|Centuries:||19th century – 20th century – 21st century|
|Decades:||1910s 1920s 1930s – 1940s – 1950s 1960s 1970s|
|Years:||1937 1938 1939 – 1940 – 1941 1942 1943|
|Ab urbe condita||2693|
|British Regnal year||4 Geo. 6 – 5 Geo. 6|
|Chinese calendar||己卯年 (Earth Rabbit)
4636 or 4576
— to —
庚辰年 (Metal Dragon)
4637 or 4577
|- Vikram Samvat||1996–1997|
|- Shaka Samvat||1862–1863|
|- Kali Yuga||5041–5042|
|Japanese calendar||Shōwa 15
|Julian calendar||Gregorian minus 13 days|
|Minguo calendar||ROC 29
|Thai solar calendar||2483|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 1940.|
1940 (MCMXL) was a leap year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar (dominical letter GF), the 1940th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 940th year of the 2nd millennium, the 40th year of the 20th century, and the 1st year of the 1940s decade.
Below, the events of World War II have the "WWII" prefix.
- January 4 – WWII: Axis powers: Luftwaffe General Hermann Göring assumes control of most war industries in Germany.
- January 6 – WWII: Winter War: General Semyon Timoshenko takes command of all Soviet forces.
- January 8
- January 9 – WWII; British submarine HMS Starfish is sunk.
- January 10 – WWII: Mechelen incident: A German plane carrying secret plans for the invasion of western Europe makes a forced landing in Belgium, leading to mobilization of defense forces in the Low Countries.
- January 26 – Brisbane, Australia swelters through its hottest day ever, 43.2 degrees Celsius (109.76 Fahrenheit).
- January 27 – WWII: A peace resolution introduced in the Parliament of South Africa is defeated 81–59.
- January 29 – Three gasoline-powered trains carrying factory workers crash and explode while approaching Ajikawaguchi Station, Yumesaki Line (Nishinari Line), Osaka, Japan, killing at least 181 people and injuring at least 92.
- February 1 – WWII: Winter War – Soviet forces launch a major assault on Finnish troops occupying the Karelian Isthmus.
- February 2 – Vsevolod Meyerhold is executed in the Soviet Union on charges of treason and espionage. He is cleared of all charges 15 years later in the first waves of de-Stalinization
- February 7 – RKO release Walt Disney's second full-length animated film, Pinocchio.
- February 10 – Tom and Jerry make their debut in Puss Gets the Boot. However it is not until 1941 that their current names are adopted.
- February 16 – WWII: Altmark Incident: The British destroyer HMS Cossack pursues the German tanker Altmark into the neutral waters of Jøssingfjord in southwestern Norway and frees the 290 British seamen held aboard.
- February 22 – In Tibet, province of Ando, 4-year-old Tenzin Gyatso is proclaimed the tulku (rebirth) of the fourteenth Dalai Lama.
- February 27 – Martin Kamen and Sam Ruben discover carbon-14.
- February 29 – Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African-American to win an Academy Award.
- March – Truth or Consequences debuts on NBC Radio.
- March 2 – Cartoon character Elmer Fudd makes his debut in the animated short Elmer's Candid Camera.
- March 3 – In Sweden, a time bomb destroys the office of Norrskenflamman (a Swedish communist newspaper), killing 5.
- March 5 – Katyn massacre: Members of the Soviet Politburo (Joseph Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, Mikhail Kalinin, Kliment Voroshilov and Lavrentiy Beria) sign an order, prepared by Beria, for the execution of 25,700 Polish intelligentsia, including 14,700 Polish POWs.
- March 11 – Ed Ricketts, John Steinbeck and six others leave Monterey, California for the Sea of Cortez on a collecting expedition.
- March 12 – The Soviet Union and Finland sign a peace treaty in Moscow ending the Winter War; Finns, along with the world at large, are shocked by the harsh terms.
- March 18 – WWII: Axis powers: Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini meet at Brenner Pass in the Alps and agree to form an alliance against France and the United Kingdom.
- March 21 – Édouard Daladier resigns as prime minister of France; Paul Reynaud succeeds him.
- March 23 – Pakistan Movement: The Lahore Resolution, calling for greater autonomy for what will become Pakistan in British India, is drawn up by the All-India Muslim League during a three-day general session at Iqbal Park, Lahore.
- March 31 – WWII: Commerce raiding German auxiliary cruiser Atlantis, leaves the Wadden Sea for what will become the longest warship cruise of the war. (622 days without in-port replenishment or repair)
- April 3 – WWII: Operation Weserübung: German ships set out for the invasion of Norway.
- April 5 – Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, in what proves to be a tragic misjudgment, declares in a major public speech that Hitler has "missed the bus".
- April 7 – Booker T. Washington becomes the first African American to be depicted on a United States postage stamp.
- April 8 – WWII: Operation Wilfred: The British fleet lays naval mines off the coast of neutral Norway.
- April 9 – WWII: Germany invades the neutral countries of Denmark and Norway in Operation Weserübung, opening the Norwegian Campaign. The British Royal Navy attempts to attack elements of the German fleet off Norway. Vidkun Quisling proclaims a new collaborationist regime in Norway. The German invasion of Denmark lasts for about six hours before that country capitulates.
