1936 1937 1938 - 1939(MCMXXXIX) - 1940 1941 1942
1900s 1910s 1920s - 1930s - 1940s 1950s 1960s
19th century - 20th century - 21st century
1939 was a common year starting on Sunday (link will take you to calendar).
- January 2 - End of term for Frank Finley Merriam, 28th Governor of California. He is succeeded by Culbert Levy Olson.
- January 24 - Earthquake kills 30.000 in Chile – about 50.000 sq mi razed
- January 26 - Spanish Civil War: Troops loyal to Francisco Franco and aided by Italy take Barcelona.
- February 2 - Hungary joins Anticomintern Pact
- February 10 - Falangists take Catalonia
- February 27 - United Kingdom and France recognize Franco's government
- February 27 - Borley Rectory burns
- February 27 - Sit-down strikes are outlawed by the Supreme Court of the United States.
- March 2 - Pius XII becomes Pope
- March 3 - In Bombay, Mohandas Gandhi begins to fast in protest of the autocratic rule in India.
- March 14 - Slovak provincial assemble proclaims independence - priest Jozef Tiso becomes the president of independent Slovak government
- March 15 - German troops occupy the remaining part of Bohemia and Moravia; Czechoslovakia ceases to exist; beginning hostilities leading to WWII
- March 16 - Marriage of Princess Fawzia of Egypt to Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran
- March 22 - Germany takes Memel from Lithuania
- March 28 - Dictator Francisco Franco conquers Madrid, ending the Spanish Civil War
- March 28 - The last message from an adventurer Richard Halliburton - he disappears later
- March - End of the Great Arab Revolt in the British mandate of Palestine (started 1936)
- April 4 - Faisal II becomes King of Iraq.
- April 7 - Italy invades Albania - King Zog flees
- April 11 - Hungary leaves the League of Nations
- May 2 - Lou Gehrig's streak of 2130 consecutive Major League Baseball games played comes to an end. The record will stand for 56 years before Cal Ripken, Jr. breaks it.
- May 7 - Spain leaves the League of Nations
- May 22 - Germany and Italy sign the Pact of Steel.
- June 4 - Holocaust: The SS St. Louis, a ship carrying a cargo of 963 Jewish refugees, is denied permission to land in Florida after already having been turned away from Cuba. Forced to return to Europe, most of its passengers later die in Nazi concentration camps.
- June 17 - Last public execution in France - murderer Eugene Weidmann is decapitated by the guillotine.
- June 23 - Turkey annexes Hatay
- July 4 - The concentration camp Neuengamme becomes autonomous.
- July 6 - Holocaust: The last remaining Jewish enterprises in Germany are closed.
- August 2 - Albert Einstein writes President Franklin Roosevelt about developing the Atomic Bomb using Uranium. This led to the creation of the Manhattan Project.
- August 23 - Hitler and Stalin divide eastern Europe between themselves. Finland, the Baltic states and eastern Poland to the USSR. Western Poland to Germany (Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact)
- August 25 - An IRA bomb explodes in the centre of Coventry, England killing five people.
- August 27 - A Heinkel 178, the first jet-powered aircraft, flies for the last time.
- August 30 - Poland begins mobilization
- September 1 - World War II: Polish September Campaign - Nazi Germany attacks Poland, beginning the war
- September 2 - Following the invasion of Poland, Freie Stadt Danzig Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland) is annexed to Nazi Germany.
- September 3 - World War II: France, Australia and the United Kingdom declare war on Germany.
- September 5 - World War II: The United States declares its neutrality in the war.
- September 6 - World War II: South Africa declares war on Germany.
- September 10 - Canada declares war on Germany.
- September 16 - Cease Fire ending undeclared Border War between The Soviet Union (and Mongolian allies) and Japan.
- September 17 - Soviet Union invades Poland and then occupies eastern Polish territories.
- September 27 - Warsaw surrenders to Germany; Modlin surrenders day later; last Polish large operational unit surrenders near Kock eight days later.
- October 8 - World War II: Germany annexes Western Poland.
- October 11 - Manhattan Project: US President Franklin D. Roosevelt is presented with a letter signed by Albert Einstein urging the United States to rapidly develop the atomic bomb.
- October 15 - The New York Municipal Airport (later renamed La Guardia Airport) is dedicated.
