Van Johnson was 11 years old when World War II: Nazi Germany and Slovakia invade Poland, beginning the European phase of World War II. World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945, although conflicts reflecting the ideological clash between what would become the Allied and Axis blocs began earlier. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. It was the most global war in history; it directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. In a state of total war, the major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
Van Johnson was 11 years old when The Holocaust: The first prisoners arrive at a new concentration camp at Auschwitz. The Holocaust, also referred to as the Shoah, was a genocide during World War II in which Nazi Germany, aided by its collaborators, systematically murdered some six million European Jews, around two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe, between 1941 and 1945. Jews were targeted for extermination as part of a larger event involving the persecution and murder of other groups, including in particular the Roma and "incurably sick", as well as ethnic Poles and other Slavs, Soviet citizens, Soviet prisoners of war, political opponents, gay men and Jehovah's Witnesses, resulting in up to 17 million deaths overall.
Van Johnson was 29 years old when Space Race: Launch of Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth. The Space Race refers to the 20th-century competition between two Cold War rivals, the Soviet Union (USSR) and the United States (US), for dominance in spaceflight capability. It had its origins in the missile-based nuclear arms race between the two nations that occurred following World War II, aided by captured German missile technology and personnel from the Aggregat program. The technological superiority required for such dominance was seen as necessary for national security, and symbolic of ideological superiority. The Space Race spawned pioneering efforts to launch artificial satellites, uncrewed space probes of the Moon, Venus, and Mars, and human spaceflight in low Earth orbit and to the Moon.
Van Johnson was 36 years old when Martin Luther King Jr. received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence. Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1954 until his death in 1968. Born in Atlanta, King is best known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, tactics his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi helped inspire.
Van Johnson was 44 years old when Vietnam War: The last United States combat soldiers leave South Vietnam. The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, and in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America or simply the American War, was a conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vietnam and the government of South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese army was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies; the South Vietnamese army was supported by the United States, South Korea, Australia, Thailand and other anti-communist allies. The war is considered a Cold War-era proxy war by some US perspectives. The majority of Americans believe the war was unjustified. The war would last roughly 19 years and would also form the Laotian Civil War as well as the Cambodian Civil War, which also saw all three countries become communist states in 1975.
Van Johnson was 54 years old when Michael Jackson's Thriller, the best-selling album of all time, was released. Michael Joseph Jackson was an American singer, songwriter, and dancer. Dubbed the "King of Pop", he was one of the most popular entertainers in the world, and was the best-selling music artist during the year of his death. Jackson's contributions to music, dance, and fashion along with his publicized personal life made him a global figure in popular culture for over four decades.
Van Johnson was 70 years old when Columbine High School massacre: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people and injured 24 others before committing suicide at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado. The Columbine High School massacre was a school shooting that occurred on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in Columbine, an unincorporated area of Jefferson County, Colorado, United States, in the Denver metropolitan area. In addition to the shootings, the complex and highly planned attack involved a fire bomb to divert firefighters, propane tanks converted to bombs placed in the cafeteria, 99 explosive devices, and car bombs. The perpetrators, senior students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 12 students and one teacher. They injured 21 additional people, and three more were injured while attempting to escape the school. The pair subsequently committed suicide.
Van Johnson was 73 years old when The September 11 attacks, a series of coordinated suicide attacks killing 2,996 people using four aircraft hijacked by 19 members of al-Qaeda. Two aircraft crash into the World Trade Center in New York City, a third crashes into The Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, and a fourth into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The September 11 attacks were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The attacks killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. Additional people died of 9/11-related cancer and respiratory diseases in the months and years following the attacks.