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<< 1939 CE | 1931-1940 CE | >>

§Of World Interest

The estimated population of the World is 2.3 billion people.

February 27 - Martin Kamen and Sam Ruben discovered carbon-14


January 27 - WWII: South Africa - A peace resolution introduced in Parliament is defeated by 81 votes to 59.


§World War II

January 4 - WWII: Axis powers - Luftwaffe General Hermann Goering assumes control of all war industries in Germany.

January 6 - WWII: Winter War - General Semyon Timoshenko takes command of all Russian forces.

January 8 - WWII: Winter War - Russian 44th Assault Division destroyed by Finnish forces in Battle of Suomussalmi.

February 1 - WWII: Winter War - Russian forces launch major assault on Finnish troops which occupy the Karelian Isthmus.

February 16 - WWII: In the Altmark Incident British destroyer Cossack pursues German tanker Altmark into Jøssingfjord in southwestern Norway.

March 18 - WWII: Axis powers - Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini meet at Brenner Pass in the Alps and agree to form an alliance against France and the United Kingdom.

April 9 - WWII: Germany invades Denmark and Norway in operation Weserübung. The British campaign in Norway is simultaneously commenced.

May 10 - WWII:

Battle of France begins - German forces invade Low Countries.

Invasion of Iceland by the United Kingdom.

With the resignation of Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.


On March 20, after the Winter War had ended, Édouard Daladier resigned as Prime Minister in France, due to his failure to aid Finland's defense. He is replaced by Paul Reynaud.

May 10 – WWII: Battle of France begins – German forces invade Low Countries.

May 26 - June 4 - The Dunkirk evacuation, code-named Operation Dynamo, also known as the Miracle of Dunkirk, was the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, in the north of France during World War II. The operation was decided upon when large numbers of British, French, Belgian, and Canadian troops were cut off and surrounded by German troops during the Battle of France. In a speech to the House of Commons, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the events in France "a colossal military disaster", saying "the whole root and core and brain of the British Army" had been stranded at Dunkirk and seemed about to perish or be captured. In his We shall fight on the beaches speech on 4 June, he hailed their rescue as a "miracle of deliverance".

After Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, France and the British Empire declared war on Germany and imposed an economic blockade. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was sent to aid in the defence of France. After the inactive period of the Phoney War (October 1939 – April 1940), Germany invaded Denmark and Norway in April 1940, then Belgium, the Netherlands, and France on 10 May 1940. Three of their Panzer corps attacked through the Ardennes and rapidly drove northwest to the English Channel. By 21 May, the German forces had trapped the BEF, the remains of the Belgian forces, and three French armies in an area along the northern coast of France. Commander of the BEF, General Viscount Gort, immediately saw evacuation across the Channel was the best course of action and began planning a withdrawal to Dunkirk, the closest location with good port facilities. On 22 May 1940, a halt order was issued by the German High Command, with Adolf Hitler's approval. The burden of preventing the evacuation was left to the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) who faced opposition from the British Royal Air Force (RAF), until the order was rescinded on 26 May. This gave the trapped Allied forces time to construct defensive works and pull back large numbers of troops toward Dunkirk, to fight the Battle of Dunkirk. From 28–31 May 1940, in the Siege of Lille, the remaining 40,000 men of the once-formidable French First Army fought a delaying action against seven German divisions, including three armoured divisions.

On the first day of the evacuation, only 7,669 men were evacuated, but by the end of the eighth day, 338,226 soldiers had been rescued by a hastily assembled fleet of over 800 boats. Many of the troops were able to embark from the harbour's protective mole onto 39 British destroyers of the Royal Navy and civilian merchant ships, while others had to wade out from the beaches, waiting for hours in the shoulder-deep water. Some were ferried from the beaches to the larger ships by what came to be known as the little ships of Dunkirk, a flotilla of hundreds of merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure craft, yachts, and lifeboats called into service from Britain for the emergency. The BEF lost 68,000 soldiers during the French campaign and had to abandon nearly all of their tanks, vehicles, and other equipment.

In his speech to the House of Commons on 4 June, Churchill reminded the country that "we must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.

June 14 - Paris occupied by the Germans.

September 12 - Teens stumble upon the cave paintings in the caves at Lascaux.


On 10 June 1940, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini made the fatal decision to have Italy enter World War II on the side of Nazi Germany. Italy was not prepared for war and, almost from the beginning, disaster followed disaster. In 1940 Italian armies in North Africa and in Greece suffered humiliating defeats.


May 4 - Dutch Government receives a telegramm from the Vatican stating an invasion is at hand.

May 10 - Germany invaded the Netherlands and took control of the country after five days of fighting. The Germans installed a Nazi civilian government in Amsterdam that cooperated with the persecution of Jews.

May 12 – Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and her government flee to London

May 15 - Rotterdam is subjected to savage terror bombing by the Luftwaffe; 980 are killed, and 20,000 buildings destroyed.

May 15 – WWII: The Dutch army surrenders.

Eight-one years after the first abandoning of Schokland, a second evacuation took place. In the summer of that year the remains of the islanders that were buried here in the church were excavated and moved to the University of Amsterdam for anthropological examination. As the 'Schokker' community, because of its isolation, barely had mixed up with other population groups, the islanders were supposed to be relatively unspoiled representatives of the native inhabitants of our country. It is rumored that the study was carried out to support the Nazi racial doctrine.