- April 10 – WWII: First Naval Battle of Narvik: The British Royal Navy attacks the German fleet in the Ofotfjord. At Bergen, German cruiser Königsberg is sunk by British Fleet Air Arm Blackburn Skua dive bombers flying from RNAS Hatston in Orkney.
- April 12
- The Faroe Islands are occupied by British troops, following the German invasion of Denmark. This action is taken to avert a possible German occupation of the islands with serious consequences for the course of the Battle of the Atlantic.
- Opening day at Jamaica Race Course features the use of parimutuel betting equipment, a departure from bookmaking heretofore used exclusively throughout New York. Other tracks in the state follow suit later in 1940.
- April 13
- April 14 – Norwegian Campaign: First British ground forces land in Norway at Namsos and Harstad.
- April 16 – The Cleveland Indians, behind Bob Feller's Opening Day no-hitter, defeat the Chicago White Sox, 1-0.
- April 21 – Take It or Leave It makes its debut on CBS Radio, with Bob Hawk as host.
- April 23 – The Rhythm Club fire at a dance hall in Natchez, Mississippi, kills 198.
- May 10 – WWII:
- May 13 – WWII:
- May 13–May 14 – Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and her government are evacuated to London using the British destroyer HMS Hereward.
- May 14 – WWII:
- Rotterdam is subjected to savage terror bombing by the Luftwaffe; 980 are killed, and 20,000 buildings destroyed. General Henri Winkelman announces surrender of the Dutch army (outside Zeeland) to German forces
- Recruitment begins in Britain for a home defence force: the Local Defence Volunteers, later known as the Home Guard.
- May 15
- May 16 – President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt, addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress, asks for an extraordinary credit of approximately $900 million to finance construction of at least 50,000 airplanes per year.
- May 17 – WWII:
- Brussels falls to German forces; the Belgian government flees to Ostend.
- Zeeland is overrun by German forces, ending the Battle of the Netherlands and beginning full German occupation of the Netherlands (Noord-Beveland surrenders on May 18 and remaining Dutch troops are withdrawn from Zeelandic Flanders on May 19).
- May 18 – Marshal Philippe Pétain is named vice-premier of France.
- May 19 – General Maxime Weygand replaces Maurice Gamelin as commander-in-chief of all French forces.
- May 20
- WWII: German forces (2nd Panzer division), under General Rudolf Veiel, reach Noyelles on the English Channel.
- Holocaust: The Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the German concentration camps, opens in occupied Poland near the town of Oświęcim. From now until January 1945, around 1.1 million people will be killed here.
- May 22 – WWII: The Parliament of the United Kingdom passes the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939, giving the government full control over all persons and property.
- May 24 – WWII: The Anglo-French Supreme War Council decides to withdraw all forces under its control from Norway.
- May 26
- May 28 WWII:
- King Leopold III of Belgium orders the Belgian forces to cease fighting, ending the 18-day Battle of Belgium. Leaders of the Belgian government on French territory declare Leopold deposed.
- In the land battle of Narvik, German forces retire giving the Allies their first victory on land in the war; however, the British have already decided to evacuate Narvik.
- Winston Churchill warns the House of Commons of the United Kingdom to "prepare itself for hard and heavy tidings."
- May 29 – The Vought XF4U-1, prototype of the F4U Corsair U.S. fighter later used in WWII, makes its first flight.
- June 3
- June 4 – WWII:
- The Dunkirk evacuation ends – the British and French navies together with large numbers of civilian vessels from various nations complete evacuating 300,000 troops from Dunkirk in France to England.
- Winston Churchill tells the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, "We shall not flag or fail. We shall fight on the beaches... on the landing grounds... in the fields and the streets.... We shall never surrender."
- June 7 – King Haakon VII of Norway and his government are evacuated from Tromsø to London on HMS Devonshire.
- June 9 – WWII: The British Commandos are created.
- June 10
- WWII: Italy declares war on France and the United Kingdom.
- WWII: U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt denounces Italy's actions with his "Stab in the Back" speech during the graduation ceremonies of the University of Virginia.
- WWII: Canada declares war on Italy.
- WWII: The Norwegian Army surrenders to German forces.
- WWII: The French government flees to Tours.
- Jamaican political activist Marcus Garvey dies of a stroke in London.
- June 12 – WWII: 13,000 British and French troops surrender to the then Major-General Erwin Rommel's 7th Panzer Division at Saint-Valery-en-Caux.
- June 13 – WWII: Paris is declared an open city.
- June 14
- WWII: The Soviet Union annexes the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in what becomes regarded as an early example of Soviet imperialism.
- WWII: The French government flees to Bordeaux and Paris falls under German occupation.
- WWII: U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Naval Expansion Act into law, which aims to increase the United States Navy's tonnage by 11%.
- WWII: A group of 728 Polish political prisoners from Tarnów become the first residents of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
- June 15 – WWII: Verdun falls to German forces.
