Religious Responses to WWII

World War II marked a turning point in the history of the entire world. Entire governments collapsed to be replaced by more liberal systems supported by the funds of the Marshall Plan. Europe was divided between the East and the West, setting the stage for international politics for the next fifty years and beyond in the form of the ideological Cold War of the United States of America and the Soviet Union. These radical changes came at a hefty fee. Millions of soldiers and civilians died across several different continents, and whole populations were murdered in the Holocaust, the most horrific campaign in recorded history. How did people respond and react to these atrocities? I will examine the role of faith in these reactions using two separate examples on two different continents: conscientious war objectors in the United States and the Existentialist movement in Europe.

During World War II, if a person was drafted, there were only so many ways to avoid joining the military. One of these ways was to claim to be a conscientious objector to war. This meant that one’s conscience forbade that person from killing. The claimant would then undergo a thorough and stringent examination by the local draft board to ensure the claimant was actually a conscientious objector and not just a draft dodger. The objection could come from a variety of reasons, such as political or ethical. Most objections, however, came from religious reasons. In lieu of military service, these individuals would work at Civilian Public Service camps, allowing them to provide support for the war effort without actually committing any violence, an option the vast majority was willing to take, conforming to the American bravado of the period while maintaining their religious beliefs. This work took the form of acting as park rangers, working in mental hospitals, planting trees, working on dairy farms, and even acting as subjects in medical experiments. Approximately 12,000 people worked in the Civilian Public Service camps, 7,000 of whom were members of the Church of the Brethren and other Mennonite groups (civilianpublicservice.org).

gs00020973b-usjpg-8faaf9ade9114191

Many objectors volunteered to participate in this effort, another testament to how many of these people supported the war but felt they themselves could not commit violence. Norman J. Whitney was a conscientious objector who objected for religious reasons. He was a Quaker, a teacher, and a writer. He volunteered at several Civilian Public Service camps, primarily acting as a counselor for other conscientious objectors. Raymond and Helen Binford, both Quakers, were also objectors who volunteered with the Civilian Public Service. Raymond was the president of Guilford College in High Point, North Carolina. After working there for 19 years, he took a leave of absence to serve as the director of a Civilian Public Service camp and was accompanied by his wife (http://www.swarthmore.edu/library/peace/conscientiousobjection/c.o.list.htm).

tumblr_m8lvzl7U2Q1rbj6m8o1_1280

This patriotic approach to the war and religion was very different from the European movement of Existentialism that followed the war. The war was far away from American soil but was often quite literally in the backyard of Europeans. The horrors of the war and the Holocaust had created a chasm in the perceived humanity of Europe. The beliefs of the past century were obliterated: that Europe was intrinsically unique and superior, the ideals of nationalism, and that humanity was on an upward trajectory towards perfection. Philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus provided answers in their world view called Existentialism. They claimed that all grand, transcendent ideas like God and religion were human inventions. If these things did not exist, then it was up to mankind to take personal responsibility for things such as ethics and meaning. Many Europeans, and soon some Americans, felt that this world view provided the answers to the questions that had been created by the sheer destruction and massacre that was World War II.

Works Cited:

The civilian public service story: Living peace in a time of war. (2014). Retrieved from http://civilianpublicservice.org/

Manuscript collections in the swarthmore college peace collection that relate to conscientious objection. (2007, 03 19). Retrieved from http://www.swarthmore.edu/library/peace/conscientiousobjection/c.o.list.htm

Images:

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2009/10/wwii_pacifists_served_too_in_o.html

http://jeanpaulsartre.tumblr.com/post/31212712436/ebookcollective-jean-paul-sartre-between

Civil War: Gender Roles

civil war camp family loc

Up until the Civil War, gender roles were extremely distinct and not many overlapped. Men performed heavy, manual labor or jobs outside of the home, while women worked within the home. The women focused mainly on the children and housework, instead of maintaining a paying job. The men were the breadwinners for the family and without that source of income, many families would struggle.

