1939 (MCMXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1939th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 939th year of the 2nd millennium, the 39th year of the 20th century, and the 10th and last year of the 1930s decade. This year also marks the start of the Second World War, the largest and deadliest conflict in human history.
|Ab urbe condita||2692|
|Balinese saka calendar||1860–1861|
|British Regnal year||3 Geo. 6 – 4 Geo. 6|
|Chinese calendar||戊寅年 (Earth Tiger)|
4635 or 4575
— to —
己卯年 (Earth Rabbit)
4636 or 4576
|- Vikram Samvat||1995–1996|
|- Shaka Samvat||1860–1861|
|- Kali Yuga||5039–5040|
|Japanese calendar||Shōwa 14|
|Julian calendar||Gregorian minus 13 days|
|Minguo calendar||ROC 28|
|Thai solar calendar||2481–2482|
2065 or 1684 or 912
— to —
2066 or 1685 or 913
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 1939.|
Below, events of World War II have the WWII prefix.
Further Information: January 1939
- January 3 – EFE, a news agency, based in Madrid, Spain, officially founded.
- January 5 – Amelia Earhart is officially declared dead after her disappearance.
- January 6 – Naturwissenschaften publishes evidence that nuclear fission has been achieved by Otto Hahn.
- January 13 – Black Friday: 71 people die across Victoria in one of Australia's worst ever bushfires.
- January 14 – Norway claims Queen Maud Land in Antarctica.
- January 23 – "Dutch War Scare": Admiral Wilhelm Canaris of the Abwehr leaks misinformation to the effect that Germany plans to invade the Netherlands in February, with the aim of using Dutch air-fields to launch a strategic bombing offensive against Britain. The "Dutch War Scare" leads to a major change in British policies towards Europe.
- January 24 – 1939 Chillán earthquake: An earthquake in Chile kills 30,000 and razes about 50,000 sq mi (130,000 km2).
- January 25 – Refik Saydam forms the new (11th) government of Turkey.
- January 26
- Spanish Civil War: Spanish Nationalist troops, aided by Italy, take Barcelona.
- In Paris, French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet, in response to rumours (which are true) that he is seeking to end the French alliance system in Eastern Europe, gives a speech highlighting his government's commitment to the cordon sanitaire.
- January 27 – Adolf Hitler orders Plan Z, a 5-year naval expansion programme intended to provide for a huge German fleet capable of crushing the Royal Navy by 1944. The Kriegsmarine is given the first priority on the allotment of German economic resources.
- January 30 – Hitler gives a speech before the Reichstag calling for an "export battle" to increase German foreign exchange holdings. The same speech also sees Hitler's "prophecy" where he warns that if "Jewish financers" start a war against Germany, the...result will be the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe".
Further Information: February 1939
- February 2 – Hungary joins the Anti-Comintern Pact.
- February 6
- British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain states in the House of Commons that any German attack on France will be automatically considered an attack on Britain.
- In a response to Georges Bonnet's speech of January 26, German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, referring to Bonnet's alleged statement of December 6, 1938, accepting Eastern Europe as being in Germany's exclusive sphere of influence, protests that all French security commitments in that region are "now off limits".
- February 10
- February 15 – Stagecoach premieres in New York City and Los Angeles.
- February 18 – The Golden Gate International Exposition opens in San Francisco.
- February 27
Further Information: March 1939
- March – The 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine ends.
- March 1 – An Imperial Japanese Army ammunition dump explosion on the outskirts of Osaka kills 94.
- March 2 – Pope Pius XII (Cardinal Pacelli) succeeds Pope Pius XI as the 260th pope.
- March 3
- In Bombay, Mahatma Gandhi begins a fast protesting against British rule in India.
- Students at Harvard University demonstrate the new tradition of swallowing goldfish to reporters.
- In Durban, South Africa the Timeless Test begins between England and South Africa, the longest game of cricket ever played. It is abandoned twelve days later when the English team has to catch the last ferry home.
- March 13
- March 14 – The Slovak provincial assembly proclaims independence; priest Jozef Tiso becomes the president of the independent Slovak government.
- March 15 – German troops occupy the remaining part of Bohemia and Moravia; Czechoslovakia ceases to exist. The Ruthenian region of Czechoslovakia declares independence as Carpatho-Ukraine.
- March 16
- March 17
- British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain gives a speech in Birmingham, stating that Britain will oppose any effort at world domination on the part of Germany.
- The nationalist governments of Spain and Portugal sign the Iberian Pact in Lisbon, pledging mutual defence of the Iberian Peninsula and neutrality in the event of a general European war.
- March 18 – "Romanian War Scare": Virgil Tilea, the Romanian Minister in London, spreads false rumours that Romania is on the verge of a German attack.
- March 19 – Hitler sends a registered letter to the government of Lithuania stating that Germany intends to annex the port of Memel.
- March 20 – At an emergency meeting in London to deal with the Romanian crisis, French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet suggests to Lord Halifax that the ideal state for saving Romania from a German attack is Poland.
- March 21 – In London: the Ordo Templi Orientis publish Aleister Crowley's Eight Lectures on Yoga.
- March 22
- After an ultimatum of March 20, Nazi Germany takes Memelland from Lithuania.
- In the U.S., undefeated LIU tops undefeated Loyola of Chicago in the championship game of the second annual National Invitation Tournament, 44–32. LIU's 24–0 final record is the first perfect season of college basketball's postseason tournament era.
- March 23 – The Slovak–Hungarian War begins.
- March 24 – Marks the seventh successive year of the worldwide boycott of all German exports initiated by front page declarations in Britain and the U.S. 'Judea declares war on Germany'
- March 27 – The University of Oregon defeats Ohio State University 46–33 in Evanston, Illinois, to win the championship of the first NCAA men's basketball tournament.
- March 28
- Dictator Francisco Franco assumes power in Madrid, remaining in power until his death in 1975.