- June 16
- The Churchill war ministry in the United Kingdom offers a Franco-British Union to Paul Reynaud, Prime Minister of France, in the hope of preventing France from agreeing to an armistice with Germany, but Reynaud resigns when his own cabinet refuses to accept it.
- The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is held for the first time in Sturgis, South Dakota.
- June 17
- Philippe Pétain becomes Prime Minister of France and immediately asks Germany for peace terms.
- The Soviet Army enters the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.
- WWII: Operation Ariel begins: Allied troops start to evacuate France, following Germany's takeover of Paris and most of the nation.
- WWII: RMS Lancastria, serving as a troopship, is bombed and sunk by Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88 aircraft while evacuating British troops and nationals from Saint-Nazaire in France with the loss of at least 4,000 lives, the largest single UK loss in any World War II event, immediate news of which is suppressed in the British press. Destroyer HMS Beagle (H30) rescues around 600.
- June 18
- WWII: Winston Churchill tells the House of Commons of the United Kingdom: "The Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin."
- WWII: Appeal of 18 June: General Charles de Gaulle, de facto leader of the Free French Forces, makes his first broadcast appeal over Radio Londres from London rallying French Resistance, calling on all French people to continue the fight against Nazi Germany: "France has lost a battle. But France has not lost the war".
- June 22 – WWII: Second Armistice at Compiègne: The French Third Republic and Nazi Germany sign an armistice ending the Battle of France in the Forest of Compiègne, in the same Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits railroad car used by Marshal Ferdinand Foch to agree the Armistice with Germany in 1918. This divides France into a Zone occupée in the north and west under the Military Administration in France (Nazi Germany) and a southern Zone libre, Vichy France.
- June 23 – WWII: German leader Adolf Hitler surveys newly defeated Paris in now occupied France.
- June 24
- June 25 – WWII: After the defeat of France, Hitler plans for an invasion of Switzerland, known as Operation Tannenbaum
- June 28 – General Charles de Gaulle is officially recognized by Britain as the "Leader of all Free Frenchmen, wherever they may be."
- June 30
- WWII: German forces land in Guernsey, marking the start of the 5-year Occupation of the Channel Islands.
- Federal government of the United States reorganisation:
- July 1 – The first Tacoma Narrows Bridge opens for business, built with an 8-foot (2.4 m) girder and 190 feet (58 m) above the water, as the third longest suspension bridge in the world.
- July 2 – WWII: British-owned SS Arandora Star, carrying civilian internees and POWs of Italian and German origin from Liverpool to Canada, is torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-47 off northwest Ireland with the loss of around 865 lives.
- July 3 – WWII: Attack on Mers-el-Kébir: British naval units sink or seize ships of the French fleet anchored in the Algerian ports of Mers-el-Kebir and Oran to prevent them falling into German hands. The following day, Vichy France breaks off diplomatic relations with Britain.
- July 6 – Opening of Story Bridge in Brisbane.
- July 6 – British submarine HMS Shark is sunk.
- July 10 – WWII: The Battle of Britain begins.
- July 11
- July 14 – WWII: Winston Churchill, in a worldwide broadcast, proclaims the intention of Great Britain to fight alone against Germany whatever the outcome: "We shall seek no terms. We shall tolerate no parley. We may show mercy. We shall ask none."
- July 15 – U.S. politics: The Democratic Party begins its national convention in Chicago, and nominates Franklin D. Roosevelt for an unprecedented third term as president.
- July 19
- WWII: Allied victory at the Battle of Cape Spada HMAS Sydney and five destroyers sink the Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni.
- WWII: Adolf Hitler makes a peace appeal to Britain in an address to the Reichstag. Lord Halifax, the British foreign minister, flatly rejects peace terms in a broadcast reply on July 22.
- July 21 – The Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republics are proclaimed in Moscow.
- July 23 – Welles Declaration: United States Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles announces that the U.S. will not accord diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union's occupation of the Baltic states.
- July 25 – General Henri Guisan addresses the officer corps of the Swiss army at Rütli resolving to resist any invasion of the country.
- July 27 – Bugs Bunny makes his debut in the Oscar-nominated cartoon short, A Wild Hare. However, it is not until 1941 that his name is adopted.
- August 1 – WWII: British submarine HMS Spearfish is sunk in the English Channel by what is much later discovered to be a mine.
- August 3 – The Lithuanian SSR, Latvian SSR (August 5) and Estonian SSR (August 6) are incorporated into the Soviet Union six weeks after their annexation.
- August 3–19 – WWII: Italian conquest of British Somaliland.
- August 4 – Gen. John J. Pershing, in a nationwide radio broadcast, urges all-out aid to Britain in order to defend the Americas, while Charles Lindbergh speaks to an isolationist rally at Soldier Field in Chicago.
- August 8 – WWII: Wilhelm Keitel signs the "Aufbau Ost" directive, which eventually leads to the invasion of the Soviet Union.
- August 10 – WWII: British armed merchant cruiser HMS Transylvania is torpedoed off Malin Head, Ireland, by German submarine U-56.
