A World in Flames
The United States and the World in the 1940s


Ida May Fuller Issued the First-Ever Social Security Check

January 31, 1940:

Above: AP photo of Ida May Fuller holding a Social Security check in 1950

Associated Press: 75th Anniversary of Ida May Fuller's First Social Security Check

Future Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi Born in Baltimore, Maryland

March 26, 1940:

The U.S. Census of 1940

April 1, 1940: The U.S. Census Bureau conducted the 1940 Census

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Per the Census, the population of the United States of America was 132,164,569 in 1940, a population increase of 7.3% since 1930. American population growth slowed considerably during the Great Depression years, in part because of reduced birth rates, in part because of a drastic reduction in immigration since the enactment of the 1924 Immigration Act.

World War Two and the Fall of France and other Western Allies

April 9,1940 to June 25, 1940: Blitzkrieg in the West. Hitler's conquest of Norway, Denmark, Belgium, The Netherlands, and France.
Hitler and his entourage walk triumphantly near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

World War Two and French Resistance

Spring-Summer 1940: The Rise of the Free French.

After Germany conquered metropolitan (mainland) France. French General Charles De Gaulle, formed the Free French forces, vowing to continue the fight.
1.Above left is a message from General Charles de Gaulle encouraging the French people to continue the fight.
2.Above center is a portrait of General de Gaulle.
3.Above center-right shows General de Gaulle talking with Felix Eboue, a French colonial administrator in French Equatorial Africa.A Black man from French Guiana in South America, Eboue rose through the ranks of the French colonial bureaucracy to become a governor in French colonial Africa.
4. Above far-right is a cartoon celebrating Felix Eboue's leadership on behalf of the Free French

When metropolitan France fell to the Nazis in 1940, Felix Eboue was quick to cast his lot with Charles de Gaulle and the Free French instead of the Pro-German Vichy French regime. In doing so, Eboue denied the Germans and Vichy French a huge chunk of territory in central Africa. In a sense, Felix Eboue provided de Gaulle and Free France an early victory against Vichy France and the Nazis.

World War Two and the European Theatre

September 1, 1939 to May 7, 1945: World War II, The European Theatre of Operations.

World War II, 1939-1945.
In September 1939, Hitler's Nazi Germany invaded and conquered Poland. In response to the invasion, both France and Great Britain declared war on Germany. In 1940, Hitler conquered Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium, and France. In 1941, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, and conquered a great deal of Soviet territory. In short, Hitler conquered much of Europe and North Africa by 1942. Great Britain and the Soviet Union, however, did not fall. They continued fighting.

The Battle of Britain and The Blitz

July 10, 1940 to October 31, 1940: The Battle of Britain. During these months, Germany sought to win air supremacy over Great Britain in order to prepare the way for a cross-channel invasion of the island. Ultimately, the German Luftwaffe (air force) failed to achieve air supremacy and the German plans to invade Great Britain were postponed.

September 7, 1940 to May 21, 1941: The Blitz. There was an overlap between the Battle of Britain and The Blitz. Both were German bombing campaigns against Great Britain, but each campaign had a different emphasis. The German air campaign in the Battle of Britain concentrated on objectives that would pave the way for an invasion of Great Britain itself. The Blitz, however, was a German attempt to break the morale of the British people via the bombing of major British cities, particularly London. Like the German effort to destroy the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain, the bombing of British cities duringThe Blitz--though inflicting a great deal of damage--failed to achieve its primary objective, the breaking of the morale of the British civilian population.

Above: Winston Churchill at left; at right, a depiction of British fighter planes chasing a German twin-engine bomber.

The Assassination of Exiled Soviet Revolutionary Leon Trotsky

August 20-21, 1940: Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, living in exile in Mexico, was assassinated by an agent working for Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Trotsky fell victim to an assassin who used a pick axe to bludgeon Trotsky in the head. Trotsky lived for a while, but ultimately died of his wounds the next day, August 21, 1940.

Above: Leon Trotsky was featured on the cover of Time in 1925 (left), 1927 (center), and 1937 (right)

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Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives William B. Bankhead Died Suddenly

September 15, 1940:

Encyclopedia of Alabama: William B. Bankhead, 1874-1940

"An adroit legislator who strongly supported Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, Speaker of the House William B. Bankhead was arguably Alabama's most influential political leader in the first half of the twentieth century."

---Encyclopedia of Alabama

Sam Rayburn of Texas Becomes Speaker of the House of Representatives

September 1940:

The Enactment of an American Military Draft

September 16, 1940: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation into law enacting a military draft, technically a peacetime draft since the United States was not yet a belligerent in WWII.

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1940 Presidential Election

November 5, 1940: President Franklin D. Roosevelt won an unprecedented third presidential term, defeating Republican Wendell Wilkie.

FDR's 1940 victory made him the first president ever to be elected three times to the presidency. Franklin Roosevelt's third term was historically important for several reasons, but most significantly, it ensured a continuity of American leadership as WWII continued. As of November 1940, the United States had not yet entered the war. That would change on December 7, 1941 when Japan attacked American military outposts in the Pacific, most notably Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Above: Time cover featuring 1940 Republican Presidential nominee Wendell Willkie

FDR and the Arsenal of Democracy

December 29, 1940: In a radio address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt pledged U.S. support for the Allied cause in its fight against Nazi Germany. In the speech, FDR used the term "Arsenal of Democracy" to describe his plan to supply the Allies in their fight against Hitler.

Above: FDR delivering an address (undated)

"The people of Europe who are defending themselves do not ask us to do their fighting. They ask us for the implements of war, the planes, the tanks, the guns, the freighters which will enable them to fight for their liberty and for our security. Emphatically, we must get these weapons to them, get them to them in sufficient volume and quickly enough so that we and our children will be saved the agony and suffering of war which others have had to endure...
We must be the great arsenal of democracy."