- American adventurer Richard Halliburton delivers a last message from a Chinese junk, before he disappears on a voyage across the Pacific Ocean. In 1945, some wreckage identified as a rudder and believed to belong to the junk, washed ashore in San Diego, California.
- March 31 – Neville Chamberlain gives a speech in the House of Commons offering the British "guarantee" of the independence of Poland.
Further Information: April 1939
- April 1
- The Spanish Civil War comes to an end when the last of the Republican forces surrender.
- The rumor that Hitler is dead sweeps the United States as millions of CBS radio listeners hear the Führer cut off in mid-speech during a shortwave relay of his address at the dedication of the Tirpitz in Wilhelmshaven.
- April 3
- April 4
- Faisal II becomes King of Iraq at age 3 following the death of his father, Ghazi, in an automobile incident.
- The Slovak–Hungarian War ends with Slovakia ceding eastern territories to Hungary.
- Polish Foreign Minister Colonel Józef Beck, in London, signs a treaty designed to bilateralize Neville Chamberlain's "Polish Guarantee" of March 31.
- April 7
- April 9 – African-American singer Marian Anderson performs before 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., after having been denied the use both of Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution, and of a public high school by the federally controlled District of Columbia. First Lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt resigns from the DAR because of their decision.
- April 11 – Hungary leaves the League of Nations.
- April 13 – Britain offers a "guarantee" to Romania and Greece.
- April 14
- John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath is first published, in the United States.
- At a meeting in Paris, French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet meets with Soviet Ambassador Jakob Suritz, and suggests that a "peace front" comprising France, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, Poland and Romania would deter Germany from war.
- April 18
- The Soviet Union proposes a "peace front" to resist aggression.
- Robert Menzies is elected leader of the United Australia Party and consequently becomes the 12th Prime Minister of Australia, defeating former Prime Minister Billy Hughes. However, he would not be sworn in until April 26th due to Earle Page and his Country Party refusing to serve under him.
- April 20 – Billie Holiday records "Strange Fruit", the first anti-lynching song.
- April 25 – The Federal Security Agency (FSA) is founded in the United States, along with the Civilian Conservation Corps and Public Health Service.
- April 27 – Ely Racecourse in Cardiff closes.
- April 28 – In a speech before the Reichstag, Adolf Hitler renounces the Anglo-German Naval Agreement and the German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact.
- April 30 – The 1939 New York World's Fair opens.
Further Information: May 1939
- May 1 – Batman, created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, makes his first appearance in Detective Comics #27.
- May 2 – Major League Baseball's Lou Gehrig, the legendary Yankee first baseman known as "The Iron Horse", ends his 2,130 consecutive games-played streak, after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The record stands for 56 years before Cal Ripken, Jr. plays 2,131 consecutive games.
- May 3
- May 6 – Carl Friedrich Goerdeler tells the British government that the German and Soviet governments are secretly beginning a rapprochement with the aim of dividing Eastern Europe between them. Goerdeler also informs the British of German economic problems which he states threaten the survival of the Nazi regime, and advises that if a firm stand is made for Poland, then Hitler will be deterred from war.
- May 9 – Spain leaves the League of Nations.
- May 14 – Lina Medina, a 5-year-old Peruvian girl, gives birth to a baby boy, becoming the youngest confirmed mother in medical history.
- May 17
- King George VI and Queen Elizabeth arrive in Quebec City to begin the first-ever tour of Canada by Canada's monarch.
- The British government issues the White Paper of 1939, sharply restricting Jewish immigration to Mandatory Palestine.
- Sweden, Norway, and Finland refuse Germany's offer of non-aggression pacts.
- May 18 – The Hòa Hảo religious sect is established by Huỳnh Phú Sổ.
- May 20 – Pan American Airways begins transatlantic mail service with the inaugural flight of its Boeing 314 flying boat Yankee Clipper from Port Washington, New York, to Marseille.
- May 22 – Germany and Italy sign the Pact of Steel.
- May 24 – First issue of Fashizmi is published in Tirana.
- May 29 – Albanian fascist leader Tefik Mborja is appointed as member of the Italian Chamber of Fasces and Corporations.
Further Information: June 1939
- June 3 – The Soviet government offers its definition of what constitutes "aggression", upon which the projected Anglo-Soviet-French alliance will come into effect. The French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet accepts the Soviet definition of aggression at once. The British reject the Soviet definition, especially the concept of "indirect aggression", which they feel is too loose a definition and phrased in such a manner as to imply the Soviet right of inference in the internal affairs of nations of Eastern Europe.
- June 4 – The St. Louis, a ship carrying a cargo of 907 Jewish refugees, is denied permission to land in Florida after already having been turned away from Cuba. Forced to return to Europe, many of its passengers later die in Nazi death camps during The Holocaust.
- June 6 – The first Little League Baseball game is played in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
- June 10 – MGM's first successful animated character, Barney Bear, makes his debut in The Bear That Couldn't Sleep. However, he didn't have a name until 1942.
- June 12 – The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is officially dedicated in Cooperstown, New York.
- June 14 – Tientsin Incident: The Japanese blockade the British concession in Tianjin, China, beginning a crisis which almost causes an Anglo-Japanese war in the summer of 1939.
- June 17 – In the last public guillotining in France, murderer Eugen Weidmann is executed.
- June 21 – New York Yankees announce Lou Gehrig's retirement after doctors reveal he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
- June 23 – Talks are completed in Ankara between French Ambassador René Massigli and Turkish Foreign Minister Şükrü Saracoğlu, resolving the Hatay dispute in Turkey's favor. Turkey annexes Hatay.
- June 24 – The government of Siam changes its name to Thailand, which means 'Free Land'.
- June 29 – Ford 9N tractor with Ferguson hydraulic three-point hitch first demonstrated at Dearborn, Michigan.
Further Information: July 1939
- July 2
- July 4
- July 6 – The last remaining Jewish enterprises in Germany are closed by the Nazis.
