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1948 was a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1948th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 948th year of the 2nd millennium, the 48th year of the 20th century, and the 9th year of the 1940s decade.
- March 8 – McCollum v. Board of Education: The United States Supreme Court rules that religious instruction in public schools violates the U.S. Constitution.
- March 12 – The Costa Rican Civil War begins.
- March 16 – The largest flood in the history of Brampton, Ontario, occurs.
- March 17
- Treaty of Brussels signed by Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, providing for economic, social and cultural collaboration and collective self-defence.
- The Hells Angels motorcycle gang is founded in California.
- March 18 – The Round Table Conference in The Hague, Netherlands for the preparation of the decolonization process for Aruba and the other Dutch Colonies. Aruba presents the mandate of the Aruban People for Aruba to become an Independent Country, under the souvereignty of the House of Orange, based on Aruba's first state constitution presented officially since August 1947, and a (4th) Member State of the future Dutch Commonwealth.
- March 20
- June 3 – The Palomar Observatory telescope is finished in California.
- June 10 – Hasan Saka forms the new government of Turkey. (17th government; Hasan Saka had served twice as a prime minister)
- June 11 – The first monkey astronaut, Albert I, is launched into space from White Sands, New Mexico.
- June 15 – Chinese newspaper, Renmin Ribao (People's Daily), a first issue of published in Pingshan, Hebei Province, China.
- June 16
- Three armed men hijack the Cathay Pacific passenger plane Miss Macao and shoot the pilot; the plane crashes, killing 26 of 27 people on board.
- June 17 – A Douglas DC-6 carrying United Airlines Flight 624 crashes near Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, killing all 43 people on board.
- June 18
- June 20 – The U.S. Congress recesses for the remainder of 1948, after an overtime session closes at 7:00 a.m. (to be shortly interrupted by Truman's recall from Congressional recess for July 20, 1948).
- June 21
- June 22 – The ship HMT Empire Windrush brings a large group of Afro-Caribbean immigrants to Tilbury near London, the start of a large wave of immigration to Britain.
Airplane C-54 at airport Berlin-Tempelhof.
- August 1 – The U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations is founded.
- August 3 – Whittaker Chambers appears under subpoena before HUAC and alleges that several former U.S. Federal official were communists, including Harry Dexter White and Alger Hiss
- August 5 – Alger Hiss appears before HUAC to deny the allegations of Whittaker Chambers
- August 10 – August 23 – The Herrenchiemsee Convent prepares the draft for the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany
- August 13 – Harry Dexter White and Donald Hiss refute allegations of Communism by Whittaker Chambers before HUAC
- August 14 – 1948 Ashes series: The Australian batsman Don Bradman, playing his last Test cricket match, against England at The Oval, is bowled by Eric Hollies for a duck; however, "The Invincibles" win the match by an innings and 149 runs, and The Ashes 4-0.
- August 15 – The southern half of Korea is established as the Republic of Korea (South Korea).
- August 17 – HUAC holds a private session between Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers
- August 18 – Danube Commission created by Belgrade Convention (enters into force 11 May 1949).
- August 20 – Lee Pressman, Nathan Witt, and John Abt, represented by Harold I. Cammer, plead the Fifth Amendment in response to allegations of Communism by Whittaker Chambers before HUAC
- August 23 – The World Council of Churches is established.
- August 24 – The first meeting of the charter members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) is held.
- August 25 – HUAC holds its first-ever televised congressional hearing, featuring "Confrontation Day" between Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss
- August 27 – Whittaker Chambers states that Alger Hiss was a communist on Meet the Press radio
- September 4 – Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands abdicates for health reasons.
- September 5 – Robert Schuman becomes Prime Minister of France.
- September 6 – Juliana is formally inaugurated to succeed her mother as queen regnant of the Netherlands.
- September 9 – The northern half of Korea is formally declared the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), with Kim Il-sung as prime minister.
- September 11 – Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder and first Governor-General of Pakistan, dies. Pakistan is in a state of shock as it mourns the departure of the father of the nation. The day is a public holiday nationwide.
- September 13–18 – Indian annexation of Hyderabad ("Operation Polo"): The princely state of Hyderabad is invaded by the Indian Armed Forces in a "police action" in the aftermath of Pakistani leader Jinnah's death. The Nizam of Hyderabad surrenders his state which is amalgamated into the newly-independent Dominion of India; thousands are killed as a result of this event.