---President Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Arsenal of Democracy Speech

Politico: FDR's Pivotal Speech

Time's 1940 Man of the Year: Winston Churchill



The Bankhead Tunnel in Mobile, Alabama

February 20, 1941: The Bankhead Tunnel in Mobile, Alabama, a federal Public Works Administration project, opened for traffic. Construction began in 1938, and continued into 1940.

The Bankhead Tunnel rests under the Mobile River, and is a part of U.S. Highway 90.

Above: Construction of the Bankhead Tunnel in the Mobile River; Construction as seen from the west entrance
Above: The Bankhead Tunnel east entrance (Causeway Side); Bankhead Tunnel west entrance

Above: John H. Bankhead, U.S. Senator from Alabama who served from 1907 to 1920; Wikipedia map of the John H. Bankhead and George C. Wallace Tunnels under the Mobile River in Mobile, Alabama

Article on the Bankhead Tunnel, a New Deal project

FDR Approves the Lend-Lease Act

March 11, 1941: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Lend-Lease Act into law. Under the terms of this law, the United States would utilize more flexible ways of supplying the Allied Powers (particularly Great Britain) with arms and war material in their fight against Nazi Germany. As a result, the United States was able to supply the Allies (later this would include the Soviet Union) with much for aid than would have been possible with a "cash-and-carry" approach.

Above: FDR signing the Lend-Lease Act into law

Excerpt from the Lend-Lease Act
"The President may ... , when he deems it in the interest of national defense, ... sell, transfer title to, exchange, lease, lend, or otherwise dispose of, to any such government [whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States] any defense article.... The terms and conditions ... shall be those which the President deems satisfactory." Source: Enotes (Lend-Lease Act)

The Debut of Citizen Kane

May 1, 1941: Orson Welles' seminal film, Citizen Kane, was released.

Above: Movie release poster of Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane

World War Two and the German Invasion of the Soviet Union

June 22, 1941: Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa


FDR and Churchill: The Atlantic Charter

August 9-14, 1941: Near Newfoundland, Canada, FDR and Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain met and constructed a joint proclamation outlining a vision for a post-war world.

Above: FDR and Churchill meet aboard the H.M.S. Prince of Wales

The Atlantic Charter was issued on August 14, 1941, and in it, contained eight key provisions.

"In brief, the eight points were:

1. no territorial gains sought by the United States or the United Kingdom;

2. territorial adjustments must be in accord with wishes of the people;

3. the right to self-determination of peoples;

4. trade barriers lowered;

5. global economic cooperation and advancement of social welfare;

6. freedom from want and fear;

7. freedom of the seas;

8. disarmament of aggressor nations, postwar common disarmament"

Source: The Atlantic Charter

The Soviets Hold...and Strike Back

December 5, 1941: In one of the true turning points of WWII, the Red Army of the Soviet Union held its ground against German forces, only a few miles outside of Moscow, the capital of the Soviet Union. The Red Army began a counter attack that reversed German fortunes on the Eastern Front.

While the German Army had conquered a great deal of Soviet territory, it had stalled just west of Moscow. For the next three-plus years, the general trend (though there were exceptions in the south) was a slow Nazi retreat out of the Soviet Union.


World War Two and the Entry of the United States

December 7, 1941: Japan attacked U.S. military forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory


December 7, 1941: Japan attacked U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor. Japan also attacked U.S. and British military outposts, including Singapore, Guam, Wake Island, and the Philippines.A few days later, Nazi Germany declared war on the United, thus bringing the U.S. fully into WWII.
By early 1942, Japan had conquered vast amounts of territory in the Pacific, as well as whole chunks of Southeast Asia.


FDR's War Message and the Congressional Declaration of War

December 8, 1941: Before a Joint Session of Congress, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked for a congressional declaration of war against the Empire of Japan. Congress overwhelmingly voted for war. During the address, FDR referred to December 7, 1941 as a "date that will live in infamy." FDR squarely declared that Japan had deliberately and maliciously attacked the armed forces of the United States. FDR also promised an ultimate American victory.

FDR did not, however, ask for a declaration of war against Nazi Germany. War with Nazi Germany would come a few days later.

Above: FDR delivers his war message on December 8, 1941. Vice President Henry A. Wallace and Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn sit behind the President.

Nazi Germany Declares War on the United States

December 11, 1941: Though the alliance with Japan did not require, Adolf Hitler declared war on the United States.

Above: Adolf Hitler declaring war on the United States of America

The United States Declares War on Nazi Germany

December 11, 1941: In response to Germany's declaration of war on the United States, the United States Congress responded in kind by passing a declaration of war on Germany. President Roosevelt promptly signed it.

Above: FDR signing the declaration of war against Germany; New York Times coverage of war against the Nazis

A text of the American declaration of war on Nazi Germany is below:

"Seventy-Seventh Congress of the United States of America; At the First Session Begun and held at the City of Washington, on Friday, the third day of January, 1941.
Joint Resolution Declaring That a State of War Exists Between The Government of Germany and the Government and the People of the United States and Making Provisions To Prosecute The Same
Whereas the Government of Germany has formally declared war against the Government and the people of the United States of America: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Government of Germany which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Government of Germany; and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.
(Signed) Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives

(Signed) H. A. Wallace, Vice President of the United States and President of the Senate

Approved December 11, 1941 3:05 PM E.S.T.

(Signed) Franklin D. Roosevelt"

Time's 1941 Man of the Year: President Franklin D. Roosevelt



World War Two and The Holocaust

January 20, 1942: The Holocaust. The Wannsee Conference, the Final Solution, and the murder of the Jews.

