The 1940s in America are best known as the decade of WWII. Yet, it wasn’t the only thing that was going on in the country at that time. There was an entire cultural scene of the 1940s in America that most people who weren’t there aren’t even aware existed. What were your ancestors doing in the 1940s? These are some clues to help you find out about their lives in this unique decade.
While WWII began in Europe in the 1930s, America didn’t join in until the 1940s. That same decade saw the end of the war, too. Italy was the first of the Axis powers to surrender, in 1943. A treaty-making this official was signed that year, called the Armistice of Cassibile, after the overthrow of dictator Benito Mussolini. Germany invaded Italy shortly afterward and established itself there for a while. Italy’s king, Victor Emmanuel III escaped and went to Allied territory.
German-occupied France was liberated the next year in the famous D-Day invasion of Normandy. The success of this mission allowed the Allied powers the European power base they needed to successfully take on Germany in its homeland.
The year after D-Day, the war officially ended with the surrender of first Germany and then Japan. The end of the war and the homecoming of the soldiers who had been deployed overseas was a cause of great celebration for our 1940s ancestors.
The Invention of the Bikini
The bikini swimsuit first appeared on a Paris fashion runway in 1946, the year after the war ended. It was created by a designer named Louis Réard, and it took its unique name from Bikini Atoll, which was in the news for being a US nuclear testing site.
While most of America was racially segregated in the 1940s, major league baseball took a step in the opposite direction when an African-American man named Jackie Robinson was chosen to play the sport for the Brooklyn Dodgers. This was a controversial decision at the time, but it was the end of racial segregation in the sport. Jackie was later inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
George Orwell’s strangely prophetic novel was published in 1949. The now famous book takes a look at a dystopian future where everything people do is controlled by a strict authoritarian regime. The common cultural term “Big Brother” is a phrase taken from that book, in which “Big Brother” was always watching (and supposedly protecting, but not really) everyone.