- August 13 – WWII: The Adlertag ("Eagle Day") strike on southern England occurs, starting the rapid escalation of the Battle of Britain air offensive of the Luftwaffe against RAF Fighter Command.
- August 15 – Italy, without having declared war on Greece, sinks the Greek boat Elli (Έλλη).
- August 18 – HRH The Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, is installed as Governor of the Bahamas.
- August 20
- August 21 – Leon Trotsky dies of injuries sustained.
- August 24 – Howard Florey and a team including Ernst Chain and Norman Heatley at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, publish their laboratory results showing the in vivo bactericidal action of penicillin. They have also purified the drug.
- August 25 – WWII: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia incorporated into Soviet Union.
- August 26 – WWII: Chad is the first French colony to proclaim its support for the Allies.
- August 30 – Second Vienna Award: Germany and Italy compel Romania to cede half of Transylvania to Hungary.
- September – The U.S. Army 45th Infantry Division (previously a National Guard Division in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma), is activated and ordered into federal service for 1 year, to engage in a training program in Ft. Sill and Louisiana, prior to serving in WWII.
- September 2 – WWII: An agreement between America and Great Britain is announced to the effect that 50 U.S. destroyers needed for escort work will be transferred to Great Britain. In return, America gains 99-year leases on British bases in the North Atlantic, West Indies and Bermuda.
- September 4 – WWII: In Berlin Adolf Hitler declares in a speech that Nazi Germany will avenge all night air raids carried out by England.
- September 5 – WWII: Commerce raiding German auxiliary cruiser Komet enters the Pacific Ocean via the Bering Strait after crossing the Arctic Ocean from the North Sea with the help of Soviet icebreakers Lenin, Stalin, and Kaganovich.
- September 7
- September 9 – Treznea massacre: The Hungarian Army, supported by local Hungarians kill 93 Romanian civilians in Treznea, Sălaj, a village in Northern Transylvania, as part of attempts to ethnic cleansing.
- September 12
- September 14 – Ip massacre: The Hungarian Army, supported by local Hungarians, kill 158 Romanian civilians in Ip, Sălaj, a village in Northern Transylvania, as part of attempts at ethnic cleansing.
- September 16 – WWII: The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 is signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt, creating the first peacetime draft in U.S. history.
- September 17–18 – WWII: SS City of Benares is torpedoed by German submarine U-48 in the Atlantic with the loss of 248 of the 406 on board, including child evacuees bound for Canada. This results in cancellation of the British Children's Overseas Reception Board's plan to relocate children overseas.
- September 22 – Japan enters French Indochina: an agreement is signed in which Japan promises to station no more than 6,000 troops there, and never have more than 25,000 transiting the colony. Rights were also given for three airfields.
- September 25 – Occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany: German Reichskommissar Josef Terboven appoints a provisional council of state from the pro-Nazi Nasjonal Samling party under Vidkun Quisling as a puppet government for Norway.
- September 26 – A group of Japanese officers in violation of an agreement signed four days earlier with French Indochina, take Đồng Đăng and Lam Sơn with 40 Franco-Vietnamese troops killed and around 1,000 deserting. The same day the United States imposes a total embargo on all scrap metal shipments to Japan.
- September 27 – WWII: Germany, Italy and Japan sign the Tripartite Pact.
- October 14 – The Balham tube station disaster in London, England, occurs during the Nazi Luftwaffe air raids on Great Britain.
- October 16 – The draft registration of approximately 16 million men begins in the United States.
- October 18–19 – WWII: Thirty-two ships are sunk from Convoy SC 7 and Convoy HX 79 by the most effective "wolfpack" of the war including U-boat aces Kretschmer, Prien and Schepke.
- October 26–28 – WWII: RMS Empress of Britain, serving as a troopship under the British flag, is bombed, torpedoed and sunk off the Donegal coast with the loss of 45 lives. At 42,348 GRT she is the war's largest merchant ship loss.
- October 28 – WWII: Italian troops invade Greece, meeting strong resistance from Greek troops and civilians. This action signals the beginning of the Balkan Campaign.
- October 29 – The Selective Service System lottery is held in Washington, D.C..
- November – In Cambodia the Khmer Issarak is formed to overthrow the French Army within the nation.
- November 2–8 – WWII (Greco-Italian War): In the Battle of Elaia–Kalamas in Epirus outnumbered Greek forces repel the Italian Army.
- November 5 – United States presidential election, 1940: Democrat incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt defeats Republican challenger Wendell Willkie and becomes the United States' first and only third-term president.
- November 6 – Agatha Christie's mystery novel And Then There Were None is published in book form in the United States.
- November 7 – In Tacoma, Washington, the 600-foot (180 m)-long center span of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (known as Galloping Gertie) collapses.
- November 8 – WWII: MS City of Rayville is sunk by a naval mine, the first United States Merchant Marine loss of the war, off Cape Otway, Australia
- November 9 – Joaquín Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez premieres in Barcelona, Spain.
- November 10 – 1940 Vrancea earthquake: An earthquake in Romania kills 1,000.
