The U.S. population grew by 17 million in the 1950s decade. As families grew and expanded, they required space, appliances, items, and comforts that urban lifestyle could not provide. As a result, there was a rapid expansion into the suburban residential communities which provided many comforts and infrastructure necessary for families. Urban areas would have become overcrowded if not for this transition. Many Americans wanted to escape the environment and problems of urban living.
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The suburban population of 60 million equaled the urban population by 1960 (Moss and Thomas 2012, 61). Innovation in home construction technology lowered costs as well. Suburban life led to increased quality of life. For example, public education underwent significant reform to improve teaching techniques and the availability of science and education for all local communities (“National Defense Education Act”). Furthermore, there was a large availability of good and cheap land with types of homes and neighborhoods meant for families. Suburban life was an ideal dream for any young family in the postwar United States.
These middle-class families were usually relatively affluent and healthy. This allowed them to purchase comforts such as an automobile. These aspects are interconnected as suburban families could now travel conveniently with kids and reach any destinations that were necessary. The automobile became symbolic of the suburban lifestyle, and with so many families transitioning into such areas, the automobile sales increased tremendously.
Furthermore, enhanced manufacturing capabilities allowed for more automobiles to enter the market and their price went down. This boosted the U.S. industry and economy as all as many supporting industries such as steel, parts, and diesel prospered. The GDP doubled during the decade with an average growth of 4 percent per year. With the support of the government, all the necessary infrastructure was added as well (Moss and Thomas 2012, 63).
The United States maintained a significant military and political presence in Southeast Asia after World War II. It was actively involved in the Korean War and later began to support France in the war against Communist forces in Vietnam. Vietnam was divided, and China was undergoing its own revolution to establish a Communist government. Eisenhower could see clearly that the Communist ideology was appealing to many Asian dictator leaders and mass populations. The United Nations sought to appease the United States and the Soviet Union which both had heavily influenced and held political interests in the region (Moss and Thomas 2012, 92).
Meanwhile, the U.S. National Security realized the full possibility of a nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union. The policy document focused on the militarization of the region and providing military aid to allies in countries such as Vietnam in order to contain the expansion of global Communism (“National Security Council Memorandum Number 68”).
The established policy focused on containing Communism at all cost since if Southeast Asia becomes largely under the influence of the Soviet Union and China, it would endanger the U.S. security interests. This would follow by other nearby nations quickly and progressively being overtaken by Communism, further endangering both military and economic interests (“Policy statement about American objectives”).
When President Eisenhower came into office, he took an immediate interest in Southeast Asia foreign policy. As a former general, he realized the critical importance of preventing this gradual spread of Communism. He famously labeled this pattern as the “Domino Theory” which suggested that if one domino (a metaphor for a country) falls, others will follow. Vietnam became the center of attention and Eisenhower used significant political, economic, and military U.S. resources to ensure that the pro-American forces could hold out against Communists, which eventually led to the Vietnam War.
Moss, George D., and Evan A. Thomas. Moving on: The American People Since 1945 (5th ed.). London: Pearson, 2012.
“National Defense Education Act (1958).” Pearson Myhistorylab. Web.
“National Security Council Memorandum Number 68 (1950)” Pearson Myhistorylab. Web.
“Policy Statement About American Objectives in Southeast Asia (June 25, 1952).” Pearson Myhistorylab. Web.