- September 13 – Margaret Chase Smith is elected United States Senator, and becomes the first woman to serve in both the U.S. House Of Representatives and the United States Senate.
- September 17 – Lehi members, also known as the Stern Gang, assassinate Swedish count Folke Bernadotte, United Nations Mediator in Palestine, in Jerusalem.
- September 18 – Inaugural motor race at Goodwood Circuit, West Sussex, England.
- September 20 – Establishment of the city of Rabwah in Pakistan.
- September 27 – Alger Hiss files a slander suit against Whittaker Chambers for his August 27 radio statement in the United States.
- September 29 – Laurence Olivier's film of Hamlet opens in the US.
- Casimir effect predicted by Dutch physicist Hendrik Casimir.
- The Fresh Kills Landfill, the world's largest, opens on Staten Island, New York.
- The Oakridge Transit Centre opens in Vancouver, British Columbia.
- The Slovak city Gúta is renamed Kolárovo.
- The Tunnel of Vielha is opened in the Aran Valley, Spanish Pyrenees.
- Last recorded sighting of the Caspian tiger in Kazakhstan.
- A pack of wolves kills about 40 children in Darovskoy District, in Russia.
- Charles Warrell creates the first I-Spy books in the United Kingdom.
- Rev. W. Awdry's third book, James the Red Engine, is published in the United Kingdom.
- Last ion of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum is published in the Vatican.
- The first Kinsey Report, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, is published in the United States.
- Inspired by World War II fighter planes, Cadillac introduces the first automobile to sport tailfins.
- The inaugural 6 Hours of Watkins Glen sports car endurance race is held in the United States.
- February 1 – Rick James, American Motown performer (d. 2004)
- February 2
- February 3
- February 4
- February 5
- February 9 – David Hayman, Scottish film, television and stage actor and director
- February 10 – John Magnier, Irish businessman and thoroughbred racehorse breeder
- February 11 – Chris Rush, American stand-up comedian
- February 12 – Raymond Kurzweil, American inventor and author
- February 13 – Kitten Natividad, Mexican-American film actress
- February 14
- February 17
- February 18 – Sinéad Cusack, Irish actress
- February 19
- February 20 – Jennifer O'Neill, American model and actress
- February 22
- February 24
- February 25 – Danny Denzongpa, Indian actor
- February 28
- February 29
- April 1 – Jimmy Cliff, Jamaican singer and actor
- April 2 – Roald Als, Danish cartoonist
- April 3 – Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Mexican economist and politician and 53rd President of Mexico
- April 4
- April 5 – Neil Portnow, President of The Recording Academy (NARAS).
- April 7 – John Oates, American rock singer and guitarist (Hall & Oates)
- April 12
- April 13
- April 15 – Michael Kamen, American composer (d. 2003)
- April 16
- April 17
- Jan Hammer, Czechoslovakian composer, pianist and keyboardist
- Peter Jenni, Swiss experimental particle physicist
- April 21 – Josef Flammer, Swiss ophthalmologist (after whom Flammer syndrome is named)
- April 27
- April 28
- April 29 – Michael Karoli, German musician (d. 2001)
- June 1
- June 2 – Jerry Mathers, American actor
- June 4
- June 6 – Richard Sinclair, English musician (Caravan)
- June 8
- June 9
- June 11 – Dave Cash, American baseball player
- June 13 – Garnet Bailey, Canadian hockey player and scout (d. 2001)
- June 14 – Laurence Yep, American author
- June 15 – Paul Michiels, Belgian singer-songwriter
- June 17 – Dave Concepción, Venezuelan baseball player
- June 19
- June 20 – Ludwig Scotty, President of Nauru
- June 21
- June 22
- Madeleine Meilleur, Canadian politician
- Takashi Sasano, Japanese actor
- Shōhaku Okumura, Japanese Soto Zen
- Peter Prijdekker, Dutch swimmer
- Sue Roberts, American professional golfer
- Todd Rundgren, American rock singer and record producer
- Curtis Johnson, American football cornerback
- Franciszek Smuda, Polish football coach
- Panagiotis Xanthakos, Greek sports shoote
- Colin Waldron, English football defender
- June 23
- June 24
- June 25
- June 26
