World War II (America at War)

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Wartime prosperity stunted the development of a welfare state; universal medical care and social security were cast as unnecessary. Combat had been a horrific experience, leaving many casualties with major physical or emotional wounds that took years to heal. Like all major global events, World War II was complex and nuanced, and it requires careful interpretation. Keywords: prelude , military machine , overseas , major campaigns , combat , diplomacy , air war , sea war , homefront , minorities , myths.

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Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History.

World War II: After the War

Publications Pages Publications Pages. Oxford Research Encyclopedias American History. Search within subject: Select Read More. The story of how Americans surmounted their fractured political culture to mobilize for D-Day remains a trenchant example, in our own age of discord and division, of how a country desperately wanting for consensus can rally together in a moment of common purpose.

It was a theme he hammered relentlessly from his perch as a spokesperson for the America First Committee, an anti-interventionist organization that marshalled considerable support from prominent names in business and industry to oppose aid to Britain and France. Olympic Committee who had visited ignominy upon the athletic community when he booted two Jewish runners from the track team at the Berlin games in Isolationist politics were consistent with the increasingly shrill nature of opposition to the New Deal in the years leading up to Pearl Harbor.

Though his overwhelming popularity largely inoculcated FDR against political attacks in the first several years of his presidency, by the late s his back was up against the wall. A failed attempt to pack the Supreme Court in , followed by an unsuccessful purge of conservative Democrats in the primaries, had left the president bruised and battered. With his domestic policies stalled, conservative opponents of the New Deal felt at greater liberty to attack FDR in sometimes sharp tones, particularly after he broke with over years of tradition and announced his bid for a third term.

By a unanimous vote in the Senate and with the lone opposition of Representative Jeanette Rankin in the House, Congress declared war on the Axis powers, and most Americans quickly rallied behind the war effort. In the four short years between the exercises at Ogdensburg and the invasion of Normandy, Americans came together in mass numbers to raise, equip transport and feed a powerful Army and Navy that included 16 million men and , women. In total 17 million men and women worked in war production plants, furnishing America and its allies with critical war materiel.

Roughly 42 million people paid federal income taxes for the first time in living memory after , through a new withholding system that survives to this day. Ordinary people, including many who had worried in recent years whether the New Deal had bloated the size of government in dangerous ways, now sanctioned the expansion of state authority in all walks of life.

Powerful new agencies like the War Production Board and the Office of Price Administration and Civilian Supply controlled the flow of commodities like sugar, meat, rubber and steel and rationed consumer access to basic household items.

Why America Was Indispensable to the Allies’ Winning World War II | National Review

Businesses engaged in war production agreed to allow unions to organize their work forces, while unions, in turn, agreed to government caps on wage increases — a measure intended to keep wartime inflation in check. Remembering the ugly example of World War I, when the federal government viciously scapegoated German Americans and pacifists and attempted to manipulate public opinion, FDR and his advisers generally avoided blunt persuasion and emotion to sell the war.

The administration's desire for unity did not, of course, erase deep-seated racial, ethnic and religious tensions — tensions that flared up as Americans came to chafe at the imposition of greater government control and taxation in the war years.

Drawing on the work of thousands of unpaid auxiliary volunteers, the Office of War Information kept close tabs on rumors throughout the war — a surveillance effort that would likely alarm many privacy advocates today. The OWI found that Jews, African Americans and Japanese detainees were the subject of rampant gossip, usually tied in some way to rationing, military service or war production.

Jews … are ruining this country. The whole war is a farce. Jewish doctors are on the Examining Boards and they except their own boys.

Black soldiers were said to be consorting with, and even marrying, young white women. These fears of caste inversion reflected an ugly response to the limited but appreciable wartime mobility African Americans achieved both in the military and civilian sectors. African-American soldiers on duty in Finally, on the west coast, OWI informants encountered widespread rumors that Japanese Americans confined to internment camps were living high off the hog in the camps: consuming meat, sugar and other items that fell under scarce rationing, burning gasoline during long joy rides and buying up household luxuries.

Despite government controls on wages and prices, the combination of a flush economy and scarce goods created a hike of 25 percent in the Consumer Price Index between and Anti-Japanese incitement was not merely the stuff of popular chitchat. In a typical display of demagoguery, the House Committee on Un-American Activities held hearings that lent a powerful platform to the purveyors of anti-Japanese provocations.

Rumors sometimes incited violence. In Detroit in June , word spread among white neighborhoods that a group of black hoodlums had slit the throat of a white soldier and raped his girlfriend. The rioting that ensued claimed 34 lives, injured others and took an expensive toll on property.


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Later that summer, when a white policeman shot a black soldier in Harlem, variations on the story circulated widely in the black community, leading to a massive commodity riot that left hundreds of storefronts shattered and looted. In both cases, underlying tensions related to wartime mobilization expressed themselves in violent conflagrations.

Once again, a minority population bore the brunt of popular dissatisfaction with sacrifices imposed by the wartime state. Franklin D.

World War II

In it was all but a foregone conclusion that FDR would run for a fourth term. For many Americans, and particularly for Republicans, who had been shut out of the White House since , it seemed no laughing matter. A fourth term would crown the president a king — and the king, they were convinced, was a communist. Now these Communist forces have taken over the New Deal. In America a Communist is a man who supports the fourth term so our form of government may more easily be changed.

It was a filthy fight, and all the more so with so many soldiers and sailors fighting abroad. The president won comfortably, but with a smaller margin than in any of his previous elections. Once the fire is lighted under it, there is no limit to the power it can generate.


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  • In other ways, the spirit of unity and comraderie that we remember may over-sentimentalize a more complicated story. This spirit of triumphalism masked a darker reality: In and , the Roosevelt administration faced widespread resistance, particularly from auto companies, to switch from civilian to war production.

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    It owed to precisely the brand of top-down, state planning that business leaders disdained during the New Deal era but learned to love when it delivered reliable profits in war years. Organized labor, too, proved capable of exerting self-interest.

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    Absenteeism climbed as high as 25 percent in key defense industries, and wildcat strikes became a chronic headache for employers. When John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers took his members out on strike in , FDR used troops to seize at least one mine and threatened to have strikers drafted into military service. It should not surprise us that people could act both for the greater good and out of personal motivation.

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    Wars are seldom one-dimensional political events, and people fight and mobilize for them out of a mix of emotions. A survey in found that 90 percent of respondents could not name a single provision of the Atlantic Charter, a joint declaration by the United States and Great Britain that delineated a clear and high-minded vision for the post-war world. That didn't mean that people acted without ideology.

    Surveys found that citizens bought war bonds and volunteered for military service out of a vague but very clear sense of patriotism, duty to their communities and to the soldiers and sailors who hailed from those communities and a sense of moral purpose that may not have found easy reference in a political document. At the same time, surveys also showed that Americans believed they were fighting for a better standard of living in the post-war period — for the promise of homes, jobs and an end to Depression-era scarcity and wartime rationing.

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