When the war began, most men and boys ran off to enlist. This left the women and children at home to fend for themselves. Without the men home working, the women had to somehow find a way to make money. This is the point in history where we begin to see gender roles overlapping. Women start to appear in the work force, whether it’s in a factory or a local general store. These jobs held by women during the Civil War would normally belong to the men. Instead of staying at home and taking care of the family, women were out making money. Some women even disguised themselves as soldiers to fight in the war. (Collett, pp.1) This of course was illegal, but women still fought. Not only are women in the workforce, but they are also on the battlefield now. The more popular role of women involved in the war was nursing. Many women followed the soldiers into camps and assisted as nurses. Although this was often controversial because of the morals of the time, women still maintained the role.

During the Civil War, roles overlapped tremendously between men and women. Not only did they overlap, but roles taken on by the women would not have happened if the men had stayed home. The Civil War gave women the opportunity to go out into the workforce and perform jobs thought to be only capable of doing by men. When the end of the Civil War drew near, jobs held by women for years were given back to men as they trickled home. Basically, as soon as the war was over, gender roles returned to “normal”. Women went back inside the house tending to the children and cooking for the family, while the men were out farming and providing financially.

Although gender roles did not change for good during the Civil War, it opened windows for women in the future. This instance showed women were just as capable as men for most jobs in the community and could be of assistance in the daily workload.

Works Cited

Collett, Janelle. “All is Fair”: Women and the American Civil War. Web. 17 Feb 2014.
VandeCreek, Drew E., Ph.D. “Illinois During the Civil War: Women’s Experience and Gender Roles”. Web. 17 Feb 2014.
Unknown. Digital Image. Live and Dream a Little Dream. Google Blogs, 30 Mar 2011. Web 25 Feb 2014.

World War ll: Gender Roles

Rosie

World War ll marked the new era of the necessity of women in wartime efforts. In the beginning of the war, mainly the women already in the workforce accepted the positions of the males off fighting. That included the lower economic class and minorities. Mothers were slow to join the workforce for many reasons. Some husbands refused to allow their wives to work, simply because it went against tradition. Other mothers did not want to join because they were afraid, if left home alone, their children would rebel. Though toward the end of the war a large portion of women were working, even mothers.

Rosie the Riveter played a large part in women joining the workforce. Although Rosie was a fictional character, her confidence displayed in the propaganda boosted the morale of all women involved. Rosie gave women of that generation a voice and the initiative to take on the roles of the men. The United States government used posters of Rosie the Riveter to persuade women to join the workforce. This article played off of women’s emotions and it worked. With Rosie plastered on walls all over the country, there was no escaping her.

As the war continued, more women were needed to fill the spots of men and take on new jobs to help keep the country running. Women were military nurses, factory workers, secretaries and some became pilots. Women were more involved in World War ll than any war in the past. Some women even worked in the Armed Services. Over 400,000 women served. There were also the occupations of Government Girls and WAVES. Government Girls were young, mostly single, women who went to Washington D.C. to work in the capitol. Some were secretaries, while others sat as chairmen on different projects. WAVES stood for “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services”. This was a division of the Navy. Women made up almost three percent of the Navy in World War ll. WAVES was also the first place women were commissioned as officers.

Works Cited

Rockwell, Norman. Dartbeat: The D’s Daily Blog. Digital Image. Web. 01 March 2014.

Naval History and Heritage Command. “Women and the US Navy- WWll Era WAVES.” Web. 01 March 2014.

“Partners in Winning the War: American Women in World War ll.” National Women’s History Museum, 2007. Web. 01 March 2014.

United States. National Park Service. “Rosie the Riveter: Women Working During World War ll.” US Department of the Interior. Web. 01 March 2014.

World War II Post War Issues

With a war between Ukraine and Russia seeming imminent, and rumors circulating of a possible draft  as the United States decides whether to engage its self into yet another armed conflict, it may seem strange that being enlisted could ever be a better option than remaining at home. Being enlisted in the military, however, once offered an opportunity for soldiers to have an improved quality of life. During the Great Depression, unemployment was rampant. As a result, as the United States entered World War II, many men welcomed the income that a military career offered them. Though it meant risking their lives, it allowed them to provide an income to support their families. In addition to this, there were a number of improvements to the veteran’s pension system that allowed the returning soldiers to be assimilate successfully after the war ended. In the end, however, over 400,000 American soldiers died, and many that survived suffered from the crippling affects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Though many veterans had difficulties assimilating into society after the end of World War II due to symptoms of PTSD, the G.I. Bill of 1944 allowed veterans increased benefits after the war and helped them thrive after the war ended, while simultaneously paving the way for greater government intervention in the lives of its citizens.

