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The 1940s – A Time of War
The 1940s were known for being a time of war. World War II, only 30 years after
World War I, shook the world from the Japan to Russia, and even affected the United
States of America. While the war makes the 1940s stand out, it isn’t the only event that
should be put on paper. This 8th Grade Exit Project will tell what major events happened
between 1940 and 1949.
On April 9th, 1940, Germany’s invasion of Norway started. Hitler chose to invade
Norway for its coasts, making transportation of goods easier. The Germans made five
attack groups of warships to attack each of the five major Norwegian ports. After
attacking the ports, Germans made their way around mines put down by Norway along
the coasts. When Norway refused to surrender to the German power, German parachute
troops dropped down in Norway. Norway still refused and fought alongside the British,
who were sent to protect Norway. Unfortunately for Norway, the British troops in
Norway were sent to France, which caused a definite victory for the Germans. Norway
was the second country taken over by the German supremacy.
Only one year later, in 1941, Japanese fighter pilots, who joined with the Germans
and Italians to create the Axis, attacked Pearl Harbor, the United States’ military harbor
in the Pacific Ocean. At 7:53 AM, the harbor was first hit by Japanese fleets. The planes
bombarded the harbor, destroying planes and battleships, and killing people. Only two
hours later, at 9:55, the remaining Japanese pilots left the harbor and flew back to their
carriers. The harbor was crippled, with 188 planes destroyed and 2,430 people killed. 68
civilians died from misfired AA shells that hit Honolulu. Fortunately, the harbor’s aircraft
carriers, submarines, and its fuel reserve did not get damaged during the assault. The
news and anger spread throughout the US, joining the country together and vowing to
win the war, along with Great Britain.
During 1942 in Russia, the Battle of Stalingrad jeopardized the city’s control
during the last few months of 1942. Hitler aimed to take Stalingrad, a major city of
manufacturing, named after Joseph Stalin. The Russians defended the city in the name of
Stalin. The Russian army was led by Zhukov, and had 1,000,500 soldiers. The invading
German army was led by Paulus and had 1,011,500 soldiers, about 10,000 more than the
Russians. The battle was a matter of controlling parts of the city, with the Germans taking
areas during the day, while the Russians took the places pack during the night. On
November 19, the Russians had a plan to trap the Germans inside the city, leaving them
to fend off the winter. Temperatures dropped far below 0° F, supplies were short, and the
Germans had no way out. Some of them even lost a few fingers. The Russians survived
because they were used to it. The Russians took 91,000 Germans prisoner. This war was
a big loss for the Germans, and was a turning point in the war, which eventually led to the
Allies victory.
In 1943, during World War II, the Germans put Jews into ghettos and
concentration camps, because of a false controversy spread around by Adolf Hitler.
Between July 22 and September 12, the Germans killed around 300,000 Jews. The Jews
in Warsaw, one of the many ghettos, created two separate groups of fighters, the Jewish
Combat Force and the Jewish Military Union. The two groups, while not joined together,
both fought for the same reason: to stop the Germans in the ghetto. The Jews made
makeshift melee weapons out of materials found around the ghetto. The Jewish Combat
Force had also gotten pistols and explosives from Home Army. When the Germans first
tried to mass evacuate the Jews in Warsaw, the fighters from both groups stopped them
and pushed the Germans back to Umschlagplatz, which also stopped any porting
temporarily. Later, the Germans started to burn down the buildings in the ghettos, forcing
any surviving Jews in the open, where they were killed or captured. The Germans finally
managed to destroy Warsaw.
June 6, 1944 had one of the largest battles in the war: D-Day. On this day,
American and British soldiers, along with a few Canadian soldiers, attacked France,
where the Germans had a major fortress. One year before the attack, the U.S. trained
masses of soldiers and sent supplies to any anti-Axis forces around the world. They also
crippled the reserves owned by the Germans three months before D-Day. The Germans
were also fooled into thinking the Allies would invade through the Pas de Calais. During
the actual battle, the American and British troops attacked from behind at 2:00 AM. Full
assaults attacked four hours later. While the opposition was not strong, the Americans in
the center had the toughest opposition. By nightfall, the German fortress was taken by the
Americans and British, along with a Canadian Division.
