1937 1938 1939 - 1940 - 1941 1942 1943
1910s 1920s 1930s - 1940s - 1950s 1960s 1970s
Events of 1940
- January 4 - WWII: Axis powers - Luftwaffe General Hermann Goering assumes control of all war industries in Germany.
- January 6 - WWII: Winter War - General Semyon Timoshenko takes command of all Russian forces.
- January 8 - WWII: Winter War - Russian 44th Assault Division destroyed by Finnish forces in Battle of Suomussalmi.
- January 26 - Australia - Brisbane swelters through its hottest day ever, 43.2 degrees Celsius.
- January 27 - WWII: South Africa - A peace resolution introduced in Parliament is defeated by 81 votes to 59.
- January 29 - Three gasoline multiple units carrying factory workers crash and explode while approaching Ajikawaguchi station, Yumesaki Line (Nishinari Line), Osaka, Japan, killing at least 181 people and injuring at least 92.
- February 1 - WWII: Winter War - Russian forces launch major assault on Finnish troops which occupy the Karelian Isthmus.
- February 16 - WWII: In the Altmark Incident British destroyer Cossack pursues German tanker Altmark into Jøssingfjord in southwestern Norway.
- February 27 - Martin Kamen and Sam Ruben discovered carbon-14
- March 3 - In Sweden, a time bomb destroys the office of Norrskenflamman newspaper of Swedish communists - 5 dead.
- March 5- Members of Soviet politburo: Stalin, Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, Mikhail Kalinin, Kliment Voroshilov and Lavrenty Beria, signed an order, prepared by Beria, for the execution of 25,700 Polish intelligentsia, including 14,700 Polish POWs. The action is known as the Katyn massacre.
- March 12 - Soviet Union and Finland sign a peace treaty in Moscow ending the Winter War. Finns, along with the world at large, were shocked by the harsh terms.
- March 18 - WWII: Axis powers - Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini meet at Brenner Pass in the Alps and agree to form an alliance against France and the United Kingdom.
- March 21 Édouard Daladier resigns as prime minister of France. He is replaced by Paul Reynaud.
- March 23 - The Pakistan Resolution is rallied by the All-India Muslim League: Muslims from every corner of India meet up around Iqbal Park, Lahore, now in modern-day Pakistan.
- April 9 - WWII: Germany invades Denmark and Norway in operation Weserübung. The British campaign in Norway is simultaneously commenced.
- April 12 - The Faroe Islands were occupied by British troops following the invasion of Denmark by Germany.
- April 15 - Opening day at Jamaica Racetrack features the use of pari-mutuel betting equipment, a departure from bookmaking heretofore used exclusively throughout New York state. Other NY tracks follow suit later in 1940.
- April 21 - Take It or Leave It makes it debut on CBS Radio, with Bob Hawk as host.
- April 23 - Rhythm Night Club burns in Natchez, Mississippi: 198 dead.
- May 10 - WWII:
- May 13
- May 14
- May 15
- May 16 - U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, addressing a joint session of Congress, asks for an extraordinary credit of approximately $900 million to finance construction of at least 50,000 airplanes per year.
- May 17 - Brussels falls to German forces; Belgian government flees to Ostend.
- May 18 - Marshal Henri Petain named vice-premier of France.
- May 19 - General Maxime Weygand replaces Maurice Gamelin as commander-in-chief of all French forces.
- May 20 - WWII: German forces, under General Erwin Rommel, reach the English Channel.
- May 22 - WWII: British Parliament passes Emergency Powers Act giving the government full control over all persons and property.
- May 26 - WWII: Dunkirk evacuation of British Expeditionary Force starts.
- May 28
- May 29 - First flight of the Vought XF4U-1, the prototype of the F4U Corsair U.S. fighter later used in WWII.
- June 3
- June 4
- June 9 - WWII: The British Commandos are created.
- June 10 - WWII
- Italy declares war on France and the United Kingdom.
- U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt denounces Italy's actions with "Stab in the Back" speech from the graduation ceremonies of the University of Virginia.
- Canada declares war on Italy.
- Norway surrenders to German forces.
- French government flees to Tours.
- June 12 - WWII: 13,000 British and French troops surrender to Field Marshal Erwin Rommel at St. Valery-en-Caux.
- June 13 - WWII: Paris is declared an open city.
- June 14 - WWII:
- June 15 - WWII: Verdun falls to German forces.
- June 16 : The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is held for the first time in Sturgis, South Dakota.
- June 17
- Philippe Petain becomes Prime Minister of France and immediately asks Germany for peace terms.
- Soviet Army enters Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia.
- Operation Ariel begins - Allied troops start to evacuate France, following Germany's takeover of Paris and most of the nation.
- Luftwaffe Junkers 88 bomber sinks British ship RMS Lancastria, that was evacuating troops from near Saint-Nazaire, France. Death toll is over 2500. Wartime censorship prevents the story going public.
- June 18
- June 21 - WWII: Vichy France and Germany sign armistice at Compiegne in the same wagon-lit railroad car used by Marshal Ferdinand Foch to accept the surrender of Germany in 1918.
