World History 1939

About the history of the world in 1939, New York holds a World's Fair, Germany and the Soviet Union sign a nonagression pact, Germany invades Poland.

TWO CENTURIES OF WORLD HISTORY: 1778-1978

1939

Apr. 30 Commemorating the 150th anniversary of George Washington's inauguration on the balcony of Federal Hall, the New York World's Fair opened on 1,216 acres of reclaimed tidal swamp, known thereafter as Flushing Meadow Park, in New York City. In over 200 buildings spread out over 370 meticulously landscaped city blocks, the exposition promoted its theme-"Building the World of Tomorrow." Confident that the world had many such tomorrows left, fair officials sealed up a time capsule to be opened in the year 6939, five millennia hence.

Aug. 23 Germany and the Soviet Union signed a 10-year nonaggression pact. Under its terms, Stalin agreed to look the other way while Hitler gobbled up western Poland, provided that eastern Poland fell to Russia.

Aug. 27 The first jet airplane, designed by Dr. Hans von Ohain, taxied down the runway at Rostock-Marienehe, Germany, with Capt. Erich Wahrsitz at the controls.

Sept. W.W. II broke out with Germany's invasion of Poland. In the early morning hours of Sept. 1, over 50 Nazi divisions rumbled across the Polish border in the wake of Luftwaffe air raids on Polish railroads. From East Prussia on the north, from German soil on the west, and through gaps in the Carpathian Mountains on the south, poured the might of Hitler's army in this, the first blitzkrieg. Great Britain and France declared war on Germany two days later, but this did little to stay the advance of German tanks, which reached the outskirts of Warsaw by Sept. 8. As ill-prepared Polish forces lamely undertook scattered counterattacks, Russian troops invaded Poland in the east on Sept. 17. The following day, top Polish goverment officials sought asylum in neighboring Romania, while rank-and-file Poles were left to their own devices. Under intense artillery fire and aerial bombardment, the Warsaw garrison finally surrendered on Sept. 28, though some Polish regulars fought on for another week and guerrillas harassed Nazi units until the end of the year. German and Russian forces joined hands and partitioned Poland roughly in half along a north-south line running from East Prussia to the Carpathians.

Nov. 30 The Soviet Union invaded Finland following a breakdown in negotiations between those two countries over readjustment of their common borders. To the surprise of the world, the Finns put up a strong defense before giving in to Russian demands the following spring.

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