On This Day

What Happened in 1940

Historical Events

  • Feb 27 Martin Kamen and Sam Ruben discover carbon-14 (radiocarbon dating) at the University of California Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley, California
  • Mar 18 Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler meet at Brenner Pass where the Italian dictator agrees he will, in due course, join Germany's impending war effort in the west
  • May 10 Winston Churchill succeeds Neville Chamberlain as British Prime Minister
  • May 12 Nazi blitzkrieg and conquest of France begins with the crossing of the Muese River
  • May 13 Winston Churchill says "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat" in his first speech as Prime Minister to British House of Commons
  • May 15 Richard and Maurice McDonald open the 1st McDonald's restaurant in San Bernardino, California
  • May 27 British and Allied forces begin the evacuation of Dunkirk (Operation Dynamo) during WWII
  • Jun 4 British complete the "Miracle of Dunkirk" by evacuating 338,226 allied troops from France via a flotilla of over 800 vessels including Royal Navy destroyers, merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure craft and even lifeboats
  • Jun 14 Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp opens in Nazi controlled Poland with Polish POWs, later expanded to include civilian Jews and gypsies (approx. 3 million would die within its walls)
  • Jun 15 World War II: France surrenders to NAZI Germany, German troops occupy Paris
  • Jun 18 Winston Churchill's "this was their finest hour" speech urging perseverance during Battle of Britain delivered to British House of Commons
  • Jul 10 Battle of Britain begins as Nazi forces attack shipping convoys in the English Channel
  • Jul 16 Adolf Hitler orders preparations for the invasion of Britain (Operation Sealion)
  • Aug 18 Battle of Britain: The air battle known as "The Hardest Day" occurs; Luftwaffe lose approximately 69 aircraft and the RAF lose 68 in one of the largest ever air battles
  • Sep 7 Beginning of The Blitz as the German Luftwaffe bomb London for the 1st of 57 consecutive nights losing 41 bombers as the Nazis prepare to invade Britain
  • Sep 12 Four teens, following their dog down a hole near Lascaux, France discover 17,000 year old drawings now known as the Lascaux Cave Paintings
  • Sep 15 Battle of Britain Day: climax of the Battle of Britain, tide begins to turn as the Royal Air Force repulses a major Luftwaffe attack, losing 29 aircraft to the Germans' 57-61
  • Sep 17 Adolf Hitler indefinitely postpones Operation Sealion, the planned German invasion of Great Britain
  • More Historical Events

1940 in Film & TV

  • Jan 24 "The Grapes of Wrath", directed by John Ford and based on John Steinbeck's novel of the same name, starring Henry Fonda and Jane Darwell, is released
  • Feb 29 Hattie McDaniel becomes 1st African American woman to win an Oscar for "Gone With The Wind"
  • Mar 21 "Rebecca" based on the book by Daphne du Maurier, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine premieres in Miami, Florida (Oscar - Best Picture 1941)
  • Mar 23 1st radio broadcast of "Truth or Consequences" on CBS
  • Jul 27 Bugs Bunny, Warner Bros. cartoon character created by Tex Avery, Bob Givens (Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series), first debuts in "Wild Hare"
  • Nov 13 Walt Disney's animated film "Fantasia", starring Leopold Stokowski, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Mickey Mouse, and ballet dancing hippopotamuses, premieres at the Broadway Theatre, New York City
  • Dec 26 "The Philadelphia Story" film directed by George Cukor, based on the Broadway play of the same name, starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart, is released (Academy Awards Best Actor 1941)

1940 in Music

Did You Know?

British PM Churchill says of Royal Air Force, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few"

On August 20, 1940

Would You Believe?

Walt Disney begins serving as an informer for the Los Angeles office of the FBI; his job is to report back information on Hollywood subversives.

On November 10, 1940

Famous Weddings

  • Jan 1 68th Prime Minister of UK Harold Wilson (23) weds poet Mary Baldwin (23) in the chapel of Mansfield College, Oxford
  • Jan 2 Archibald Campbell Mzoliza Jordan, Xhosa writer, linguist and academic and outspoken critic of the South African National Party government's Bantu Education policy, marries Priscilla Phyllis Ntantla.
  • Jan 26 Actor Ronald Reagan (28) weds Academy Award-winning actress Jane Wyman (23) at the Wee Kirk o' the Heather church in Glendale, California

Famous Divorces


More Weddings & Divorces