Though soldiers have likely been suffering from Post Traumatic  Stress Disorder since the beginning of War itself, there have been a variety of different names assigned to it. After World War I, “shell shock”, was the term used to describe the symptoms. After the end of World War II, however, the term that was used to describe psychologically ill veterans was “combat fatigue”. Unfortunately, for many returning veterans, the social stigma for mental illness was that it showed weakness. Because of this, returning veterans adopted the tactic of suffering in silence, and avoided their issues instead of confronting them. A few ways that they did this were by turning to religion, alcohol, or  immersing themselves in their schooling and career. Due to this avoidance of their psychological issues, a new trend of “delayed-onset PTSD” began to occur (Langer 53). Delayed-onset PTSD is a phenomenon is World War II veterans, where symptoms of PTSD went away for decades during young adulthood, only to return with vengeance when the soldier became middle aged. It is believed that this was caused by the avoidance of the trauma that they experienced during the war, as the G.I. bill provided new opportunities for veterans to create new lives for themselves. As they grew older, however, they experienced a midlife crisis. They would begin to reflect on their lives, and this self-reflection brought back the memories of chaos and death that they had worked so hard to avoid all their lives. This differed from the trend of soldiers after the Civil War, where men returned from the war, and were evermore entirely different men. One large contributing factor to returning World War II veterans being able to assimilate into society better than Civil War veterans was the development of the pension system, as bills such as the G.I. Bill of 1944 made it possible for veterans to make their lives better than they were before the war.

After the end of the Civil War, the federal government began to allow a large portion of Union veterans to receive pensions. As more time passed after the war’s end, the amount of veterans able to receive pensions increased, and the laws for collecting pensions grew increasingly more relaxed. This trend continued throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In 1930, the Veterans Administration (VA) was established to better assist returning veterans. The VA went to work immediately, and drastically increased the number of veteran’s hospitals. More importantly, the VA was responsible for the passing of The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (also referred to as the G.I. Bill). This bill was one of the most important acts filed in the aftermath of the war. There were three parts to the act after it was passed in congress. The first and most essential clause in the G.I. Bill was that returning veterans received financial support to be able to attend college. This applied to all veterans, even if they had not attended college before the war. This was the most significant clause because it made them more employable, and helped flood the economy with competent workers. An incredible amount of veterans used this opportunity, with forty-nine percent of all college admissions in the year 1947 being U.S. veterans, and 7.8 million out of the 16 million veterans using this clause (Education and Training- History and Timeline). These 7.8 million veterans contributed greatly to the economic boom that the United States experienced after the duration of the war. The second clause of the G.I. Bill is that every veteran was able to receive a housing loan. While this did not contribute to the economy the same way as the education clause, it did provide the returning soldiers with a sense of stability that was impossible to find in the chaos of battle. At this time, home ownership was not as common as it is today. The G.I. Bill made it possible for them to settle down and  provide shelter for their families, something that was often unattainable during the Great Depression. Over a fifth of returning veterans used this clause, as 2.4 million home loans were provided by the Veterans Association between the years 1944 and 1952 (Education and Training- History and Timeline). The final and most controversial clause of the G.I. Bill was that the government was to give unemployed veterans a stipend of twenty dollars a week. This was controversial because  many people feared that this system was be abused, similar to the pension system following the Civil War. It was believed that this weekly stipend would eliminate the veterans motivation to find employment, and that the average working American would be footing the bill. This did not come to fruition, however, as a mere twenty percent of the budget set aside for unemployed veterans was used (Education and Training- History and Timeline). Though the G.I. Bill was paramount in improving the lives of veterans, its long term ramifications are at least equally important, if not more so.

