World War II: The Canadian declaration of war on Germany receives royal assent.
The 1939–40 New York World’s Fair opens.
As part of British air raid precautions, the first of 2?1?2 million Anderson shelters is constructed in a garden in Islington, north London
World War II: South Africa declares war on Germany.
Alcoholics Anonymous, A.A.’s “Big Book”, is first published.
Germany occupies Czechoslovakia
Nazi Germany mounts a false flag attack on the Gleiwitz radio station, creating an excuse to attack Poland the following day, thus starting World War II in Europe.
The Wizard of Oz premieres at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, California.
The 1939-40 New York World’s Fair opens.
On April 30, 1939, a very hot Sunday, the fair had its grand opening, with 206,000 people in attendance. The April 30 date coincided with the 150th anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration, in Lower Manhattan, as the first President of the United States. Although many of the pavilions and other facilities were not quite ready for this opening, it was put on with pomp and great celebration.
David Sarnoff, then president of RCA and a strong advocate of television, chose to introduce television to the mass public at the RCA pavilion. As a reflection of the wide range of technological innovation on parade at the fair, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech was not only broadcast over the various radio networks but also was televised along with other parts of the opening ceremony and other events at the fair. On April 30, 1939, the opening ceremony and President Roosevelt’s speech were seen on black and white television sets with 5 to 12-inch tubes. NBC used the event to inaugurate regularly scheduled television broadcasts in New York City over their station W2XBS. An estimated 1,000 people viewed the Roosevelt telecast on about 200 television sets scattered throughout the New York metropolitan area.
In order to convince skeptical visitors that the television sets were not a trick, one set was made with a transparent case so that the internal components could be seen. As part of the exhibit at the RCA pavilion, visitors could see themselves on television. There were also television demonstrations at the General Electric and Westinghouse pavilions. During this formal introduction at the fair, television sets became available for public purchase at various stores in the New York City area.
After Albert Einstein gave a speech discussed cosmic rays, the fair’s lights were ceremonially lit. Dignitaries received a special Opening Day Program which contained their names written in Braille.
Adolf Hitler escapes the assassination attempt of Georg Elser while celebrating the 16th anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch.
On this day in 8 November 1939, on the 16th anniversary of Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch, a bomb explodes just after Hitler has finished giving a speech. He was unharmed.
Hitler had made an annual ritual on the anniversary of his infamous 1923 coup attempt, of regaling his followers with his vision of the Fatherland’s future. On this day, he had been addressing the Old Guard party members, those disciples and soldiers who had been loyal to Hitler and his fascist party since the earliest days of its inception. Just 12 minutes after Hitler had left the hall, along with important Nazi leaders who had accompanied him, a bomb exploded, which had been secreted in a pillar behind the speaker’s platform. Seven people were killed and 63 were wounded.
The next day, the Nazi Party official paper, the Voelkischer Beobachter, squarely placed the blame on British secret agents, even implicating Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain himself. This work of propaganda was an attempt to stir up hatred for the British and whip the German people into a frenzy for war. But the inner-Nazi Party members knew better—they knew the assassination attempt was most probably the work of a German anti-Nazi military conspiracy.
In an ingenious scheme to shift blame, while getting closer to the actual conspirators, Heinrich Himmler, the Gestapo chief, sent a subordinate, Walter Schellenberg, to Holland to make contact with British intelligence agents. The pretext of the meeting was to secure assurances from the British that in the event of an anti-Nazi coup, the British would support the new regime. The British agents were eager to gain whatever inside information they could about the rumored anti-Hitler movement within the German military; Schellenberg, posing as “Major Schaemmel,” was after whatever information British intelligence may have had on such a conspiracy within the German military ranks.
But Himmler wanted more than talk—he wanted the British agents themselves. So on November 9, SS soldiers in Holland kidnapped, with Schellenberg’s help, two British agents, Payne Best and R.H. Stevens, stuffing them into a Buick and driving them across the border into Germany. Himmler now proudly announced to the German public that he had captured the British conspirators. The man who actually planted the bomb at their behest was declared to be Georg Elser, a German communist who made his living as a carpenter.
While it seems certain that Elser did plant the bomb, who the instigators were—German military or British intelligence—remains unclear. All three “official” conspirators spent the war in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Hitler dared not risk a public trial, as there were just too many holes in the “official” story.