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|Centuries:||19th century – 20th century – 21st century|
|Decades:||1910s 1920s 1930s – 1940s – 1950s 1960s 1970s|
|Years:||1939 1940 1941 – 1942 – 1943 1944 1945|
1942 (MCMXLII) was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1942nd year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 942nd year of the 2nd millennium, the 42nd year of the 20th century, and the 3rd year of the 1940s decade.
- January 1 – World War II: The term "United Nations" is first officially used to describe the Allied pact.
- January 2 – World War II: Manila is captured by Japanese forces. The Japanese Admiral stays in Solvec (owned by Charles Henry de Silva), Philippines.
- January 5 – Amy Johnson disappears in flight over River Thames estuary – assumed drowned.
- January 6 – Pan American Airlines becomes the first commercial airline to have a flight go around the world.
- January 7 – World War II: Siege of the Bataan Peninsula begins.
- January 11 – World War II: Japan declares war on the Netherlands and invades the Netherlands East Indies.
- January 11 – World War II: The Japanese capture Kuala Lumpur.
- January 12 – President Franklin Roosevelt creates the National War Labor Board.
- January 13 – Henry Ford patents a plastic automobile, which is 30% lighter than a regular car.
- January 16 – Airplane crashes near Las Vegas. Dead include Carole Lombard and her mother.
- January 19 – World War II: Japanese forces invade Burma.
- January 20 – World War II: Nazis at the Wannsee conference in Berlin decide that the "final solution to the Jewish problem" is relocation, and later extermination.
- January 25 – World War II: Thailand declares war on the United States and United Kingdom.
- January 26 – World War II: The first American forces arrive in Europe landing in Northern Ireland.
- July 6 - The family of Anne Frank goes into hiding at the secret annex in Amsterdam.
- October 23 - World War II: Battle of El Alamein
- January 8 - Stephen Hawking, British physicist (d. 2018)
- January 17 – Muhammad Ali, American boxer (d. 2016)
- January 25 - Eusebio, Portuguese footballer
- February 2 - Graham Nash, British singer-songwriter and guitarist (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
- February 12 – Huey Newton, Black Panther
- February 13 - Peter Tork, American keyboardist (The Monkees) (d. 2019)
- February 21 - Margarethe von Trotta, German movie director
- February 28 - Dino Zoff, Italian footballer
- March 5 - Felipe Gonzalez, former Prime Minister of Spain
- March 8 – Jan Vyčítal, Czech musician
- March 17 - John Wayne Gacy, American serial killer (d. 1994; executed)
- March 25 - Aretha Franklin, American singer (d. 2018)
- April 1 - Philip Margo, American singer (The Tokens)
- April 16 - Frank Williams, British Formula One team principal
- April 20 - Arto Paasilinna, Finnish writer
- April 24 - Barbra Streisand, American singer
- May 22 - Theodore Kaczynski, American serial bomber (unabomber)
- June 1 - Eric Nagler, Canadian children’s musician
- June 7 - Muammar Gaddafi, Libyan leader (d. 2011)
- June 18 – Roger Ebert, American movie critic (d. 2013)
- June 18 – Sir Paul McCartney, British musician (The Beatles)
- July 6 - Izora Armstead, American singer (The Weather Girls) (d. 2004)
- July 13 - Harrison Ford, American actor
- August 1 - Michael Martchenko, Canadian illustrator
- August 2 - Isabel Allende, Chilean novelist
- August 7 – B.J. Thomas, singer
- August 27 - Daryl Dragon, American songwriter (Captain & Tennille) (d. 2019)
- September 29 - Madeline Kahn, American actress (d. 1999)
- October 31 – David Ogden Stiers, American actor
- November 7 – Johnny Rivers, American musician
- November 27 – Jimi Hendrix, American musician (The Jimi Hendrix Experience) (d. 1970)
- December 23 - Quentin Bryce, Governor-General of Australia
- December 26 - Gray Davis, former Governor of California
- December 30 – Michael Nesmith, musician and member of the Monkees
- December 30 – Janko Prunk, Slovenian historian
- People who were born in this year but their day of birth is unknown
- Ningali Cullen - Australian activist
- January 6 – Henri de Baillet-Latour, Belgian International Olympic Committee president (b. 1876)
- January 14 – Porfirio Barba-Jacob, Colombian poet and writer (born 1883)
- January 16 – Carole Lombard, actress
- January 26 – Felix Hausdorff, German mathematician (born 1868)
- February 19 – Frank Abbandando, Mafia hitman (executed)
- February 28 – Karel Doorman, Dutch admiral
- March 1 – Cornelius Vanderbilt III, military officer, inventor, engineer
- March 8 – José Raúl Capablanca, Cuban chess player
- April 15 – Robert Musil, Austrian novelist
- April 18 – Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, sculptor and socialite
- May 3 – Thorvald Stauning, Prime Minister of Denmark
- May 7 – Felix Weingartner, Yugoslavian conductor (born 1863)
- May 29 – John Barrymore, actor (born 1882)
- July 13 - Irving Cutler, Airman Aboard a B-24 Bombing Bengazi Libya
- July 23 – Adam Czerniakow, Polish Jew (suicide)
- August 3 – Richard Willstätter, German chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (born 1872)
- August 6 – Jonathan Campbell, movie pioneer (born 1875)
- August 25 – Prince Edward, Duke of Kent
- November 1 – Hugo Distler, German composer (born 1908)
- November 5 – George M. Cohan, American songwriter and entertainer
- November 19 – Bruno Schulz, Polish writer and painter (shot) (born 1892)
- December 22 – Franz Boas, German anthropologist (born 1858)
- December 25 - Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan British Indian statesman (born 1892)