GI-Bill-Cover-webby

The G.I. Bill of 1944 was without a doubt a great stride in helping veterans assimilate into society after the end of the war. It did have its shortcomings, however. One glaring omission of this bill is that it did not provide disturbed veterans with proper psychological assistance. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder had not yet been recognized as a mental illness, so there was no proper protocol for treating it. The social stigma at the time, as mentioned before, was that mental illness showed weakness, and seeking medical help was not condoned. Due to this stigma. many veterans attempted to overcome their issues on their own. The symptoms that many veterans experienced, however, were much too serious to deal with alone. Some symptoms included vivid hallucinations, depression, and cognitive dissonance caused by persistent blood lust. The G.I. Bill served as more of a distraction from the reality of psychological issues, rather than a treatment and eventual cure. This helps explain the increase in delayed-onset PTSD. Going to college, finding a new career, creating a family, and buying a home all served as short term avoidance techniques for psychologically ill veterans, but eventually the illness would overwhelm them as they aged. Though the G.I. Bill was a significant stride in assisting veteran assimilation into American society, mental illness was not properly addressed, and many ill veterans suffered the consequences decades later. Even more significant, however, is that the G.I. Bill continued a trend of federal government expansion that helped shape the policies that the United States has adopted today.

In the aftermath of World War I, the government took a hands off approach in regards to returning veterans. According to the U.S Department of Veteran’s affairs, “discharged Veterans got little more than a $60 allowance and a train ticket home” (Education and Training- History and Timeline). In fact, the government had adopted a hands off approach to nearly all aspects of government during the years leading up to the Great Depression. The 1920’s, also known as the roaring 20’s was one of the most prosperous decades in United States history. Free market capitalism ruled supreme, as no president or congress wanted to disrupt the economic success that the country was experiencing. The problem with free market capitalism,however, is that is follows a trend of “boom and bust”. This means that after times of economic growth, there is inevitably a crash that follows. That crash was the Great Depression, and it was the worst financial crisis in United States history. As unemployment skyrocketed, there was increasing anger that the government did not try to intervene to quicken economic recovery. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected in 1932, he began a series of policies called the “New Deal”, in which the government began to intervene in the economy. The G.I. Bill that was passed after the war ended continued this trend of increased government intervention into the lives of its citizens. The government paying for its veterans to be unemployed was a dramatic step towards the more socialist policies that the government has adopted today. In fact, it can be argued that the roots of the recently implemented Affordable Care Act are found in the G.I. Bill of 1944. The G.I. Bill helped take care of returning veterans, and gave them opportunities to better their lives. The Affordable Care Act extends this policy of government assistance to all of its citizens, as they are granted the right to seek medical attention. In this way, the G.I. Bill did not just affect World War II veterans and their families. It helped pave the way for all American families to receive federal assistance. For this reason, the G.I. Bill is one of the most influential bills ever passed by congress. Its affects are being felt daily, as the government exponentially expands its grasp on the lives of its citizens.

Whether one supports or opposes the recently enacted Affordable Care Act, one cannot deny that it will positively affect the lives of the greatly impoverished. It assists those that are in dire need, and provides them with unprecedented opportunities to better their lives. In the same way, the G.I. Bill of 1944 drastically improved the lives of returning veterans, and helped to assimilate the battle weary into post-war society. While the bill, was not perfect, and the mentally ill often went without proper and competent treatment, it was a great stride in assisting those that are willing to risk their lives for their country. Whether it is a good or bad, the government is undeniably extending its reach into the lives of its citizens, and the roots of this trend also stem from the G.I. Bill. In conclusion, the post war issues that the United States faced in the aftermath of World War II helped shape the governmental policies that exist today, and altered the lives of its modern citizens.post-war-kelvinator-well-live-happily-every-after-1945-wmk

Academic Search Complete: LANGER, RON. War, Literature & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities. 2011, Vol. 23 Issue 1, p50-58. 9p.
“Education and Training- History and Timeline.” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.

http://onpoint.wbur.org/2009/06/17/the-gi-bill

Communication During World War II

There were many forms of technology during World War II. Many, but not all, of these were new developments, never used in previous wars. The types of communication during World War II included: Propaganda, Newspapers/Magazines, Radio, Airplanes, Telegraph, Telephones, Mail, Animals, and Cryptology. Each one specializing is specific situations allowing Americans to be more connected with one another than ever before.