- June 27
- June 28
- June 29
- June 30
- July 1
- July 2
- July 3 – Tarmo Koivisto, Finnish comics artist
- July 4
- July 5
- July 6
- July 7
- July 8 – Raffi, Egyptian-born children's entertainer
- July 10
- Theo Bücker, German football manager and a player
- Rich Hand, American professional baseball player
- Mick Coop, English professional football right back
- July 12
- July 13
- July 14 – Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, Zulu king
- July 15 – Richard Franklin, Australian film director (d. 2007)
- July 16
- July 17
- July 18 – Hartmut Michel, German chemist, Nobel Prize laureate
- July 20
- July 21
- Beppe Grillo, Italian activist, blogger, comedian and actor
- Ed Hinton, American sportswriter
- Cat Stevens, born Steven Georgiou, later known as Yusuf Islam, British singer, musician
- Garry Trudeau, American cartoonist
- Teruzane Utada, Japanese music executive producer and attendant
- Mikhail Zadornov, Russian stand-up comedian and writer
- Snooty, male Florida manatee (d. 2017)
- July 22
- July 23 – John Cushnahan, Northern Irish politician
- July 25 – Steve Goodman, American Grammy Award-winning folk music singer and songwriter (d. 1984)
- July 27 – Peggy Fleming, American figure skater
- July 28
- July 30
- July 31 – Jonathan Dollimore, English academic sociologist and cultural theorist
- September 1 – James Rebhorn, American actor (d. 2014)
- September 2
- September 3
- September 4
- September 5 – Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Austrian diplomat and politician
- September 7 – Susan Blakely, American actress
- September 8 – Great Kabuki, Japanese professional wrestler
- September 10
- September 11 – John Martyn, born Iain McGeachy, British folk-rock guitarist (d. 2009)
- September 13
- September 16 – Ron Blair, American bassist (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)
- September 17 – John Ritter, American actor (d. 2003)
- September 19
- September 20
- September 22
- September 23 – José Lavat, Mexican voice actor
- September 24 – Phil Hartman, Canadian actor and comedian (d. 1998)
- September 25
- September 26
- September 27
- September 29
- October 1 – Sir Peter Blake, New Zealand yachtsman (k. 2001)
- October 2
- October 4 – Meg Bennett, American soap opera writer
- October 6 – Gerry Adams, Northern Irish politician
- October 7
- October 8
- October 9
- October 11 – Cynthia Clawson, American gospel singer
- October 13
- October 14
- October 15
- October 16 – Leo Mazzone, American baseball coach
- October 17
- October 18 – Hans Köchler, Austrian philosopher
- October 19 – Patrick Simmons, American musician (The Doobie Brothers)
- October 21
- October 22 – Lynette Fromme, American attempted assassin of Gerald Ford
- October 23 – Sir Gerry Robinson, Irish-born British businessman
- October 25
- October 26 – Toby Harrah, American baseball player
- October 28 – Telma Hopkins, American actress and singer
- October 29 – Kate Jackson, American actress
- November 1 – Anna Stuart, American actress
- November 3 – Lulu, born Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie, Scottish singer and actress
- November 4
- November 5
- November 6 – Glenn Frey, American guitarist and singer (The Eagles) (d. 2016)
- November 7 – Jim Houghton, American actor and director
- November 9 – Luiz Felipe Scolari, Brazilian football player and manager
- November 10 – Vincent Schiavelli, American actor (d. 2005)
- November 12
- November 13
- November 14
- November 15 – James Kemsley, Australian cartoonist and actor (d. 2007)
- November 16
- November 17 – Howard Dean, American politician
- November 19 – Rance Allen, American gospel singer and preacher
- November 20
- November 21 – Michel Suleiman, President of Lebanon
- November 23
- November 24 – Joe Howard, American actor
- November 26 – Elizabeth Blackburn, Australian-American biologist and winner of Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
- November 27 – James Avery, American actor (d. 2013)
- November 28 – Agnieszka Holland, Polish director and screenwriter
- December 2
- December 3
- December 6
- December 7
- December 10 – Abu Abbas, founder of the Palestine Liberation Front (d. 2004)
