D-DayBattle of FranceThe HolocaustAuschwitz concentration campPearl HarborThe BlitzHiroshima and NagasakiManhattan ProjectSurrender of JapanWorld War IIIsraeli Declaration of IndependenceNuremberg trialsMarshall PlanENIAC
Above title bar: events 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 occurs as Nazi Germany carries out a programme of systematic state-sponsored genocide, during which approximately six million European Jews are 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 and The Blitz; The creation of the Manhattan Project leads to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the first uses of nuclear weapons, which kill over a quarter million people and lead 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 after World War II: From left to right: The Declaration of the State of Israel in 1948; The Nuremberg trials are held after the war, in which the prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany are prosecuted; After the war, the United States carries out the Marshall Plan, which aims at rebuilding Western Europe; ENIAC, the world's first general-purpose electronic computer.

The 1940s (pronounced "nineteen-forties" and commonly abbreviated as "the '40s" or "the Forties") was a decade that began on January 1, 1940, and ended on December 31, 1949.

Most of World War II 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 Western world and the Soviet Union, leading to the beginning of the Cold War. 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, facilitating the post–World War II economic expansion, which lasted well into the 1970s. The conditions of the post-war world encouraged decolonization and the emergence of new states and governments, with India, Pakistan, Israel, Vietnam, and others declaring independence, although rarely without bloodshed. The decade also witnessed the early beginnings of new technologies (such as 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.

The world population increased from about 2.25 to 2.5 billion over the course of the decade, with about 850 million births and 600 million deaths in total.

Politics and wars

See also: List of sovereign states in the 1940s

Flag map of the world from 1942, during World War II


Main articles: List of wars 1900–1944 § 1930–1944, and List of wars 1945–1989 § 1945–1949

World War II
In Green:  German Reich at its peak (1942):
  Civilian-administered occupied territories (Reichskommissariat and General Government)
  Military-administered occupied territories (Militärverwaltung)

Major political changes

Internal conflicts

Decolonization and independence

David Ben-Gurion proclaiming Israeli independence from the United Kingdom on May 14, 1948.

Prominent political events

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The Bretton Woods Conference was the gathering of 730 delegates from all 44 Allied nations at the Mount Washington Hotel, situated in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, United States, to regulate the international monetary and financial order after the conclusion of World War II. The conference was held from July 1–22, 1944. It established the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and created the Bretton Woods system.[5]

Assassinations and attempts

Prominent assassinations, targeted killings, and assassination attempts include:

Mahatma Gandhi

Science and technology



Popular culture


Main article: 1940s in film

Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane (1941)
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund in the trailer for Casablanca (1942)

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 1940s.

Polish filmmakers in Great Britain created anti-nazi color film Calling Mr. Smith (1943) about current nazi crimes in occupied Europe during the war and about lies of nazi propaganda.[6]

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.[7][8][9] 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 Toshiro Mifune that lasted until 1965.


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (July 2018)

Main article: 1940s in music

Frank Sinatra gained massive popularity during the decade, becoming one of the first teen idols, and one of the pop artists who sold the most records in the 1940s


Main articles: List of years in literature and List of years in poetry


Katharine Hepburn c. 1941, who popularized trousers for women

Because fashion items and fabrics were rationed due to World War II, fashion became more utilitarian. Women's fashion started including suits, which were feminized with straight knee-length skirts and accessories. There were challenges imposed by shortages in rayon, nylon, wool, leather, rubber, metal (for snaps, buckles, and embellishments), and even the amount of fabric that could be used in any one garment.[citation needed] 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 wartorn London in 1944 and 1945, as America's own rationing hit full force. 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.[citation needed] Floral prints dominated the early 1940s, with the mid-to-late 1940s also seeing what is sometimes referred to as "atomic prints" or geometric patterns and shapes. In response to the war effort, patriotic nautical themes and dark greens and khakis dominating the color palettes, as trousers and wedges slowly replaced the dresses and more traditional heels due to shortages in stockings and gasoline. The most common characteristics of this fashion were the straight skirt, pleats, front fullness, squared shoulders with v-necks or high necks, slim sleeves and the most favorited necklines were sailor, mandarin and scalloped.


See also: 1930–1945 in fashion and 1945–1960 in fashion


Military leaders

Activists and religious leaders

See also: List of individuals and groups assisting Jews during the Holocaust, List of Righteous among the Nations by country, Resistance during the Holocaust, and Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust



Actors / Entertainers



The Ink Spots in 1944, a popular swing band of the era


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.

In 1947, Wataru Misaka of the New York Knicks became the first person of color to play in modern professional basketball, just months after Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier in Major League Baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers.[11]


Jackie Robinson with the Montreal Royals in July 1946

See also: History of baseball in the United States § The war years, and All-American Girls Professional Baseball League

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.


Joe Louis in 1941, world heavyweight boxing champion

See also: Ring Magazine fighters of the year and List of The Ring world champions

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 Schmeling and he vowed to meet Schmeling once again in the ring. Louis' comeback bout against Schmeling became an international symbol of the struggle between the US and democracy against Nazism and Fascism. When on June 22, 1938, Louis knocked Schmeling 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' 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.[12]

Track and Field

See also


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



  1. ^ "Holocaust," Encyclopædia 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", Encyclopædia 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. ^ Markwell, Donald (2006). John Maynard Keynes and International Relations: Economic Paths to War and Peace. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-198-29236-4.
  6. ^ "Calling Mr Smith". Centre Pompidou. Archived from the original on 2021-02-21. Retrieved 2021-02-13.
  7. ^ "Les Enfants du Paradis - Film (Movie) Plot and Review - Publications". www.filmreference.com.
  8. ^ "Les Enfants du Paradis". www.eufs.org.uk. Archived from the original on 2009-01-13. Gio MacDonald, Edinburgh University Film Society program notes, 1994–95
  9. ^ "Quoted by Roger Ebert, Children of Paradise, Chicago Sun-Times, 6 January 2002 review of the Criterion DVD release". Archived from the original on 20 September 2012. Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  10. ^ "1940's Fashion Trends". Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2011-03-01.
  11. ^ Goldstein, Richard (22 November 2019). "New York Times". Retrieved November 26, 2019.
  12. ^ Bloom, John; Willard, Michael Nevin (2002). John Bloom; Michael Nevin Willard (eds.). Sports Matters: Race, Recreation, and Culture. New York: New York University Press. pp. 46–47. ISBN 978-0-8147-9882-9.

Further reading