To What Degree Did World War 2 Affect the American Society?
World War II occurred between 1939 and 1945. It led to many developments, some of them positive, others negative. One of the effects of World War II in America is that it led to deaths of many Americans. Among these were soldiers and civilians. Some of them were shot while at the war front. Others died due to the harsh environment of the war. According to Sommerville (2008) the war left about 418,500 Americans died. This was about 0.32% of the total population. World War II was the highest in position terms of cost in U.S. history with costs over $350 billion and more than 292,000 American military men killed in action. The war also led to the destruction of properties worth billions of shillings. It was an enormous blow to the American economy, although not as much as other countries suffered (Kenneth, 2007)
World War II changed the American social structure in a number of ways which included the empowerment of women especially in the workforce. Also many minorities groups got more jobs beside the discrimination by the rich Americans. Also the divorce rate increased and many families were weakened.
World War II did affect almost every sector and aspect of American life. The decade of economic hardship is clearly marked to be 1930’s. In 1930, the Great Depression got deep, and millions of American citizens were forced out of their jobs. Americans had too little money to provide necessities for their families. President Roosevelt created several government agencies, which yielded thousands of jobs. The jobs created were targeting the minority groups since they were mostly affected by the war. The rich could still access industries for goods and services.
World War II initially led to a neutral position taken by USA. However, the Army made its aggressiveness known making it increasingly difficult for America to stay as a neutral nation. Before officially declaring its participation in WWII, America temporarily gave assistance to Britain, France and the Soviet Union. This was by means of the Lend-Lease Act. After the signing of Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt initiated the War Production Board where he made appointments. Sears- Roebuck became the executive vice president. Donald Nelson went on duty to organize the nation’s wealth and resources in an effort to help pull America out of war. Roosevelt was a believer. He believed that, in a capitalist country, one has to let business make money out of the development [of war], or business will not work. Roosevelt also was a believer in the close cooperation of business and government (Norton, et al., 2011 Pg. 592). American’s wealth increased making them realize their dream.
Moreover, WWII influenced the US economy was by encouraging large-scale investment in new technologies. The partnership of key government, science, and prominent business established in the1940 created a secure base for future projects. There was commissioning of scientists to perfect new weapons and other products. There was the improvement of radar, development of such antibiotics as penicillin. In the 1940s, A. Schatz and S. Waksman discovered streptomycin. It helped to treat patients during the war. There was also development of jet engines. This was an addition to the progress of the atomic technology.
World War II led to change in management systems of business. During WWII, business executives were in management of key positions under Roosevelt, in a determination to combine industry with government. As a result of the interaction with the government, corporate profits and industrial production profits nearly came to double, as there was demand in markets that in the past had not existed. Inflation was to be brought to control by the Office of Price Administration. Food rationing was the cry in the American households. The Office of Price Administration (OPA) was set up to set up rationing regulations. With the military as top precedence, American families began to feel the pressing. There were no such substitute foods as paraffin and dried powder eggs instead of cooking oil. Violators of the rationing rules were handed strict punishment. There were profits in the commercial farming industry as they made use of the war to their advantage. The integration of small farms into large commercial farms, as well as the increase in demand for fertilizer, led to a steady rise of profit. Americans reacted to the crisis of WWII efficiently and effectively. They created the supplies and hardware that did made an impact to the turning point of the war, and had armies marching back in progress to Berlin, and the Japanese island moving quickly in the Pacific back to Tokyo. From airplane to rubber factories, expectant Americans did flood the work force. This significantly reduced the unemployment rates to about 20%.
The government encouraged its citizens to start “Victory Gardens” where they could grow their own food. The government conducted competitions over states. It then published winning recipes to make use of home-grown vegetables. That effort was successful. At one point, during the war, 50% of the nation’s vegetables were advanced in victory gardens. Although the nation’s farm populace was on the decline down to 17 percent during the war, good weather, modern farm machinery and improved fertilizers were significant for agricultural production. Although discrimination did not entirely end, minorities and women were in access to many new opportunities. By the cease fire, 19.5 million women were working in the task (WriteWork.com, 2004).
Although the war had opened up fresh opportunities, it also brought much grief and a far more serious facts regarding life in its normal state. The distance away from fathers or sons left worrying effects, and in a sense, many had the perception that they had been robbed of their childhood. With the household changing roles, each member was filled with conflicting emotions. Women started working for their children’s feeding. They inhibited the roles of the fathers leading to weakness in their marriages. Divorce case also increased as women realized that they can also work (Weatherford, 1990, Pg 87).
World War II led the African Americans in accepting that the war industry positions migrated from the south. These factors did raise their economic standings. Professionalism came into being as they acquired skills but in spite of the issuance of The Fair Employment Practices Commission and Executive Order 8802, the African Americans still did face harsh discrimination. Like African Americans, Mexican-Americans were given chances to go to war, but they were also exposed to racial discrimination and prejudice. Increased migrations gave birth to violent situations.
World War II affected the lives of several Americans in countless ways. The war enhanced work morals and reduced unemployment rates close to nil. There was leisure time for the hardworking people. This was made up of hours in front of the television; movie watching and radio. Industrial opportunities in the World wars brought out the migration of southerners.
Despite a large number of American casualties, the United States received approval of victory, and due to the determination and drive of its people, America came out from the shambles of war as the world’s influential industrial nation. Americans were confident of increased economic growth after the war. For the first time, Americans were satisfied, because of the presence of possessions and materialistic comfort. The working class was earning more income than people in other technical jobs. This was as a result of its successful lobbying in numerous groups by many organizations. Most Americans could say they were living the “American Dream.” Despite the increase wages, poverty index rose. Some families were forced to opt out to look for work. Some 20 million people existed on the brink of starvation as families faced a serious shortage of housing, hospitals, lack of schools, and child-care facilities.