1942-1945: The Holocaust.

During WWII, Hitler and the Nazis deliberately and systematically attempted to murder every Jew in Europe. The nearly succeeded. Over 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis.

To expedite the killing, the Nazis constructed concentration camps that served as death factories. Thousands upon thousands of Jews (and other groups) were systematically killed in camps like Auschwitz and Treblinka.

A crucial day in the Nazi implementation of the Holocaust was the so-called Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942. During this meeting Reinhard Heydrich and other high-level Nazis plotted a new phase in the persecution of European Jews, the so-called final solution to the Jewish question.

In a ghoulish meeting in which euphemistic language masked the full gravity of what they were doing, Heydrich and company began organizing the further systematic extermination of the Jews of Europe, a process that had already begun, but a process that would reach a greater depth of efficiency and depravity after Wannsee.

World War Two and the Turning of the Tide in the Pacific

June 4-7, 1942: The Battle of Midway

Above: American Dive Bombers

In June 1942, an American naval task force with three aircraft carriers ambushed a large Japanese fleet seeking to conquer the U.S. held Midway Island. Admiral Yamamoto, the Japanese strategic commander, hoped to lure the U.S. Pacific fleet into a trap that would eliminate U.S. naval strength in the Pacific and Asian sphere.

His trap failed. Instead, U.S. carrier-launched aircraft were able to dive bomb and destroy four Japanese aircraft carriers. Moreover, the Japanese suffered irreplaceable losses of planes and pilots.

It was a definitive disaster for the Japanese war effort, and was the turning point in the war in the Pacific. After Midway, Imperial Japan remained on the defensive and steadily lost territory to American forces until the completion of the war in 1945.

The Manhattan Project

August 13, 1942: The Manhattan Project, an endeavor by the United States government to create an atomic bomb, was established. A few months prior U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had approved the creation of an atomic bomb.

In many respects, the Manhattan Project's ultimate success in creating nuclear weapons was a tribute to the ability of the federal government of the United States to cobble together scientific and engineering know-how with huge amounts of material resources. Simply put, the American atomic bombs were born of scientific/engineering innovation harnessed to the organizing power of the federal government. Roughly twenty years later, the federal government would employ a similar approach when it established the Apollo Program, the American endeavor that sent human beings to the moon and back.
The above left map shows some of major sites involved in the Manhattan Project. Above right is a shot of the military director of the Manhattan Project, General Leslie Groves. The gentleman in the civilian suit and tie is J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientific director of the Manhattan Project.

World War Two and the Eastern Front

August 23, 1942 to February 2, 1943: The Battle of Stalingrad

Above: Soviet troops at Stalingrad

The Allied Invasion of Nazi-Occupied North Africa

November 1942:

The Coming of the Atomic Bomb

December 2, 1942: Under the leadership of physicists Enrico Fermi (originally from Italy) and Leo Szilard (originally from Hungary), the Manhattan Project achieves the world's first self-sustaining nuclear reaction in a laboratory under the football stadium at the University of Chicago.

Above left: Enrico Fermi. Above center: Leo Szilard. Above right: A drawing of the Chicago Pile-1 Reactor

The Chicago Pile-1 reactor was located below the football stadium on the campus of the University of Chicago. Essentially the world's first nuclear reactor was a series of stacked blocks of uranium and graphite.

The successful self-sustaining chain reaction on December 2, 1942 was a giant leap forward toward the development of a nuclear bomb, the ultimate goal of theManhattan Project. But the success of the Chicago Pile-1 reactor also opened up the possibility of nuclear reactions as a source of energy and other peaceful uses.

Time's 1942 Man of the Year: Josef Stalin



The Allied Invasion of Sicily, the Beginning of the Italian Campaign

July 9, 1943: American and British Allied forces invaded the Italian island of Sicily, just off the southern tip of the Italian mainland. The Allies had thus invaded the metropolitan territory of an Axis power, Italy. The Allies completed the conquest of Sicily in August 1943.

The Big Three Meet in Tehran

November 28 to December 1, 1943: Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin met in Tehran, Iran.

Above: Josef Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill confer in Tehran

Time's 1943 Man of the Year: General George C. Marshall



World War Two and the Invasion of Nazi-occupied France

June 6, 1944: D-Day...The Battle of Normandy

Above: Allied troops depart landing craft and wade ashore at Normandy in northern France.

World War Two and the Continuation of the New Deal

June 22, 1944: President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Democrat) signed the G.I. Bill of Rights into law.

Above: FDR signs the G.I Bill of Rights into law

Officially the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, the law became known as the G.I. Bill of Rights. The Act granted a variety of economic benefits to returning military personnel from WWII service. Under the G.I. Bill, veterans were entitled to college and other schooling tuition benefits, low-interest mortgages to buy houses, low-interest small business loans, and a measure of unemployment benefits. Later modifications to the law expanded the benefits to all military veterans.

The G.I. Bill had a significant impact on American education and the economy. Due to the law, home ownership expanded throughout the United States. Increasingly, Americans owned their homes and rented less. Thousands upon thousands of WWII veterans enrolled in American colleges and universities. For many WWII veterans, the G.I. Bill of Rights became the means by which to enter the middle class.

The Bretton Woods Conference and the Creation of the Modern International Economy

July 1-22, 1944: The Bretton Woods Conference

The Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, the location of the Monetary

Above: Treasury Secretary Henry Morganthau, Jr., Official Portrait and Addressing the Bretton Woods Conference

Above: United States Delegate Harry Dexter White and Great Britain Delegate John Maynard Keynes

The Bretton Woods Conference

Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Killed During a Special Mission

August 12, 1944:

Above: U.S. Navy officer Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr; 1938 photo of Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., his father Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., and John F. Kennedy, his younger brother

Nazi Germany's V-2 Rocket

September 8, 1944: German V-2 Ballistic Missile attacks on Great Britain began.