Propaganda 

There were many forms of propaganda used. Movies, commercials, and posters were the most popular. They all had the same general message though, which was to do whatever you could to help win the war. Whether it was women helping in the workforce while their husbands are away fighting the war or Americans remaining loyal to their country and not talking to possible enemies, which is where one of the slogans “Loose lips might sink ships” comes from. An example of a movie that was a form of propaganda was “The Best Year of Our Lives.” “Almost immediately, the film attracted large crowds, eager to understand the ways in which the war had changed American society.” (Mintz & Kellogg, 170)

 

Newspapers and Magazines 

Newspapers and Magazines now gave a sense of opinion to the public with the idea of editorials and letter-to-the-editors along with their initial role which was just to spread news to the public. “Letters-to-the-editors of various newspapers throughout Arkansas reflected strong feelings against the employment of married women in the nation’s defense industries.” (Smith, 21) People would now write in about what their stance was on specific, and at times, controversial topics. “Newspapers and magazines gave enormous publicity to stories of wives who had been unfaithful to their servicemen husbands. “(Mintz & Kellogg, 171)

Radio

The radio was “split second communication among all members.” (Britannica) It served as a way for troops and generals to communicate between one another. This could be between generals discussing strategies or it could be between soldiers to generals discussing positions of themselves or enemies. Radio was also another form of propaganda. It helped “to explain to Americans what their country was fighting for and to make the war their own.” (Gerd, 43) Lastly, the radio was the only possible form of communication between the ground and the air for airplanes.

Airplanes

Airplanes served as a way to quickly deliver something. This included care packages or letters from back home. It also helped to deliver messages that couldn’t be delivered on the ground because the trip would be too dangerous since it dealt with the enemy and their territory.

Telegraph

Telegraph was still a popular form of communication during World War II. However it had evolved since the last war. The teletypewriter was a device for transmitting telegraph messages as they are keyed and for printing messages received. With these teletypewriters there were conferences which were called telecons. “A commander or his staff at each end to view on a screen the incoming teletypewriter messages as fast as the characters were received. Questions and answers could be passed rapidly back and forth over the thousands of miles separating them.” (Britannica)

Telephones

Telephones helped to connect the nation to almost immediate communication between one another. It also served as a way for troops to communicate between one another. However, it wasn’t always available between families and troops so mailing letters was still the most popular form of communication between families and their troops.

Mail 

Mail served as a way for the troops to get caught up on what was going on at home. “Civilians were encouraged to write their service men and women about even the most basic activities. Daily routines, family news, and local gossip kept the armed forces linked to their communities.” (Smithsonian) It helped to boost troop’s moral and keep them from getting lonely. This is also when V Mail became extremely popular. V Mail was a way to quickly deliver a lot of mail to troops.

 

Animals

Animals were even used as a form of communication during World War II. They helped to deliver hand written messages among troops. Dogs and pigeons were the most effective animals the military used.

Cryptology 

Cryptology is the study of codes. Depicting enemy codes was a big part of World War II. Those who depicted were “sworn to secrecy. The penalty for discussing the work outside of approved channels could be death, as it was considered an act of treason during a time of war.” (Wilcox, 8) Cryptology was a whole new language. There were different meanings to every word. Both sides would receive messages through radio of their enemies and they would have to try and decode it. Once they decoded it they would then know their enemy’s positions and/or times of their attacks.

Each form of communication played a unique role in World War II, yet they were each dependent on each another in order for success. Airplanes were one of the main forms of transportation to deliver the V Mail to the soldiers and the only reason airplanes worked was because of the radio. Communication and all of the forms it had to offer during World War II helped to connect the nation as a whole.

Text Sources:

http://www.nasaa-home.org/history/his5comms.htm

Mintz, Steven, and Susan Kellogg. Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life. New York: The Free Press, 1988—Ch. 8: Families on the Home Front.

Smith, C. Calvin, “Diluting an Institution: The Social Impact of World War II on the Arkansas Family,” The Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 39, No. 1 (Spring, 1980), pp. 21-34.

