Congress passes several laws related to national defense, including the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, which provides drafting and training men for the army and navy, marines and national guard. More than 16 million men register for the draft, which also allows for conscientious objectors to be employed in non-combat work. Congress authorizes money to build planes and ships, housing for soldiers, and establishes new military bases across the country. The Alien Registration Act requires that all aliens register with the government.
Scientists learn that plasma can be substituted for whole blood transfusions; the Rh factor of blood is discovered. Food is freeze dried for the first time.
CBS demonstrates the first color television in New York City, and WNBT in New York City becomes the country's first regular television station, broadcasting to about 10,000 viewers.
Transportation expands. The first multi-lane superhighway, the Pennsylvania Turnpike opens; and the first Los Angeles freeway opens. Burma Shave roadside ads are set up along the highways, and the first MacDonald's hamburger stand opens in Pasadena, California.
People enjoy an array of popular books, movies and dances. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is popular, and the movie Gone with the Wind wins an Academy Award. Walt Disney releases "Pinocchio" and "Fantasia." Other movies include "The Great Dictator," "The Philadelphia Story," and "The Grapes of Wrath," staring former Nebraskan Henry Fonda. Americans enjoy "Bugs Bunny" cartoons and hear the "Superman" radio show for the first time. Big band music is popular and the Swing Era is in full swing.
Following the 1940 election, Franklin Roosevelt is inaugurated for a third term as president and urges that the US become an arsenal of democracy. Iowan Henry Wallace is vice president. The Lend-Lease Act gives the President power to sell or lend war supplies to other countries. Roosevelt sends emergency food aid to the Soviet Union.
US General Leslie R. Groves is appointed to direct the Manhattan Project, a top secret effort to build an atomic weapon before Germany or Japan. General Groves starts engineering and production centers at Los Alamos, New Mexico, directed by physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and at the Hanford Engineer Works in eastern Washington. At the University of Chicago, physicist Enrico Fermi, who had fled the Fascist regime in Italy, supervised related experiments. Under university's football stadium stands in 1942, the first self-sustaining nuclear reaction occurs. At Los Alamos a team of international engineers and scientists races to create atomic weapons for the US.
In Europe, Germany forces 5,000 Jewish people in Paris to labor camps and isolates Jews in Warsaw, Poland, into a walled ghetto. Jews are prohibited from appearing in public without wearing a star and they cannot leave residential areas without police permission. Hitler ignores the German-Soviet nonaggression pact and invades the Soviet Union. Slowed by the bitter Russian winter, the German war machine fails to conquer Moscow.
The Japanese attack the US base at Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941. In the surprise attack, more than 350 Japanese airplanes sink 12 US ships and destroy or damage more than 300 aircraft. More than 2,300 military personnel are killed and 1,100 wounded. More than 1,100 men on the battleship Arizona die and the ship sinks. The Japanese attack nearby Hickam Air Field and destroy nearly 20 bombers and fighters. A few US fighters manage to get into the air during the attack. Twenty-nine Japanese aircraft are shot down by US pilots and by ground fire. The next day, President Roosevelt says that December 7, 1941 is date which "will live in infamy" and