On This Day

What Happened in December 1939

Historical Events


Event of interestEvent of Interest

Dec 1 SS-Fuhrer Himmler begins deportation of Polish Jews

Leading Nazi and Reichsführer of the SS Heinrich Himmler
Leading Nazi and Reichsführer of the SS
Heinrich Himmler
  • Dec 2 British Imperial Airways & British Airways merge to form BOAC
  • Dec 2 NY's La Guardia Airport began operations as an airliner from Chicago lands, 1 minute after midnight

Music releaseMusic Premiere

Dec 3 Dmitri Shostakovich's 6th Symphony premieres

  • Dec 6 5th Heisman Trophy Award: Nile Kinnick, Iowa (HB)

Music releaseMusic Premiere

Dec 6 Cole Porter's musical "Du Barry was a Lady" premieres in NYC

Composer and Lyricist Cole Porter
Composer and Lyricist
Cole Porter

Hall of fameHall of Fame

Dec 7 Lou Gehrig, 36, is elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame

Baseball Player Lou Gehrig
Baseball Player
Lou Gehrig
  • Dec 7 William Walton's violinist concert premieres in Cleveland
  • Dec 9 CFL Grey Cup, Landsdowne Park, Ottawa: Winnipeg Blue Bombers claim 2nd title; defeat Ottawa Rough Riders, 8-7
  • Dec 9 Russian air raid on Helsinki
  • Dec 9 1940 NFL Draft: George Cafego from University of Tennessee first pick by Chicago Cardinals

Sport awardNFL Championship

Dec 10 National Football League Championship, Dairy Bowl, West Allis, Wisconsin: Green Bay Packers beat New York Giants, 27-0; Packers 5th title

American Football Player Mel Hein
American Football Player
Mel Hein
  • Dec 10 KNVB celebrates 50th anniversary
  • Dec 12 Russ Indigirka capsizes in blizzard off Japanese coast; 750 die
  • Dec 13 Battle of the River Plate - 3 British cruisers vs German pocket battleship Graf Spee
  • Dec 14 Soviet Union attacks Finland-League of Nations drops Soviet Union

Film release premierFilm Premier

Dec 15 "Gone With the Wind", drama film directed by Victor Fleming and starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, premieres in Atlanta (Best Picture 1940, inflation not adjusted highest-grossing film of all time)

  • Dec 15 1st commercial manufacture of nylon yarn in Seaford, Delaware
  • Dec 15 Snip departs for 1st flight to Paramaribo and Curacao

Event of interestEvent of Interest

Dec 16 Bradman scores 251* SA v NSW, 271 minutes, 38 fours 2 sixes

Cricket Legend Donald Bradman
Cricket Legend
Donald Bradman
  • Dec 17 German pocket battleship Graf Spee scuttled by its crew off Uruguay
  • Dec 18 Finnish army recaptures Agläjärvi
  • Dec 19 Russian air & ground attack against Finnish positions near Summa
  • Dec 20 Radio Australia begins overseas shortwave service

AppointmentAppointment of Interest

Dec 21 Adolf Hitler names Adolf Eichmann leader of "Referat IV B", responsible for evictions and Jewish immigration

Nazi SS Officer and War Criminal Adolf Eichmann
Nazi SS Officer and War Criminal
Adolf Eichmann
Dictator of Nazi Germany Adolf Hitler
Dictator of Nazi Germany
Adolf Hitler
  • Dec 22 Genthin, Germany rail disaster - 186 die in train wreck as an express has a rear-end collision with a train stopped at the station
  • Dec 22 Finnish counter offensive at Petsamo
  • Dec 22 Freight train and passenger train head-on collision kills 101 at Markdorf, Germany
  • Dec 23 Finnish counter offensive at Summa
  • Dec 23 South Australia score 7-821 against Queensland

Event of interestEvent of Interest

Dec 24 World War II: Pope Pius XII makes a Christmas Eve appeal for peace.

