World War II: Home Front Timeline
How It All Went Down
Hitler Becomes Chancellor
Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany and launches a campaign to "reunify" the German people.
Italy Invades Ethiopia
Italy, under the leadership of Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, invades Ethiopia.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the 1937 Neutrality Act, which bans travel on belligerent ships, forbids the arming of American merchant ships trading with belligerents, and issues an arms embargo with warring nations.
Roosevelt Urges War Quarantine
In response to Japanese aggression against China, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers a speech in which he calls for peace-loving nations to act together to "quarantine" aggressors to protect the world from the "disease" of war.
March of Time
Time Inc. releases an anti-Nazi propaganda newsreel entitled March of Time in Nazi Germany.
Anti-Japanese Sentiment Grows
In the United States, popular support for American action against Japan far exceeds support for action against Nazi Germany.
German Chancellor Adolf Hitler declares Austria part of the Third Reich.
US Recognizes Austria
The United States grants recognition to the new Austrian government.
Italy Supports Germany
In a speech in Rome, Benito Mussolini, fascist leader of Italy, promises to fight alongside Adolf Hitler's armies against the democracies, should war break out.
Naval Expansion Act
The U.S. Congress passes the Naval Expansion Act, giving President Franklin D. Roosevelt one billion dollars to enlarge the Navy.
Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling
African-American boxer Joe Louis knocks out German fighter Max Schmeling in Yankee Stadium before 70,000 people.
War of the Worlds Broadcast
In the United States, Orson Welles's radio broadcast of War of the Worlds causes national panic.
Conservatives Regain Congress
In the mid-term Congressional elections, conservative Southern Democrats and Northern Republicans regain control of the House and the Senate
Hitler as Time Man of the Year
Time magazine prints its 1938 Man of the Year edition. It chooses Adolf Hitler for the title, but does not show the Nazi leader's face on the cover of the publication.
U.S. Returns Jews
Passenger ship St. Louis, containing 907 Jewish refugees, begins its journey back to Europe after the United States refuses to grant it permission to dock.
Britain and France Declare War
Responding to Hitler's invasion of Poland, Britain and France declare war on Germany. President Franklin D. Roosevelt invokes the Neutrality Act but notes, "Even a neutral cannot be asked to close his mind or his conscience."
For Whom the Bell Tolls Published
Mexican-Americans Construct Naval Armory
The Naval Reserve Armory is built in Chavez Ravine, a California region populated primarily by poor and working-class Mexican Americans.
Mexican Immigration Rises
Mexican immigration in California rises dramatically in the 1940s; the Mexican and Mexican-American population in Los Angeles reaches a quarter of a million.
Hitler Conquers Low Countries
Allied Support Grows
A group of political figures and businessmen form the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies (CDAAA). The group supports economic intervention in the conflict abroad and seeks to repeal the Neutrality Acts of the 1930s.
Fleet Moves to Pearl Harbor
In response to tense U.S.-Japanese relations, President Franklin D. Roosevelt strategically repositions the United States Pacific Fleet base, moving it from San Diego, California to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
Roosevelt Requests Defense Spending
In a speech to Congress, President Franklin D. Roosevelt requests new defense spending, an enlarged army, and an expanded air fleet. Public opinion favors the new defense program.
Britain Stands Alone
RANGEEND_HITLERMOVES Great Britain stands alone against the Axis powers.
US Withholds Gas from Japan
In response to continued Japanese aggression in China, the United States orders gasoline withheld from Japan, sparking protest from the Japanese government.
Congress Enacts Draft
Congress appropriates $16 billion for defense spending and enacts the first peacetime draft in American history.
Philiip Randolph and Bayard Rustin Advocate March
Black union leader A. Philip Randolph and political activist Bayard Rustin propose a massive march on the nation's capital to protest racial discrimination in the expanding war industries and in the military.
Neutrality Pressure on Roosevelt
Several college students, including future president Gerald Ford and future Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart, form the America First Committee (AFC). They seek to pressure President Franklin D. Roosevelt to enforce the 1939 Neutrality Act and keep the United States out of war.
