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(top left) German tanks advancing at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, (top center) American ships on fire during the Attack on Pearl Harbor, (top right) The attack would later cause America to join World War II, (middle left) Battle of Stalingrad, leads to a Russian victory, (middle center) D-Day landings by American soldiers, (middle second center) Swing music becomes popular, (middle right) Battle of Berlin leads to the end of WWII in Europe, (bottom left) Establishment of the United Nations Charter, (bottom center) the Atomic bombing of Nagasaki, (bottom second center) VJ-Day kiss, the famous Life magazine photograph, (bottom right) India gains independence from Britain in 1947.
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The 1940s decade (the forties) ran from January 1, 1940 to December 31, 1949.

The Second World War 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 West and the Soviet Union. 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. However the conditions of the post-war world encouraged decolonialisation and emergence of new states and governments, with China, India, Pakistan, Israel, Vietnam and others declaring independence, rarely without bloodshed. The decade also saw the early beginnings of new technologies (including 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.

Significant eventsEdit

Main article: World War II

Atomic bombing of Imperial Japan

World leadersEdit

File:Joseph Stalin.jpg

Military leadersEdit

Eisenhower d-day

General Eisenhower speaks with troops prior to D-Day

Technical innovationsEdit



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 England, France, Italy, Russia and elsewhere in Europe. Akira Kurosawa and other directors managed to produce significant films during the 40s in Japan as well.

Some of Hollywood's best films of the 1940s include: The Maltese Falcon directed by John Huston 1941, It's a Wonderful Life directed by Frank Capra 1946, Double Indemnity directed by Billy Wilder 1944, Meet Me in St. Louis directed by Vincente Minnelli 1944, Casablanca directed by Michael Curtiz 1942, Citizen Kane directed by Orson Welles 1941, The Big Sleep directed by Howard Hawks 1946, The Lady Eve directed by Preston Sturges 1941, The Shop Around the Corner directed by Ernst Lubitsch 1940, White Heat directed by Raoul Walsh 1949, Yankee Doodle Dandy directed by Michael Curtiz 1942, and Notorious directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1946. The Walt Disney Studios released the animated feature films Pinocchio 1940, Dumbo 1941, Fantasia 1941, and Bambi 1942.

In France during the war the tour de force Children of Paradise directed by Marcel Carné 1945, was shot in Nazi occupied Paris. [5] [6] [7] 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, 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 Toshirō Mifune that lasted until 1965.



Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve trailer

American entertainer Henry Fonda in the 1941 film The Lady Eve

Olivia De Havilland in In This Our Life trailer

Olivia de Havilland in the 1942 film In This Our Life


American jazz and pop musician Peggy Lee in the 1943 film Stage Door Canteen


During the 1940s Sporting events were disrupted and changed by the events that engaged and shaped the entire world. 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 well known baseball players who served during World War II were Joe Dimaggio, Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, 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.




Ted Williams swearing into the Navy 1942

Ted Williams being sworn into the military on May 22, 1942.

Activists and religious leadersEdit


  1. "Holocaust," Encyclopaedia 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", Encyclopaedia 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. DeWitt Bodeen, Les Enfants du Paradis,
  6. [2] Gio MacDonald, Edinburgh University Film Society program notes, 1994-95
  7. Quoted by Roger Ebert, Children of Pardise, Chicago Sun-Times, 6 January 2002 review oif the Criterion DVD release
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