Horten, Gerd. Radio Goes to War: The Cultural Politics of Propaganda During World War II. 2003

Wilcox, Jennifer. Sharing the Burden: Women in Cryptology during World War II. Center for Cryptologic History, National Security Agency. 1998.

http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/victorymail/letter/index.html

Image Sources:

http://www.mhsvca.org/news/rosie-the-riveter

http://www.bookwormroom.com/2012/10/08/loose-lips-might-sink-ships-and-blabby-administrations-definitely-kill-american-servicemen/

http://acepilots.com/planes/main.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field_telephone

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/12/19/this-100-year-old-deal-birthed-the-modern-phone-system-and-its-all-about-to-end/?tid=pm_business_pop

http://sarahsundin.blogspot.com/2011/02/love-letters-and-victory-mail.html

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/ist/?next=/smithsonian-institution/before-email-there-was-v-mail-1-180949023/

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-man-says-he-s-cracked-ww-ii-carrier-pigeon-code-1.1202404

World War II and Death

While the numbers of deaths of Americans was greater in World War II than most past wars, the magnitude of death was not nearly the same. This is because the war was fought far from home, and families were not witnessing the blood and battles first hand. Moreover, the 417,000 American deaths was few compared to the millions of lives lost in other countries (WWII Museum).

Other countries held much hostility for America, especially Germany and Japan, evident through the prison camps they had. Prisoners of War suffered exceptionally, and most soldiers would rather face death than be a prisoner of war. Germany alone had 94,000 soldiers held hostage,  and of those 1,701 died. Japan had a less soldiers kept prisoner, but a larger proportion of those that died. The captivated 27,000, and 11,107 of those soldiers died (Reynolds, 2002).  Causes of death in the prison camps were unsanitary, cramped conditions, lack of food and materials, and torture by the prison guards. Two particular events resulted in a significant number of losses: the Bataan Death March, and hell ships. The Bataan Death March was the relocation of POWs from Bataan to Camp O’Donnell in Japan. The Japanese soldiers beat, robbed,  tortured, and killed the American prisoners (Reynolds, 2002). 80,000 Americans were relocated, 650 soldiers died, and 10,000 Philippine citizens were murdered. Hell ships were Japanese war ships that contained American POWs.  Unknowing of this, American ships attacked the Japanese, killing 21,093 of their own soldiers (Reynolds, 2002). Survivors were blown into the water, and either died there or shot by Japanese soldiers.  Just like other wars, POWs suffered greatly, soldiers and citizens alike, and were a significant proportion of the American deaths.

American POWs in Japan

But unlike other wars, the notification of death was much more reliable and consistent, making the reality of the loss just as vivid.  Newspapers announced the deaths of soldiers in the obituaries, telegrams and letters were sent, and losses mourned. Telegrams were the most common form of communication when notifying families of the loss of a loved one (Holland, 2009). They were most often hand delivered by couriers of the Western Union, and followed a rigid format beginning with the dreaded words “I regret to inform you…” and then addressed financial matters and how the body could be returned home.  Along with telegrams, letters were also sent sometimes. On most occasions, this was due to families’ letters to the soldiers being unanswered, and commanders or fellow comrades taking it upon themselves to respond with the grave news. Finally, once families received the news of their loss, they would often announce it to their community by raising flags with gold stars, calling themselves “Gold Star Mothers” (Teaster).

WWII Telegram

Respectably, once the news was delivered, the bodies soon after followed. Bringing the bodies home was also more advanced and reliable than it had been in the past. Once soldiers’s bodies were collected from the battlefield, the were temporarily buried in cemeteries in Europe.  At the end of the war in 1945,  bodies were retrieved from those cemeteries and sent home so they could be buried with proper burials with their families (Holhut, 2011). The families had three burial options: the bodies could be sent home to be buried there, sent to a national cemetery for burial, or buried in American cemeteries in the Philippines and Hawaii (Holhut, 2011).  No matter the family’s decision, the transportation of the body was paid for by the government.  Out of respect and gratitude to the soldier, ever casket had military escorts (Holhut, 2011).

WWII Military Escorts

Text Sources:

Holhut, Randolph T., “THe Forgotten Story of How the Fallen of WWII CAm eHome” The Bradenton Times. May 2011. http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/usprisoners_japancomp.htm

Holland, N. E. “Delivering Bad News: Western Union” