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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.


Operation Torch

The British-American invasion of French North Africa in WW2, American forces were commanded by Dwight D. Eisenhower, George S. Patton, and Lloyd Fredendall.


Eddie Leonski

A U.S. Army soldier during World War 2 who, while deployed in Australia, strangled 3 civilian women to death so he could "take their voices."


Alaska Highway

Constructed during World War 2 after the Japanese invasion of Alaska revealed how dangerous the territory's seclusion was. It connected Alaska, Canada, and the contiguous U.S..



A 1942 film starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman which played on the heightening of American patriotism during WW2 and became a culturally iconic motion picture.


Cocoanut Grove fire

A premier Boston nightclub which was the scene of a 1942 fire which killed 492. The enormity of the tragedy shocked the nation and briefly replaced the events of World War II in newspaper headlines. It led to a reform of safety standards and codes across the country, and major changes in the treatment and rehabilitation of burn victims.


Enrico Fermi

A scientist working on the Manhattan Project who, while doing so, discovered the first nuclear chain reaction.


Casablanca Conference

This meeting of Churchill, FDR, and Charles de Gaull produced the outcome that their respective forces would not stop fighting until they reach "unconditional surrender."


Duke Ellington

An African-American jazz composer who performed at Carnegie Hall.


Algonquin Round Table

A celebrated group of New York City writers, critics, actors and wits who made phenomenal contributions to literature.


Four Chaplains

The storied four US chaplains who gave their lives to save other civilian and military personnel in WW2.


The Outlaw

Aviator Howard Hughes's Western film which was censored by the MPPC due to it's too sexy depiction of star Jane Russell.


Tunisia Campaign

Dwight D. Eisenhower headed this series of battles in French Tunisia which were an allied victory against Nazi Erwin Rommel (The Desert Fox) and his Afrika Korps.



Rodgers and Hammerstein's first musical, it heralded a new era in "integrated" stage musicals, became an instantaneous stage classic, and went on to be Broadway's longest-running musical up to that time.


Zoot Suit Riots

L.A. riots between white sailors that were stationed there and Latino-American youths during WW2. A precursor was the murder of a young Latino man, the result was a national increase in anti-Latino hate crimes.



The first electronic general-purpose computer, completed by the U.S. Army and UPENN.


Operation Husky

The Allied invasion of Sicily, it lead to the toppling of Mussolini. Patton and Eisenhower lead this mission for America.



The boat future president JFK was in, when it was torpedoed, a story which would help him win the election.


Philadelphia Experiment

An alleged military experiment that was supposed to have rendered the USS Eldridge invisible to the human eye.


Leonard Bernstein

An extremely celebrated American composer whose work received front page New York Times coverage when he had to substitute another composer last minute.


Tehran Conference

This Big Three WW2 conference is where Operation Overlord was planned.


Klaus Fuchs

This Manhattan Project scientist supplied information to the Soviets.


Edward R. Murrow

This broadcast journalist came to prominence during WW2, his "Orchestrated Hell" broadcast describing a nighttime raid of Berlin by the Royal Air Force was particularly infamous.


Louis Buchalter

An American mobster and head of the mafia hit squad "Murder, Inc.," fried at Sing-Sing.



The Battle of Normandy, part of Operation Overlord, commenced with the landing of 155,000 Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy in France. The Allied soldiers quickly break through the Atlantic Wall and push inland, in the largest amphibious military operation in history.


Hartford circus fire

Over 100 children died in one of the worst fire disasters in American history.


Smokey Bear

This fire safety mascot was created in response to numerous fire disasters.


Mad Gasser of Mattoon

A person, or people, believed to be responsible for a series of gas attacks in Virginia and Illinois. But whether it was the same person, or just entirely mass hysteria, remains to be seen.


Tsushima Maru

A Japanese passenger ship carrying over 700 schoolchildren which was torpedoed by the Americans.


United States presidential election, 1944

Roosevelt defeated the Republican Thomas Dewey. This was his fourth election.


The Glass Menagerie

This play about an emotionally unstable family helped catapult Tennessee Williams to a revered American playwright.


Eddie Slovik

This WW2 soldier was the only American army man to be court martialed and executed for desertion.


Yalta Conference

The Big Three met towards the end of the war in Europe to discuss post-war reorganization.


Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima

A historic photograph taken after the Battle of Iwo Jima depicting five Marines raising the flag on the battle ground.


Battle of Iwo Jima

A battle with a large death toll due to the Japanese kamikaze fighting style but little actual outcome.


Ernie Pyle

A journalist best known for his travel columns, especially during World War 2, which is when he was killed.