Above: Modern replica of a German V-2 Rocket; Diagram of a V-2 Rocket; Photo of a 1943 German V-2 test launch

BBC: 70th Anniversary of the German V-2 Rocket Attacks

1944 Presidential Election: FDR Wins an Unprecedented Fourth Term

November 7,1944: President Franklin D. Roosevelt elected to an unprecedented fourth presidential term.


In 1944, FDR defeated Republican Thomas Dewey, thus becoming the one and only American president to be elected to the office four times.

FDR began his fourth term on January 20, 1945. He would continue in his fourth term for only a little over two months. On April 12, 1945, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died natural causes in Warm Springs, Georgia. FDR's death elevated Vice President Harry S. Truman--a late addition to the 1944 Democratic ticket--to the presidency.


Time's 1944 Man of the Year: General Dwight D. Eisenhower



The Big Three Meet at Yalta

February 4 to February 11, 1945: Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin met at Yalta (In the Soviet Union).

Above: Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and Josef Stalin confer at Yalta

American Victory at Iwo Jima

February 19 to March 26, 1945: U.S. Marines made an amphibious assault on the Japanese-held volcanic island of Iwo Jima. This island would otherwise have been an insignificant spot in the western Pacific. But the location of the island made it useful (as an emergency landing spot) for the American bombing campaign against the Japanese Islands.

The Japanese were well dug-in, and the fighting was bitter. It took weeks for the American forces to conquer the island.

Above: U.S. Marines raise a the American Flag on Iwo Jima

The Death of FDR

April 12, 1945: President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Democrat) died in Warm Spring, Georgia.


The Presidency of Harry S. Truman

April 12, 1945: Harry S. Truman became President of the United States.

Harry S. Truman (Democrat), 33rd American President.
Years in Office: 1945-1953.

Above: President Harry S. Truman

Harry S. Truman (Democrat) became President of the United States upon the death of FDR. Truman presided over the remaining months of American participation in WWII. President Truman, in turn, gave the order to use atomic bombs against Japan. In 1948, President Truman was elected president, and served until January 20, 1953.

World War Two and the Death of Hitler

April 30, 1945: Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his bunker in Berlin, Germany as the Red Army of the Soviet Union swarmed the capital city of Nazi Germany.


The picture above left shows Hitler in his final days. Above right is the cover page of Stars and Stripes--the official U.S. Military newspaper--announcing the death of Hitler. In the wake of his death, Hitler's Third Reich only lasted a few more days. Years before, Hitler had boasted that the Third Reich (Nazi Germany) would last a thousand years. It lasted twelve, 1933 to 1945.

The Hammer and Sickle over Berlin

May 2, 1945: In an important symbolic moment for the Red Army in its conquest of Berlin (the capital of Nazi Germany), Soviet soldiers raised a Soviet flag over the German Reichstag.

Above: A Red Army soldier raises a Soviet flag in triumph over the German Reichstag

World War Two and the End of Nazi Germany

May 7, 1945: Germany surrendered to the Allies. The War in Europe had come to a close. Nazi Germany no longer existed.

Above Left: German General Jodl signs the surrender terms.
Above Right: Newspaper announcing the surrender of Nazi Germany

Parliamentary Elections in Great Britain

July 5, 1945: British parliamentary elections began on July 5th, but with thousands of British military personnel deployed overseas, voting and the return of ballots continued for three weeks. The results of the election were not determined until July 26, 1945. During the interim, it was largely assumed that Winston Churchill's Conservative Party (The Tories) would win with a comfortable majority, given Churchill's personal popularity, plus an expected electoral dividend in the wake of the recent military triumph over Nazi Germany. The forecasters, however, were wrong. Labour won in a landslide.

Above: Labour Party Leader, Clement Attlee

The Dawn of the Nuclear Age: United States Explodes the First Atomic Bomb

July 16, 1945: In a signature moment in human history, the United States successfully exploded the world's first nuclear bomb at a test site in Trinity Site, New Mexico.The Manhattan Project, as such, proved to be a success. The world thus entered the atomic age.

Above: The above photos show the Trinity Site atomic bomb test detonation at two different stages of the explosion. The photo above right shows the signature "mushroom cloud" forming above the blast site. Less than a month later, the United States would use atomic bombs against two Japanese cities.

Votes Counted and Announced: Clement Attlee Triumphed Over Winston Churchill as Labour Stunned the Tories

July 26, 1945: Three weeks after voting began in the British parliamentary elections, votes were counted, and in a stunning result, the Labour Party scored a landslide victory over Winston Churchill's Conservative Party. For the first time, Labour won an outright majority of seats in the British Parliament. Labour Leader Clement Attlee, as such, became the new Prime Minister of Great Britain, replacing Churchill.

Above: Labour Party Leader Clement Attlee became Prime Minister of Great Britain when his Labour Party scored an amazing upset over the ruling Conservative Party (the Tory Party) under the leadership of Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1940-1945)

The United States Dropped an Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan

August 6, 1945: The United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, the U.S. did the same to Nagasaki. American atomic bombs were the creation of a secret American federal government project called "The Manhattan Project." In July 1945, the U.S. had successfully exploded a test bomb in the New Mexico desert. The age of nuclear weapons had dawned. A few days after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese agreed to surrender. WWII was over in September 1945. President Harry S. Truman (Democrat) made the decision to use the atomic bombs against Japan. In the years since August 1945, Truman's decision has been hotly debated by a wide of people with a wide range of opinions.