May 19 - The province of Zeeland capitulates to the German Army.

May 19 - First broadcast of the Free Dutch Broadcasting Company from Paris.

May 25 - Seys Inquart calls upon the Dutch people to support the Germans. Hans Albin Rauter named as "Höheren SS- und Polizeiführer" in the Netherlands.

May 29 - General der Flieger Christiansen appointed "Wehrmachtbefehlhaber in den Niederlanden".

June 1 - Hitler decrees the release of all Dutch prisonors of war.

July 2 -Dutch high commander taken to Germany as POW.


April 1 - The construction of the Warsaw ghetto wall started.

October 16 - The Warsaw Ghetto was established by the German Governor-General Hans Frank on October 16, 1940. Frank ordered Jews in Warsaw and its suburbs rounded up and herded into the Ghetto. At this time, the population in the Ghetto was estimated to be 400,000 people, about 30% of the population of Warsaw; however, the size of the Ghetto was about 2.4% of the size of Warsaw.

November 16 - The Germans closed the Warsaw Ghetto to the outside world.

§North America


Fulgencio Batista won free elections in 1940. Supported by a coalition of political parties, notably the old Cuban Communist Party, he defeated his rival Grau in the first presidential election under the new Cuban constitution. Communists attacked the anti-Batista opposition, saying that Grau and others were "fascists", "reactionaries", and "Trotskyists".

Under Batista's rule a new constitution was drafted. It called for government intervention in the economy and provided a social safety net.


August 20 – Leon Trotsky is assassinated in Mexico by Ramón Mercader, a Soviet Stalinist agent, with an ice axe. He lived until the next day after the attack but died from his wounds. He was found by his orphaned grandson who lived with him.

December 1 – Manuel Ávila Camacho takes office as President of Mexico.

§United States

The Great Depression, started in 1929, finally comes to an end.

May 16 – U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, addressing a joint session of Congress, asks for an extraordinary credit of approximately $900 million to finance construction of at least 50,000 airplanes per year.

June 14 – U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Naval Expansion Act into law, which aims to increase the United States Navy's tonnage by 11%.

June 24 – U.S. politics: The Republican Party begins its national convention in Philadelphia and nominates Wendell Willkie as its candidate for president.

July 15 – U.S. politics: The Democratic Party begins its national convention in Chicago, and nominates Franklin D. Roosevelt for an unprecedented third term as president.

August 4 – Gen. John J. Pershing, in a nationwide radio broadcast, urges all-out aid to Britain in order to defend the Americas, while Charles Lindbergh speaks to an isolationist rally at Soldier Field in Chicago.

September – The U.S. Army 45th Infantry Division (previously a National Guard Division in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma), is activated and ordered into federal service for 1 year, to engage in a training program in Ft. Sill and Louisiana, prior to serving in World War II.

September 2 – WWII: An agreement between America and Great Britain is announced to the effect that 50 U.S. destroyers needed for escort work will be transferred to Great Britain. In return, America gains 99-year leases on British bases in the North Atlantic, West Indies and Bermuda.

September 16 – WWII: The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 is signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt, creating the first peacetime draft in U.S. history.

September 26 – WWII: The United States imposes a total embargo on all scrap metal shipments to Japan.

October 16 – The draft registration of approximately 16 million men begins in the United States.

October 29 – The Selective Service System lottery is held in Washington, D.C..

November 5 – U.S. presidential election, 1940: Democrat incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt defeats Republican challenger Wendell Willkie and becomes the United States' first and only third-term president.

November 11 – Armistice Day Blizzard: An unexpected blizzard kills 144 in U.S. Midwest.

November 13 – Walt Disney's Fantasia is released. It is the first box office failure for Disney, though it eventually recoups its cost years later, and becomes one of the most highly regarded of Disney's films.

December 17 – President Roosevelt, at his regular press conference, first sets forth the outline of his plan to send aid to Great Britain that will become known as Lend-Lease.

December 29 – Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a fireside chat to the nation, declares that the United States must become "the great arsenal of democracy."

December 30 – California's first modern freeway, the future State Route 110, opens to traffic in Pasadena, California, as the Arroyo Seco Parkway (now the Pasadena Freeway).

§U.S. Entertainment

February 7 - RKO releases Walt Disney's second full-length animated film, Pinocchio.

March 2 - Elmer Fudd makes his debut in the short Elmer's Candid Camera.

November 4 - Bruce Lee born in San Francisco.


March 12 - Soviet Union and Finland sign a peace treaty in Moscow ending the Winter War. Finns, along with the world at large, were shocked by the harsh terms.

April–May - The Katyn Massacre was based on Lavrentiy Beria's proposal to execute all members of the Polish Officer Corps, dated 5 March 1940. This official document was then approved and signed by the Soviet Politburo, including its leader, Joseph Stalin. The number of victims is estimated at about 22,000, the most commonly cited number being 21,768. The victims were murdered in the Katyn Forest in Russia, the Kalinin and Kharkov prisons and elsewhere.



April 9 - Denmark is occupied by the Germans.


April 21 - The first American serviceman killed in the war was Captain Robert M. Losey, serving as a military attache. He was killed when German aircraft bombed the Dombås railway station where he and others were awaiting transportation.


  • Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945)
  • World War II (1939 – 1945)


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