Those factors led to an upsurge in divorce, resulting in critical problems among the young. There were five million “war widows” trying to bring up their children as a single parent. Women with employment outside the home left behind tens of thousands of “latchkey” children who were not looked after much of the day. There was the rise in truancy, juvenile delinquency and Venereal disease. This gives evidence of the significance of the family.
Taxes skyrocketed. It was impossible to purchase a car because there were no manufacturers. Telephones were reserved for those in the military front and yet the standards of living were high. The country had pulled out of an inspiring economic depression, thanks to immensely expanded manufacturing.
The national and global influence of the United States changed significantly after World War II. World War II marked a time of success for millions of Americans. There were jobs during and after the war. America had amassed a lot of wealth during World War I when other states were busy at war. She concentrated on industrialization during this period and expanded through extending her influence to these nations. There was enough money to pay workers during the period. Most of them worked industriously to earn income. Farmers benefitted significantly during this period as agricultural production increased. The role of women also changed as many of them acquired employment opportunities.
The G.I Bill was established in 1944 as a range of benefits for the veterans returning from the World War II. These benefits included a cash payment of school tuition, high school or vocation education, expenses for living while attending college etc. The Act also provided them with one year compensation for unemployment. The bill thus was mostly utilized by veterans in education where 2.2 million people attended colleges and universities by 1956 (Glenn & Stuart, 2009, p118). Many people received education either in colleges and universities or on other vocational training.
Through the G.I Bill, the women who were serving the military also managed to get the education. The social change had been experienced since even the marginalized groups were being educated. This set the pace for even their children, hence eradicating poverty and loss of job since one could get a right job.
The position of United States in the world changed. It emerged the world’s Super Power after the World War II. It became superior to all other nations. Comparatively, America had fewer casualties meaning it was able to handle the war more technically compared to other nations in the world.
The end of World War II marked changes such as psychological changes. The United States started thinking differently. It was the world super power and hence had to lead from the front. It had to have a firm stand on its ideologies. It also had to make sure that other nations looked at it as a bench mark. USA concentrated on extending her influence in other parts of the world. It influenced the political situation in other countries by calling upon them to become capitalists. It also cancelled past deals.
The war also marked an increase in government spending on military affairs. The United States wanted to remain superior militarily as compared to other nations. It invested heavily on the military arms such as the navy, air force and army. The federal government also invested a lot of money in offering increased protection for the president. Moreover, it also invested heavily on maintaining territorial integrity and peace at the borders. Business corporations also supported the move to increase military strength by offering financial support to the federal government. The government became more conscious and concerned about peace than before. This is because the United States knew that after winning the war, chances of enemies attacking her were also high.
The war also marked increased discrimination within the United States of America. The Second World War Industrialization was towns growing significantly. More people started moving towards towns in an abrupt rural urban migration move. People were going to towns to look for jobs. Racial segregation became more evident in this rush than had happened before. The whites discriminated against the African Americans. This was a high form of discrimination. Whites obtained preference in job opportunities. To acquire services such as health, racial discrimination became rampant. In schools, the whites discriminated against the blacks. They felt they were more superior to the blacks. In the political front, most elective positions went to the whites.
After the war, Allies decided that they would sue all enemies for their criminal involvement against the Allies. The Nazi trial occurred in Germany. Here, the court tried about twenty one Nazi supporters. The Allies launched charges of deportation, rape and crimes against humanity. The court sentenced fourteen of the suspects to hanging. The court then declared prison sentences upon the remaining seven. The presence of concentration camps also attracted charges against war perpetrators. The Allies accused 25 men in Tokyo. The court found twenty two of them guilty and sentences them to severe punishments including hanging.
The United Nations came into being when the League of Nations failed. End of World War I saw the inception of the League of Nations where countries formed an alliance. However, the League of Nations failed in its primary mandate to prevent a future war. After 1945, it was crucial to form a similar organization, this time round, more powerful than the previous. This is how the United Nations Organization developed.
The end of World War II also marked the beginning of the cold war in the world. With America and USSR as the superpowers, each of them of these two countries wanted a fair share of their ideological principles to reign over the world. Each of them wanted to prove the other one wrong. United States wanted to spread capitalistic ideologies in the world while the USSR wanted to spread socialist ideas in the world. This resulted into the emergence of tension. The tension was marked by propaganda, political issues against each other, sanctions against certain countries and support for different blocks (Lightbody, 1999, Pg 18).
World War II saw significant changes especially on the social structure. People gained education. There was a change in technology as many weapons and technologies came in during the war. Changes in medicine were also evident as many casualties suffered in the war. These casualties needed medical attention. Necessity is the mother of invention. This explains why all these changes came in place. People needed weapons, medical care food and other necessities. There was increased research so as to take care of all this as educational boosted the sector. Moreover, politics also changed. All this saw the beginning of a “new world” and the realization of the American dream.
Glenn, Altschuler, Stuart Blumin. The GI Bill: A New Deal for Veterans, 2009, p 118
Kenneth, D. Rose. Myth and the greatest generation: A Social History of Americans in World,New York, Oct 10, 2007
Lightbody, Bradley. The Cold War, London, Routledge, 1999. Print.
Norton, Mary, et al. A People & A Nation: A History of the United States since 1865. Volume 2Cengage Learning, 2011
Sommerville, Donald. The Complete Illustrated History of World War Two: An Authoritative
Weatherford, Doris. American women and World War II / by Doris Weatherford Facts on File,New York, 1990
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