March 10th -- Ryan, Oklahoma, United States

Al Pacino April 25th -- East Harlem, Manhattan, U.S.

Nancy Pelosi March 26th -- Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.

Gene Pitney February 17th -- Hartford, Connecticut, USA

Cliff Richard October 14th -- Lucknow, United Provinces, British India

Smokey Robinson February 19th -- Detroit, Michigan, U.S.

Martin Sheen August 3 -- Dayton, Ohio, USA

Nancy Sinatra June 8th -- Jersey City, New Jersey, United States

Clive Sinclair July 30th -- Richmond, Surrey, UK

Ringo Starr July 7th -- Dingle, Liverpool, England

More World War 11 From 1940


The USSR and Finland agree to end the Winter War.

More Information for the 1935 Neutrality Act.

The Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland comes to an end in March . The conflict began in November of 1939 when a huge Soviet army attacked the heavily outnumbered Finnish forces. The Finns held off the Red Army through the winter with a strong defensive plan. Beginning in February the Soviets began a campaign of bombardments and broke through the Finnish defenses. Finland was unable to get help from France and England and surrendered to the Soviet Union, accepting their harsh terms to end the war. As part of the agreement Finland ceded portions of its land to the USSR and agreed to the construction of a Soviet base.


Germany and Italy agree to form an alliance against France and the United Kingdom.


Germany invades Denmark and Norway


German forces invade France on May 10 and later Luxembourg Belgium and Netherlands


Axis Powers win The Battle Of France and Take control of Paris on June 14th.

More Information for the Battle of France.

During World War II, Germany began occupying the French capital of Paris in June . Germany had begun its invasion of France during the previous month with French troops being quickly overwhelmed by the German military, despite their continued efforts of resistance. After Paris was conquered the government of France fled. The country was divided into zones, occupied by Germany in the North, Vichy France (an authoritarian regime set-up to comply with German policies) in the South, and a very small portion in the Southeast by Italy. France remained under German control until 1944 when the Allies landed in Normandy. Paris was liberated in August of 1944 and most of the rest of the country was liberated by December of 1944.

United Kingdom

Britain Creates The Home Guard to act as the first line of defence in case of invasion

Great Britain begins food rationing during World War II.

More Information and Timeline for UK Food Rationing.

1. At the beginning of World War II Great Britain begins to ration food. Ration books that contained coupons for certain items are distributed to citizens and some of the items that are initially rationed include bacon, sugar, and butter.

2. It is not long until more items are added to the rations list. Some of these items include tea, jam, cereals, biscuits, eggs, milk, cheese, and canned fruit.

3. Rationing continues throughout the rest of the war and more food items and even non-food items are added to the list. These include meat, candy, gasoline, clothes, paper, and soap.

4. UK rationing continued after the end of World War II into the next decade and did not officially stop until 1954.

Germany starts it's Blitz on London on September 7th with 300 German bombers in the first of 57 consecutive nights of bombing.

More Information for the Blitz on London.

Nazi Germany begins the London blitzkrieg, also known as the Blitz, in September during World War II. German bombers would attack London, England for 57 consecutive days with consistent bombings during the day and night. Upset by Germany's failure during the Battle of Britain, Hitler devised the Blitz with the hope that it would completely destabilize England, ruining the morale of the people while also destroying important infrastructure and making it harder for them to fight back. However, Germany had underestimated the British people, because despite the nearly constant and terrifying attacks, they were not broken by the Blitz.

The battle of Britain begins on July 10 with the German Luftwaffe attempting gain air superiority over the Royal Air Force (RAF),

Winston Churchill makes a number of speeches after becoming Prime Minister that inspire the British People "We Shall Fight Them On The Beaches.....", and on August 20 "Never in the field of human conflict was so much..."

The Queen Mary, The Mauritania and The Queen Elizabeth Ocean Liners are put into service as troop carriers.

The bombing of cities in England including Coventry and London leads to the bombing of Hamburg and other cities in Germany

Other Major Events From 1940

Captain America comic book

More Information for the Captain America Comic

The first Captain America comic book was published and went on sale in December with the cover featuring the titular character punching the real life World War II villain and Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. The first issue originally sold for ten cents and was dated for March 1941 despite being available earlier. Envisioned by editor Joe Simon and made by famed comic creator Jack Kirby, it was released by publisher "Timely Comics," the company that would eventually become "Marvel Comics." Kirby was also known for his work on other popular comics such as Silver Surfer, The Hulk, and Thor, among others. The Captain America comics became quite popular during World War II but faded in popularity during the 1950's, only to be revived during the 1960s.

Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. becomes the first African-American General

More Information and Timeline for Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.

1. Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. is born in 1877 and joined the United States Army in 1989 after being a volunteer during the Spanish-American War.

2. Davis rose steadily through the ranks of the army and served throughout the world.

3. He was also a teacher of military science at the Tuskegee Institute throughout the Thirties.

4. While most of Davis's duties were directly linked with the army avoiding putting him in charge of white troops, he was eventually promoted to brigadier general by FDR .