- November 11
- WWII: The Royal Navy launches the first aircraft carrier strike in history, on the Italian battleship fleet anchored at Taranto naval base.
- WWII: German auxiliary cruiser Atlantis captures top secret British mail intended for British Far East Command from the SS Automedon and sends it to Japan.
- Armistice Day Blizzard: An unexpected blizzard kills 144 in the Midwestern United States.
- November 13 – Walt Disney's Fantasia is released. It is the first box office failure for Disney, though it eventually recoups its cost years later, and becomes one of the most highly regarded of Disney's films.
- November 14 – WWII: The city centre of Coventry, England is destroyed by 500 Luftwaffe bombers: 150,000 fire bombs, 503 tons of high explosives, and 130 parachute mines level 60,000 of the city's 75,000 buildings; 568 people are killed, during the Coventry Blitz.
- November 16
- WWII: In response to Germany levelling Coventry 2 days before, the Royal Air Force begins to bomb Hamburg (by war's end, 50,000 Hamburg residents will have died from Allied attacks).
- An unexploded pipe bomb is found in the Consolidated Edison office building (only years later is the culprit, George Metesky, apprehended).
- The Jamaica Association of Local Government Officers is founded.
- November 18 – WWII: German leader Adolf Hitler and Italian Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano meet to discuss Benito Mussolini's disastrous invasion of Greece.
- November 20 – WWII: Hungary, Romania and Slovakia join the Axis powers.
- November 25
- Patria disaster: As British authorities attempt to deport Jewish refugees (originating from German-occupied Europe) from Mandatory Palestine to Mauritius aboard the requisitioned emigrant liner SS Patria at Haifa, the Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah sinks the ship with a bomb, killing around 250 refugees and crew.
- de Havilland Mosquito and Martin B-26 Marauder military aircraft both make their first flights.
- Woody Woodpecker makes his debut in the animated short Knock Knock.
- November 26–27 – Jilava Massacre: In Romania, coup leader General Ion Antonescu's Iron Guard arrests and executes over 60 of exiled king Carol II of Romania's aides, starting at a penitentiary near Bucharest. Among the dead is former minister and acclaimed historian Nicolae Iorga.
- November 27 – WWII: The British Royal Navy and Italian Regia Marina fight the Battle of Cape Spartivento.
- December – Timely Comics' Captain America Comics #1 (cover dated March 1941), first appearance of Captain America and Bucky, hits newsstands in the United States.
- December 1 – Manuel Ávila Camacho takes office as President of Mexico.
- December 6 – British submarine HMS Regulus is sunk near Taranto.
- December 8 – The Chicago Bears, in what will become the most one-sided victory in National Football League history, defeat the Washington Redskins 73–0 in the 1940 NFL Championship Game.
- December 9 – WWII: Operation Compass – British forces in North Africa begin their first major offensive with an attack on Italian forces at Sidi Barrani, Egypt.
- December 12 and December 15 – WWII: "Sheffield Blitz" ("Operation Crucible") – The Yorkshire city of Sheffield is badly damaged by German air-raids.
- December 14
- December 16 – WWII: Operation Abigail Rachel – RAF bombing of Mannheim.
- December 17 – President Roosevelt, at his regular press conference, first sets forth the outline of his plan to send aid to Great Britain that will become known as Lend-Lease.
- December 23 – WWII: Winston Churchill, in a broadcast address to the people of Italy, blames Benito Mussolini for leading his nation to war against the British, contrary to Italy's historic friendship with them: "One man has arrayed the trustees and inheritors of ancient Rome upon the side of the ferocious pagan barbarians."
- December 24 – Mahatma Gandhi, Indian spiritual non-violence leader writes his second letter to Adolf Hitler addressing him "My friend", requesting him to stop the war Germany had begun.
- December 29
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a fireside chat to the nation, declares that the United States must become "the great arsenal of democracy."
- WWII: "Second Great Fire of London" – Luftwaffe carries out a massive incendiary bombing raid, starting 1,500 fires. Many famous buildings, including the Guildhall and Trinity House, are either damaged or destroyed.
- December 30
- In Korea, the Hunminjeongeum (1446) is discovered, explaining the basis of the Hangul alphabet.
- US historian Arthur Marder publishes The Anatomy of British Sea Power: a history of British naval policy in the pre-Dreadnought era, 1880-1905.
- Olympic Games, assigned to Tokyo, Japan, and later to Helsinki, Finland, are suspended due to WWII.
