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President Franklin D. Roosevelt, circa 1940. Courtesy National Archives.
World War II Timeline
USA - Early War Years
2nd World War 1941
2nd World War 1942
2nd World War 1943
2nd World War 1944
2nd World War 1945
Manzanar War Relocation camp of Japanese detainees during World War II. Photo: Department of the Interior, July 1942. Courtesy National Archives.
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ABH Travel Tip
Take your time and enjoy the view. There are so many beautiful vistas in our national parks, like the one in the Great Smokies above, pull off the side of the road, and take it all in. Those photos will remind you of the great times you have had discovering our beauty and history.
Photo above: Troops from the United States and other Allied nations land on the beach at Normandy, France in 1944, beginning the western European invasion that would lead to defeat of Nazi Germany. Courtesy National Archives. Right: British military officers in the North African desert in 1941. Courtesy Library of Congress.
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April 1, 1940 - The 1940 census indicates a United States population of 132,164,569. This represented an increase of 7.3% since 1930, the lowest rate of increase in the 20th century. The center of the United States population was geographically placed two miles southeast by east of Carlisle, Indiana.
June 3, 1940 - The United States government approves a sale of surplus war material to Great Britain.
June 14, 1940 - On the same day Paris fell to the German army and Auschwitz received its first Polish prisoners, the Naval Expansion Act is signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, increasing the capacity of the U.S. Navy by 11%. Four days earlier, Roosevelt had condemned the actions of Italy's declaration of war against France and the United Kingdom.
September 2, 1940 - The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited park in the National Park Service today, is officially dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The park, whose land had been acquired in part by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. with a $5 million contribution, straddles the North Carolina and Tennessee state lines.
September 16, 1940 - The U.S. Congress approves and enacts the first peacetime conscription draft.
November 5, 1940 - President Franklin D. Roosevelt continues his dominance of presidential politics with a 449 to 82 Electoral College victory over Republican candidate Wendell Wilkie, winning his third presidential election. Roosevelt becomes the first man to hold office for three terms.
March 11, 1941 - The George Washington Carver Museum is
dedicated at the Tuskegee Institute with the participation of such luminaries as Henry Ford. The museum is now part of the
Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site.
March 11, 1941 - The Lend-Lease Act is approved, which
provided $7 billion in military credits for American manufactured war supplies to Great Britain and other allies; in the fall, a similar Lend-Lease pact would be approved for the USSR with a $1 billion loan.
July 7, 1941 - The United States occupies Iceland, taking over its defense from Great Britain and attempting to thwart a potential invasion by Nazi Germany.
August 14, 1941 - An eight point declaration of principles called the Atlantic Charter is issued by President Roosevelt and Great Britain Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
September 28, 1941 - Ted Williams ends the 1941 season with a
batting average over 0.400, the last player to accomplish that
December 7, 1941 - The attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, commences at 7:55 a.m. when Japanese fighter planes launch a surprise attack on United States soil, destroying the U.S. Pacific Fleet docked at the base. This attack, which took the greatest amount of U.S. naval life in history with 1,177 sailor and marines perishing in the attack, as well as the loss or damage to twenty-one naval ships, led to the entry of American troops into World War II. One day later, the United States of America declares war on Japan, officially entering World War II. On December 11, 1941, the United States declares war on Germany and Italy, responding to their declaration of war against America.
February 19, 1942 - Executive order 9066 is signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, confining 110,000 Japanese
Americans, including 75,000 citizens, on the West Coast into
relocation camps during World War II. The remains of the first of these detention camps resides in California's Manzanar
National Historic Site. These camps would last for three years.
June 4-7, 1942 - The Battle of the Midway is fought at Midway
Islands in the Pacific with the Japanese fleet encountering its first major defeat of the war against the United States military. As the Battle of Midway comes to an end on June 7, Japan invades the Aleutian Islands, the first invasion of American soil in 128 years.
June 20, 1942 - The development of the first atomic bomb is
signed into agreement between the Prime Minister of Great
Britain, Winston Churchill, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Hyde Park, New York.