5. He was soon after sent to work for the Office of the Inspector General as well as being in charge of a special unit that was intended to monitor and improve race relations in the U.S. Army. As a part of his job he would often visit African-American troops stationed in Europe to help improve morale.

6. He retired from service after fifty years in 1948.

7. Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.'s son, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. was also a pioneer of racial integration and civil rights in the United States Military. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. was one of the very first African-American pilots in the forces, the commander of the all black Tuskegee Airman unit, and became the first African-American general in the United States Air Force.

Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African-American actor to win an Academy Award

More Information for Hattie McDaniel.

1. In February Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African-American actor to win an Academy Award. She won the award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her role in the film "Gone with the Wind."

2. McDaniel began her career in the early 1910s performing in minstrel shows and working as a vocalist for various bands and in 1925 she became the first African-American woman to sing on the radio in the United States.

3. In the 1930s she transitioned to film work and landed several small roles along side many of the well known actors of the time.

4. Unfortunately, Hollywood's color barrier prevented McDaniel from fully realizing her movie career and she was often cast as servants and other stereotypical roles.

5. Due to the segregation in the South, she was not allowed to attend the Atlanta premiere of "Gone with the Wind" in 1939, the same film she won the Oscar for the next year.

Selective Training and Service Act signed into law

Selective Training and Service Act signed into law as first peacetime military draft in United States history

More Information and Timeline for Selective Training and Service Act

1. The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 became United States law on the 16th of September, . This draft had required men between the ages of 21 and 35 years old to be registered for the draft lottery.

2. By the end of October the draft lottery began in Washington, D.C. With President Roosevelt calling the first number, 158.

3. This became the first peacetime draft in United States history as the country had not yet come under attack from Japan and entered the second World War.

4. If chosen by the system they would be required to serve a twelve month term in the military. The length of the required term would be expanded as the United States edged closer to entering the war.

5. The draft was expanded soon to include men between the ages of 18 and 45. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 the draft was not thought of as unnecessary as millions of men volunteered to protect their country.

6. Around 45 million men were registered between 1940 and 1946 and about 10 million of them were selected through the Selective Service System.

Franklin D. Roosevelt wins the election

Franklin D. Roosevelt wins the election and becomes the United States' first third-term president.

More Information and Timeline for the Roosevelt Election

1. Franklin D. Roosevelt is elected President of the United States in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression.

2. FDR used his New Deal programs to help stabilize the US economy and was re-elected in 1936.

3. He continued his New Deal programs after being re-elected.

4. He was chosen as the Democratic presidential candidate at the National Convention and would run for an unprecedented third term in office.

5. FDR won the Presidential election and had ran against Wendell L. Wilkie.

6. FDR had not planned to run for a third term but with the war in Europe and the USA's impending involvement, he was the most experienced leader the nation could find in a time where crisis loomed.

7. The USA entered World War II at the end of 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor and Roosevelt took a stand as a strong leader when the US joined the Allies in Europe.

8. In 1944, Roosevelt was elected for a fourth term as US president, winning against Thomas E. Dewey, despite his failing health.

9. FDR died early in 1945, while in office, before he could witness the conclusion of World War II later that year.

10. The 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution was proposed in 1947 as a direct response to Franklin D. Roosevelt's four term presidency. It limited elected Presidents to two terms in office and was ratified in February of 1951.

An annular solar eclipse is observed in the United States

An annular solar eclipse is observed in the United States.

More Information and Timeline for US Solar Eclipse.

On April 7 an Annular Solar Eclipse is seen for the first time in North America since 1930 and the sun was blocked completely out for 6 to 7 minutes by the moon with a narrow circle of brilliance around it's rim. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the moon gets between the earth and the sun during it's orbit, covering the center of the sun and creating a glowing ring around its outline. Austin, Texas had the closest to a full eclipse with 93% of the sun covered at 3:16 PM followed by Tallahassee in Florida at 6:22 PM.

Leon Trotsky the Russian revolutionary is assassinated in Mexico

Leon Trotsky the Russian revolutionary is assassinated in Mexico

More Information and Timeline for the Leon Trotsky

1. Leon Trotsky was born as Lev Davidovich Bronshtein in November of 1879 in Ukraine.

2. Trotsky discovered Marxism in 1896 while in school in Odessa.

3. He was arrested in 1898 for "revolutionary activity," after which he spent nearly five years in prison and in Siberian exile.

4. In 1902 he escaped to London where he joined the Russian Social-Democrats and met Vladimir Lenin.

5. In a key moment of party division over membership rules, Trotsky sided with the Mensheviks (Minority) while Lenin sided with the Bolsheviks (Majority) at the Second Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Worker's Party.

6. He made his way back to Russia in 1905 to help organize revolutionary strikes, but was jailed in 1906 and sent into exile in Siberia again in 1907. He escaped for a second time.

7. He moved around in Europe during the early 1910's and refused to participate in the first World War. He was expelled from both France and Spain during this time.

8. By January of 1917 he had moved to New York City.

9. The Russian Revolution began in February of 1917 and by May of that year Trotsky had gone to Petrograd to lead a Menshevik faction in their revolutionary efforts.