- Walter Knott begins construction of ghost town replica which would soon evolve into Knott's Berry Farm
- January 2 – Jim Bakker, American televangelist and former husband of Tammy Faye
- January 3 – Leo de Berardinis, Italian stage actor and theatre director (d. 2008)
- January 4
- January 6 – Penny Lernoux, American journalist and author (d. 1989)
- January 9 – Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, Costa Rican politician, lawyer, economist, and businessman
- January 14 – Julian Bond, American civil rights activist
- January 19 – Mike Reid, English actor (d. 2007)
- January 20 – Carol Heiss, American figure skater
- January 21
- January 22 – John Hurt, English actor
- January 27 – James Cromwell, American actor
- January 28 – Carlos Slim, Mexican businessman
- February 1
- February 2 – David Jason, English actor
- February 3 – Fran Tarkenton, American football player
- February 4 – George A. Romero, American film writer and director
- February 5 – H. R. Giger, Swiss artist (d. 2014)
- February 6
- February 8
- February 9
- February 12
- February 17 – Gene Pitney, American singer (d. 2006)
- February 18 – Fabrizio De André, Italian singer-songwriter (d. 1999)
- February 19 – Smokey Robinson, American musician
- February 20 – Jimmy Greaves, English footballer
- February 21
- February 22
- February 23 – Peter Fonda, American actor
- February 24
- February 25 – Ron Santo, American baseball player (d. 2010)
- February 27 – Howard Hesseman, American actor
- February 28 – Mario Andretti, American race car driver
- March 3
- March 6 – Willie Stargell, American baseball player (d. 2001)
- March 7 – Rudi Dutschke, German radical student leader (d. 1979)
- March 8 – Susan Clark, Canadian actress (Webster)
- March 9 – Raúl Juliá, Puerto Rican actor (d. 1994)
- March 10
- March 12 – Al Jarreau, American singer
- March 13 – Candi Staton, American singer
- March 15 – Phil Lesh, American musician (Grateful Dead)
- March 16
- March 17 – Mark White, Governor of Texas
- March 21 – Solomon Burke, American singer and songwriter (d. 2010)
- March 22 – Haing S. Ngor, Cambodian actor (d. 1996)
- March 25 –
- March 26
- March 27 – Cale Yarborough, American race car driver
- March 29 – Ray Davis, American musician (P-Funk) (d. 2005)
- March 30 – Astrud Gilberto, Brazilian-born singer
- April 1 – Wangari Maathai, Kenyan environmentalist, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (d .2011)
- April 2 – Penelope Keith, English actress
- April 8 – John Havlicek, American basketball player
- April 12
- April 13 – Max Mosley, British motorsport boss
- April 16 – Queen Margrethe II of Denmark
- April 18 – Joseph L. Goldstein, American scientist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
- April 25 – Al Pacino, American actor
- April 26 – Giorgio Moroder, Italian film composer
- May 1 – Elsa Peretti, Italian jewelry designer
- May 2 – Jo Ann Pflug, American former actress and motivational speaker
- May 5 – Lance Henriksen, American actor and potter
- May 7 – Jim Connors, American radio personality (d. 1987)
- May 8
- May 9
- May 11 – Juan Downey, Chilean-born video artist (d. 1993)
- May 13 – Bruce Chatwin, British author (d. 1989)
- May 14 – 'H'. Jones, British soldier (VC recipient) (d. 1982)
- May 15
- May 17
- May 18 – Lenny Lipton, American inventor
- May 20
- May 22 – Bernard Shaw, American journalist and television news reporter
- May 24 – Joseph Brodsky, Russian-born poet, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1996)
- May 29 – Farooq Leghari, President of Pakistan (d. 2010)
- June 1 – René Auberjonois, American actor
- June 2 – Constantine II of Greece
- June 4 – Ludwig Schwarz, Austrian bishop
- June 6 – Richard Paul, American actor (d. 1998)
- June 7 – Tom Jones, Welsh singer
- June 8
- June 16
- June 17
- June 19 – Paul Shane, English-born actor (d. 2013)
- June 20 – John Mahoney, English-born actor
- June 21 – Mariette Hartley, American actress
- June 22
- June 23
- June 25 – A. J. Quinnell, English writer (d. 2005)
- June 27 – Anil Karanjai, Indian painter of the Hungry generation movement.