The United States Dropped an Atomic Bomb on Nagasaki, Japan

August 9, 1945:



The End of World War Two

September 2, 1945: Japan surrendered to the Allies aboard the American battleship U.S.S. Missouri, thus ending World War II.


The 1945 World Series: The Detroit Tigers Defeated the Chicago Cubs

October 10, 1945:

Baseball Almanac: The 1945 World Series

The Dawn of the United Nations

October 24, 1945: The Birth of the United Nations


Since 1945, the UN has served as a major international diplomatic institution.

The Cold War

1945-c.1991: The Cold War, West versus East.
The Cold War, 1945-1991.

For roughly 45 years, the United States and its Western Allies struggled for military, political, and economic supremacy against the Soviet Union and its communist bloc allies. Wars in Korea (1950-1953) and Vietnam (1954-1975), plus a U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms race were a part of the Cold War.

Time's 1945 Man of the Year: President Harry S. Truman



Mexican Politics

January 18, 1946: Mexico's ruling political party takes the name Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI)


The PRI would rule Mexico until 2000 when Vicente Fox of the Partido Accion Nacional became President of Mexico. Pictured above is the modern logo of the PRI.

The Cold War and Churchill's Iron Curtain Speech

March 5, 1946: Former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill delivered his Iron Curtain Speech, an address to a college audience in Fulton, Missouri.

Above: Winston Churchill delivers his Iron Curtain Speech. President Harry S. Truman sits behind him.

During the address, Churchill declared that due to Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, an "Iron Curtain" had descended upon it. Churchill's speech is considered to be a seminal moment in defining the Cold War between the democratic nations of the West versus the Soviet-aligned nations.

The Presidency of Harry S. Truman

June 4, 1946: President Harry S. Truman signed the National School Lunch Act into law.


During America's involvement in WWII, millions of young men either volunteered or were drafted into the U.S. Armed Forces. Some, however, failed to qualify for military service due to reasons attributed to malnutrition. The National School Lunch Act of 1946 was designed, in part, to ensure that American young people--particularly poor school-age children--received adequate nutrition during the school day. The National School Lunch Act was also designed to provide support for American farmers.

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Future United States President George W. Bush Born in New Haven, Connecticut

July 6, 1946:

Dr. Benjamin Spock and the Rise of the Baby Boomers

July 14, 1946: Baby and Child Care, a monumental book on child-rearing by Pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock, was published.

The_Common_Sense_Book_of_Baby_and_Child_Care_(hardcover).jpgDr. Spock's book.jpgbook_spock.jpg
Above: Dr. Benjamin Spock's Baby and Child Care in various editions

Dr. Spock's views were revolutionary in the sense that he advocated a milder, gentler, and less restrictive approach to child-rearing than did more traditional approaches to parenting. Baby and Child Care went through multiple editions, and became a runaway best-seller. In a sense, Spock's Baby and Child Care served as something of a bible for the art and science of raising children.

Spock's parenting advice coincided with the post-WWII Baby Boom, years after World War Two in which the United States experienced a strong uptick of births. Though parameters vary, children born from 1946 through 1964 have been commonly referred to as the Baby Boomers. In 2011, the oldest Baby Boomers hit 65 years of age.

Future United States President Bill Clinton Born in Hope, Arkansas

August 19, 1946:

American-Launched V-2 Rocket Reaches the Edge of Space

October 24, 1946:

Above: AirSpaceMag.com photo of a view of Earth provided by a camera aboard an American-launched V-2 rocket on October 24, 1946

UniverseToday.com: Photos from Space on October 24, 1946, Sixty-five Miles Above the Earth

"On October 24, 1946, a V-2 was launched from the Missile Range while a mounted 35mm movie camera captured images every 1.5 seconds. It reached an altitude of 65 miles before crashing back to Earth and, while the camera was destroyed on impact, the film cassette survived. The grainy photo seen above was on that roll, one of our first views of Earth from above the atmosphere.

(Okay, technically there’s still atmosphere above 65 miles — even the ISS orbiting at 260-plus statute miles has to give itself a boost to compensate for drag now and again — but the official aeronautical delineation of 'space' begins at about 62 miles, or 100 km: the Kármán Line. V-2 #13 passed that mark in 1946 by 3 miles.)

In the following years more V-2 rockets would be launched, some reaching heights of 100 miles, giving us many more detailed views of our planet as it looks from space and prompting Clyde Holliday, the APL engineer who developed the mounted film cameras, to envision that 'the entire land area of the globe might be mapped in this way.'"

---UniverseToday.com, October 24, 2014

AirSpaceMag.com: The First Photos from Space Via an American-Launched V-2 Rocket on October 24, 1946

"On October 24, 1946, not long after the end of World War II and years before the Sputnik satellite opened the space age, a group of soldiers and scientists in the New Mexico desert saw something new and wonderful—the first pictures of Earth as seen from space."

AirSpaceMag.com, November 2006

The Daily Beast: Space Photos Go on Sale

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1946 Midterm Elections: The Republicans Win Control of Congress

November 1946:

Above: Joseph W. Martin, Republican


The Founding of Americans For Democratic Action

January 6, 1947: Americans For Democratic Action, an anti-communist liberal advocacy group was founded.

Above: Eleanor Roosevelt; Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.; John Kenneth Galbraith

Above: Reinhold Niebuhr; Walter Reuther; Hubert Humphrey

The New Republic: The Founding of the ADA

The Cold War and the American Response to Communist Expansionism

March 12, 1947: President Harry S. Truman, speaking to a joint session of Congress, advocated a policy of opposition to Soviet expansionism, a viewpoint that became known as the Truman Doctrine.