- July 8 – The Pan American Airways Boeing 314 flying boat Yankee Clipper inaugurates the world's first heavier-than-air North Atlantic air passenger service between the United States (Port Washington, New York) and Britain.
- July 23 – Mahatma Gandhi the spiritual leader from India writes a personal letter to Adolf Hitler addressing him "My friend", requesting to prevent any possible war.
- July 27 – The first recorded snowfall in Auckland, New Zealand since records began in 1853.
Further Information: August 1939
- August 2 – The Einstein–Szilárd letter is signed, advising President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt of the potential use of uranium to construct an atomic bomb.
- August 4 – Neville Chamberlain dismisses Parliament until October 3.
- August 15 – MGM's classic musical film The Wizard of Oz, based on L. Frank Baum's famous novel, and starring Judy Garland as Dorothy, premieres at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
- August 19 – Adolf Hitler, after evaluating the pace of the non-aggression negotiations with the Soviet Union, orders the Kriegsmarine to begin the opening operations for Fall Weiss, the invasion of Poland. The German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee, along with the German pocket battleship Deutschland, as well as dozens of u-boats, cast off for their advance positions. According to William L. Shirer, Hitler spends the next few days worrying that the Russians will not come to terms in time for the rest of the invasion plans to unfold as scheduled.
- August 20 – Armored forces under the command of Soviet General Georgy Zhukov deliver a decisive defeat to Imperial Japanese Army forces in the Japanese-Soviet border war in Inner Mongolia.
- August 23 – Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact signed between Germany and the Soviet Union, a neutrality treaty that also agreed to division of spheres of influence (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, eastern Poland and Bessarabia (today Moldova), north-east province of Romania to the Soviet Union; Lithuania and western Poland to Germany). Its annex reassigns Lithuania to the Soviet Union.
- August 24 – As details of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact become public, Neville Chamberlain recalls the Parliament of the United Kingdom several weeks early. In a burst of legislation, a War Powers Act is approved; and HMG order the Royal Navy to be put on a war footing, all leaves to be cancelled, and the Naval and coast defense reserves to be called up, especially radar and anti-aircraft units. In addition, the last British and French private citizens in Germany are ordered home by their respective Governments.
- August 25
- The German Foreign Ministry cuts off all telegraph and telephone communication with the outside world in accordance with the plan for Fall Weiss. At approximately 1830 Central European time, Adolf Hitler postpones Fall Weiss for 5 days, after receiving a message from Benito Mussolini that he will not honor the Pact of Steel if Germany attacks Poland, and because Chamberlain's government has not fallen as a result of the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. Some units already in their forward positions (the attack is scheduled for 0430 the next day) do not get the word in time and attack various targets along the border. That same day, Neville Chamberlain gives Edward Rydz-Śmigły his "ironclad guarantee" of assistance if Poland is attacked by Germany.
- An Irish Republican Army bomb explodes in the centre of Coventry, England, killing 5 people.
- MGM's classic musical film The Wizard of Oz, based on L. Frank Baum's famous novel, and starring Judy Garland as Dorothy, is released in theaters everywhere.
- August 26
- The first televised Major League Baseball games were shown on experimental station W2XBS: a double-header between the Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field.
- Division of Grazing renamed United States Grazing Service.
- The Kriegsmarine orders all German-flagged merchant ships to head to German ports immediately in anticipation of the invasion of Poland.
- August 27 – A Heinkel He 178, the first turbojet-powered aircraft, flies for the first time with Captain Erich Warsitz in command.
- August 28 – The SS Normandie heads into New York Harbor where she will be interned on 3 September and cut up for scrap beginning in 1946.
- August 30 – Poland begins a mobilization against Nazi Germany.
- August 31 – Operation Himmler: Nazi German troops posing as Poles stage a series of false flag operations on the border (including the Gleiwitz incident) giving a pretext for the invasion of Poland.
Further Information: September 1939
- September 1 – Beginning of WWII:
- Opening shots of World War II and Invasion of Poland: At 4:45am Central European Time, under cover of darkness, the German WW1-era battleship Schleswig-Holstein quietly slips her moorings at her wharf in Danzig harbor, drifts into the center of the channel, and commences firing on the fortress Westerplatte, a Polish army installation at the northeastern mouth of the port of the internationalized Free City of Danzig. Five minutes previously the bombing of Wieluń in the western part of Poland had begun. Shock-troops of the German Wehrmacht begin crossing the border into Poland. Bombing of Wieluń (two air-raids) follows.
- The Reichstag passes a statement stating that Adolf Hitler's second-in-command Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring should be appointed as Hitler's successor as Führer should Hitler die during the War. Rudolf Hess is to be appointed in Göring's place should anything befall Göring.
- Norway, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland declare their neutrality.
- September 1 - General George C. Marshall becomes Chief of Staff of the United States Army.
- September 2 – WWII:
- September 3 – WWII:
- The United Kingdom, France, New Zealand, Australia and India (by its Viceroy) declare war on Nazi Germany. Prime Minister of Canada Mackenzie King, in English, and Justice Minister Ernest Lapointe, in French, give an international radio address stating the Dominion's intention to declare war also.
- United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt advocates neutrality in a nationwide radio address.
- Ocean liner SS Athenia becomes the first British civilian casualty of the war when she is torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-30 in the eastern Atlantic. Of the 1,418 aboard, 98 passengers and 19 crew are killed.
- September 4 – WWII:
- September 5 – WWII: The United States declares its neutrality in the war.
- September 6 – WWII: South Africa declares war on Germany.
- September 8
- Little Sisters of Jesus founded in Algeria by Little Sister Magdeleine.
- WWII: Forward elements of General Hoeppner's XVI Panzerkorps take up positions outside Warsaw. The world is stunned by the rapidity of the German advance and the Polish High Command is effectively isolated, but lack of infantry support and effective civilian resistance cause Hoeppner to halt outside the city itself.
