Study Guide

World War II: Home Front Timeline

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Jan 30, 1933

Hitler Becomes Chancellor

Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany and launches a campaign to "reunify" the German people.

Oct 3, 1935

Italy Invades Ethiopia

Italy, under the leadership of Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, invades Ethiopia.

May 1, 1937

Neutrality Act

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.

Oct 5, 1937

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.

Jan 21, 1938

March of Time

Time Inc. releases an anti-Nazi propaganda newsreel entitled March of Time in Nazi Germany.

Feb 20, 1938

Anti-Japanese Sentiment Grows

In the United States, popular support for American action against Japan far exceeds support for action against Nazi Germany.

Mar 13, 1938

Anschluss Becomes Part of Third Reich

German Chancellor Adolf Hitler declares Austria part of the Third Reich.

Apr 6, 1938

U.S. Recognizes Austria

The United States grants recognition to the new Austrian government.

May 14, 1938

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.

May 17, 1938

Naval Expansion Act

The U.S. Congress passes the Naval Expansion Act, giving President Franklin D. Roosevelt one billion dollars to enlarge the Navy.

Jun 22, 1938

Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling

African-American boxer Joe Louis knocks out German fighter Max Schmeling in Yankee Stadium before 70,000 people.

Oct 30, 1938

War of the Worlds Broadcast

In the United States, Orson Welles' radio broadcast of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds causes national panic.

Nov 1, 1938

Conservatives Regain Congress

In the mid-term Congressional elections, conservative Southern Democrats and Northern Republicans regain control of the House and the Senate.

Jan 2, 1939

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 doesn't show the Nazi leader's face on the cover of the publication.

Jun 6, 1939

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.

Sep 3, 1939

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."

Dec 19, 2019

For Whom the Bell Tolls Published

American author Ernest Hemingway publishes For Whom the Bell Tolls, a novel about a young American in Spain who joins an antifascist guerrilla force in the Spanish Civil War.

Dec 19, 2019

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.

Dec 19, 2019 - Sep 2, 1945

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.

Apr 1, 1940

Hitler Conquers Low Countries

Adolf Hitler takes neutral countries Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg. By late June, his armies defeat the French and take control of the government.

May 1, 1940

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.

May 1, 1940

Fleet Moves to Pearl Harbor

In response to tense United States-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.

May 16, 1940

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.

Jun 22, 1940

Britain Stands Alone

Great Britain stands alone against the Axis powers.

Jul 26, 1940

U.S. 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.

Aug 1, 1940

Congress Enacts Draft

Congress appropriates $16 billion for defense spending and enacts the first peacetime draft in American history.

Sep 1, 1940

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.

Sep 1, 1940

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.

Sep 25, 1940

U.S. Expands Japanese Embargo

The United States extends the Japan embargo to include iron and steel.

Oct 29, 1940

Thousands Drafted

The first military draft numbers are drawn, sending thousands of draftees to drill camps all over the country.

Nov 1, 1940

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.

Dec 1, 1940

Navy Cracks Japanese Code

United States Naval Intelligence cryptographers crack Japan's secret communications code and learn that Japan intends to conquer China.

Dec 29, 1940

Arsenal of Democracy

President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers a fireside chat to the American people announcing, "We must be the great arsenal of democracy."

Dec 19, 2019

Unemployment in 1940 at 15%

The unemployment rate in the United States stands at 15%.

Jan 1, 1941

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.

Jan 6, 1941

Four Freedoms

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.

Mar 30, 1941

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."

May 15, 1941

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.

Jun 16, 1941

Roosevelt Closes Axis Consulates

President Franklin D. Roosevelt demands Germany and Italy close their United States consulates.

Jun 22, 1941

Germany Attacks Soviets

Germany invades the Soviet Union, violating the Nonaggression Pact.

Jun 24, 1941

U.S. Aids Soviet Union

The United States extends lend-lease aid to the Soviet Union.

Jun 25, 1941

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."

Jun 25, 1941

Fair Employment Practices Commission Created

Executive Order 8802 creates the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC) to investigate discrimination complaints in wartime.

Jun 28, 1941

March on Washington

A. Philip Randolph announces in a radio broadcast that the March on Washington, originally scheduled to take place on July 1st, will be "postponed."

Jul 19, 1941

Tuskegee Airmen

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.

Aug 17, 1941

Roosevelt Warns Japanese

President Franklin D. Roosevelt warns the Japanese government to cease all aggression toward neighboring countries or else face United States forces.

Aug 28, 1941

Rationing Established

The Office of Price Administration (OPA) is established to ration scarce consumer goods and to set maximum prices on other products during wartime.

Oct 1, 1941

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.

Nov 3, 1941

Japanese Plan to Attack

The Japanese government decides to attack Pearl Harbor if negotiations with the United States fail.

Nov 29, 1941

U.S. Learns 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.

Dec 7, 1941

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.

Dec 7, 1941

“America First” Dissolves

The America First Committee begins to dissolve.

Dec 8, 1941

War on Japan

The United States declares war on Japan.

Dec 11, 1941

Axis Declares War on U.S.

Germany and Italy, Japan's Axis partners, declare war on the United States. The United States declares war on Germany and Italy.

Jan 31, 1942

War Production Board Created

President Franklin D. Roosevelt creates the War Production Board (WPB) to mobilize American businesses for the war effort.

Jan 31, 1942

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.

Jan 6, 1942

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.

Jan 6, 1942

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."

Feb 19, 1942

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.

Feb 25, 1942

Terminal Island

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.

Feb 27, 1942

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."

Mar 2, 1942

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.