Fire balloon

AKA a fu-go, these weapons were successful in claiming some civilian lives in Japanese attacks on the West coast.



The code name of the first nuclear test, ordered by new president Truman for the Manhattan Project.


Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Probably over 246,000 Japanese were killed and the nation surrendered, largely ending WW2.


Tokyo Rose

The generic name applied to a number of English speaking female propagandists who used the radio during World War 2.


The 38th Parallel

This is the division between North (USSR occupied) and South (US occupied) Korea following World War 2.


Hollywood Black Friday

A six month strike of set designers lead to a bloody riot at the gates of Warner Bros. Studios.


Jackie Robinson

The first African-American to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) in the modern era, for the Brooklyn Dodgers.


The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care

Dr. Benjamin Spock's influential childcare book.


Operation Crossroads

Two nuclear weapons tests conducted by the U.S. at the Bikini Atoll.


1946 Georgia lynching

The last mass lynching in the United States, a mob of white men shot and lynched two black couples.


Atomic Energy Act of 1946

The McMahon Act, signed by Truman, it determined how the federal government would manage the nuclear technology it had now that World War 2 was over.


The 80th Congress

Called by Truman the "Do-Nothing Congress," they had a Republican majority in both houses, a take-off from FDR and the Democratic supermajority he held throughout his presidency.


President's Committee on Civil Rights

Established by Truman by executive order its purpose was to investigate the present status of civil rights in the country, it resulted in him ordering the desegregation of the work force and the military.


It's a Wonderful Life

This Frank Capra film starring James Stewart is one of the most loved films in American cinema.


Havana Conference

A historic meeting of United States Mafia and Cosa Nostra leaders in Havana, Cuba.


Black Dahlia

The nickname given to horrifically murdered actress Elizabeth Short.


Edwin H. Land

Best known for inventing the first "instant camera."


Texas City disaster

The deadliest industrial disaster in U.S. history.


Bernard Baruch

Coined the phrase "Cold War"


Truman Doctrine

Truman's international relation policy of providing aid to struggling nations after World War 2. It was first utilized in favor of Greece and Turkey, its purpose was to stop the spread of communism.


Marshall Plan

The plan to give money to struggling European nations so they could afford to pay back American debts to avoid another economic collapse.


Labor Management Relations Act of 1947

AKA the Taft-Hartley Act, it restricted the power of labor unions. It was vetoed by Truman, and then overridden and passed.


Kenneth Arnold

A private pilot who claimed nine, shiny UFOs. Caused a huge media flap.


Roswell UFO incident

A supposed incident in which aliens crashed in a farm in Roswell. There was a UFO craze in the late 40s and 50s.


Chuck Yeager

The first pilot confirmed to have traveled faster than sound.


The "Spruce Goose"

Howard Hughes's prototypical heavy transport plane.


Second Red Scare

A period of time lasting from 1947-1957, characterized by McCarthyism, and an anti-Communist paranoia.


The Hollywood Ten

The first ten, of many, Hollywood screenwriters who would end up blacklisted from film during the Second Red Scare.


House Un-American Activities Committee

The purpose of this committee was to investigate subversive activities and Communist ties of private citizens.


The Hollywood blacklist

Due to investigations by the House Un-American Activities Committee, numerous Hollywood careers were ruined as the stars were blacklisted, this list includes Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Lena Horne, and Dorothy Parker.


A Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee Williams's Pulitzer Prize winning play.


McCollum v. Board of Education

Religious instruction is illegal in public schools.


Berlin Blockade

In 1948, the USSR shut off allied access to Berlin.


Berlin Airlift

In response to the Berlin Blockade, Truman ordered that planes be used to drop supplies into Berlin.


Confrontation Day

The televised duel before the House Un-American Activities Committee between American editor and spy for the Soviets Whittaker Chambers and American government official Alger Hiss.


United States presidential election, 1948

Incumbant Democrat Harry S. Truman surprised everyone when he defeated Republican Thomas E. Dewey and Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond.


Fair Deal

Truman's liberal manifesto, called for aid to schools, universal health care, a Fair Employment Practices Commission, and the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act. All these major things failed, but some smaller facets of his plan did get through.


Lucky Lady II

First plane to non-stop circumnavigate the globe.



The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, formed during the Cold War in response to the Warsaw Pact.


South Pacific

A Rodgers and Hammerstein musical which became an instant classic.


Hopalong Cassidy

This NBC show was the first televised western.


Housing Act of 1949

Part of Truman's New Deal, it was a sweeping expansion of the federal role in mortgage insurance and the construction of public housing.


Howard Unruh

A World War II veteran who walked through his home neighborhood with a gun, America's first single-episode murderer.