- June 28 – Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, Nobel Prize laureate
- June 29 – Vyacheslav Artyomov, Russian composer
- July 2 – Christopher Awdry, English children's writer & son of Wilbert Awdry
- July 3 – César Tovar, Venezuelan baseball player
- July 6 – Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan
- July 7 – Ringo Starr, British drummer (The Beatles)
- July 10
- July 13
- July 17
- July 18
- July 22
- July 24 – Stanley Hauerwas, American theologian
- July 26 – Mary Jo Kopechne, American aide to Ted Kennedy (d. 1969)
- July 27
- July 31 – Roy Walker, Northern Irish comedian
- August 1 – Ram Loevy, Israeli screenwriter and director
- August 3 – Martin Sheen, American actor
- August 7 – Jean-Luc Dehaene, Prime Minister of Belgium (d. 2014)
- August 8 – Dilip Sardesai, former Indian cricketer (d. 2007)
- August 9 – Beverlee McKinsey, American actress
- August 10 – Bobby Hatfield, American singer (The Righteous Brothers) (d. 2003)
- August 14 – Galen Hall, American football coach
- August 19 – Jill St. John, American actress
- August 20
- August 25 – José van Dam, Belgian bass-baritone
- August 27 – Fernest Arceneaux, American musician (d. 2008)
- August 28 – Tom Baker, American actor (d. 1982)
- August 29
- August 31 – Jack Thompson, Australian actor
- September 3 – Joseph C. Strasser, American admiral
- September 5 – Raquel Welch, American actress
- September 7 – Abdurrahman Wahid, former President of Indonesia (d. 2009)
- September 10 – David Mann, American artist (d. 2004)
- September 11 – Brian De Palma, American film director
- September 12
- September 13 – Óscar Arias, Costa Rican politician, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize
- September 14 – Larry Brown, American basketball coach
- September 20 – Tarō Asō, 59th Prime Minister of Japan
- September 23 – Mohammad-Reza Shajarian, Iranian traditional singer
- September 24 – Michiko Suganuma, Urushi Japanese lacquer artist
- October 9 – John Lennon, British musician and singer (The Beatles) (d. 1980)
- October 13 – Pharoah Sanders, American saxophonist
- October 14 – Cliff Richard, Pop Sensation
- October 15 – Peter C. Doherty, Australian immunologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
- October 16 – Ivan Della Mea, Italian singer-songwriter (d. 2009)
- October 19 – Sir Michael Gambon, Irish actor
- October 20 – Robert Pinsky, United States Poet Laureate
- October 21
- October 23 – Pelé, Brazilian footballer
- October 25 – Bobby Knight, American basketball coach
- October 27 – John Gotti, American gangster (d. 2002)
- November 1 – Ramesh Chandra Lahoti, Chief Justice of India
- November 12 – Glenn Stetson, Canadian singer
- November 15
- November 17 – Luke Kelly, Irish ballad singer (The Dubliners)
- November 18 – Qaboos bin Said al Said, sultan Oman
- November 20 – Helma Sanders-Brahms, German film director (d. 2014)
- November 21 – Richard Marcinko, U.S. Navy SEAL team member and author
- November 22 – Terry Gilliam, American-born British screenwriter, director and animator
- November 25 – Joe Gibbs, American football coach
- November 27 – Bruce Lee, Chinese-American martial artist and actor (d. 1973)
- November 29 – Chuck Mangione, American flugelhorn player
- December 1 – Richard Pryor, American actor and comedian (d. 2005)
- December 4
- December 5 – Peter Pohl, Swedish writer
- December 11 – Donna Mills, American actress and dancer
- December 12
- December 20 – Pat Chapman, English author
- December 21 – Frank Zappa, American musician, composer, and satirist (d. 1993)
- December 22 – Noel Jones, British ambassador to Kazakhstan (d. 1995)
- December 23
- December 24 – Janet Carroll, American actress and singer (d. 2012)
- December 26 – Edward C. Prescott, American economist, Nobel Prize laureate
- Monica Evans, English actor
- January – Fusajiro Yamauchi, Japanese business executive (b. 1859)
- January 4 – Flora Finch, English-born actress and comedian (b. 1869)
- January 18 – Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer, Polish poet and writer (b. 1865)
- January 27 – Isaac Babel, Ukrainian writer (b. 1894)
- February 1 – Philip Francis Nowlan, science fiction writer, creator of Buck Rogers (b. 1888)
- February 2 – Vsevolod Meyerhold, Russian Theatre Practitioner (b. 1874)
- February 4 – Samuel M. Vauclain, American engineer (b. 1856)
- February 9 – William Edward Dodd, American historian and diplomat (b. 1869)
- February 11 – John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, Governor General of Canada (b. 1875)
- February 26 – Michael Hainisch, 2nd President of Austria (b. 1858)
- February 29 – Edward Frederic Benson, English writer
- March 1 – Anton Hansen Tammsaare, Estonian writer (b. 1878)
- March 5
- March 10 – Mikhail Bulgakov, Russian writer (b. 1891)
- March 11 – John Monk Saunders, American writer (b. 1897)
- March 16 – Selma Lagerlöf, Swedish writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1858)
- March 20 – Alfred Ploetz, German physician, biologist, and eugenicist (b. 1860)
- March 26 – Spyridon Louis, Greek runner (b. 1873)
- March 27
- March 30 – George Egerton, British admiral (b. 1852)
- March 31 – Tinsley Lindley, English footballer (b. 1865)
- April 1 – John A. Hobson, English economist (b. 1858).
- April 26 – Carl Bosch, German chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1874)
- April 28 – Luisa Tetrazzini, Italian opera singer (b. 1871)
- May 11 – Chujiro Hayashi, Japanese Reiki Master (b. 1880)
- May 14 – Emma Goldman, Lithuanian-born anarchist (b. 1869)
- May 15 – Menno ter Braak, Dutch writer (b. 1902)
- May 19 – Diego Mazquiarán, Spanish matador (b. 1895)
- May 20 – Verner von Heidenstam, Swedish writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1859)
- May 25 – Joe De Grasse, Canadian film director (b. 1873)
- May 26 – Wilhelm of Prussia, Prussian prince (b. 1906)
- May 28
- May 29 – Mary Anderson, American stage actress (b. 1859).