Mar 18, 1942

War Relocation Authority Established

President Franklin D. Roosevelt establishes the War Relocation Authority (WRA).

Mar 24, 1942

Civilian Exclusion Order

Under the first Civilian Exclusion Order, 45 Japanese-American families are instructed to leave Bainbridge Island near Seattle.

Jun 1, 1942

Little Tokyo

Twentieth Century Fox releases Little Tokyo, U.S.A., a film in which Japanese Americans are portrayed as a "vast army of volunteer spies."

Jun 1, 1942

Office of War Information and Domestic Propaganda

The U.S. government creates the Office of War Information (OWI) to mobilize American support for the war effort. The agency used broadcast radio, film, the national press, and posters.

Jun 12, 1942

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.

Jul 27, 1942

Police Clash in Los Angeles

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.

Aug 2, 1942

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.

Aug 3, 1942

Mexican Gangs

The "Sleepy Lagoon" murder is featured on the cover of the Evening Herald & Express along with coverage of Mexican street gangs.

Aug 4, 1942

Los Angeles 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.

Oct 13, 1942

Zammora Trial

In People v. Zammora, the largest criminal trial in California history, 17 boys, all of Mexican descent, face charges related to the "Sleepy Lagoon" murder.

Jan 12, 1943

Zammora Conviction

In People v. Zammora, five of the 17 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.

Oct 20, 1942

Roosevelt Describes U.S. Concentration Camps

At a press conference, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, perhaps inadvertently, refers to the internment camps as "concentration camps."

Dec 1, 1942

Tabloids Cover Gangs

The Los Angeles tabloid Sensation prints an article on Mexican gangs written by Clem Peoples, the Chief of the Criminal Division of the LAPD. The issue flies off the shelves.

Dec 10, 1942

Moab Prison

The War Relocation Authority establishes a prison in Moab, Utah for resistant Japanese internment camp inmates.

Dec 31, 1942

Murder at North Main

A policeman claims "a drunken pachuco" has killed an officer at a North Main Street restaurant.

Dec 19, 2019

Race Riots

In 1943, race riots break out in cities throughout the country, including Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, Mobile, Alabama, and Beaumont, Texas.

Dec 19, 2019 - Dec 31, 1943

Detroit Riots

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.

Jan 6, 1943

Resignation Over Segregation

William H. Hastie, an African-American aide to Secretary of War Henry Stimson, resigns in protest of continued segregation in military training facilities.

Feb 20, 1943

Norman Rockwell’s Freedom of Speech

Norman Rockwell's Freedom of Speech painting appears in the pages of The Saturday Evening Post, illustrating one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms."

Feb 27, 1943

Norman Rockwell’s Freedom to Worship

Norman Rockwell's Freedom to Worship painting appears in the pages of The Saturday Evening Post, illustrating one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms."

Mar 6, 1943

Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want

Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Want painting appears in the pages of The Saturday Evening Post, illustrating one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms."

Mar 13, 1943

Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Fear

Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Fear painting appears in the pages of The Saturday Evening Post, illustrating one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms."

Mar 13, 1943

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."

Mar 1, 1943

Zoot-Suit Clashes

Throughout the spring, incidents in which United States servicemen clash with Mexican-American youth occur several times per day.

May 1, 1943

Venice Attack

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.

May 29, 1943

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.

May 31, 1943

Sailors and Solders Clash in Los Angeles

A group of sailors and soldiers clash with Mexican-American youths near downtown Los Angeles. One sailor, Joe Coleman, is badly wounded.

Jun 3, 1943

Coleman Vengeance

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.

Jun 4, 1943

Zoot Suit Riot

Riots ensue as servicemen raid downtown Los Angeles targeting Mexican Americans.

Jun 5, 1943

Attacks Continue

Rioting servicemen continue to attack "pachuco"-looking males. The California Attorney General is called in to deal with the crisis.

Jun 6, 1943

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.

Jun 7, 1943

Los Angeles 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.

Jun 8, 1943

Military Evacuates Soldiers from Los Angeles

Military officials order all servicemen to evacuate Los Angeles or be arrested, thereby quelling much of the rioting.

Mar 1, 1943 - Jul 1, 1943

Los Angeles 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.

Jun 21, 1943

Court Upholds Japanese Curfew

The United States Supreme Court upholds wartime curfew and exclusion orders affecting Japanese Americans.

Sep 8, 1943

Italy Surrenders

Italy officially surrenders to the Allied powers.

Dec 19, 2019

What the N**** Wants Published

The University of North Carolina publishes What the N**** 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.

Dec 19, 2019

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.

Jan 14, 1944

Japanese Americans Eligible for Draft

The federal government deems first-generation Japanese Americans eligible for the military draft.

Jan 26, 1944

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.

Jun 6, 1944


D-Day: a vast assembly of Allied soldiers invades German strongholds in France, initiating a German retreat.

Jun 26, 1944

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.

Jul 17, 1944

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.

Oct 2, 1944

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.

Apr 12, 1945

Roosevelt Dies

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.

May 2, 1945

Germany Surrenders

Germany surrenders, ending war on the European front.

May 5, 1945

Army Demobilizes

Demobilization of the American army begins.

Jul 15, 1945

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.

Aug 6, 1945


Responding to Japan's refusal to surrender, the United States drops an atomic bomb—the first to be used in warfare—on Hiroshima, killing 75,000 people instantly, and injuring more than 100,000.

Aug 9, 1945


A second atomic bomb is dropped in Nagasaki, Japan.

Sep 2, 1945

Japan Surrenders

Japan surrenders. World War II officially ends.

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