August 7, 1942 - The United States Marines land on Guadalcanal
in the Solomon Islands in the first American offensive of World
War II. A naval battle would commence on November 12 for
three days with the U.S. Navy able to retain control despite heavy losses.
November 8, 1942 - North Africa is invaded by the United States
and Great Britain.
December 2, 1942 - The first nuclear chain reaction is produced at the University of Chicago in the Manhattan Project, creating fission of the Uranium U-235, under the direction of physicists Arthur Compton and Enrico Fermi.
February 14, 1943 - The United States encounters its first major defeat in the European theater of World War II at the Battle for Kasserine Pass in Tunisia.
April 13, 1943 - The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. is dedicated on the 200th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson's birth by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
June 21, 1943 - Race riots in Detroit and Harlem cause forty deaths and seven hundred injuries.
July 10, 1943 - The United States Army's 45th Infantry Division lands on the island of Sicily, starting the campaign of Allied invasion into Axis-controlled Europe. Nine days later, Rome is bombed by Allied forces. The conquest of Sicily would be completed on August 17 when U.S. forces under General Patton and British forces under Field Marshall Montgomery arrive.
November 28, 1943 - The Tehran Conference is held for three days, concluding in an agreement between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet leader Josef Stalin about a planned June 1944 invasion of Europe with the code name Operation Overlord.
June 6, 1944 - The Normandy Invasion, D-Day, occurs when one
hundred and fifty-five thousand Allied troops, including American forces and those of eleven other Allied nations (Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the
Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, and the United
Kingdom) land in France. Allied soldiers stormed the beaches of
France to begin the World War II invasion of Europe that would
lead to the liberation of Paris. Operation Overlord gained footing quickly, pushing through the Atlantic Wall in the largest amphibious military operation in history.
June 22, 1944 - The G.I. Bill of Rights is signed into law,
providing benefits to veterans.
July 17, 1944 - The greatest continental U.S. tragedy of World
War II occurs when two ships loading ammunition at Port
Chicago Naval Weapons Station in California explodes. The
accident killed three hundred and twenty people.
July 21, 1944 - The United States military begins to retake the
island of Guam after Japanese troops had occupied the island
during World War II. The battle would end on August 10.
November 6, 1944 - The last campaign speech of Franklin D.
Roosevelt, seeking his fourth term in office, is broadcast from his Hyde Park, New York home. One day later, Roosevelt would gain that fourth term by a significant, but smaller margin than any of his previous elections, especially in the popular vote where Dewey lost by only three and one half million votes. The Electoral College margin, however, at 432 to 99, insured Roosevelt good footing in prosecution of World War II.
December 18, 1944 - The United States Supreme Court rules in
the case of Korematsu vs. the United States, the wartime
internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast was valid
during a time of war.
February 4-11, 1945 - President Roosevelt, Prime Minister
Churchill, and Premier Josef Stalin hold the Yalta Conference in
the Soviet Union.
February 19, 1945 - Thirty thousand United States Marines land
on Iwo Jima. On April 1, American troops invade Okinawa,
beginning the Battle of Okinawa, which would continue until June
March 1, 1945 - American troops cross the Rhine River at
Remagen, Germany. Two weeks later, on March 18, twelve
hundred and fifty U.S. bombers attack Berlin, causing Adolf Hitler to announce the destruction of his own industries and military installations one day later.
April 12, 1945 - President Roosevelt dies suddenly; Vice
President Harry S. Truman assumes the presidency and role as
commander in chief of World War II.
May 7, 1945 - The unconditional surrender of Germany at Reims,
France concludes the military engagements of World War II in
Europe. It is accepted by General Dwight D. Eisenhower in his
role as the commander of Allied troops in the European theater
of the war.
July 16, 1945 - The first atomic bomb, the Trinity Test, is
exploded at Alamogordo, New Mexico, after its production at Los
August 6, 1945 - President Harry S. Truman gives the go-ahead
for the use of the atomic bomb with the bombing of Hiroshima.
Three days later, the second bomb is dropped on Nagasaki,
Japan. On August 15, Emperor Hirohito of Japan surrenders.