- November 4 - World War II: US President Franklin D. Roosevelt orders the United States Customs Service to implement the Neutrality Act of 1939, allowing cash-and-carry purchases of weapons by belligerents.
- November 6 - World War II: Sonderaktion Krakau
- November 6 - The Hedda Hopper Show debuts with Hollywood gossip Hedda Hopper as host (the show ran until 1951 and made Hopper a powerful figure in the Hollywood elite).
- November 8 - Venlo Incident: Two British agents of SIS are captured by the Germans.
- November 8 - In Munich, Adolf Hitler narrowly escapes an assassination attempt while celebrating the 16th anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch.
- November 15 - In Washington, DC, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt lays the cornerstone of the Jefferson Memorial.
- November 16 - Al Capone released from Alcatraz
- November 30 - Winter War begins: Soviet forces invade Finland and reach the Mannerheim Line, starting the war.
- December 2 - La Guardia Airport opens for business in New York City.
- December 14 - League of Nations expels the USSR because of attacking Finland
- December 25 - A Christmas Carol was read before a radio audience for the first time.
- December 27 - Earthquake in Eastern Anatolia, Turkey, destroys the town of Erzingan - about 100.000 dead
- December 26 - Mining strike in Boringae, Belgium
- December 30 - USSR invades Finland
- Batman created by Bob Kane (and, unofficially, Bill Finger).
- Nuclear fission discovered independently by Lise Meitner and Otto Hahn
- Kirlian photography invented by Semyon Kirlian
- Siam changes its name to Thailand
- A logging crew sets off a second forest fire in the Tillamook Burn, which destroys 190,000 acres (769 km²)
- January 2 - Jim Bakker, American televangelist
- January 3 - Bobby Hull, Canadian hockey player
- January 6 - Valeri Lobanovsky, Ukrainian footballer and manager (d. 2002)
- January 10 - Sal Mineo, American actor (d. 1976)
- January 10 - Bill Toomey, American athlete
- January 11 - Ann Heggtveit, Canadian skier
- January 17 - Maury Povich, American talk show host
- January 18 - James Gritz, U.S. Presidential candidate
- January 19 - Phil Everly, American musician
- January 20 - Chandra Wickramasinghe, British Astonomer, Scientist, Poet.
- January 21 - Wolfman Jack, American disk jockey and actor (d. 1995)
- January 22 - Ray Stevens, American musician
- January 29 - Germaine Greer, Australian writer
- February 6 - Mike Farrell, American actor
- February 10 - Adrienne Clarkson, 26th Governor General of Canada
- February 10 - Roberta Flack, American singer
- February 10 - Peter Purves, British actor and television presenter
- February 12 - Ray Manzarek, American keyboardist
- February 13 - Beate Klarsfeld, Romanian Nazi hunter
- February 21 - Gert Neuhaus, German artist
- February 23 - Peter Fonda, American actor
- February 28 - Daniel C. Tsui, Chinese-born physicist, Nobel Prize laureate
- February 28 - Tommy Tune, American dancer, choreographer, and actor
- March 8 - Robert Tear, Welsh tenor
- March 13 - Neil Sedaka, American singer
- March 20 - Brian Mulroney, eighteenth Prime Minister of Canada
- March 26 - James Caan, American actor
- March 31 - Zviad Gamsakhurdia, President of Georgia (d. 1993)
- March 31 - Volker Schlöndorff, German film director
- April 2 - Marvin Gaye, American singer (d. 1984)
- April 4 - Hugh Masakela, South African musician
- April 7 - Francis Ford Coppola, American film director
- April 7 - Sir David Frost, English television personality
- April 13 - Seamus Heaney, Irish writer, Nobel Prize laureate
- April 13 - Paul Sorvino, American actor
- April 16 - Dusty Springfield, English singer (d. 1999)
- May 1 - Judy Collins, American singer and songwriter
- May 7 - Sidney Altman, Canadian-born chemist, Nobel Prize laureate
- May 7 - Ruud Lubbers, Prime Minister of the Netherlands
- May 7 - Jimmy Ruffin, American singer
- May 7 - Marco St. John, American actor
- May 9 - Ralph Boston, American athlete
- May 12 - Ron Ziegler, Richard Nixon's White House Press Secretary (d. 2003)
- May 13 - Harvey Keitel, American actor
- May 19 - Livio Berruti, Italian athlete
