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The following events occurred in October 1939:


October 1, 1939 (Sunday)Edit

  • The Battle of Wytyczno was fought, resulting in Soviet victory.
  • A royal proclamation ordered all British men between the ages of 20 and 22 to report for army registration on October 21.[1]
  • First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill gave a radio address from London reviewing the first month of the war. During this broadcast he famously called Russia "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."[1][2]
  • Born: George Archer, golfer, in San Francisco, California (d. 2005)

October 2, 1939 (Monday)Edit

October 3, 1939 (Tuesday)Edit

  • The Panama Conference concluded with the adoption of a general declaration of neutrality of the American Republics.[3]
  • The Greek cargo ship Diamantis was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-35 west of the Isles of Scilly. Because the ship's lifeboats were not suited for use in bad weather, the U-35 took all 28 crew members aboard and dropped them off at Dingle Bay, Ireland the next day.[4]
  • Died: Fay Templeton, 73, American actress, singer and comedian

October 4, 1939 (Wednesday)Edit

  • Adolf Hitler issued a secret decree granting an amnesty to all crimes committed by German military and police personnel in Poland between September 1 and October 4. The decree justified the crimes as being natural responses to "atrocities committed by the Poles."[5][6]
  • Born: Ivan Mauger, motorcycle speedway rider, in Christchurch, New Zealand (d. 2018)

October 5, 1939 (Thursday)Edit

October 6, 1939 (Friday)Edit

  • The Battle of Changsha ended in Chinese victory.
  • Hitler addressed a special session of the Reichstag. After speaking at great length about the victory over Poland he then proposed an international security conference, hinting at desire for an armistice by saying that such a conference would be impossible "while cannons are thundering."[10][11] Britain (Chamberlain war ministry) and France rejected these overtures some days later and the uneventful phase of the war known as the Phoney War would drag on[12] until 10 May 1940
  • A Gallup poll was published in the United States asking, "What should be the policy in the present European war? Should we declare war and send our army and navy abroad to fight Germany?" 95% of Americans polled said no.[13]
  • The comedy film Ninotchka starring Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas was released. The film was marketed with the tagline, "Garbo Laughs!"
  • Born: Melvyn Bragg, broadcaster, author and parliamentarian, in Carlisle, Cumbria, England

October 7, 1939 (Saturday)Edit

October 8, 1939 (Sunday)Edit

October 9, 1939 (Monday)Edit

  • Hitler issued Directive No. 6 ordering preparations for an offensive in the west with an initial date set for November 12. Protests from his service chiefs and very cold weather would cause the date of the attack to be postponed repeatedly.[12]
  • Off Newfoundland, the American freighter City of Flint was intercepted en route from New York to Liverpool by the German cruiser Deutschland. The Germans declared the freighter's cargo "contraband" and took the ship over with a prize crew. While at sea the Germans painted the fake name Alf on the freighter and hung Danish flags over the sides.[18][19][20][21]
  • Born: John Pilger, journalist, in Sydney, Australia
  • Died: Giulio Gavotti, 56, Italian pilot

October 10, 1939 (Tuesday)Edit

  • The Soviet–Lithuanian Mutual Assistance Treaty was signed.
  • French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier gave a radio address rejecting Hitler's latest peace propositions, saying that a settlement at this time "would only consecrate conquests by deceit or violence and would not prevent preparation for new ones." Daladier vowed that arms would only be laid down "when we have certain guaranties of security which may not be put in doubt every six months."[22]
  • Admiral Erich Raeder urged Hitler to invade Norway to protect Germany's vital iron ore traffic.[14]

October 11, 1939 (Wednesday)Edit

October 12, 1939 (Thursday)Edit

  • The regions of Nazi-occupied Poland not annexed by the Reich were incorporated into a new administrative unit called the General Government. Wawel Castle in Kraków was made the seat of government.[15]
  • In the British House of Commons, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain formally replied to Hitler's peace offer by saying that a settlement "must be a real and settled peace, not an uneasy truce interrupted by constant alarms and repeated threats." Chamberlain further explained, "Herr Hitler rejected all suggestions for peace until he had overwhelmed Poland, as he had previously overthrown Czechoslovakia. Peace conditions cannot be acceptable which begin by condoning aggression. The proposals in the German Chancellor's speech are vague and uncertain and contain no suggestion for righting the wrongs done to Czechoslovakia and to Poland. Even if Herr Hitler's proposals were more closely defined and contained suggestions to right these wrongs, it would still be necessary to ask by what practical means the German Government intend to convince the world that aggression will cease and that pledges will be kept. Past experience has shown that no reliance can be placed upon the promises of the present German Government."[23]

October 13, 1939 (Friday)Edit

  • German submarine U-40 struck a mine and sank in the English Channel.
  • U-42 was sunk southwest of Ireland by depth charges from the British destroyers Imogen and Ilex
  • Charles Lindbergh made another radio address in favor of American isolationism and questioned Canada's right to be involved in the war. "We must protect our sister American nations from foreign invasion, both for their welfare and our own", Lindbergh said. "But, in turn, they have a duty to us ... We desire the utmost friendship with the people of Canada. If their country is ever attacked, our navy will be defending their seas, our soldiers will fight on their battlefields, our fliers will die in their skies. But have they the right to draw this hemisphere into a European war simply because they prefer the Crown of England to American independence?"[24][25]
  • Born: T. J. Cloutier, poker player, in Albany, California
  • Died: Ford Sterling, 55, American film actor (heart attack)