US Expands Japanese Embargo
The United States extends the Japan embargo to include iron and steel.
The first military draft numbers are drawn, sending thousands of draftees to drill camps all over the country.
Roosevelt Reelected to Third Term
In the presidential election, Democrats break with the two-term tradition and renominate Franklin D. Roosevelt for a third term. Republicans nominate Wendell L. Willkie, a public-utilities executive who shares FDR's views on the war in Europe. Franklin D. Roosevelt defeats Wendell L. Willkie by nearly 5 million popular votes.7
Navy Cracks Japanese Code
United States Naval Intelligence cryptographers crack Japan's secret communications code and learn that Japan intends to conquer China.
Arsenal of Democracy
President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers a fireside chat to the American people announcing, "We must be the great arsenal of democracy."
Unemployment in 1940 at 15%
The unemployment rate in the United States stands at 15%.
War Industries Segregation Battle
President Franklin D. Roosevelt learns of A. Philip Randolph's demands for desegregation in the war industries but, under pressure from southerners in Congress, he refuses to negotiate. A. Philip Randolph raises the stakes of the proposed March on Washington, promising 100,000 protestors.
In his State of the Union Address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaims the nation's commitment to the "Four Freedoms": freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. He also proposes a "lend- lease" program to deliver arms to Great Britain to be paid for following the war's end. Congress approves the bill.
Coast Guard Seizes Axis Ships
President Franklin D. Roosevelt orders the United States Coast Guard to seize German ships that sail into American ports; 65 Axis ships are held in "protective custody."
Robin Moor Sunk
In the South Atlantic, the American merchant ship Robin Moor is sunk by a German torpedo. President Franklin D. Roosevelt responds to the German attack on the Robin Moor by declaring a national emergency.
Roosevelt Closes Axis Consulates
President Franklin D. Roosevelt demands Germany and Italy close their United States consulates.
Germany Attacks Soviets
US Aids Soviet Union
The United States extends lend-lease aid to the Soviet Union.
Roosevelt Desegregates War Industries
Concerned about the effects of the threatened March on Washington on national unity and hoping to thwart the march altogether by cutting a bargain with black leader A. Phillip Randolph, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issues Executive Order 8802, which states that there shall be "no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or Government because of race, creed, color, or national origin."
Fair Employment Practices Commission Created
March on Washington
A. Philip Randolph announces in a radio broadcast that the March on Washington, originally scheduled to take place on July 1, will be "postponed."
The United States War Department opens the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Alabama, a segregated military base and the first U.S. Air Force facility to train black servicemen to be fighter pilots.
Roosevelt Warns Japanese
President Franklin D. Roosevelt warns the Japanese government to cease all aggression toward neighboring countries or else face United States forces.
The Office of Price Administration (OPA) is established to ration scarce consumer goods and to set maximum prices on other products during wartime.
Fight for Freedom Rally
A coalition of university officials, ministers, businessmen, and labor leaders sponsor a "Fight For Freedom" rally at New York's Madison Square Garden to pressure the federal government to declare war against Germany.
Japanese Plan to Attack
The Japanese government decides to attack Pearl Harbor if negotiations with the United States fail.
US Learn Japanese Plan
U.S. Naval cryptographers learn from secret code that Japan plans aggressive action if an agreement with the United States is not met.
Japan Bombs Pearl Harbor
Responding to the United States' refusal to lift trade embargoes, Japan attacks the American base at Pearl Harbor, destroying U.S. aircraft and naval vessels, and killing 2,355 U.S. servicemen and 68 civilians. Following the attack, Japan declares war on the United States.
“America First” Dissolves
The America First Committee begins to dissolve.
War on Japan
The United States declares war on Japan.
Axis Declares War on US
Germany and Italy, Japan's Axis partners, declare war on the United States. The United States declares war on Germany and Italy.