- June 7
- June 10 – Marcus Garvey, Jamaican-born publisher, entrepreneur, and black nationalist (b. 1887)
- June 11 – Alfred S. Alschuler, American architect (b. 1876)
- June 13 – George Fitzmaurice, American director (b. 1885)
- June 14 – Henry W. Antheil, Jr., American diplomat (b. 1912)
- June 17 – Arthur Harden, English chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1865)
- June 19 – Maurice Jaubert, French composer (b. 1900)
- June 20 – Charley Chase, American comedian (b. 1893)
- June 21
- June 28 – Italo Balbo, Italian Fascist leader (b. 1896)
- June 29 – Paul Klee, Swiss artist (b. 1879)
- July 1 – Ben Turpin, American actor (b. 1869)
- July 15 – Robert Wadlow, tallest man ever (infection) (b. 1918)
- July 30 – Spencer S. Wood, United States Navy rear admiral (b. 1861)
- August 5 – Frederick Albert Cook, American explorer (b. 1865)
- August 8 – Johnny Dodds, American jazz clarinetist (b. 1892)
- August 18 – Walter Chrysler, American automobile pioneer (b. 1875)
- August 21
- August 22
- August 30 – J. J. Thomson, English physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1856)
- September 4 – George William de Carteret, author from Jersey island (b. 1869)
- September 5 – Charles de Broqueville, Prime Minister of Belgium (b. 1860)
- September 23 – Hale Holden, president of Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad 1914-1918 and 1920-1929 (b. 1869)
- September 25 – Marguerite Clark, American actress (b. 1883)
- September 27 – Julius Wagner-Jauregg, Austrian neuroscientist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (b. 1857)
- October 5
- October 9 – Wilfred Grenfell, English medical missionary to Newfoundland and Labrador (b. 1865)
- October 10 – Berton Churchill, Canadian actor (b. 1876)
- October 12 – Tom Mix, American actor (b. 1880)
- October 17 – George Davis, American baseball player and MLB Hall of Famer (b. 1870)
- November 5 – Otto Plath, father of American poet Sylvia Plath, and entomologist (b. 1885)
- November 9
- November 17
- November 19 – Ralph W. Barnes, American journalist (b. 1899)
- December 5 – Jan Kubelík, Czech violinist (b. 1880)
- December 14 – Anton Korošec, Slovenian political leader (b. 1872)
- December 15 or December 16 (unclear) – Billy Hamilton, American baseball player and MLB Hall of Famer (b. 1866)
- December 16 – Marie Eugène François Thomas Dubois (Eugène Dubois), Dutch paleoanthropologist and geologist who discovered Pithecanthropus erectus (later redesignated Homo erectus), or "Java Man" (b. 1858)
- December 19 – Kyösti Kallio, President of Finland (b. 1873)
- December 21 – F. Scott Fitzgerald, American writer (b. 1896)
- December 22 – Nathanael West, American writer (b. 1903)
- December 23 – Eddie August Schneider, American aviator (b. 1911)
- December 25 – Agnes Ayres, American actress (b. 1898)
- December 26 – Daniel Frohman, American theater producer (b. 1851)
- Physics – not awarded
- Chemistry – not awarded
- Physiology or Medicine – not awarded
- Literature – not awarded
- Peace – not awarded
- Muggenthaler, August Karl (1977). German Raiders of WWII. Prentice-Hall. p. 14. ISBN 0-13-354027-8.
- Trossarelli, L. (2010). "the history of nylon". Club Alpino Italiano, Centro Studi Materiali e Tecniche. Archived from the original on 2012-03-02. Retrieved 2012-02-28.
- Borgersrud, Lars (1995). "Nøytralitetsvakt". In Dahl, Hans Fredrik; Hjeltnes, Guri; Nøkleby, Berit; Ringdal, Nils Johan; Sørensen, Øystein (ed.). Norsk krigsleksikon 1940-45 (in Norwegian). Oslo: Cappelen. p. 313. ISBN 82-02-14138-9. Retrieved 2012-06-29.
- "Lancastria's end told by survivors; Italian and Nazi Planes Said to Have Shot at Swimmers and Fired Oily Waters; Many Caught Below Deck; Rescue Craft Reported Set Ablaze; Victims Include Women and Children". New York Times. 26 July 1940. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
- Hooton, E. R. (2007). Luftwaffe at War: Blitzkrieg in the West. London: Chervron/Ian Allan. p. 88. ISBN 978-1-85780-272-6.
- "Hitler Picture: Hitler in Paris". 20th Century History. About.com. Retrieved 2013-03-25.
- Bloch, Michael (1982). The Duke of Windsor's War. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-77947-8.
- Drews, Jürgen (March 2000). "Drug Discovery: a Historical Perspective". Science 287 (5460): 1960–4. doi:10.1126/science.287.5460.1960. PMID 10720314.
- Robertson, Patrick (1974). The Shell Book of Firsts. London: Ebury Press. p. 124.
- Muggenthaler, August Karl (1977). German Raiders of WWII. Prentice-Hall. p. 58. ISBN 0-13-354027-8.
- 1940 WWII Timeline
- The 1930s Timeline: 1940 – from American Studies Programs at The University of Virginia
- The 1940s | 1940-1949 | History Fashion Movies Music