Whether you experienced the 1940s or are just curious, Life in the 1940s – A Trip Down Memory Lane will give you insight into some of the events, fads, and lifestyles that mark that decade.
Life in the 1940s – Events
World War II
For the first part of the 1940s decade, much of the world was immersed in war. In 1939-1941 Nazi Germany invaded Poland, Denmark, Norway, Benelux, and the French Third Republic. This began what we now know as World War II.
The United States entered WWII after the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941.
The Holocaust, where the mass genocide of the European Jews by Nazi Germany and its collaborators, took place between 1941 and 1945. It has been estimated that between 11 million and 17 million people were Holocaust victims.
With men having entered the military to fight for the country, women were now needed to take the place of these men in the workplace. Nearly 19 million women in the United States held jobs. An iconic figure for these women is known as Rosie the Riveter.
The Western Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy in France on June 6, 1944.
World War II Comes to an End
Germany surrendered in May 1945 with the German Instrument of Surrender, which ended the war in Europe.
On August 6 and 9, the United States detonated atomic bombings over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945.
WW II officially ended on September 2, 1945.
After WWII ended in 1945, The United Nations was formed with a vision to maintain international peace and security. The United Nations Charter was signed on June 26, 1945, by the representatives of 50 countries and took effect on October 24, 1945.
Another important organization that came into being at this time is the North Atlantic Alliance. There are 28 European countries and 2 North American countries that are a part of the Alliance. A treaty, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), was developed. The purpose of NATO is for the members to agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party. The treaty became official on April 4, 1949.
Though the Jeep made its debut on November 11, 1940, it was during this time that the automobile industry came to a standstill. Production lines were shut down, and the government managed all existing unsold cars to aid in the war effort. These unsold autos were leftover from 1941 and 1942 and rationed out as needed for civilian and military use.
Production of automobiles resumed in 1946.
- Considered by some to be the most beautiful cars of the 1940s include:
- Pontiac Streamliner
- Alfa Romeo
- Triumph Roadster
- Plymouth Deluxe
- Jaguar Roadster
- Ferrari Barchetta
- Ford Club Coupe
- Cadillac Convertible/Coupe
Due to the rationing of fabric, dresses became shorter than those seen in the previous decade. Mid-calf dresses were no longer the fashion trend as the knee-length dress came into style.
There were a variety of neckline styles of the 1940s dress. These included square, keyhole, wrap, sweetheart, and button-down tops. The design of the everyday dress was modest.
One-piece bathing suits were still prevalent in the 1940s, but the two-piece and bikini became more popular.
It was on July 5, 1946, the two-piece women’s bikini made its debut.
- Popular Women’s Shoes
- Mary Janes
- Peep Toe
- Popular Men’s Shoes
- Boat Shoes
- Half Boots
In the early years of the decade, women’s hair was somewhat short, with tight ring curls around the face. By 1943 hair was usually worn shoulder-length with curls and volume. Hair was set in pin curls overnight and brushed out in the morning. A popular hairstyle had hair half up and half down.
In the early to mid-1940s, men’s hair was short on the sides and back and longer on top. Hair was parted on the side or smoothed back. As the later years of the decade came, men’s hairstyles gained more height and more waves.
- Popular Dances of the 1940s Include:
- Popular Songs of the 1940s Include:
- Only Forever (1940)
- Chattanooga Choo Choo (1941)
- White Christmas (1942)
- Paper Doll (1943)
- I’ll Be Seeing You (1944)
- Sentimental Journey (1945)
- Let It Snow (1946)
- Peg O’ My Heart (1947)
- I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover (1948)
- Some Enchanted Evening (1949)
- Popular Musical Artists
- Bing Crosby
- Jimmy Dorsey
- Glenn Miller
- Harry James
- Perry Como
- Sammy Kaye
- Freddy Martin
- Vaughn Monroe
- Tommy Dorsey
- Ink Spots
- Popular Movies of the 1940s Include:
- Citizen Kane (1941)
- Casablanca (1942)
- It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
- The Maltese Falcon (1941)
- The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
- The Third Man (1949)
- Fantasia (1940)
- The Philadelphia Story (1940)
- The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
- The Great Dictator (1940)
- Popular Games and Toys Originating in the 1940s Include:
- Magic 8 Ball
- Silly Putty
- 1942 Manhattan Project Begins
- 1947 First African American plays in Major League Baseball – Jackie Robinson.
- 1947 Soundbarrier broken.
- 1948 Big Bang Theory, a scientific explanation of the origin of the universe, was introduced.
- 1949 The Book “1984” by George Orwell was published.
If you enjoyed looking back at life in the 1940s, other articles you might like that explore the 1930s and 1950s are:
In taking a look at Life In The 1940s – A Trip Down Memory Lane, I hope you were able to revisit some fond life events. If you hadn’t lived during that decade, my hope is you were able to learn something new about the decade.
If you have any memories of the 1940s you would like to share, I would love to read them; please comment below.