The 1940s (pronounced "nineteen-forties" and commonly abbreviated as "the '40s" or "the Forties") was a decade that began on January 1, 1940, and ended on December 31, 1949.
Most of World War II 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 Western world and the Soviet Union, leading to the beginning of the Cold War. 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, facilitating the post–World War II economic expansion, which lasted well into the 1970s. The conditions of the post-war world encouraged decolonization and the emergence of new states and governments, with India, Pakistan, Israel, Vietnam, and others declaring independence, although rarely without bloodshed. The decade also witnessed the early beginnings of new technologies (such as 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. The world population increased from about 2.25 to 2.5 billion over the course of the decade, with about 850 million births and 600 million deaths in total.
Germany faces the United Kingdom in the Battle of Britain (1940). It was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces, and was the largest and most sustained aerial bombing campaign up until that date.
Warsaw Uprising against Nazis in 1944 in Poland was the single largest military effort taken by any European resistance movement during World War II.The United States Army Air Forces send support for Poles on September 18, 1944, when flight of 110 B-17s of the 3 division Eighth Air Force airdropped supply for soldiers.
1948 Arab–Israeli War (1948–1949) – The war was fought between the newly declared State of Israel and its Arab neighbours. The war commenced upon the termination of the British Mandate of Palestine in mid-May 1948. After the Arab rejection of the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine (UN General Assembly Resolution 181) that would have created an Arab state and a Jewish state side by side, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria attacked the state of Israel. In its conclusion, Israel managed to defeat the Arab armies.
May 27, 1942 – Reinhard Heydrich, a high-ranking Nazi official who played a key role in the Holocaust, helping to develop the Final Solution, is assassinated with a converted anti-tank mine in an attack by two British-trained and equipped Czech paratroopers in Prague, dying of his wounds on June 4.
Construction in early 1941 of the Heath RobinsonBombe & the Colossus computer, which was used by British codebreakers at Bletchley Park and satellite stations nearby to read Enigma encrypted German messages during World War II. This was operational until 1946 when it was destroyed under orders from Winston Churchill. This is now widely regarded as the first operational computer which in a model rebuild still today has a remarkable computing speed.
The Z3 as world's first working programmable, fully automatic computing machine was built.
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 the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the Soviet Union and elsewhere in Europe. The cinema of Japan also survived. Akira Kurosawa and other directors managed to produce significant films during the 1940s.
Polish filmmakers in Great Britain created anti-nazi color film Calling mr. Smith (1943) about current nazi crimes in occupied Europe during the war and about lies of nazi propaganda.
Film Noir, a film style that incorporated crime dramas with dark images, became largely prevalent during the decade. Films such as The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep are considered classics and helped launch the careers of legendary actors such as Humphrey Bogart and Ava Gardner. The genre has been widely copied since its initial inception.
Frank Sinatra gained massive popularity during the decade, becoming one of the first teen idols, and one of the pop artists who sold the most records in the 1940s
Bing Crosby was the best selling pop artist of the 1940s. Crosby was the leading figure of the crooner sound as well as its most iconic, defining artist. By the 1940s, he was an entertainment superstar who mastered all of the major media formats of the day, movies, radio, and recorded music.
The most popular music style during the 1940s was swing, which prevailed during World War II. In the later periods of the 1940s, less swing was prominent and crooners like Frank Sinatra, along with genres such as bebop and the earliest traces of rock and roll, were the prevalent genre.
As the 1940s went through times of hardship during and after WWII, the solution was significant rationing and fashion items and fabrics were no exception. Fashion became more utilitarian or function and comfortability over style. Besides this rationing, as a tribute, women's fashion also changed to reflect that and it was seen in the new silhouette that is featured suits. In order to feminize this, certain elements were added such as the straight knee-length skirts and accessories to complete the look. Even with the challenges imposed by shortages in rayon, nylon, wool, leather, rubber, metal (for snaps, buckles, and embellishments), and even the amount of fabric that could be used in any one garment, the fashion industry's wheels kept chugging slowly along, producing what it could. After the fall of France in 1940, Hollywood drove fashion in the United States almost entirely, with the exception of a few trends coming from war torn London in 1944 and 1945, as America's own rationing hit full force, and the idea of function seemed to overtake fashion, if only for a few short months until the end of the war. Fabrics shifted dramatically as rationing and wartime shortages controlled import items such as silk and furs. Floral prints seem to dominate the early 1940s, with the mid-to-late 1940s also seeing what is sometimes referred to as "atomic prints" or geometric patterns and shapes. The color of fashion seemed to even go to war, with patriotic nautical themes and dark greens and khakis dominating the color palettes, as trousers and wedges slowly replaced the dresses and more traditional heels due to shortages in stockings and gasoline. The most common characteristics of this fashion were the straight skirt, pleats, front fullness, squared shoulders with v-necks or high necks, slim sleeves and the most favorited necklines were sailor, mandarin and scalloped.
During the early 1940s World War II had an enormous impact on Major League Baseball as many players including many of the most successful stars joined the war effort. After the war many players returned to their teams, while the major event of the second half of the 1940s was the 1945 signing of Jackie Robinson to a players contract by Branch Rickey the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Signing Robinson opened the door to the integration of Major League Baseball finally putting an end to the professional discrimination that had characterized the sport since the 19th century.
During the mid-1930s and throughout the years leading up to the 1940s Joe Louis was an enormously popular Heavyweight boxer. In 1936, he lost an important 12 round fight (his first loss) to the German boxer Max Schmeling and he vowed to meet Schmeling once again in the ring. Louis' comeback bout against Schmeling became an international symbol of the struggle between the US and democracy against Nazism and Fascism. When on June 22, 1938, Louis knocked Schmeling out in the first few seconds of the first round during their rematch at Yankee Stadium, his sensational comeback victory riveted the entire nation. Louis enlisted in the U.S. Army on January 10, 1942, in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Louis' cultural impact was felt well outside the ring. He is widely regarded as the first African American to achieve the status of a nationwide hero within the United States, and was also a focal point of anti-Nazi sentiment leading up to and during World War II.
^"Holocaust," Encyclopædia 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 ..."
^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", Encyclopædia 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".
^Niewyk, Donald L. and Nicosia, Francis R. The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust, Columbia University Press, 2000, pp. 45–52.
^Donald Niewyk suggests that the broadest definition, including Soviet civilian deaths, would produce a death toll of 17 million.  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