- WWII: Polish troops on the Westerplatte are forced, due to lack of food and ammunition, to surrender. The garrison of about two hundred had held out against thousands of German forces (many of them naval officer cadets from Schleswig-Holstein) for seven days.
- September 9 – WWII: Troops of the Polish Poznań Army under the command of General Kutrzeba open the Battle of the Bzura, the largest and best organized counter-attack mounted by the Polish forces in the campaign of 1939. For the first few days all goes well and the Germans are forced to retreat; but quick reaction by mechanized units and the Luftwaffe soon take their toll and the operation bogs down.
- September 10 – WWII: Canada declares war on Germany, the only declaration of war by Canada.
- September 15 – WWII: Diverse elements of the German Wehrmacht surround Warsaw and demand its surrender. The Poles refuse and the siege begins in earnest.
- September 16 – A ceasefire ends the undeclared Border War between the Soviet Union (and Mongolian allies) and Japan.
- September 17 – WWII:
- September 18 – WWII: Orzeł incident: The Polish submarine ORP Orzeł escapes internment from Tallinn harbour, Estonia, leading both the Soviet Union and Germany to question Estonia's neutrality.
- September 19 – WWII: The Poznan pocket collapses, and the Germans capture, according to many sources, over 150,000 men. Many elements of General Tadeusz Kutrzeba's forces work their way into Warsaw under extreme difficulty.
- September 21
- Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Security Police, sends a directive, the Schnellbrief, explaining that Jews living in towns and villages in the Polish occupation zones are to be transferred to ghettos, and Jewish councils, Judenräte, will be established to carry out the German authorities’ orders.
- Radio station WJSV in Washington, D.C. records an entire broadcast day for preservation in the National Archives.
- September 22 – WWII: Joint victory parade of Wehrmacht and Red Army in Brest-Litovsk at the end of the Invasion of Poland.
- September 24 – WWII: The Soviet Union issues an ultimatum to Estonia to allow Soviet military bases on its territory, which Estonia accepts on September 28. Similar ultimatums are issued to Latvia on October 5 and to Lithuania on October 10, who are forced to accept them as well.
- September 28 – WWII:
- September 29 – Gerald J. Cox, speaking at an American Water Works Association meeting, becomes the first person to publicly propose the fluoridation of public water supplies in the United States.
- September 30 – General Władysław Sikorski becomes Prime Minister of the Polish government-in-exile.
Further Information: October 1939
- October 6 – WWII: Poland Battle of Kock ends the Polish Campaign. Polish resistance moves underground.
- October 8
- October 11 – The Einstein–Szilárd letter is delivered to President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt advising of the potential use of uranium to construct an atomic bomb, leading to the Manhattan Project.
- October 14 – The German submarine U-47 sinks the British battleship HMS Royal Oak at anchor in Scapa Flow (Scotland) with the loss of 833 crew.
- October 15 – The New York Municipal Airport (later renamed LaGuardia Airport) is dedicated.
- October 17 – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington premieres in Washington, D.C.
- October 21 – First meeting of the U.S. Advisory Committee on Uranium under Lyman James Briggs, authorized by President Roosevelt to oversee neutron experiments, a precursor of the Manhattan Project.
- October 22 – In the first televised NFL football game, the Brooklyn Dodgers (NFL) defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 23-14 at Ebbets Field.
- October 24 – Nylon stockings go on sale for the first time anywhere in Wilmington, Delaware.
- October 25 – The Time of Your Life, a drama by William Saroyan, debuts in New York City.
- October 31 – The Hollywood Tower Hotel closes down after a huge lightning incident, killing 5 people in an elevator.
Further Information: November 1939
- November 1–2 – WWII: Physicist Hans Ferdinand Mayer writes the Oslo Report on German weapons systems and passes it to the British Secret Intelligence Service.
- November 4 – WWII: U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt orders the United States Customs Service to implement the Neutrality Act of 1939, allowing cash-and-carry purchases of weapons to non-belligerent nations.
- November 4 – Stewart Menzies is appointed head of the British Secret Intelligence Service.
- November 6
- November 8
- November 9 – WWII: Venlo Incident: Two British agents of SIS are captured by the Germans.
- November 15 – In Washington, D.C., U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt lays the cornerstone of the Jefferson Memorial.
- November 16 – Al Capone is released from Alcatraz, due to deteriorating health caused by syphilis.
- November 17 – WWII: To punish protests against the Nazi occupation of the Czech homeland, the Nazis storm the University of Prague and murder nine Czech graduate students, send over 1,200 to concentration camps, and close all Czech universities, an event which will be commemorated as International Students' Day.
- November 23 – WWII: British armed merchantman HMS Rawalpindi is sunk in the GIUK gap in an action against the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.
- November 26 – Shelling of Mainila: The Soviet Union's Red Army shells the Russian village of Mainila, then claims that the fire originated from Finland, giving a casus belli for the Winter War.
- November 30 – WWII:
Further Information: December 1939
- December 2 – LaGuardia Airport opens for business in New York City.
- December 4 – WWII:
- December 9
- December 12 – WWII: HMS Duchess sinks after a collision with HMS Barham off the coast of Scotland with the loss of 124 men.
- December 13 – WWII – Battle of the River Plate: The German heavy cruiser Admiral Graf Spee is trapped by cruisers HMS Ajax, HMNZS Achilles, and HMS Exeter after a running battle off the coast of Uruguay. Graf Spee is scuttled by its crew off Montevideo harbor on December 17.
- December 14 – WWII – Winter War: The League of Nations expels the USSR for attacking Finland.
- December 15 – The epic historical romance film Gone with the Wind, starring Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland and Leslie Howard, premieres at Loew's Grand Theatre in Atlanta. Based on Margaret Mitchell's best-selling novel of 1936, it is the longest American film made up to this date (at nearly four hours) and rapidly becomes the highest-grossing film up to this time.
