The social, political, and economic effects of the war, including on women’s participation in the workforce.
Economic mobilisation, political adjustment of abandoning the isolationist policy, and social upheaval
The United States remained neutral in the war until Japan, a member of the Axis Powers, attacked an American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. In response to the attack and a dramatic speech by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the U.S. Congress declared war on Japan on December 8, 1941. Three days later, the United States declared war on Germany and Italy.
This attack and the subsequent entry into war galvanized all Americans as the nation braced for war. For Americans, the war would be fought abroad and on the home front.
Abandoning isolationist policy because of the attack on Peral Harbour
It is generally agreed that World War 2 provided a major stimulus to the American economy, starting a boom that has continued, with intermittent setbacks, till the beginning of the current depression.
First, World War II ended the Great Depression, as people either went to work in munitions factories or joined the armed forces.
During the 1930s, the United States was consumed by the harsh economic crisis of the Great Depression. The economy was plagued by bank failures and high unemployment rates. President Roosevelt’s New Deal economic policies were helping the nation recover from the crisis. By the end of the 1930s, the Great Depression was weakening, but Americans were still hindered by the poverty that the Depression had created.
Proposed in late 1940 and passed in March 1941
Roosevelt wanted to keep his promise of neutrality, but he also wanted to be able to supply the British with supplies. His solution was the proposal of the Lend-Lease Act.
The Lend-Lease Act allows the United States to aid Great Britain and other foreign nations while the United States remained neutral in the war.
The approval of the Lend-Lease Act shifted the U.S. economy into a wartime economy. Many businesses moved from the production of consumer goods to the production of war supplies and military vehicles. American companies began producing guns, planes, tanks, and other military equipment at an unbelievable rate. As a result, there were more jobs available, and more Americans went back to work.
the aid given to Russia and Britain was invaluable and the production of that material would prove to be a “shot in the arm” for America’s struggling economy.
America’s response to World War II was the most extraordinary mobilisation of an idle economy in the history of the world. During the war 17 million new civilian jobs were created, industrial productivity increased by 96 percent, and corporate profits after taxes doubled. The government expenditures helped bring about the business recovery that ;had eluded the New Deal. War needs directly consumed over one-third of the output of industry, but the expanded productivity ensured a remarkable supply of consumer goods to the people as well. America was the only that saw an expansion of consumer goods despite wartime rationing.
About 40 percent of that came from taxes; the rest came through government borrowing, much of that through the sale of bonds.
All that money had to go someplace. A lot of it went to the West, especially California, where 10 percent of all the federal war spending took place. But the American economy rose just about everywhere else too. The civilian workforce grew 20 percent. The Gross National Product (the total of goods and services produced) more than doubled between 1939 and 1945. Wages and corporate profits went up, as did prices.
Immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, millions of men were called to duty. When these men joined the armed forces, they left behind millions of jobs. Instantly, the nation faced a labour shortage that was filled by workers who had previously been denied many employment opportunities.
When men were enlisted into the armed forces, they left many jobs vacant. To fill these vacancies, women and minorities were able to get jobs that they may not have otherwise been able to obtain.
Women entered the workforce at an unprecedented rate. More than six million women were a part of the workforce during World War II; for many of them, this was the first time they held jobs outside of the home. Women worked industry jobs that were traditionally held by men. Rosie the Riveter, pictured left, became an iconic figure for American woman. This fictional character represented the contribution of women in the workplace during the war.
During the war, the number of working women rose from fourteen million in 1940 to nineteen million in 1945, and with this, their wages rose by 50% between 1941 and 1943. Women became lumberjacks, machinists, and railway track workers, which were jobs that had previously been reserved for men. However, some women even fought in the armed forces, with some 300, 000 women serving in the army, navy, and nursing corps. After the war, most women left employment, but it did remain at a higher rate and there was a large change in attitude towards working women.
The war also showed that women were capable of doing jobs that went beyond the usual jobs that women had normally done.
this was key in that women were becoming primary earners while their husbands served overseas.
The availability of new job opportunities in American factories also attracted African Americans. African Americans migrated to major manufacturing areas in the North as well as in the West. African Americans worked for government wartime agencies as well as war industries. Pictured left are three young men working on the cockpit of an airplane; this is an example of a wartime industry job.