260th Pope Pius XII
260th Pope
Pius XII
  • Dec 25 Grimmett & Ward rip through Qld except Bill Brown (156)
  • Dec 25 Montgomery Ward introduces Rudolph the 9th red-nosed reindeer
  • Dec 26 Earthquake in East Anatolia Turkey
  • Dec 26 Mine strikes in Borinage Brussels
  • Dec 27 1st American skimobiles (North Conway, NH)
  • Dec 27 Between 20,000 and 40,000 die in magnitude 8 earthquake in Erzincam, Turkey
  • Dec 29 First flight of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber prototype
  • Dec 30 Bradman scores 267 South Australia v Vic, world record 34th double cricket century
  • Dec 30 O'Reilly takes 14-45 (8-23 & 6-22) as NSW crush Qld in 2 days

Film release premierFilm Release

Dec 30 "Of Mice and Men", starring Burgess Meredith as George, Lon Chaney Jr. as Lennie, is released

  • Dec 31 Dutch national debt hits ƒ4,218,553,180.99

Famous Birthdays

  • Dec 1 Dianne Lennon, singer (Lennon Sisters), born in Los Angeles, California
  • Dec 1 Lee Trevino, American golfer (British Open 1971-72; US Open 1968, 71; US PGA 1974, 84), born in Dallas, Texas
  • Dec 2 Yael Dayan, Israeli writer and politician, born in Nahalal, Israel
  • Dec 2 Harry Reid, American attorney and politician (U.S. Senator from Nevada 1987-2017), born in Searchlight, Nevada
  • Dec 2 Francis Fox, Canadian politician (member of the Senate of Canada), born in Montreal, Quebec
  • Dec 5 Frédéric van Rossum, Belgian composer, born in Ixelles, Belgium
  • Dec 5 Horst Bastian, German writer and screenwriter, born in Exin (d. 1986)
  • Dec 5 Jack Whitten, American abstract painter, born in Bessemer, Alabama (d. 2018)
  • Dec 6 Tomés Svoboda, Czech composer (Etude), born in Paris, France
  • Dec 6 Steve Alaimo, American pop singer ("Mashed Potatoes"; "Every Day I Have To Cry"), born in Omaha, Nebraska
  • Dec 8 James Galway, Irish classical flutist known as "The Man With the Golden Flute", born in Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • Dec 8 Jerry Butler, American soul vocalist (The Impressions; "Never Give You Up"), born in Sunflower, Mississippi
  • Dec 8 Lynn Wilson, contractor and multi-millionaire
  • Dec 9 Patricia Stephens Due, African-American civil rights activist (FAMU jail-in), born in Quincy, Florida (d. 2012)
  • Dec 10 Barry Cunliffe, English archaeologist and university professor, born in Portsmouth, England
  • Dec 11 David Gates, American rock vocalist (Bread-Baby I'm A Want You), born in Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Dec 11 Thomas McGuane, American writer (Colf Feet, Tom Horn, Missouri Breaks), born in Wyandotte, Michigan
  • Dec 11 Tom Hayden, American civil rights and antiwar activist and politician (Rep-D-Ca), born in Royal Oak, Michigan (d. 2016)
  • Dec 14 Ernie Davis, American College Football Hall of Fame halfback (1st African-American to win Heisman Trophy 1961, Syracuse), born in New Salem, Pennsylvania (d. 1963)
  • Dec 14 Marilyn Cooper, American actress (Broadway Bound, Survivors), born in NYC, New York
  • Dec 15 Cindy Birdsong, American rock vocalist (Labelle-Rainbow, Supremes), born in Camden, New Jersey
  • Dec 15 Nicolaus A. Huber, German composer, born in Passau, Germany
  • Dec 17 Eddie Kendricks, American singer-songwriter (The Temptations - "The Way You Do the Things You Do" ;, "Just My Imagination"), born in Union Springs, Alabama (d. 1992)
  • Dec 17 James Booker, American R&B musician (Gonzo), born in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Dec 17 Novella Nelson, American actress (Antwone Fisher, Purlie, Chiefs), born in Brooklyn, New York (d. 2017)
  • Dec 17 Charles V. Bush, African-American pioneer (1st African-American US Air Force Academy Graduate and US Supreme Court Page), (d. 2012)
  • Dec 18 Christoffel "Stoffel" van de Merwe, South African minister of Education
  • Dec 18 Henrica M L "Wiesje" Backer, Dutch dancer/actress/playwright
  • Dec 18 Michael J Moorcock, England, sci-fi author (Alien Heat, Bull & Spear)
  • Dec 18 Sandro Lopopolia, Italian lightweight boxer (Olympic-Silver-1960)
  • Dec 18 Harold E. Varmus, American scientist, Nobel laureate
  • Dec 20 Kim Weston, American soul singer (with Marvin Gaye - "It Takes Two"), born in Detroit, Michigan
  • Dec 20 Dianne Arndt, artist/photographer
  • Dec 20 Klaus Schweizer, German composer, born in Albstadt, Germany
  • Dec 20 Kathryn Joosten, American actress (Desperate Housewives), born in Chicago, Illinois (d. 2012)
  • Dec 20 Bill Keith, American bluegrass and country banjoist, born in Boston, Massachusetts (d. 2015)
  • Dec 21 Lloyd Axworthy, Canadian politician, born in North Battleford, Canada
  • Dec 22 James Gurley, American rock lead guitarist (Big Brother and the Holding Company - "Piece Of My Heart"), born in Detroit, Michigan (d. 2009)
  • Dec 23 Johnny Kidd [Frederick Heath], British rock singer-songwriter (Johnny Kidd & Pirates - "Shakin' All Over"), born in London, England (d. 1966)
  • Dec 25 Bob James, American smooth jazz musician, born in Marshall, Missouri
  • Dec 25 Christopher Wates, English real estate developer/multi-millionaire
  • Dec 26 Lynn Martin, American politician, (Secretary of Labor, 1991-93; US Congress, 1981-91) born in Evanston, Illinois

Person of interestPhil Spector

Dec 26 (Harvey) Phil Spector, American record producer (Wall of Sound), and convicted murderer, born in The Bronx, New York (d. 2021)

Music Producer Phil Spector
Music Producer
Phil Spector
  • Dec 27 John Amos, actor (Good Times, Coming to America), born in Newark, New Jersey
  • Dec 28 Charles Neville, American vocalist and saxophonist (Neville Brothers), born in New Orleans, Louisiana (d. 2018)
  • Dec 28 Philip Anschutz, American businessman
  • Dec 29 Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Maldivian politician & Islamic scholar, born in Malé, Maldives
  • Dec 29 (William Edwin) "Ed" Bruce, American country singer ("Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys"), born in Keiser, Arkansas
  • Dec 30 Doeke Eisma, Dutch sociologist and politician (D66)
  • Dec 30 Glenda Adams, Australian author (d. 2007)
  • Dec 30 Felix Pappalardi, American rock music producer, songwriter, vocalist, and bassist (Mountain - "Mississippi Queen"), born in The Bronx, New York (d. 1983)
  • Dec 30 Viola Mae Wilkerson, American pop singer ("Gonna Get Along Without Ya Now", born in Watts, Los Angeles, California (d. 2009)
  • Dec 31 Afaq Hussain, Pakistani cricketer (Pakistani off-spinner in 2 Tests 1961-64), born in Lucknow, India (d. 2002)
  • Dec 31 Willye White, American athlete (Olympic silver long jump 1956, 4x100m relay 1964; Sports Illustrated 100 greatest women athletes of 20th century), born in Money, Mississippi (d. 2007)
  • Dec 31 Hugh Lewin, South African anti-apartheid activist and writer (Bandiet: Seven Years in a South African Prison), born in Lydenburg, South Africa (d. 2019)

Famous Deaths

  • Dec 1 Max Fiedler, German composer, dies at 79
  • Dec 8 Ernest Schelling, American composer and conductor (Victory Ball), dies at 63
  • Dec 10 Wilhelm Grosz, composer, dies at 45

Person of interestDouglas Fairbanks

Dec 12 Douglas Fairbanks, American actor (The Mark of Zorro, 3 Musketeers, Robin Hood), dies from a heart attack at 56

  • Dec 15 Tom McKibbin, Australian cricketer (5 Tests for Aust 1895-1898, 17 wkts), dies at 69
  • Dec 18 Matthew Brown, Journalist, dies at 51
  • Dec 19 Eric Fogg, English composer, dies under a train at 36
  • Dec 19 Karl Wagenfeld, Low German writer (Lucifer, Death & Devil), dies at 70
  • Dec 19 Willem Benoy, Flemish actor and director (The White), dies at 57
  • Dec 20 Hans Langsdorff, German capt (Graaf Spee), commits suicide
  • Dec 22 Ma Rainey [Gertrude Pridgett], American singer "Mother of the Blues", dies at 53
  • Dec 23 Anthony H. G. Fokker, Dutch airplane builder (Spider), dies at 49