- December 18 – WWII – Battle of the Heligoland Bight: RAF Bomber Command, on a daylight mission to attack Kriegsmarine ships in the Heligoland Bight, is repulsed by Luftwaffe fighter aircraft.
- December 22 – The second cel-animated feature film and the first produced by an American studio other than Walt Disney Productions, Gulliver's Travels by Fleischer Studios and very loosely based upon the book by Jonathan Swift, is released.
- December 26 – Miners strike in Borinage, Belgium.
- December 27 – The 7.8 Mw Erzincan earthquake shakes eastern Turkey with a maximum Mercalli intensity of XII (Extreme), causing $20 million in damage, and leaving 32,700–32,968 dead.
- Kirlian photography is invented by Semyon Kirlian.
- A logging crew sets off a second forest fire in the Tillamook Burn of Oregon, which destroys 190,000 acres (770 km2).
- Sandia View Academy, a private Adventist school, is founded in Corrales, New Mexico,
- General Motors introduces the Hydra-Matic drive, the first mass-produced, fully automatic transmission, as an option in 1940 model year Oldsmobile automobiles.
- Enzo Ferrari founds Auto Avio Construzioni, the company that became Ferrari in 1947.
- January 1
- January 3
- January 6
- January 9
- January 10
- January 11 – Anne Heggtveit, Canadian skier
- January 12 – William Lee Golden, American country and gospel singer, member of the Oak Ridge Boys
- January 15 – Per Ahlmark, Swedish politician and writer (d. 2018)
- January 17
- January 18 – Bo Gritz, U.S. Presidential candidate
- January 19 – Phil Everly, American rock 'n' roll musician (member of Rockabilly Hall of Fame) (d. 2014)
- January 20
- January 22
- January 29
- January 30
- February 1
- February 2 – Karl-Ake Asph, Swedish Olympic cross-country skier
- February 3 – Michael Cimino, American film director (d. 2016)
- February 6
- February 7 – Francisco Mendez, Guinea-Bissau politician, 1st Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau (d. 1978)
- February 8 – Egon Zimmermann, Austrian Olympic alpine skier
- February 10
- February 12
- February 13
- February 15 – Robert Hansen, American serial killer (d. 2014)
- February 16
- February 18 – Abdelraouf Al-Rawabdeh, Jordanian political figure, 65th Prime Minister of Jordan
- February 19 – Erin Pizzey, author and founder of the first domestic violence shelter in the modern world
- February 20 – Frank Arundel, English footballer (d. 1994)
- February 21 – Gert Neuhaus, German artist
- February 23 – Rachel Elkind-Tourre, American record producer
- February 24
- February 25 – John Leonard, American literary, television, film, and cultural critic (d. 2008)
- February 28
- March 1
- March 2 – Manch Wheeler, American footballer (d. 2018)
- March 3 – Bill Frindall, English cricket scorer and statistician (d. 2009)
- March 4
- March 5
- March 8
- March 9 – Malcolm Bricklin, American automotive pioneer
- March 12 – Johnny Callison, American baseball player (d. 2006)
- March 13
- March 14 – Héctor Bonilla, Mexican actor
- March 15 – Alicia Freilich, Venezuelan writer and novelist
- March 16 – Carlos Bilardo, Argentine football player and manager
- March 17
- March 18 – Peter Kraus, German singer
- March 20 – Brian Mulroney, 18th Prime Minister of Canada
- March 25 – Toni Cade Bambara, African-American writer (d. 1995)
- March 27 – Leila Kasra, Iranian poet and lyricist (d. 1989)
- March 28 – Vic Vargas, Filipino actor (d. 2003)
- March 29 – Terence Hill, Italian actor
- March 31
- April 1
- April 2 – Marvin Gaye, American singer (d. 1984)
- April 4 – Hugh Masekela, South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer and singer (d. 2018)
- April 7
- April 8
- April 9
- April 10
- April 12 – Alan Ayckbourn, American dramatist
- April 13
- April 15 – Jaime Paz Zamora, 73rd President of Bolivia
- April 16 – Dusty Springfield, English singer (d. 1999)
- April 17 – Jan Hoem, Norwegian population scientist (d. 2017)
- April 19 – Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran
- April 20 – Elspeth Ballantyne, Australian actress
- April 22
- April 23 – Lee Majors, American actor
- April 25
- April 27
- May 1 – Judy Collins, American singer and songwriter
- May 2 – Taomati Iuta, Vice President of Kiribati (1991–94)
- May 4 – Paul Gleason, American actor (d. 2006)
- May 7
- May 8 – Paul Drayton, American Olympic athlete (d. 2010)
- May 9
- May 11
- May 12 – Ron Ziegler, White House Press Secretary (d. 2003)
- May 13 – Harvey Keitel, American actor
- May 14 – Veruschka von Lehndorff, German model, actress and artist
- May 18 – Peter Grünberg, German physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2018)
- May 19
- May 21 – Heinz Holliger, Swiss oboist and composer
- May 22 – Paul Winfield, American actor (d. 2004)
- May 23 – Reinhard Hauff, German film director
- May 25
- May 26 – Brent Musburger, American sports announcer
- May 27
- May 29 – Al Unser, American race car driver
- May 30 – Michael J. Pollard, American actor
- June 1 – Cleavon Little, American actor (d. 1992)
- June 3 – Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, American writer (d. 2007)
- June 4
- June 5
- June 6
- June 8
- June 9
- June 11 – Jackie Stewart, Scottish race car driver
- June 14
- June 15 – Brian Jacques, British writer (d. 2011)
- June 18
- June 21
- June 22
- June 23
- June 24
- June 25
- June 26