- June 23 - WWII: German leader Adolf Hitler surveys newly defeated Paris in now occupied France.
- June 24
- June 28 - General Charles DeGaulle is officially recognized by Britain as "Leader of all Free Frenchmen, wherever they may be."
- June 30 - WWII: German forces land in Guernsey marking the start of the 5-year Occupation of the Channel Islands.
- July 3 - WWII: British naval units sink or seize ships of the French fleet anchored in the Algerian ports of Oran and Mers-el-Kebir. The following day, Vichy France breaks off diplomatic relations with Britain.
- July 10 - WWII: Vichy France begins with a constitutional law where only 80 members of the parliament voted against.
- July 15 - U.S. politics: Democratic Party begins its national convention in Chicago and nominates Franklin D. Roosevelt for an unprecedented third term as president.
- July 19 - WWII: Adolf Hitler makes peace appeal to Britain in an address to the Reichstag. Lord Halifax, British foreign minister, flatly rejects peace terms in a broadcast reply on July 22.
- July 21 - Estonian SSR, Latvian SSR and Lithuanian SSR are proclaimed.
- August 3 - Lithuanian SSR, Latvian SSR (August 5) and Estonian SSR (August 6) are incorporated into the Soviet Union.
- August 4 - Gen. John J. Pershing, in a nationwide radio broadcast, urges all-out aid to Britain in order to defend the Americas, while Charles Lindbergh speaks to an isolationist rally at Soldier Field in Chicago.
- August 8 - Wilhelm Keitel signs the "Aufbau Ost" directive.
- August 20 - Leon Trotsky assassinated in Mexico by Ramón Mercader, a Soviet agent, with an ice axe.
- August 26 - Chad is the first French colony to proclaim its support for the Allies.
- September - U.S. Army 45th Infantry Division (previously a National Guard Division in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma), activated and ordered into federal service for one year to engage in a training program in Ft. Sill and Louisiana prior to serving in World War II.
- September 2 - WWII: Agreement between America and Great Britain announced. Fifty U.S. destroyers needed for escort work transferred to Great Britain. In return, America gains 99-year leases on British bases in the North Atlantic, West Indies and Bermuda.
- September 7
- September 12
- September 16 - WWII: Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt, creating the first peacetime draft in U.S. history.
- September 26 - WWII: U.S. imposes a total embargo on all shipments of scrap metal to Japan.
- September 27 - WWII: Germany, Italy and Japan sign Tripartite Pact.
- October 1 - Original section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike opens between Carlisle and Irwin.
- October 16 - WWII: Draft registration of approximately 16 million men begins in the United States.
- October 24 - The 40-hour work week goes into effect in the U.S. under regulations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
- October 27 - 1939 New York World's Fair ends.
- October 28 - WWII: Italy invades Greece.
- October 29 - WWII: Selective Service System lottery held in Washington, D.C..
- October 31 - WWII: Battle of Britain ends - The United Kingdom prevents Germany from invading Britain.
- November 5 - U.S. presidential election, 1940: Democrat incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt defeats Republican challenger Wendell Willkie and becomes the United States' first third-term president.
- November 7 - In Washington, the middle section of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapses in a windstorm, a mere four months after the bridge's completion (it opened to traffic on July 1, 1940 as the third-longest suspension bridge in the world).
- November 9 - Premiere of Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez in Barcelona, Spain.
- November 10 - Earthquake in Bucharest, Romania - 1,000 dead.
- November 11 - WWII:
- November 14 - WWII: In England, the city of Coventry is destroyed by 500 German Luftwaffe bombers (150,000 fire bombs, 503 tons of high explosives, 130 parachute mines leveled 60,000 of the city's 75,000 buildings; 568 people were killed).
- November 16
- WWII: In response to Germany leveling Coventry two days before, the Royal Air Force begins to bomb Hamburg (by war's end, 50,000 Hamburg residents died from Allied attacks).
- Unexploded pipe bomb found in Consolidated Edison office building. (Only years later is the culprit, George Metesky, apprehended.)
- The Jamaica Association of Local Government Officers is founded.
- November 18 - WWII: German leader Adolf Hitler and Italian Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano meet to discuss Benito Mussolini's disastrous invasion of Greece.
- November 20 - WWII: Hungary, Romania and Slovakia join the Axis Powers.
- November 27
- December 12 & December 15 - WWII: The "Sheffield Blitz". The City of Sheffield is badly damaged by German air-raids.
- December 14 - Plutonium first isolated chemically in the laboratory.
- December 23 - Winston Churchill, in a broadcast address to the people of Italy, squarely blames Benito Mussolini for leading his nation to war against the British contrary to Italy's historic friendship with them.
- December 29
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a fireside chat to the nation, declares that the United States must become, "... the great arsenal of democracy."
- WWII: "Second Great Fire of London"; Luftwaffe carries out massive incendiary bombing raid starting 1500 fires. Many famous buildings, including the Guildhall and Trinity House, are either damaged or destroyed.
- December 30 - California's first modern freeway, the future State Route 110, is opened to traffic in Pasadena, California, as the Arroyo Seco Parkway. It is now called the Pasadena Freeway.