- December 11 – Chester Thompson, American rock drummer
- December 12 – Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, 20th President of Portugal
- December 13
- December 14
- December 19 – Ken Brown, Canadian ice hockey player
- December 20 – Alan Parsons, English songwriter, musician and record producer
- December 21
- December 22
- December 23 – Jim Ferguson, American guitarist, composer, educator, author and music journalist
- December 25
- December 27
- December 28
- December 29 – Peter Robinson, Northern Ireland First Minister
- December 31
- Archana Bhattacharyya, Indian physicist
- Miguel Cabrera Cabrera, Spanish architect and politician
- Vicatan, born Vicente Doria Catan Jr., Filipino comic book artist (d. 2004)
- Gudo Hoegel, German actor and voice actor
- Phalon Jones, American soul music and rhythm and blues musician (d. 1967)
- John Blair Moore, American comic book artist
- Johnny Nicholas, American blues musician
- Judy Nylon, American artist and musician
- Edward Rutherfurd, born Francis Edward Wintle, English novelist
- February 1 – Jatindramohan Bagchi, Indian (Bengali) poet (b. 1878)
- February 2 – Bevil Rudd, South African athlete (b. 1894)
- February 4 – Otto Praeger, American postal official who implemented U.S. Airmail (b. 1871)
- February 9
- February 11
- February 12 – Theodor Caspari, Norwegian poet, novelist, writer, literary critic and teacher (b. 1853)
- February 14 – Mordecai Brown, American baseball player (Chicago Cubs) and a member of the MLB Hall of Fame (b. 1876)
- February 15 – Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Indian poet (b. 1904)
- February 17 – Enrique Finochietto, Argentine academic, physician and inventor (b. 1881)
- February 18 – Renato Balestrero, Italian racecar driver (b. 1898)
- February 23 – John Robert Gregg, Irish-born inventor of shorthand (b. 1866)
- February 25
- February 27
- February 28 – Camila Quiroga, Argentine actress (b. 1891)
- March 1 – Gabriel Brunet de Sairigné, French general (b. 1913)
- March 4 – Antonin Artaud, French playwright, actor and director (b. 1896)
- March 6 – Ross Lockridge, Jr., American novelist (suicide) (b. 1914)
- March 8 – Piero Folli, Italian Roman Catholic priest and blessed (b. 1881)
- March 10
- March 14
- March 17 – Paul Dupuy, French historian and biographer (b. 1856)
- March 23 – Kōzō Satō, Japanese admiral (b. 1871)
- March 24
- March 30 – Giovanni Ceirano, Italian industrialist and automotive pioneer (b. 1865)
- March 31 – Egon Erwin Kisch, Austrian journalist and author (b. 1885)
- April 2 – Biagio Biagetti, Italian painter (b. 1877)
- April 5 – Angelo Joseph Rossi, American political figure and Mayor of San Francisco (b. 1878)
- April 7 – Isabel Andreu de Aguilar, Puerto Rican writer, educator, philanthropist and activist (b. 1887)
- April 8 – Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni, Palestinian Arab nationalist (b. 1907)
- April 9
- April 15 – Manuel Roxas, Filipino statesman, 5th President of the Philippines (b. 1892)
- April 17 – Kantarō Suzuki, Japanese admiral, 42nd Prime Minister of Japan (b. 1868)
- April 19 – Mikhail Rostovtsev, Soviet actor (b. 1872)
- April 20 – Mitsumasa Yonai, Japanese admiral and politician, 37th Prime Minister of Japan (b. 1880)
- April 21 – Carlos López Buchardo, Argentine composer (b. 1881)
- April 22 – Prosper Montagné, French chef and author (b. 1865)
- April 23 – Prince Albrecht of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg (b. 1863)
- April 24 – Manuel Ponce, Mexican composer (b. 1882)
- April 25 – Gerardo Matos Rodriguez, Uruguayan composer, journalist and pianist (b. 1897)
- April 30 – Alfredo Miguel Aguayo Sánchez, Puerto Rican educator and writer (b. 1866)
- May 2 – Ángel Maria Herrera, Panamanian educator (b. 1859)
- May 3 – Ernst Tandefelt, Finnish nobleman, assassin of Minister Ritavuori (b. 1876)
- May 9
- May 13
- May 15
- May 16 – Muhammad Habibullah, Indian politician (b. 1869)
- May 18 – Francisco Alonso, Spanish composer (b. 1887)
- May 19 – Maximilian Lenz, Austrian painter and sculptor (b. 1860)
- May 21 – Jacques Feyder, French filmmaker (b. 1885)