10. Trotsky was effectively forced to become a member of the Bolshevik faction after being jailed again. Soon after he assumed military leadership during the Revolution. When Lenin re-emerged as a leader, Trotsky made sure to team up with him, assuring a place in the new Communist government.

11. In 1918, he became the War Commissar of the Soviet government and was tasked with re-building the old Russian army into the Red Army, as an impending civil war loomed. His military leadership was highly criticized by rival party member Josef Stalin.

12. After the Russian civil war ended in 1920, Trotsky focused heavily on restructuring the country into a Communist economy. By then, he had established himself as Soviet Leader Lenin's right-hand man.

13. Lenin began facing health issues in 1921, and Trotsky had seemed an obvious successor. However, rivalry and jealousy made other high-ranking Communist party members turn against him as a potential leader.

14. Lenin suffered an incapacitating stroke in 1923 and Trotsky's rival, Stalin, had made quick work of consolidating his own hold on the leadership, quickly turning people against Trotsky.

15. Lenin died in 1924, after which Trotsky slowly lost power, leading to his eventual expulsion from the Communist part in 1926, his exile in 1928, and his banishment from the Soviet Union in 1929.

16. He continued to move around Europe again until he had no other choice but to seek asylum in Mexico in 1936.

17. An assassination attempt was made on his life in May , of which he escaped death. However, he was soon killed by another assassination attempt by a Spanish communist in August of that year. He died on August 21st, after being attacked with an ice axe.

18. Leon Trotsky was known as one of the most influential theorists and intellectuals to come out of the Russian revolution.

Nylon Stockings go on sale

More Information and Timeline for the Nylon Stockings go on sale

1. The synthetic material called nylon was invented in 1935 by DuPont researcher Wallace Carothers.

2. The material was introduced to the world in 1939 at the New York World's Fair.

3. Commercial production of the fabric began in the later months of 1939.

4. Nylon stockings were sold to the general public beginning and were instantly popular, with millions of units sold right away.

5. As the United States entered the second World War in late 1941, DuPont would have to devote their resources to the production of war materials. This meant that nylons would not be found for sale during the war years.

6. DuPont used the nylon material to help make parachutes, tents, and ropes during the war and nylon stockings became a scarce commodity. They were highly sought after by women and could be found being sold and traded on the black market.

7. At the end of the war in 1945, DuPont announced that it would once again be able to produce and sell nylon stockings. Unfortunately, they were unable to match the high demand right away.

8. In some cases, tens of thousands of women gathered to buy limited stock of nylons and riots broke out when customers were forced to compete for a small number of products.

9. The "Nylon Riots" ended by 1946 when full production was better able to meet the needs of the customers.

10. DuPont did keep a monopoly on the product until the early 1950s when they started to allow licenses to other companies to produce the material, leading many people to believe that they made the stockings scarce on purpose.

Technology 1940

Popular Culture 1940

Popular Films

Walt Disney's animated film Pinocchio is released together with Fantasia

The Great Dictator, starring Charlie Chaplin

Popular Music

"Careless" Glenn Miller

"I'll Never Smile Again " Tommy Dorsey with Frank Sinatra

"In the Mood " Glenn Miller

"Pennsylvania 6-5000 " Glenn Miller

"Only Forever" Bing Crosby

Italy declares war on France and the United Kingdom

On June 10th Italy declares war on France and the United Kingdom.

Lascaux prehistoric cave paintings

The Lascaux prehistoric cave paintings are discovered in France

40-hour working week

40-hour working week goes into effect

Narrows Suspension Bridge Collapses

The Narrows Suspension Bridge Collapses on November 7th at Tacoma, Washington

Armistice Day Blizzard

Armistice Day Blizzard kills 154 in Midwest

Race Riots

Race Riots in Chicago, Harlem, Los Angeles and Detroit

Life magazine

Life magazine costs 10 cents

RMS Queen Elizabeth

RMS Queen Elizabeth - entered service

Calendar For The Year 1940

1940 Calendar

Major World Political Leaders 1940

Australia -- Prime Minister -- Robert Menzies --

Brazil -- President -- Getúlio Vargas --

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

Germany -- Chancellor -- Adolf Hitler --

Italy -- Prime Minister -- Benito Mussolini --

Japan -- Prime Minister -- Nobuyuki Abe -- Till 16 January

Japan -- Prime Minister -- Mitsumasa Yonai -- From 16 January

Japan -- Prime Minister -- Mitsumasa Yonai -- Till 22 July

Japan -- Prime Minister -- Fumimaro Konoe -- From 22 July

Mexico -- President -- Lázaro Cárdenas -- Till 30 November

Mexico -- President -- Manuel Ávila Camacho -- From 1 December

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

South Africa -- Prime Minister -- Field Marshal Jan Christiaan Smuts --

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

United Kingdom -- Prime Minister -- Neville Chamberlain -- Till 10 May

United Kingdom -- Prime Minister -- Winston Churchill -- From 10 May