The war also caused a labor shortage in the agricultural industry as many American farmers and farm workers enlisted in the military. In an agreement with Mexico, President Roosevelt created the Bracero Program. The program allowed Mexican laborers to immigrate to the United States temporarily to work on the nation’s farms and ranches. Between 1942 and 1964, more than four million braceros came to the United States under this program.
World War II had an impact on people who migrated to our country and moved within our country. During World War II, as part of the Bracero program, many Mexican people came to the United States to help harvest crops in the farm fields of California. These people often worked for low pay and had very long hours. Also, there was violence towards the Mexican youth who wore a popular suit called the Zoot Suit. However, this suit used a lot of fabric. We were trying to conserve cloth for the army, and people were angry with the Mexican youth for wearing these suits.
Discrimination and Civil Rights movement post-war
Led to the Civil Rights movements in the 50s and the 60s
“Our war is not against Hitler in Europe, but against Hitler in America. Our war is not to defend democracy, buy to get a democracy we have never had” a contemporary civil rights activist said
Although all Americans were working toward a victory in World War II, many of the social problems that plagued the United States also followed American troops to war. At the beginning of the U.S. involvement in the war, the military was segregated. African-American troops lived, worked, and relaxed in separate facilities. They had separate training and were then placed in separate military units, which were led by white officers.
Within the country, African-Americans moved from the South to the North. They did this because jobs were available in the northern factories. They often experienced racism and discrimination. At times, this turned to violence, as people were suspicious of the African-Americans.
African-American soldiers were frequently assigned to supply units instead of combat. Although these soldiers were discriminated against at home and in the military, they proudly served their country in the war.
African-Americans also played an important role in the war. As a result of their military efforts, African-Americans were proving that they shouldn’t have to face discrimination at home. They were fighting racism at home and abroad. President Roosevelt issued an executive order ending discrimination in hiring workers at federal defense plants. After World War II, our military became integrated.
While segregation persisted in the armed forces, some change came on the home front. A. Philip Randolph, an African-American labor leader, presented President Roosevelt with a list of grievances regarding the civil rights of African-American workers in the nation’s defense industry. Randolph planned a huge protest march in Washington, D.C., if the demands were not met. Fearing such a protest would undermine wartime unity, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, banning discriminatory employment practices by Federal agencies and all unions and companies engaged in war-related work.
It paced the ground work for what would emerged again in 1963 for job and equality. Paced the way for the Civil Rights Movement
set in motion the Civil Rights Movement which destroyed segregation. It also set in motion the Woman’s Movement.
There were changes to America’s economy as well during and after the war, and in particular, the war time boom. The biggest contributor to the victory in the WWII was industry, and industries that had been inactive were now “humming with activity”. Many factories were converted make war vehicles; such as tanks and flamers, and the Willow Run Factory was able to produce one B-24 bomber every hour. The prosperity went all through America’s society, and government spending rose dramatically from $9billion in 1940 to $98billion in 1944. Wages increased hugely all over the country from rich to poor.
Also, big businesses, especially those involved in the defence industry, became much more powerful, and surprisingly, military spending remained between 8 and 20 percent of GNP in the 40 years after 1945.
Internationally, World War II changed the United States in that it solidified the nation’s role as a superpower. The United States had an internationalist leaning after the war, rebuilding Western Europe using the Marshall Plan and leading the creation of the United Nations.
The United States also had an atomic bomb, which became a leading factor in a growing Cold War with the Soviet Union. American armed forces were also larger than the rest of the world’s combined, and this continued to be a trend. The United States also took a leading role in prosecuting war criminals in both Germany and Japan. Additionally, the United States occupied Germany and Japan to rebuild the countries and remove any of the remaining military fanaticism that caused the war. The United States also took key steps in creating Israel and making sure the United States would be Israel’s primary supporter.
After the War
After the war, rather than the anticipated recession, the economy boomed because of pent up demand for consumer goods which had not been produced during the war years. This together with Social Security and the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act (which provided millions for education, home purchases and medical care for veterans) caused the economy to grow at an exceptionally fast rate. From 1940 until 1952, the Gross National Product (GNP) grew from $101 Billion to $347 Billion.
The deadliest war in history ended on the deck of the battleship Missouri on September 2, 1945. World War II was a crucial time in the history of America. The country faced many challenges and met those challenges through hard work and innovation. Much can be said about the leaders and the effect they had on shaping the economy and production habits of America.