October 14, 1939 (Saturday)Edit

October 15, 1939 (Sunday)Edit

  • Germany and Estonia signed an agreement on the resettlement of Baltic Germans.[27]
  • The New York Municipal Airport (later renamed LaGuardia Airport) was formally dedicated in New York. Nearly 100,000 people turned out to watch almost 60 military aircraft perform a flypast.[28]

October 16, 1939 (Monday)Edit

October 17, 1939 (Tuesday)Edit

October 18, 1939 (Wednesday)Edit

October 19, 1939 (Thursday)Edit

  • The Anglo-French-Turkish Treaty of Mutual Assistance was signed in Ankara, guaranteeing that if Turkey was attacked, Britain and France would come to its aid. In exchange, Turkey pledged to fight on the side of Britain and France if war spread to the Mediterranean.[35]
  • The Haupttreuhandstelle Ost was created to co-ordinate the confiscation of Jewish and Polish assets in Nazi-occupied Poland.[36]
  • Four American Navy flyers were killed when two bomber planes collided in mid-air near San Diego, California.[37]
  • Former heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney criticized Charles Lindbergh's radio address of October 13, especially his remarks about Canada. Tunney said he had great respect for Lindbergh but could not understand how he could "desert" England after being sheltered there. Tunney also said it took "great nerve and ambition" for Lindbergh to tell Americans how they should think after accepting an award from the Nazis while visiting Germany.[38]
  • Died: Red Downs, 56, American baseball player and convicted armed robber

October 20, 1939 (Friday)Edit

October 21, 1939 (Saturday)Edit

October 22, 1939 (Sunday)Edit

October 23, 1939 (Monday)Edit

  • With an offensive on Germany's western front looking increasingly unlikely before next spring, French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier announced that French soldiers would receive eight to ten days' leave every four months. Blackout regulations were also eased in many French cities.[42]
  • The City of Flint arrived in the Russian port of Murmansk to escape the heavy fog in the Barents Sea. Initially, the Russians arrested the German prize crew and told the American captain that his ship could leave freely as soon as the proper documents were ready, but this changed after Berlin applied heavy pressure.[18][21]
  • Another Gallup poll result was published in the United States, this time asking, "Which side do you want to see win the war?" 84% of Americans surveyed said the Allies, 14% expressed no opinion, and only 2% said Germany. The same poll asked, "Do you think the United States should do everything possible to help England and France win the war, except go to war ourselves?" 62% said yes, 38% said no.[13]
  • The crime thriller film The Roaring Twenties starring James Cagney, Priscilla Lane, Humphrey Bogart and Gladys George was released.
  • Born: C. V. Vigneswaran, judge and politician, in Hultsdorf, British Ceylon
  • Died: Zane Grey, 67, American author

October 24, 1939 (Tuesday)Edit

  • Joachim von Ribbentrop made a speech in Danzig blaming Britain for the war and indicating that fighting would begin on a large scale now that Chamberlain had "refused the hand of the Führer stretched out in a peace gesture."[43] London swiftly provided an official reply saying the speech "introduces no new element into the situation nor is it considered as having any particular importance."[44]
  • The American crew of the City of Flint were detained by Russian authorities and prevented from communicating with the U.S. embassy in Moscow.[18][19]
  • The Carnegie Science Center was established in Pittsburgh.
  • Born: F. Murray Abraham, actor, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

October 25, 1939 (Wednesday)Edit

October 26, 1939 (Thursday)Edit

  • Jozef Tiso became the first President of Slovakia. He immediately appointed Vojtech Tuka Prime Minister.
  • Jewish males between the ages of 14 and 60 in Nazi-occupied Poland were drafted to perform forced labor.[47]
  • Hans Frank became Governor-General of the General Government in Poland.

October 27, 1939 (Friday)Edit

October 28, 1939 (Saturday)Edit

  • On Czech Independence Day marking the 21st anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia, thousands of people, mostly students, protested at various locations throughout the region making up the former country. The Nazis retaliated by closing universities, executing student leaders and making many arrests.[49]
  • Heinrich Himmler issued a secret directive to the SS and police encouraging them to procreate with women of "good blood", even outside of marriage, "to regenerate life for Germany". The directive explained that the SS would support all mothers of children of good blood regardless of legitimacy, so no father would need to be concerned about creating a burden for them.[50]
  • The City of Flint left Murmansk under control of the German prize crew, intending to go to Germany.[51]
  • The 1939 Nebraska vs. Kansas State football game was the first college football homecoming game ever televised. Nebraska won 25-9.
  • Born: Jane Alexander, actress, in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Died: Alice Brady, 46, American actress (cancer)

October 29, 1939 (Sunday)Edit

October 30, 1939 (Monday)Edit

  • West of the Orkney Islands, the German submarine U-56 encountered the British battleship HMS Nelson with First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill aboard.[52] U-56 fired three torpedoes that all failed to explode. The U-boat's commander Wilhelm Zahn became known as "the man who almost killed Churchill."[53]
  • The City of Flint ended up in Tromsø again, to the displeasure of the Norwegians who were trying to avoid being drawn into any international incidents involving belligerent ships in their ports. Norway dispatched a naval escort to see the City of Flint through Norwegian waters to ensure that the freighter neither tried to stop again nor came under attack from Allied warships.[21]
  • Born: Leland H. Hartwell, biologist and Nobel laureate, in Los Angeles; Grace Slick, singer, in Highland Park, Illinois

October 31, 1939 (Tuesday)Edit


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