Above: President Harry S. Truman

The Birth of the Pan-Arab Ba'ath Party

April 7, 1947:

Above: Zaki al-Arsuzi; Michel Aflaq

Al Jazeera: The Birth of the Ba'ath Movement

"Angered by the French mandate that allowed Turkey to annex his home city in Syria, Zaki al-Arsuzi left Antioch for Damascus in the late 1930s.

Once there he started to actively promote his ideals of pan-Arabism as the only way for Arabs to rid themselves of foreign colonialism.

His ideas found favour within Damascus's active political scene, in particular with Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din al-Bitar, who led a small study group called the Movement of Arab Revival.

After the French withdrew from Syria, Aflaq, al-Arsuzi and al-Bitar managed to get their newly-formed Baath (Renaissance) organisation officially licensed as a party.

The party's constitution was adopted at its first congress on April 7, 1947 and upheld the belief that unity was a means to revive the Arab world's erstwhile glory and bring an end to foreign colonialism and Arab aristocracy."

---Al Jazeera website, February 12, 2008

Henry Ford Dies in Dearborn, Michigan

April 7, 1947:

Above: Henry Ford on the covers of Time in 1941 and 1942

New York Times: Henry Ford Obituary

"Henry Ford, noted automotive pioneer, died at 11:40 tonight at the age of 83. He had retired a little more than a year and a half ago from active direction of the great industrial empire he founded in 1903.

When he retired Mr. Ford was in excellent health, but turned over the management of the vast empire to his grandson. Henry Ford 2d, because, he said, he wanted to devote more time to personal interests.

Death came to the famed industrialist at his estate in Fairlane, in suburban Dearborn, not far from where he was born in 1863."

---New York Times and Associated Press, April 7, 1947

The Civil Rights Movement

April 15, 1947: Jackie Robinson breaks Major League Baseball's color barrier.

Above: Jackie Robinson

In 1947 Jackie Robinson played for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The Birth of the Kalashnikov AK-47

July 6, 1947: The Soviet Union entered the AK-47 Assault Rifle into production. The initial design for the AK-47 was byMikhail Kalashnikov, a former Red Army combat veteran. The AK-47 also became known as the Kalashnikov.

The Kalashnikov AK-47 was an inexpensive, reliable, lightweight, and easy rifle to operate. The weapon could be fired both automatically (continual fire per trigger pull) and semi-automatically (one shot per trigger pull). The AK-47 went into service in 1949.

In time, the Soviet Union began exporting this weapon to its allies. The AK-47 also became the weapon of choice for guerrilla groups around the globe. In fact, the Kalashnikov AK-47 has become a symbol of revolution itself. The Mozambique flag, for example, has the image of an AK-47 emblazoned on it.

Like most guns, the Kalashnikov AK-47 has gone through multiple versions through the decades. Thousands upon thousands of these weapons have been distributed throughout the world.

Above Left: Mikhail Kalashnikov in 1949
Above Right: Kalashnikov in later years holding a Type 1 AK-47

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Above Left: Type 2 AK-47
Above Right: Type 3 AK-47

Above: The Flag of Mozambique (a nation in Africa that became independent from Portugal in 1975), a national banner with an emblazoned AK-47

Above: 21st century African child-soldier with an AK-47

The Cold War and the Creation of the National Security State

July 26, 1947: President Harry S. Truman signed into law the National Security Act of 1947, a law that significantly reorganized much of the national security administration of the United States.


The National Security Act of 1947 created the Central Intelligence Agency (The CIA), the National Security Council (The NSC), the military Joint Chiefs of Staff, and designated the United States Air Force (The USAF) as a separate branch of the United States Armed Forces. The National Security Act of 1947 established much of the bureaucratic national security architecture under which the United States would operate throughout the Cold War Era. The new law also further unified military command under the National Military Establishment. In 1949, the NME was replaced by the Department of Defense.

Decolonization and the Decline of the British Empire

August 15, 1947: India achieved independence.


August 1947: India achieved independence from Great Britain. In the wake of WWII, the British Empire began to decline as many of its colonies demanded independence.


American Technology and Aviation

October 14, 1947: United States Air Force pilot Captain Chuck Yeager broke the Sound Barrier in a Bell X-1 rocket aircraft, achieving a speed of 807 mph.


Time's 1947 Man of the Year: George C. Marshall



The Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi

January 30, 1948:

Above: Mahatma Gandhi, 1869-1948

New York Times: Mahatma Gandhi Assassinated, January 30, 1948

The Cold War and the Rebuilding of Europe

April 3, 1948: President Harry S. Truman signed the Marshall Plan, a Cold War economic aid package to rebuild Europe, into law.

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Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas Announced his Candidacy for the U.S. Senate

May 12, 1948: Lyndon Baines Johnson, U.S. Representative (Democrat) from Texas, announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

Above: Lyndon B. Johnson posing in front of his campaign helicopter in 1948.

The Dawn of Israel

May 14, 1948: The Birth of Israel as an independent nation


American Recognition of Israel

May 14-15, 1948: President Truman issued an early recognition of the legitimacy of the new nation of Israel.


The Berlin Airlift

June 26, 1948: The beginning of the Berlin Airlift

Above: An American aircraft flies in supplies into West Berlin.

In response to a Soviet-led blockade of the western (non-communist) sector of Berlin (in eastern Germany), the American-led allies conducted an airborne relief operation in which supplies were flown and/or dropped into the beleaguered West Berlin.

The Berlin Airlift lasted until 1949 and ended in the wake of the Soviet Union's lifting of the blockade. The Berlin Airlift was a significant victory for the Western Allies (e.g. The United States, Great Britain, and France) against the Soviet Bloc in eastern Europe.

