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Postwar Europe and Japan: October 1945-September 1951


World War II Timeline: October 9, 1945-March 5, 1946

Shortly after the end of World War II, the United Nations charter was ratified and the Nuremberg trials opened. The World War II timeline below details these and other events from late 1945 and early 1946.

World War II Timeline: October 1945-March 1946

October 9, 1945: French collaborator Pierre Laval is sentenced to death in a French court.

October 24, 1945: The United Nations Charter is ratified by its five permanent members: the United States, Britain, France, China, and the Soviet Union.

November 13, 1945: Free French leader General Charles de Gaulle is named president of France's provisional government.

November 20, 1945: The Nuremberg Trials open. For the next 10 months, a tribunal comprised of Allied jurists will pass judgment on scores of Nazi war criminals.

December 6, 1945: The U.S. government commits to a multibillion-dollar loan to prop up the British economy.

1946: The U.S. government closes the camps in which some 120,000 ethnic Japanese in the American West had been incarcerated since 1942.

January 1, 1946: Emperor Hirohito addresses his subjects and tells them that he is not, contrary to popular belief, a divine being.

January 17, 1946: The United Nations Security Council convenes in London to agree on procedural rules for the international body.

January 24, 1946: The International Atomic Energy Commission is established to help regulate emerging nuclear weapons technology.

March 2, 1946: Nationalist leader Ho Chi Minh is elected president of Vietnam.

March 5, 1946: Winston Churchill delivers his seminal "iron curtain" speech at Missouri's Westminster College.

World War II Headlines

In World War II's wake, millions in Europe were left homeless, and former American GIs struggled to adjust to civilian life. The headlines below highlight these and other postwar issues.

Soldier's postwar adjustment reflected in the movies: The 1946 Academy Award for best picture went to The Best Years of Our Lives, which chronicled the return home of an Army Air Force officer, an infantry sergeant, and a sailor after the war. The film depicted the difficulties they and their families experienced during the readjustment. It was an accurate portrayal of what husbands and wives faced after years of separation. Not only had the GIs changed after two or more years overseas, but the experience had changed many wives and older children, who had taken on greater responsibilities in the absence of husbands and fathers. Also, many young children met their fathers for the first time.

Unease in Korea continues: The mutual mistrust between Americans and Russians that would lead to the Cold War had already begun. Soviet Union troops poured into Japanese-occupied Korea well before U.S. forces were prepared to establish a presence there. U.S. leaders feared that the Russians would seize the entire peninsula and possibly move into Japan as well. An agreement was hastily reached that the Russians would stop at the 38th parallel, which roughly divided Korea in half. Much to Americans' relief, the Russians abided by the pact.

Millions displaced by World War II: During the winter of 1945-46, upwards of 20 million displaced persons either lived in camps or struggled to survive in all major cities of Europe. Reported Life magazine in its January 7, 1946, issue: "In Warsaw nearly 1 million live in holes in the ground." Vital resources were lacking in those countries most affected by the war. Stated Life: "n Greece fuel supplies are terribly low because the Nazis, during their occupation, decimated the forests. In Italy the wheat harvest, which was a meager 3,450,000 million tons in 1944, fell to an unendurable 1,304,000 million tons in 1945."

Continue to the next section for more postwar headlines and a timeline of events from April 1946 to February 1947.

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