World War II, deemed as the deadliest and most expensive war, began in 1939 when Germany attacked Poland. The United States became fully engaged in the war when Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor on December 1941. This engagement was soon followed by a massive mobilization exercise as millions of men and women were deployed abroad while a substantial number remained at home, supporting the war in every way possible.
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Women, who had previously stayed at home as housewives or held non-military jobs, were employed in factories that specialized in manufacturing war equipment such as aircrafts, ammunition, and military uniform. The women were called in to replace men who had joined the armed forces.
Americans at home took part in rationing programs to fund the war, they also bought Liberty bonds to help raise money for the war. In summary, the war was a major event that helped shape our country’s history and its effects continue to be felt today.
Role of WWII in Shaping America’s History
Boost to the Economy
The entry of the United States into WWII was a major boost to the economy that was still reeling from the effects of the Great Depression of 1930. Just ten years prior to the war, many people were jobless, however, jobs were available for almost everyone during the war.
Reports mention that nearly 17 million job openings became available, and workers got the opportunity of clearing old debts, feeding their families, and saving for the future. Availability of job opportunities at home and abroad ensured that the US economy remained s strong as it was prior to the Great Depression, and has maintained that superiority to date.
An important outcome of the WWII was that the US came out a stronger military power than before. During the war, civilian factories were transformed and began manufacturing artillery, machine guns, aircrafts, military clothing, and bullets.
Factories that manufacture civilian clothes previously were now manufacturing army uniforms, while those manufacturing iron-based products were converted to manufacture bullets and machine guns. Every sector of the economy contributed to the war in every way possible.
Consequently, America’s military technology surpassed those of European nations and this was evident when it manufactured the world’s first atomic bomb. As a result, the end of the war ushered America as the new world superpower, overtaking Russia.
A United Country
Coming out the war, America was a more united country. The effects of the Civil War (1861-1865) and slavery had not sunk down the hearts of many Americans, however, the WWII provided a platform in which all Americans: northerners, southerners, black, white and indigenous fought side by side to defeat a common enemy. Success depended on cooperation and unity among all Americans.
The war reduced racial tensions as President Roosevelt extended federal power into areas predominantly occupied by African Americans. These areas included the Jim Crow South. Americans viewed racial discrimination as a vice that squandered resources needed to win the war abroad.
President Roosevelt mentioned that a nation facing despotism should reinforce its “unity and morale by refuting at home the very theories which we are fighting abroad.” (Polenberg, 1982).
Polenberg, R. (1982). One Nation Divisible: Class, Race, and Ethnicity in the United States Since 1938, 1980. Journal of American Studies, 16: 127-128.