To quickly put an end to the war, the U.S. issued the Potsdam Declaration to
Japan, as Germany already unconditionally surrendered. If Japan signed the declaration,
the war would end and supply routes to Japan would re-open. But instead, Japan refused
the declaration and faced “prompt and utter destruction”. The U.S. dropped an atomic
bomb, named “Little Boy”, as a reference to President Roosevelt. The bomb landed in
Hiroshima, a major manufacturing city in Japan. The bomb destroyed 60% of the
developed city and killed 70,000 people, most of the deaths due to the immediate
explosion. Japan still refused, even with half a major city destroyed. The U.S. dropped
another atomic bomb, even bigger than the first, named “Fat Man”, referring to Winston
Churchill. This bomb hit Nagasaki, killing 74,000. Finally, Japan surrendered and signed
the Potsdam Declaration on September 12, 1945. This was the official end of World War
When Winston Churchill failed to be re-elected as Prime Minister in 1945, he was
invited by President Harry S. Truman (Roosevelt’s term(s) was (were) over) to give a
speech at Westminster College in Missouri. 40,000 people heard his speech in person.
Truman also joined Churchill at the stage. Churchill stated that the U.S. was at the
“pinnacle of world power”. He also said that an “iron curtain” fell on Europe, separating
the East and West sides of the Continent. Communism had sprung up in Southern Europe
at the time. Churchill’s “iron curtain” phrase was used as a term in the Cold War. The
U.S. and Britain weren’t as enthusiastic about a “special relationship” as Churchill was.
Stalin also thought of Churchill’s speech of the English-speaking world as imperialist
racism. Despite this, most of everybody took the speech warmly.
Before 1947, there was a problem with most planes. The air around planes
couldn’t move out of the way of planes when flying, which is compressibility. This
caused several plane crashes, leading to several deaths. This also directly related to the
speed of sound. The Bell X-1 was a plane which was changed and tested several times to
research the sonic region, or speeds just under and above the speed of sound. As the plane
was improved, the speed of sound was getting closer and closer. The pilot behind the
wheel of the plane was Captain Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager. Unfortunately, he broke two
ribs during a horse ride on October 4th. Despite this, he still flew the Bell X-1. After
being dropped out of a B-29, the plane flew past speeds of .96 Mach, which is directly
under the speed of sound. During the flight, the plane eventually passed Mach 1.0. Just as
Yeager hit this speed, a boom crashed through the sky. This was an atomic boom, which
is caused by speeds past the sound barrier. People who didn’t know about the flight on
the ground assumed it was thunder. The flight was kept secret by the government for
several months, away from the public. As the X-1 was improved even more and more, the
plane started going past speeds of even twice the speed of sound. Yeager even flew the
plane at hypersonic speeds, where even the density and chemical makeup of air is
changed. Later, Yeager was promoted to General and commanded flight squadrons until
the 1960s.
A year after the success of the Bell X-1, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by a
Hindu extremist. He was 78 at the time of his death. Gandhi was going to one of his
regular prayer meetings on his lawn, until the assassin, named Nathuram, greeted Gandhi
in a khaki jacket and blue pants. After Gandhi greeted the unknown assassin, Nathuram
pulled out a .38 Caliber Italian Biretta pistol and shot Gandhi three times, each of the
bullets hitting his chest, stomach, and groin. After shooting Gandhi, Nathuram attempted
to kill himself to avoid punishment, but missed the fourth shot, because of a sergeant in
the Royal Indian Air Force was nearby and stopped him. The assassin was then beaten by
the crowd of people around the assassination with sticks. The news of the death was on
the All-Indian Radio at 6:00. Several thousands of people gathered around Gandhi’s
home in mourning. The mourning lasted for 13 days, with half-mast flags and no public
entertainment or celebrations. Messages of sympathy were sent by the King, U.S.
president, and several others. It was a sad time for India.
Because of the events of World War II, Western Europe searched for a military
alliance to protect themselves from future threats. France, Britain, Holland, Belgium, and
Luxembourg joined together and created the Brussels pact. This would support each other
and defend themselves from threats. The U.S. had concerns about Soviet Armies’
aggression and the spread of communism in Europe, and talked about the alliance in
Europe. Because the U.S. joined, the Brussels Pact was changed to NATO, the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization. This meant that if one of the countries in NATO was
attacked, then it would be considered a threat by the rest of the countries joined in the
pact. Later, NATO debated about letting Western Germany join NATO and re-arming the
part of the country (Eastern German was taken by the Soviet at the time). Once Germany
was accepted into the pact, Soviet Russia was upset and joined the Eastern communist
countries in Europe to make the Warsaw Pact. Over the years, other countries joined
NATO, including Greece, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. France
withdrew from NATO in 1966. Today, NATO is still alive.
The 1940s were well-known, due to World War II. It threatened and destroyed
both cities and countries. The war stood out in this time span, though other interesting
events took place, like the Bell X-1 breaking the sound barrier and NATO being formed.
It was a time of war, a time of sadness, and a time of accomplishment and innovation.