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A radioactive isotope discovered by two Americans on the Manhattan Project in 1940.


1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge

This large suspension bridge twisted and collapsed on a windy day, its collapse has had a lasting effect on engineering.


Selective Training and Service Act of 1940

AKA the Burke-Wadsworth Act, signed by FDR, this was the first peacetime conscription in American history, required all men aged 21-36 to register. When the US entered WWII all men 18-45 were made subject to military service.


United States presidential election, 1940

Initially reluctant to run again, FDR was elected to a third term defeating moderate Republican challenger Wendell Willkie. FDR began the lend-lease program of aid to Britain during the election. Willkie promised to maintain New Deal programs, perhaps only making them more efficient. Both candidates believed in avoiding war, but the desire to maintain leadership in a time of difficulty won out.



1940 film produced by Walt Disney, featuring seven unrelated segments set to classical music. Praised by critics as bewildering, although an initial box office failure, the film became profitable in the late 1960s when it was adopted by the counterculture on the strength of its trippy imagery.



This 1941 program, advocated by FDR, was a turn away from WW2 neutrality, as it allowed the president to supply allied nations with materiel. Whereas the previous system of cash-and-carry required allies to pay for materiel, they were now "leased" out, although the "leases" often amounted to gifts.


Takeo Yoshikawa

A Japanese spy in Hawaii before the Pearl Harbor attack, used retroactively to justify the internment of Japanese-Americans.


Grand Coulee Dam

This electricity producing dam in Washington state was constructed during FDR's presidency and completed in 1941.


America First Committee

An influential political pressure group from 1940-41 which opposed the lend-lease program, fearing direct military involvement in WWII. They failed in many respects, but did discourage greater aid to the allies. Dissolved after the Pearl Harbor attack.


Citizen Kane

A 1941 American drama film directed by and starring Orson Welles, considered one of the best films ever made. Centering around the rise and fall of a newspaper magnate, the film's cinematography and dramatic editing were influential.


war bonds

Debt securities issued by the government in times of war. A common propaganda tool during World Wars I and II was to get people to buy war bonds.


Bob Hope

A comedian who worked USO shows, entertaining the troops with a distinctive rapid-fire comic style.


Douglas MacArthur

A WW2 general appointed by FDR as commander of the Southwest Pacific Theatre in World War II. Later, he administered postwar Japan during the Allied occupation, and led U.N. forces during the first nine months of the Korean War. In 1951, Pres. Truman relieved him of command due to insubordination and an unwillingness to conduct a limited war.


Atlantic Charter

A pivotal policy statement released in 1941 by FDR and Winston Churchill, and later agreed to by all Allied nations. It stated the goals of this war were not territorial grabs, but to restore democracy and economic prosperity to the people.


Greer incident

In 1941, three months before the U.S. officially entered WWII, the USS Greer fired on a German submarine, allegedly as a retaliatory measure, but the Germans insisted it was a first strike.


Liberty ships

Distinctive cargo ships built in the United States during World War II.


Hull note

Prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, in 1941, this note delivered from the U.S. demanded that the Japanese leave China. Americans saw it as a final effort towards peace, while the Japanese saw it as a threatening ultimatum.



The emperor of Japan during the Pearl Harbor battle, his role in Japan's militaristic era is debated, but his role was severely degraded in 1947 when the new Japanese constitution drafted by U.S. occupationists went into effect.


Infamy Speech

A speech delivered by FDR to a joint session of Congress in 1941, in which he appealed to them, successfully, to enter WW2.


Attack on Pearl Harbor

December 7th 1941, Japan sneak attacks a Hawaiian naval base successfully, drawing America into WW2. The strike climaxed a decade of worsening relations between the United States and Japan. Japan’s invasion of China in 1937, its subsequent alliance with the Axis powers in 1940, and its occupation of French Indochina in July 1941 prompted the United States to respond that same month by freezing Japanese assets in the United States and declaring an embargo on petroleum shipments and other vital war materials to Japan. By late 1941, the United States had severed practically all commercial and financial relations with Japan.


Battle of Bataan of 1942

The most intense phase of Japan's invasion of the Philippines, lead to a large surrender by the American and Filipino troops, and the Bataan Death March.


Carole Lombard

This beloved American actress, who brought glamour to screwball comedy, was killed in 1942 when the military plane she was in, shooting war bonds advertisements, crashed.


Niʻihau Incident

Shortly after Pearl Harbor, a Japanese pilot crash lands on the Hawaiian island of Ni'ihau and receives aid from some Japanese people living there. This scandal contributes to the sense that all Japanese people in America will fight to protect Japan, and led to internment policies.


Executive Order 9066

War hysteria sparked FDR's decision to sign this order, much to his wife's chagrin, which put all Japanese-Americans on the West coast in internment camps during WW2.


Edward O'Hare

Became America's first WW2 flying ace in 1942.


Battle of Midway

Turning point of the WW2 Pacific theater. Battle in which the U.S. crushed the Japanese military, and their hopes of further invading the Pacific. Started the island hopping campaign.


Aleutian Islands Campaign

Battles from 1942-43 between the U.S. and Japan over control of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. The campaign is known as the "Forgotten Battle", due to being overshadowed by the simultaneous Guadalcanal Campaign.


United States Office of War Information

The World War II propaganda agency from 1942-45. Credited with influencing allied victory and mobilizing American support, there was public controversy as the OWI seemed to promote patriotism over truthfully informing the public.


Battle of the Atlantic

The longest campaign of World War 2, a contest between the Western Allies and the Axis powers (particularly Germany) for the control of Atlantic sea routes.


Guadalcanal Campaign

(1942-43) This battle on the island of Guadalcanal of the Solomon Islands was an American Allied victory that began Allied Offensive Operations in the Pacific, turning point in the ally's favor.