- May 22 – Claude McKay, Jamaican-born American writer and poet (b. 1889)
- May 26 – Émile Gaston Chassinat, French egyptologist (b. 1868)
- May 28 – Unity Mitford, British socialite; friend of Adolf Hitler (b. 1914)
- May 29 – Dame May Whitty, British actress (b. 1865)
- May 30 – József Klekl, Slovene politician in Hungary (b. 1874)
- July 1 – Assunta Marchetti, Italian Roman Catholic religious professed and blessed
- July 2 – Baba Sawan Singh, Indian saint known as "The Great Master" (b. 1858)
- July 4
- July 5
- July 9
- July 11
- July 14
- July 15 – John J. Pershing, American general (b. 1860)
- July 17 – Ildebrando Zacchini, Maltese painter, inventor and traveller (b. 1868)
- July 18
- July 21 – Arshile Gorky, Soviet-born painter (b. 1904)
- July 22 – Sud Mennucci, Brazilian journalist and educator (b. 1882)
- July 23 – D. W. Griffith, American film director (The Birth Of A Nation) (b. 1875)
- July 24 – Pencho Zlatev, Bulgarian general, 25th Prime Minister of Bulgaria (b. 1881)
- July 26 – Antonin Sertillanges, French Catholic philosopher and spiritual writer (b. 1863)
- July 27
- July 31 – Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, mistress of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (b. 1891)
- September 1 – Muhammad VII al-Munsif, ruler of Tunisia 1942–43 (b. 1881)
- September 2 – Sylvanus G. Morley, American scholar and World War I spy (b. 1883)
- September 3 – Edvard Beneš, Czechoslovakian politician, 4th Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia and 2-time President of Czechoslovakia (b. 1884)
- September 5 – Richard C. Tolman, American mathematical physicist (b. 1881)
- September 7 – André Suarès, French poet and critic (b. 1868)
- September 10 – Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, Tsar of Bulgaria (b. 1861)
- September 11 – Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder and first Governor General of Pakistan (b. 1876)
- September 12
- September 13 – Paul Wegener, German actor, film director, and screenwriter; one of the pioneers of German Expressionism (b. 1874)
- September 17
- September 20 – Husain Salaahuddin, Famous Mahl writer (b. 1881)
- September 22 – Prince Adalbert of Prussia (b. 1884)
- September 24 – Warren William, American actor (b. 1894)
- September 25 – Toyoaki Horiuchi, Japanese general (b. 1900)
- September 26 – Gregg Toland, American cinematographer (b. 1904)
- September 27 – Frank Cellier, British actor (b. 1884)
- September 30
- October 1 – Phraya Manopakorn Nititada, 1st Prime Minister of Siam (b. 1884)
- October 2 – Mary Ryan, American actress (b. 1885)
- October 4 – Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah, Pakistani politician (b. 1879)
- October 5 – Umberto Coromaldi, Italian painter (b. 1870)
- October 10 – Saif Ali Janjua, Pakistani commander (b. 1922)
- October 12
- October 13 – Samuel S. Hinds, American actor (b. 1875)
- October 14 – Dale Fuller, American actress (b. 1885)
- October 15 – Edythe Chapman, American actress (b. 1863)
- October 16 – Maria Olga de Moraes Sarmento da Silveira, Portuguese feminist and writer (b. 1881)
- October 18 – Walther von Brauchitsch, German field marshal (b. 1881)
- October 19 – Mehmet Suphi Kula, Turkish general (b. 1881)
- October 21 – Elissa Landi, Italian actress (b. 1904)
- October 22
- October 24
- October 31 – Mary Nolan, American actress (b. 1905)
- November 4
- November 7 – David Leland, American actor (b. 1932)
- November 8 – Archduke Peter Ferdinand of Austria (b. 1874)
- November 9 – Edgar Kennedy, American actor (b. 1890)
- November 10
- November 11 – Fred Niblo, American film director (b. 1874)
- November 12 – Umberto Giordano, Italian composer (b. 1867)
- November 17 – Oerip Soemohardjo, Indonesian general (b. 1893)
- November 21 – Béla Miklós, Hungarian military officer and politician, 38th Prime Minister of Hungary (b. 1890)
- November 23 – Hack Wilson, American baseball player (Chicago Cubs) and a member of the MLB Hall of Fame (b. 1900)
- November 28 – D. D. Sheehan, Irish politician (b. 1873)
- November 29
- November 30 – Franco Vittadini, Italian composer (b. 1884)