January 10, 1946 - The first meeting of the United Nations
general assembly occurs after its founding on October 24, 1945
by fifty-one nations, including the Security Council nations of
China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the
U.S.A. These actions would lead to the disbanding of the League
of Nations on April 18, when its mission was transferred to the
April 1, 1946 - Four hundred thousand mine workers begin to
strike, with other industries following their lead.
June 6, 1946 - The Basketball Association of America, known as
the National Basketball Association (NBA) since 1949 after its
merger with the rival National Basketball League, is founded.
July 4, 1946 - The island nation of the Philippines is given their independence by the United States. This ends four hundred and twenty-five years of dominance by the west.
August 1, 1946 - The Atomic Energy Commission is established.
March 12, 1947 - The Truman Doctrine is announced to the U.S.
Congress. When passed it would grant $400 million in aid to
Greece and Turkey to battle Communist terrorism. President
Harry S. Truman implements the act on May 22.
April 2, 1947 - The United Nations Security Council unanimously
approves the trusteeship of Pacific Islands formerly controlled by Japan to the United States.
April 15, 1947 - Jackie Robinson breaks Major League Baseball's
barrier against colored players when he debuts at first base for
Branch Rickey's Brooklyn Dodgers.
April 25, 1947 - Theodore Roosevelt National Park is established by President Harry Truman along the Little Missouri River and scenic badlands of North Dakota.
June 5, 1947 - Secretary of State George C. Marshall proposes aid extension to European nations for war recovery, known as the Marshall Plan, which would lead to Congressional approval of $12 billion over the following four years.
June 20, 1947 - President Harry S. Truman vetoes the Taft-Hartley Labor Act that would have curbed strikes, only to be overridden by Congress on June 23.
April 1, 1948 - The Soviet Union begins its land blockade of the Allied sectors of Berlin, Germany. A counter blockade by the
west was put into effect, as well as a British and U.S. airlift of supplies and food, until both blockades were lifted on September 30, 1949.
April 30, 1948 - The Organization of American States is founded
by twenty-one nations to provide a mutual security pact after
World War II. Founding nations were Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil,
Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic,
Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico,
Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the United States,
Uruguay, and Venezuela.
July 26, 1948 - Executive Order 9981, ending segregation in the
United States military, is signed into effect by President Harry S. Truman.
November 2, 1948 - President Harry S. Truman rallies from
behind, capturing his first president election from the supposed
winner Thomas E. Dewey, the governor of New York. Headlines
in national newspapers had overtly announced a Dewey victory,
only to be proven wrong. Truman won the Electoral College vote
with 303 to Dewey's 189, with Strom Thurmond, running as the
States' Rights candidate, receiving 39 Electoral votes. Truman
won the election with less than 50% of the popular votes, with
additional candidate, Henry Wallace, siphoning off over one
million votes in the four man race.
December 15, 1948 - Alger Hiss, former State Department
official, is indicted for perjury in connection to denials of passing state secrets to a communist spy ring. He would be convicted of the conspiracy on January 21, 1950 and receive a five year sentence.
March 2, 1949 - Captain James Gallagher lands the B-50 Lucky
Lady II in Texas after completing the first around-the-world
non-stop airplane flight. It was refueled four times in flight.
April 4, 1949 - NATO, the North American Treaty Organization, is
formed by the United States, Canada, and ten Western
European nations (Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy,
Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom).
The treaty stated that any attack against one nation would be
considered an attack against them all.
June 29, 1949 - United States withdraws its troops from Korea.
October 7, 1949 - Tokyo Rose, the femme fatale of Japanese
war broadcasts, is sentenced to ten years in prison. She would
be paroled in 1956 and pardoned in 1977.
October 14, 1949 - Eleven leaders of the United States
Communist party are convicted of advocating a violent
insurrection and overthrow of the U.S. government. The
Supreme Court would uphold the convictions on June 4, 1951.
History Photo Bomb
America's Best History where we take a look at the timeline of American History and the historic sites and national parks that hold that history within their lands.
Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Park Service, americasbesthistory.com & its licensors.