- Zainuddin Maidin, Malaysian politician
- Barbara Chase-Riboud, American visual artist, bestselling novelist and award-winning poet
- Osvaldo Hurtado, 34th President of Ecuador
- Chuck Robb, American politician and former officer in the United States Marine Corps
- Bobby Henrey, Anglo-French child actor
- Arthur Sutton, English cricketer
- June 27
- June 28
- June 29
- June 30
- July 1
- July 2
- July 3
- July 4
- July 5
- July 6
- July 7
- July 8
- July 9 – Mario Da Pozzo, Italian former football goalkeeper
- July 10
- July 11
- July 12
- July 13
- July 14
- July 15
- July 16
- July 17
- July 18
- July 19
- July 20
- July 21
- July 22
- July 23 – Raine Karp, Estonian architect
- July 26
- July 27
- July 31
- August 1
- August 2
- August 4 – Mapita Cortés, Mexican actress (d. 2006)
- August 5 – Princess Irene of the Netherlands
- August 7 – Willie Penman, Scottish footballer (d. 2017)
- August 8 – Jana Andrsová, Czech actress and ballerina
- August 9
- August 11
- August 12
- August 16 – Carole Shelley, English actress
- August 19 –
- August 20 – Fernando Poe, Jr., Filipino actor (d. 2004)
- August 21 – Clarence Williams III, American actor
- August 22
- August 27 – Bill Mulliken, American competition swimmer (d. 2014)
- August 29
- August 30
- September 1 – Lily Tomlin, American actress
- September 5
- September 6
- September 7 – Riccardo Del Turco, Italian singer
- September 8 – Carsten Keller, German field hockey player
- September 9 – Ron McDole, American football player
- September 10
- September 13
- September 15 – Ron Walker, former Lord Mayor of Melbourne and Australian businessman (d. 2018)
- September 16 – Breyten Breytenbach, South African writer and painter
- September 17 – David Souter, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
- September 18 – Jorge Sampaio, 17th President of Portugal
- September 20 – Michu Meszaros, Hungarian-born American actor (ALF) (d. 2016)
- September 23 – Janusz Gajos, Polish actor
- September 24
- September 25
- September 26
- September 28 – Rudolph Walker, Trinidadian actor
- September 29 – Larry Linville, American actor (d. 2000)
- September 30 – Jean-Marie Lehn, French chemist, Nobel Prize laureate
- October 1 – George Archer, American golfer (d. 2005)
- October 4 – Ivan Mauger, New Zealand speedway rider, 6 times World Speedway Champion (d. 2018)
- October 5 – Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Filipino Supreme Court jurist
- October 6 – Melvyn Bragg, English media arts presenter, critic and novelist
- October 7
- October 8
- October 9
- October 10 – Zainal Abidin Ahmad, Malaysian politician (d. 2010)
- October 11
- October 13 – T. J. Cloutier, American poker player
- October 14 – Ralph Lauren, American fashion designer
- October 16
- October 18
- October 22
- October 23 – C. V. Vigneswaran, Sri Lankan Tamil lawyer, judge and politician
- October 24 – F. Murray Abraham, American screen actor
- October 25 – Dave Simmonds, British road racer (d. 1972)
- October 26
- October 27
- October 28
- October 29 – Malay Roy Choudhury, Bengali poet and novelist, creator of the Indian Hungry generation literary and cultural movement
- October 30
- October 31
- November 1 – Barbara Bosson, American actress
- November 2 – Richard Serra, American sculptor
- November 5 – Cecilia Alvear, Ecuadorian-born American journalist (d. 2017)
- November 6
- November 8
- November 9 – Paul Cameron, American psychologist
- November 10 – Russell Means, Native American activist (d. 2012)
- November 13 – Will Ryan, American voice actor
- November 14 – Wendy Carlos, American electronic composer
- November 15
- November 16 – Michael Billington, British drama critic
- November 17 – Auberon Waugh, English journalist (d. 2001)
- November 18
- November 19 – Emil Constantinescu, President of Romania
- November 21
- November 22 – Stefan Dimitrov, Bulgarian opera basso singer
- November 23 – Bill Bissett, Canadian poet
- November 25
- November 26
- November 27
- November 30 – Chandra Bahadur Dangi, Nepalese dwarf, world's shortest man (d. 2015)
- December 2 – Harry Reid, American politician and U.S. Senate Majority Leader
- December 5 – Minita Chico-Nazario, Filipino Supreme Court jurist
- December 8 – James Galway, Irish flautist
- December 11 – Thomas McGuane, American writer
- December 14
- December 17 – Eddie Kendricks, American singer (The Temptations) (d. 1992)
- December 18
- December 19 – Dennis Karjala, American law professor (d. 2017)
- December 22 – Alfred J. Ferrara, American baseball player
- December 23 – La Lupe, Cuban singer (d. 1992)
- December 24 – Dean Corll, American serial killer, rapist, kidnapper and torturer (d. 1973)
- December 26 – Phil Spector, American record producer and murderer
- December 27
- December 28 – Michelle Urry, American editor of Playboy (d. 2006)
- January 2 – Roman Dmowski, Polish politician (b. 1864)
- January 5 – Léon Abrami, French politician (b. 1879)
- January 6 – Gustavs Zemgals, 2nd President of Latvia (b. 1871)
- January 8 – Charles Eastman, American author, physician, reformer, helped found the Boy Scouts of America (b. 1858)
- January 13 – Arthur Barker, American criminal, son of Ma Barker (b. 1899)
- January 14 – Prince Valdemar of Denmark (b. 1858)
- January 18 – Ivan Mosjoukine, Soviet actor (b. 1889)