War Production Board Created
President Franklin D. Roosevelt creates the War Production Board (WPB) to mobilize American businesses for the war effort.
National War Labor Board Established
The National War Labor Board is established to administer wages and work hours and to monitor working conditions in national industries.
Largest Government Budget Proposed
President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers his State of the Union address in which he proposes a massive government spending budget, the largest in American history.
Roosevelt Reiterates Four Freedoms
In his nationally broadcast radio address, President Roosevelt reiterates the "Four Freedoms," and declares that these rights define "the crucial difference between ourselves and the enemies we face today."
Japanese Internment Approved
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, which gives the military the authority to evacuate Japanese nationals and Japanese-American citizens from the West Coast. The Order sets the stage for Japanese internment.
The U.S. Navy instructs Japanese-American residents of Terminal Island near Los Angeles to evacuate the region, marking the first major act of removal during the war.
Idaho Allows Concentration Camps
Governor Chase Clark of Idaho agrees to allow Japanese Americans exiled from California to settle in his state under the condition that they be placed in "concentration camps under military guard."
Japanese Internment on the West Coast
General John L. DeWitt issues orders to create Military Areas Number 1 and Number 2 in portions of California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona for the internment of Japanese Americans.
War Relocation Authority Established
President Franklin D. Roosevelt establishes the War Relocation Authority (WRA).
Civilian Exclusion Order
Under the first Civilian Exclusion Order, forty-five Japanese-American families are instructed to leave Bainbridge Island near Seattle.
Twentieth Century Fox releases Little Tokyo, U.S.A., a film in which Japanese Americans are portrayed as a "vast army of volunteer spies."
Office of War Information and Domestic Propaganda
Gang Violence in Los Angeles
Following a track meet at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, 19-year old Frank Torres is shot to death. Newspapers will blame Mexican gangs for the violence.
Police Clash in L.A.
Officers from the Los Angeles Police Department clash with a crowd of Mexican Americans in Boyle Heights, arousing public concern that the police, reduced by the wartime draft, will be unable to maintain order.
Sleepy Lagoon Death
José Diaz, a young man attending a party near the "Sleepy Lagoon" reservoir in Los Angeles, is killed when a fight breaks out between the 38th Street boys and the Downey neighborhood gang. His body is discovered at the reservoir that night.
The "Sleepy Lagoon" murder is featured on the cover of the Evening Herald & Express along with coverage of Mexican street gangs.
L.A. Media Frenzy
The extensive investigation into the "Sleepy Lagoon" murder is featured on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. The storm of media attention helps to prompt the arrest of some 300 Mexican Americans.
In People v. Zammora, the largest criminal trial in California history, seventeen boys, all of Mexican descent, face charges related to the "Sleepy Lagoon" murder.
RANGEEND_ZAMTRIAL In People v. Zammora, five of the seventeen defendants are found guilty of assault and sentenced to several months in jail, nine are found guilty of second-degree murder and are sentenced to five years to life, and three are sentenced to life imprisonment for first degree murder.
Roosevelt Describes US Concentration Camps
At a press conference, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, perhaps inadvertently, refers to the internment camps as "concentration camps."
Tabloids Cover Gangs
Murder at North Main
A policeman claims "a drunken pachuco" has killed an officer at a North Main Street restaurant.
In 1943, race riots break out in cities throughout the country, including Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, Mobile, Alabama, and Beaumont, Texas.
Following a protest in Detroit over a public housing development, fights between whites and blacks escalate into a city-wide riot leaving 25 blacks and 9 whites dead, and $2 million worth of property, largely in black neighborhoods, destroyed.
Resignation Over Segregation
Norman Rockwell’s Freedom of Speech
Norman Rockwell’s Freedom to Worship
Norman Rockwell’s Freedom From Want
Norman Rockwell’s Freedom From Fear
John DeWitt Snubs Japanese
Before the House Naval Affairs Subcommittee, General John L. DeWitt states, "A Jap's a Jap. There is no way to determine their loyalty."