- May 19 - Dick Scobee, astronaut (d. 1986)
- May 21 - Heinz Holliger, Swiss oboist and composer
- May 23 - Reinhard Hauff, German film director
- May 25 - Ian McKellen, English actor
- May 29 - Al Unser, American race car driver
- May 30 - Michael J. Pollard, American actor
- June 3 - Ian Hunter, English singer (Mott the Hoople)
- June 6 - Louis Andriessen, Dutch composer
- June 9 - Ileana Cotrubas, Romanian soprano
- June 9 - Dick Vitale, American basketball broadcaster
- June 11 - Jackie Stewart, Scottish race car driver
- July 5 - Booker Edgerson, American football player
- July 14 - George E. Slusser, American scholar and writer
- July 26 - John Howard, twenty-fifth Prime Minister of Australia
- July 26 - Bob Lilly, American football player
- August 5 - Princess Irene of the Netherlands
- August 17 - Luther Allison, American musician (d. 1997)
- August 22 - Carl Yastrzemski, baseball player
- August 29 - Joel Schumacher, American film producer and director
- August 30 - John Peel, English disk jockey (d. 2004)
- September 6 - Brigid Berlin, American actor and artist
- September 8 - Carsten Keller, German field hockey player
- September 9 - Ron McDole, American football player
- September 16 - Breyten Breytenbach, South African writer and painter
- September 23 - Janusz Gajos, Polish actor
- September 30 - Len Cariou, Canadian actor and singer
- September 30 - Jean-Marie Lehn, French chemist, Nobel Prize laureate
- October 1 - George Archer, American golfer (d. 2005)
- October 7 - John Hopcroft, American computer scientist
- October 7 - Harold Kroto, English chemist, Nobel Prize laureate
- October 7 - Bill Snyder, American football coach
- October 14 - Ralph Lauren, American fashion designer
- October 24 - F. Murray Abraham, American actor
- October 27 - John Cleese, British actor
- October 31 - Ron Rifkin, American actor
- November 1 - Barbara Bosson, American actress
- November 21 - Mulayam Singh Yadav, Indian politician
- November 23 - Bill Bissett, Canadian poet
- November 27 - Laurent-Désiré Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (d. 2001)
- December 2 - Yael Dayan, Israeli writer and politician
- December 8 - James Galway, Irish flutist
- December 18 - Robert T. Bennett, American politican
- December 18 - Michael Moorcock, English writer
- January 2 - Roman Dmowski, Polish politician (b. 1864)
- January 23 - Matthias Sindelar, Austrian footballer (b. 1903)
- January 24 - Maximilian Bircher-Benner, Swiss physician and nutritionist (b. 1867)
- January 28 - William Butler Yeats, Irish writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1865)
- February 10 - Pope Pius XI (b. 1857)
- February 11 - Franz Schmidt, Austrian composer (b. 1874)
- February 12 - S. P. L. Sørensen, Danish chemist (b. 1868)
- February 22 - Antonio Machado, Spanish poet (b. 1875)
- March 2 - Howard Carter, British archaeologist (b. 1874)
- March 19 - Lloyd L. Gaines, American civil rights activist
- April 7 - Joseph Lyons, tenth Prime Minister of Australia (b. 1879)
- June 4 - Tommy Ladnier, American jazz trumpeter (b. 1900)
- June 19 - Grace Abbott, American social worker and activist (b. 1878)
- June 26 - Ford Maddox Ford, English writer (b. 1873)
- July 14 - Alfons Mucha, Czech painter and decorative artist (b. 1860)
- August 2 - Harvey Spencer Lewis, American mystic (b. 1883)
- August 11 - Jean Bugatti, German automobile designer (b. 1909)
- September 18 - Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Polish writer and painter (b. 1885)
- September 23 - Sigmund Freud, Austrian psychiatrist (b. 1856)
- October 7 - Harvey Cushing, American neurosurgeon (b. 1869)
- November 12 - Norman Bethune, Canadian humanitarian (b. 1890)
- November 28 - James Naismith, Canadian inventor of basketball (b. 1861)
- December 22 - Ma Rainey, American singer (b. 1886)
- December 23 - Anthony Fokker, Dutch aircraft manufacturer (b. 1890)
- Physics - Ernest Orlando Lawrence
- Chemistry - Adolf Friedrich Johann Butenandt, Leopold Ruzicka
- Medicine - Gerhard Domagk
- Literature - Frans Eemil Sillanpää
- Peace - not awarded
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