- January 22 – Léopold Bernhard Bernstamm, Soviet sculptor (b. 1859)
- January 23 – Matthias Sindelar, Austrian footballer (b. 1903)
- January 24 – Maximilian Bircher-Benner, Swiss physician and nutritionist (b. 1867)
- January 25 – Helen Ware, American actress (b. 1877)
- January 28 – W. B. Yeats, Irish writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1865)
- February 1 – Lawrence Marston, American actor, playwright, and film director (b. 1857)
- February 3 – Janez Frančišek Gnidovec, Yugoslav Roman Catholic priest and venerable (b. 1873)
- February 4 – Edward Sapir, German-American anthropologist and linguist (b. 1884)
- February 5 – Teresa Mañé Miravet, Spanish teacher, editor and writer (b. 1865)
- February 6 – Sayajirao Gaekwad III, Maharada of Baroda (b. 1863)
- February 9 – Henry Balfour, British archaeologist (b. 1863)
- February 10
- February 11
- February 12
- February 13 – Alexander Hamilton-Gordon, British general (b. 1859)
- February 15 – Henri Jaspar, Belgian politician, 27th Prime Minister of Belgium (b. 1870)
- February 17 – Fred Gamble, American actor (b. 1868)
- February 18 – Okamoto Kanoko, Japanese tanka poet (b. 1899)
- February 20 – Charles V. Blanchard, American politician (b. 1866)
- February 22 – Antonio Machado, Spanish poet (b. 1875)
- February 23 – Michael Knatchbull, 5th Baron Brabourne, British peer and soldier (b. 1895)
- February 26 – Ivan Fedko, Soviet army commander (b. 1897)
- February 27 – Nadezhda Krupskaya, Russian Marxist revolutionary, Vladimir Lenin's widow (b. 1869)
- March 2 – Howard Carter, British archaeologist (b. 1874)
- March 3 – Dimitrie Gerota, Romanian anatomist and physician (b. 1867)
- March 5 – Herbert Mundin, British actor (b. 1898)
- March 6
- March 7
- March 13 – Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, French sociologist and anthropologist (b. 1857)
- March 14 – Agostino Borgato, Italian actor and director (b. 1871)
- March 19 – Lloyd L. Gaines, American civil rights activist
- March 21
- March 23 – Abd al-Rahim al-Hajj Muhammad Palestinian revolt (b. 1892)
- March 27
- March 28
- March 29
- March 31 – Ioannis Tsangaridis, Greek general (b. 1887)
- April 4
- April 6 – Bennie Dickson, American bank robber
- April 7 – Joseph Lyons, 10th Prime Minister of Australia, Premier of Tasmania (b. 1879)
- April 14 – José Júlio de Souza Pinto, Portuguese painter (b. 1856)
- April 15 – Konstantin Petrovich Grigorovich, Soviet engineer and professor (b. 1886)
- April 18 – Hugo Charlemont, Austrian painter (b. 1850)
- April 19
- April 20 – Archduke Franz Salvator of Austria (b. 1866)
- April 22 – Leandro Campanari, Italian conductor, composer and violinist (b. 1859)
- April 25
- April 27 – José Gola, Argentinian actor (b. 1904)
- April 28 – Archduke Leo Karl of Austria (b. 1893)
- May 1 – Bautista Saavedra, 35th President of Bolivia (b. 1870)
- May 2 – Phillips Smalley, American actor and director (b. 1875)
- May 3 – Wilhelm Groener, German general (b. 1867)
- May 4 – James A. Johnson, American architect (b. 1865)
- May 5 – José Manuel Puig Casauranc, Mexican diplomat, journalist and politician (b. 1888)
- May 7 – Francesco Paleari, Italian priest and blessed (b. 1863)
- May 9 – Mary, Lady Heath, Irish aviator (b. 1896)
- May 10 – James Parrott, American actor (b. 1898)
- May 13 – Victor Bernau, Norwegian actor and director (b. 1890)
- May 18 – Charles deForest Chandler, American military aviator (b. 1878)
- May 19 – Ahmet Ağaoğlu, Turkish politician, author and writer (b. 1869)
- May 20
- May 22 – Ernst Toller, German playwright and Communist politician (b. 1893)
- May 23 – Witmer Stone, American ornithologist and botanist (b. 1866)
- May 24 – Aleksander Brückner, German scholar (b. 1856)
- May 25 – Frank Watson Dyson, British astronomer (b. 1868)
- May 27 – Alfred A. Cunningham, American aviator, the first United States Marine Corps aviator (b. 1882)
- May 29 – Ursula Ledóchowska, Polish Roman Catholic religious professed and saint (b. 1865)
- May 30 – Floyd Roberts, American race car driver (b. 1900)
- June 4 – Tommy Ladnier, American jazz trumpeter (b. 1900)
- June 6 – George Fawcett, American actor (b. 1860)
- June 9 – Owen Moore, American actor (b. 1886)
- June 10 – Nicolae M. Condiescu, Romanian novelist (b. 1880)
- June 13 – János Teleszky, Hungarian politician (b. 1868)
- June 16 – Chick Webb, American musician (b. 1905)
- June 17
- June 19 – Grace Abbott, American social worker and activist (b. 1878)
- June 22 – Benjamin Tucker, American anarchist (b. 1854)
- June 23 – Ernest Alexander Cruikshank, Canadian general (b. 1859)
- June 25 – Richard Seaman, British motor racing driver (b. 1913)
- June 26 – Ford Madox Ford, British writer (b. 1873)
- June 27 – Margaret Campbell, American actress (b. 1883)
- June 28 – Bobby Vernon, American actor (b. 1898)
- June 30 – Eduardo Lopez Bustamante, Venezuelan poet, lawyer and journalist (b. 1881)
- July 3 – Juan José Gárate, Spanish painter (b. 1869)
- July 5 – Malietoa Tanumafili I, King of Samoa (b. 1879)
- July 7 – Deacon White, American baseball player and MLB Hall of Famer (b. 1847)
- July 8
- July 9
- July 11 – Stiliyan Kovachev, Bulgarian general (b. 1860)
- July 14
- July 16 – Bartholomeus Roodenburch, Dutch swimmer (b. 1863)
- July 17 – María del Carmen González-Valerio, Spanish Roman Catholic saint (b. 1930)