Throughout the spring, incidents in which United States servicemen clash with Mexican-American youth occur several times per day.
Responding to a rumor that "Zoots" have stabbed a sailor, a crowd of over 500 sailors and civilians attack Mexican-American youths leaving a dance in a Venice Beach ballroom.
Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter
Norman Rockwell’s painting entitled "Rosie the Riveter" is featured on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post, a magazine that encouraged women to join the wartime work force.
Sailors and Solders Clash in LA
A group of sailors and soldiers clash with Mexican-American youths near downtown Los Angeles. One sailor, Joe Coleman, is badly wounded.
A group of sailors from the Naval Reserve Armory, intent on avenging the attack on Joe Coleman, take weapons into the nearby neighborhoods and target all those wearing zoot suits, an oversized suit first popularized by African-American jazz musicians and later adopted by Mexican-American youths.
Zoot Suit Riot
Riots ensue as servicemen raid downtown Los Angeles targeting Mexican Americans.
Rioting servicemen continue to attack "pachuco"-looking males. The California Attorney General is called in to deal with the crisis.
Zoot Suit Riots Expand
Rioting spills into East Los Angeles. An investigatory committee created by the California Attorney General concludes that the press and the LAPD fueled the rioting in Los Angeles.
LA Rioting Spreads to Watts
Soldiers, sailors, and marines from all over southern California travel to Los Angeles to join in the rioting. Nearly 5,000 civilians and servicemen begin downtown and spread into Watts, a predominantly African-American neighborhood.
Military Evacuates Soldiers from LA
Military officials order all servicemen to evacuate Los Angeles or be arrested, thereby quelling much of the rioting.
LA Bans Zoot Suits
The Los Angeles City Council agrees to ban the wearing of zoot suits in public, resolving to institute a 50-day jail term for those who violate the new rule.
Court Upholds Japanese Curfew
The United States Supreme Court upholds wartime curfew and exclusion orders affecting Japanese Americans.
Italy officially surrenders to the Allied powers.
What The Negro Wants Published
The University of North Carolina publishes What The Negro Wants, a collection of essays written by black leaders calling for an end to segregation, for voting rights in the South, unionism, and for a solution to the problems of poverty, lynching, and imperialism.
An American Dilemma published
Gunnar Myrdal, a Swedish social scientist, writes An American Dilemma, a book citing the problems with American racial polices and suggesting that World War II may very well be the catalyst for change.
Japanese Americans Eligible for Draft
The federal government deems first-generation Japanese Americans eligible for the military draft.
Japanese American Resistance to Internment
In Heart Mountain, Wyoming, a group of Japanese internment camp inmates form the Fair Play Committee to advocate resistance to the draft, arguing that conscription violated their constitutional rights. At least 60 members of the FPC will be tried for draft evasion and sentenced to several years in federal prison.
Japanese Protesters Imprisoned
A court in Cheyenne, Wyoming finds 63 Japanese-American men guilty of resisting the draft and sentences each of them to three years in a federal prison.
Port Chicago Protest
An explosion at the Port Chicago, California naval base kills 320 munitions workers and injures 400 more, most of whom are black. 50 black seamen refuse to continue loading munitions under unsafe conditions and are subsequently court- martialed for mutiny, dishonorably discharged, and imprisoned.
Sleepy Lagoon Verdicts Overturned
The Second District Court of Appeals overturns the "Sleepy Lagoon" murder verdicts. All defendants are released and their criminal records cleared.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies of a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Georgia. With the death of President Roosevelt, Vice President Harry S. Truman becomes the 33rd President of the United States.
Germany surrenders, ending war on the European front.
Demobilization of the American army begins.
Truman Honors Japanese Americans
In Washington D.C., the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, comprised entirely of Japanese Americans, is honored by President Truman.
Atomic Bomb Test
An atomic bomb is successfully detonated in the New Mexican desert.
A second atomic bomb is dropped in Nagasaki, Japan.