James Thomas Jr. was 10 years old when World War II: The Imperial Japanese Navy made a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, intending to neutralize the United States Pacific Fleet from influencing the war Japan was planning to wage in Southeast Asia. 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.
James Thomas Jr. was 22 years old when Jonas Salk announced the successful test of his polio vaccine on a small group of adults and children (vaccination pictured). Jonas Edward Salk was an American medical researcher and virologist. He discovered and developed one of the first successful polio vaccines. Born in New York City, he attended New York University School of Medicine, later choosing to do medical research instead of becoming a practicing physician. In 1939, after earning his medical degree, Salk began an internship as a physician scientist at Mount Sinai Hospital. Two years later he was granted a fellowship at the University of Michigan, where he would study flu viruses with his mentor Thomas Francis, Jr.
James Thomas Jr. was 33 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.