Timeline: Events from May 1938 to October 1941

May 1938: Following Hitler’s invasion of Austria, U.S. Congress passes the Navy Expansion Act, calling for more ships and planes.

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June 1938: U.S. Congress passes the Fair Labor Standards Act, the first national effort to legislate a minimum hourly wage (25 cents) and a ceiling on the number of working hours (44 per week).

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September 1939: After Hitler ignores their demand for German withdrawal from Poland, and as the British ship Athenia is sunk by German U-boats off the coast of Ireland, Great Britain and France formally declare war on Germany. At home, President Roosevelt declares a Limited National Emergency.

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September 1939: Aviation hero Charles Lindbergh makes his first anti-intervention radio speeches. Former president Herbert Hoover, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., Henry Ford, and many Americans support the isolationist movement.

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November 1939: Although the U.S. is officially a neutral in the war in Europe, a Neutrality Act is signed that allows the US to send arms and other aid to Britain and France.

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December 1939: In Washington, the National Women’s Party meets and urges the Congress to act on an Equal Rights Amendment.

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April 1940: Germans invade Norway and Denmark. When Norway falls in June, many Norwegian ships flee to England where they heroically take part in the North Atlantic convoys, “the lifeline of England.”

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May 1940: The British invade Iceland, which at the time was part of German-controlled Denmark. U.S. troops eventually help garrison the country. (see account, p. XX). Iceland is critical to accurately forecasting the weather in Europe and for anti-submarine warfare.

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June 1940: The Alien Registration Act (the Smith Act) is passed by U.S. Congress. It requires aliens to register and be fingerprinted; the Act makes it illegal to advocate the overthrow of the US government.

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June 1940: France surrenders to Germany and Italy. England stands alone.

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October 1940: Conscription begins in the U.S. It is the first military draft during peacetime in American history.

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November 1940: Franklin D. Roosevelt is elected to an unprecedented third term as president, with 54 percent of the popular vote. He defeats Republican Wendell L. Willke.

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January 1941: Contrary to widespread isolationist sentiment, President Roosevelt recommends a “Land-Lease” program that will provide U.S. aid to the Allies.

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April 1941: Britain receives its first American “Lend-Lease” aid shipments of food. By December, millions of tons of food will have arrived from the U.S.

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June 1941: President Roosevelt creates a U.S. Fair Employment Practice Committee (FEPC), after a march by 50,000 black Americans is threatened by A. Philip Randolph to protest unfair labor practices in the government and the war industry.

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Aug. 1941: Secret meetings between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill begin off the coast of Newfoundland. They will result in the Atlantic Charter, which contains eight points of agreement on the aims of the war.

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September 1941: President Roosevelt issues an order that German or Italian ships sighted in U.S. waters will be attacked immediately.

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October 1941: The Kearny, a U.S. destroyer, is torpedoed off the coast of Iceland by a German U-boat. On Oct. 3131st, the American destroyer Reuben James is sunk by a German U-boat, killing 100.

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