Portal:1940s

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1940s

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The 1940s (pronounced "nineteen-forties" and commonly abbreviated as the "Forties") was a decade of the Gregorian calendar 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. However, 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.

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Trinity Test of the Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project was a research and development project that produced the first atomic bombs during World War II. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom and Canada. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the US Army Corps of Engineers. It began modestly in 1939, but grew to employ more than 130,000 people and cost nearly US$2 billion (the equivalent of about $26 billion now). Although it operated under a tight blanket of security, it was penetrated by Soviet atomic spies. The first device ever detonated was an implosion-type nuclear weapon in the Trinity test (pictured), conducted at New Mexico's Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range on 16 July 1945. Project personnel participated in the Alsos Mission in Europe, and in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the war the Manhattan Project conducted weapons testing in Operation Crossroads, developed new weapons, established the network of national laboratories, supported medical research into radiology, and laid the foundations for a nuclear navy. It was replaced by the Atomic Energy Commission and the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project in 1947. (Read more...)

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We Can Do It!
Credit: Artist: J. Howard Miller

J. Howard Miller's famous poster for Westinghouse, entitled We Can Do It!, is iconically associated with Rosie the Riveter, a cultural icon of the United States. Rosie represented the six million women who worked in the manufacturing plants on the home front which produced munitions and material during World War II while the men (who traditionally performed this work) were fighting in the Pacific and European Theaters. This "character" is now considered a feminist icon in the U.S., and a herald of women's economic power to come.

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Anne Frank in 1940

Anne Frank was a Jewish girl who wrote a diary while in hiding with her family and four friends in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War II. After two years in hiding, the group was betrayed and they were transported to concentration camps, where all but Anne's father Otto died. He returned to Amsterdam to find that Anne's diary had been saved. Convinced that the diary was a unique record, he took action to have it published. The diary was given to Anne for her thirteenth birthday and chronicles the events of her life from June 12, 1942 until its final entry of August 4, 1944. It was translated from its original Dutch and first published in English in 1952 as The Diary of a Young Girl, and has since been translated into over 60 languages. Described as the work of a mature and insightful mind, it provides an intimate examination of daily life under Nazi occupation; through her writing, Anne Frank has become one of the most renowned and discussed of the Holocaust victims. (Read more...)

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