- July 20 – Joseph Mendes da Costa, Dutch sculptor (b. 1863)
- July 23 – Jack Duffy, American actor (b. 1882)
- July 24 – Abdul Karim Ghaznavi, Indian politician, traveler and minister (b. 1872)
- July 26 – William Mackay, American artist (b. 1876)
- July 27
- July 29 – Pio Laporte, Canadian physician and politician (b. 1878)
- August 2 – Harvey Spencer Lewis, American mystic (b. 1883)
- August 6
- August 10 – Carlo Galimberti, Italian Olympic weightlifter (b. 1894)
- August 11 – Jean Bugatti, German automobile designer (b. 1909)
- August 12 – Eulalio Gutiérrez, President of Mexico (b. 1881)
- August 15 – Federico Gamboa, Mexican diplomat and writer (b. 1864)
- August 23
- August 24 – Piero Colonna, Italian politician (b. 1891)
- August 25 – Arthur Asquith, British general (b. 1883)
- August 26 – Rubén González Cárdenas, Venezuelan lawyer (b. 1875)
- August 29 – Marthe de Florian, French painter (b. 1864)
- August 30 – Wilhelm Bölsche, German journalist and science writer (b. 1861)
- August 31 – Richard Bouwens van der Boijen, French architect (b. 1863)
- September 6 – Arthur Rackham, British artist (b. 1867)
- September 7 – Kyōka Izumi, Japanese author (b. 1873)
- September 8 – Swami Abhedananda, Indian mystic (b. 1866)
- September 10 – Wilhelm Fritz von Roettig, German Waffen SS general, first general killed in action during World War II (b. 1888)
- September 11 – Marion De Vries, American politician (b. 1865)
- September 12 – Eliodoro Villazón, 32nd President of Bolivia (b. 1848)
- September 16
- September 18 – Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Polish writer and painter (b. 1885)
- September 20
- September 21
- September 22
- September 23
- September 24
- September 28 – Samuel Dickstein, Polish mathematician (b. 1851)
- September 30 – Yusuf Abu Durra, Palestinan revolt leader (b. 1900)
- October 2 – Edgar M. Lazarus, American architect (b. 1862)
- October 3 – Fay Templeton, American musical comedy star (b. 1865)
- October 6 – Giulio Gavotti, Italian aviator (b. 1882)
- October 7 – Harvey Cushing, American neurosurgeon (b. 1869)
- October 8 – Gustav Henriksen, Norwegian executive (b. 1872)
- October 13 – Ford Sterling, American actor (b. 1882)
- October 14 – Polaire, French actress (b. 1874)
- October 22 – Bernardas Fridmanas, Lithuanian lawyer, judge, journalist and politician (b. 1859)
- October 23 – Zane Grey, American writer (b. 1872)
- October 24 – Prince Joachim Albert of Prussia (b. 1876)
- October 28 – Alice Brady, American actress (b. 1892)
- October 29 – Dwight B. Waldo, American educator and historian (b. 1864)
- October 30 – Carlos De Valdez, Peruvian actor (b. 1894)
- October 31
- November 1 – Kálmán Darányi, 31st Prime Minister of Hungary (b. 1886)
- November 4
- November 7 – Kirsti Suonio, Finnish actress (b. 1872)
- November 11
- November 12 – Norman Bethune, Canadian humanitarian (b. 1890)
- November 13 – Lois Weber, American actress (b. 1881)
- November 15 – Platon Ivanovich Ivanov, Soviet-born Finnish civil servant (b. 1863)
- November 16 – Henry, Duke of Parma (b. 1873)
- November 17 – Aurelio Mosquera, Ecuadorian politician, 25th President of Ecuador (b. 1883)
- November 21 – Émile Paul Amable Guépratte, French admiral (b. 1856)
- November 22 – King Daudi Cwa II of Buganda (b. 1896)
- November 24 – John Harron, American actor (b. 1903)
- November 28 – James Naismith, Canadian inventor of basketball (b. 1861)
- November 29
- December 3 – Princess Louise of the United Kingdom, second youngest daughter of Queen Victoria (b. 1848)
- December 5 – Santiago Iglesias, Puerto Rican statesman (b. 1872)
- December 8 – Alimondo Ciampi, Italian sculptor (b. 1876)
- December 9 – Louis de Chappedelaine, French politician (b. 1876)
- December 12 – Douglas Fairbanks, American actor and the father of Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (b. 1883)
- December 13 – Gildardo Magaña, Mexican general, politician and revolutionary (b. 1891)
- December 16 – Juan Demóstenes Arosemena, 18th President of Panama (b. 1879)
- December 18 – Bruno Liljefors, Swedish artist (b. 1860)
- December 19
- December 20 – Hans Langsdorff, German naval officer (suicide) (b. 1894)
- December 22 – Ma Rainey, American blues singer (b. 1886)
- December 23
- December 24 – Walter Gordon, German physicist (b. 1893)
- December 25 – Ivan Dmitriyevich Borisov, Soviet aircraft pilot (b. 1913)
- December 27
- December 31 – Frank Benson, British actor (b. 1858)
- Keeleri Kunhikannan, father of the Kerala Circus
- Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
- "Thailand ( Siam ) History" (overview), CS Mngt, 2005, CSMngt.com webpage: CSMngt-Thai.
- Leffingwell, Randy (1996). Classic Farm Tractors: History of the Farm Tractor. Osceola, WI, USA: Motorbooks International. p. 99. ISBN 978-0760302460.
- "On This Day - September 10, 1939". CBC.ca. Retrieved 2011-09-15.
- "Canada in the Second World War". Juno Beach Centre.
- "The Conquest of Poland and the Beginnings of Jewish Persecution". The Holocaust. Yad Vashem. Archived from the original on November 8, 2012. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Early Television Stations - W2XAB/W2XAX/WCBW - CBS, New York". Early Television Museum. Hilliard, OH. Retrieved 2014-11-26.
- 1990/91 (July 1, 1990). "World Who's Who Of Women 1990/91". Taylor & Francis – via Google Books.