West Berlin remained free from communist control until the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In terms of American politics, the Berlin Airlift was also an important success for President Harry Truman

The Democratic Party and Civil Rights

July 12-14, 1948: The Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Above left: Mayor Hubert H. Humphrey of Minneapolis, Minnesota addresses the convention, and calls for the Democratic Party to embrace civil rights for African Americans. Above right: President Harry S. Truman addresses the convention.

At the 1948 National Convention of the Democratic Party, delegates nominated President Harry S. Truman as its presidential candidate for the November 1948 general election. Truman became President of the United States on April 12, 1945 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt died in Warm Springs, Georgia. Truman, who was Vice President, assumed the presidency in the wake of FDR's death, and served the remainder of FDR's fourth presidential term until January 1949. In the meantime, Truman sought to be elected president in his own right.

Outside of the nomination of Truman, the most historically significant event of the 1948 convention was Minneapolis Mayor Hubert H. Humphrey's call for a civil rights plank to the party platform, and the resulting Southern walk out. During his address Mayor Humbert Humphrey stated that "the time has arrived for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states' rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights." The convention did adopt the civil rights plank.

Humphrey's call for civil rights precipitated a walkout of Southern delegates (including some of the Alabama delegation and all of Mississippi's), and the subsequent formation (in Birmingham, Alabama) of the States' Rights Democratic Party, a party more commonly known as the Dixiecrats.

Twenty years later, in 1968, a divided Democratic Party would nominate then Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey as its 1968 presidential candidate. But in 1968, the Democrats would not successfully endure divisions within the party. In that election, millions of white southern voters continued their defection away from the Democratic Party, with some going to Republican Richard Nixon, and many going to Alabama's George C. Wallace (a Third Party Candidacy).

In short, the 1948 Democratic National Convention was an important opening round in a growing civil war within the nation's oldest enduring political party.

States' Rights Democrats and American Conservatism

July 17, 1948: The Rise of the Dixiecrats

In Birmingham, Alabama, conservative Democrats from 13 Southern States convened and formed the States' Rights Democratic Party in opposition to the liberal drift of the Democratic Party under President Harry S. Truman.

Formed in protest against the pro-civil rights (i.e. pro-civil rights for African-Americans) stance of the national Democratic Party, the Dixiecrats of the States' Rights Democratic Party nominated South Carolina Governor J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina as the presidential nominee of this new conservative party.

The Dixiecrats hoped to deny both the regular Democrats (Harry S. Truman) and the Republicans (Thomas Dewey) a majority of electoral votes, a majority that was needed to win the presidency. If no candidate were to win a majority of electoral votes, then the election would have to be decided in the U.S. House of Representatives, a body less likely to back a pro-Civil Rights candidates.

In many respects, the 1948 Dixiecrat Revolt signaled a growing "civil war" within the Democratic Party as a whole. In the South, the Democratic Party increasingly embodied social and economic conservatism. But outside the South, the Democratic Party was evolving steadily in more liberal directions. For decades, the liberal and conservative wings of the national Democratic Party had maintained an uneasy peace. But the 1948 Dixiecrat Revolt demonstrated that the fragile peace was beginning to disintegrate.

In the late 1960s, the Democratic Party would fragment, and many white southerners would defect to the Republican Party, a party of burgeoning conservatism.


Above: Logo of the Alabama Democratic Party, 1904-1966

President Harry Truman and Civil Rights

July 26, 1948: President Harry S. Truman (Democrat) signed Executive Order 9981, a presidential decree that ended racial segregation in the American Armed Forces.

President Truman's desegregation and integration of the U.S. military was a landmark civil rights moment for African-Americans.


The Cold War, the Rise of Richard M. Nixon, and the American Culture War

August 3, 1948: The Alger Hiss Case.

Before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, former Communist Whittaker Chambers accused U.S. State Department official, Alger Hiss, of having been a Communist spy on behalf of the Soviet Union. Alger Hiss denied the charge but was later convicted for perjury. The Alger Hiss Case became a cause-celebre among the American public, with many siding with Chambers, with others siding with Hiss. The Hiss case even contained dramatic testimony from Whittaker Chambers describing the hiding of microfilm in pumpkin patches.

As noted above, Alger Hiss was ultimately convicted for perjury, but never for espionage or treason. Until his death in 1996 he maintained his innocence. Alger Hiss' ultimate guilt or innocence is still debated. With the extinction of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, some Soviet records and personal testimonies have become available. The record, at this juncture, is mixed. Some evidence exists claiming Hiss had been a communist and a Soviet agent. Other evidence suggests otherwise.

During the Hiss proceedings, moreover, a young Republican congressman from California, Richard M. Nixon (future U.S. President), gained fame in his support of Whittaker Chambers, and his corresponding prosecution of Alger Hiss. In 1952, Nixon's anti-communist fame would earn him a spot on the Republican ticket as Dwight D. Eisenhower's vice presidential running mate. As such, from the Alger Hiss Case in August 1948 to his resignation of the presidency in August 1974, Richard M. Nixon was a central figure in American politics and government.

The Alger Hiss Case also became something of an event in a growing American culture war between Liberals and Conservatives. To many, Alger Hiss was the embodiment of an East Coast Ivy League elitist Liberal. Hiss was a Harvard Law School graduate. He had been part of the delegation that created the United Nations. He worked for the State Department (a bastion of Ivy League graduates), and his personal manner did not resonate well with many common folks in Middle America.

Above: Whittaker Chambers; Alger Hiss; Richard Nixon examining microfilm

1948 World Series, Game 5: Satchel Paige Takes the Mound for Cleveland

October 10, 1948:

1948 World Series Game 6: The Boston Braves Defeated the Cleveland Indians

October 11, 1948:


Baseball Almanac: The 1948 World Series

1948 Presidential Election and the End of the Solid South

November 2, 1948: Harry S. Truman (Democrat) won the Presidential Election of 1948.

Above: From left to right, Democrat Harry S. Truman, Republican New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey, States' Rights Democrat (Dixiecrat) South Carolina Governor J. Strom Thurmond, and Former Vice President Henry A. Wallace, Progressive Party

Above: The 1948 Presidential electoral map, a harbinger of the coming Southern defection from the Democratic Party

Strom Thurmond, the States' Rights Democratic Candidate, carried 4 Deep South states, those being Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Thurmond's home state of South Carolina. The defection of these four states---states whereJim Crow segregation was deeply entrenched--signaled a growing ideological and cultural struggle within theDemocratic Party as a whole, something of an intra-party civil war between the Southern conservative wing and the moreliberal Northern wing.

During the 1950s, this war between the Democrats would take a bit of a respite during the Republican Eisenhower presidency. From January 1953 to January 1961, the Eisenhower Administration took the lead in enforcing civil rights-related decrees from federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. For a time, the ideological and cultural splits within the Democratic Party were muted a bit. For a time, particularly from May 1954 to January 1961, it was the Republican Eisenhower Administration and the U.S. Supreme Court (led by Republican Chief Justice Earl Warren), who received much of the rage coming from Southern segregationists.

But the rage of the Dixiecrats would re-focus to the national Democratic Party during the Democratic Kennedy-Johnson years (January 1961 to January 1969). During those years, years in which the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations sided with the Civil Rights Movement, southern whites defected from the national Democratic Party en masse, namely in the 1964 and 1968 presidential elections.

In fact, in September 1964, Senator Strom Thurmond left the Democratic Party and joined the Republican Party. Thurmond remained a Republican for the rest of his life.

Above: Time covers of 1948 presidential candidates facing President Truman; Former Vice President Henry A. Wallace (Progressive); New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey (Republican); Governor J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina (States' Rights Democrat "Dixiecrat")

Truman's 1948 Victory

November 2, 1948: Truman scored an upset victory.

Truman's 1948 election victory was not expected in many circles. In fact, based on early election returns, for several hours it appeared that Republican Thomas Dewey had defeated President Truman. One Chicago paper published an early edition with the incorrect headline that "Dewey Defeats Truman." In the photograph below, President Truman mocks the erroneous headline.

Truman's 1948 victory gave the presidency to the Democratic Party for four more years. From March 4, 1933 (FDR's first day in office) to January 20, 1953 (Truman's last day in office) a Democrat held the presidency, a period just under 20 years. At the end of those five presidential terms, the Democratic Party at the national level emerged as an increasingly liberal party.

Above: President Harry Truman celebrates his victory by mocking a grossly innaccurate "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline

Time's 1948 Man of the Year: President Harry S. Truman


Time article on President Harry S. Truman as Person of the Year for 1948


Democrats Take Control of Congress: Sam Rayburn of Texas Returns as Speaker of the House of Representatives

January 3, 1949:

Above: Speaker of the House of Representatives Sam Rayburn, Democrat from Texas

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The Republic of Ireland

April 18, 1949: After more than 20 years of de facto independence within the British Commonwealth, the government of Ireland severed all remaining ties with the British monarchy, and became fully independent from Great Britain. As such, the Republic of Ireland was born.

The Birth of West Germany

May 23, 1949: Formed out of the American, British, and French occupied sectors of Germany, the Federal Republic of Germany
was born. In the United States, this nation became commonly known as West Germany. In October 1949, the Soviet-occupied zone was formed into the German Democratic Republic, better known as East Germany. The two German nations would remain divided until being re-united on October 3, 1990.

Above: The Occupation Zones in Germany beginning in 1945

Above: West Germany (in yellow) and East Germany (in orange).

East Germany was not formed until a few months later

The Creation of the National Security State

August 10, 1949: President Harry Truman signed the legislation (National Security Act Amendments of 1949) creating the Department of Defense, an act further unifying American military authority under the President and one cabinet officer, the Secretary of Defense.

Above: President Truman signs the legislation creating the Department of Defense

The Cold War and the Rise of NATO

August 24, 1949: The North Atlantic Treaty became effective.

The treaty created NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), a defense alliance of western democracies against the Soviet Union and her allies in eastern Europe. For the rest of the Cold War, the NATO alliance was a key component to thwarting a potential Soviet expansion into central and western Europe. Moreover, the United States--for the first time--deeply entangled itself via a treaty in the national security matters of Europe. To this day, despite the end of the Cold War and the dissolving of the Soviet Union and the Communist Bloc, NATO remains in existence.

In the photo above, President Harry S. Truman (Democrat) is shown signing the North Atlantic Treaty Proclamation, August 24, 1949.

The Cold War and Soviet Power

August 29, 1949: The Soviet Union successfully explodes a nuclear bomb during a test

Above: The Mushroom Cloud generated from the explosion of a Soviet atomic bomb

The Cold War and the Dawn of the People's Republic of China

October 1, 1949: Chinese Communist Mao Zedong proclaimed the birth of the People's Republic of China.

Above: October 1949: Communists, led by Mao Zedong seize power in China, and declare the creation of the People's Republic of China. The Chinese Communist party still rules China as of 2012.


The Birth of East Germany

October 7, 1949: The Soviet occupied zone of eastern Germany was re-constituted and born as the German Democratic Republic. In the United States the GDR was more commonly referred to as East Germany. East Germany and West Germany remained divided until 1990, months after the collapse of Soviet dominance in eastern Europe.

Above: The Occupation Zones in Germany in 1945

Above: Map of West Germany and East Germany

The Cold War and the Communist Bloc

December 1949: Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong, leaders of the Communist Bloc, together in Moscow

December 1949: Stalin and Mao, in a show of Communist unity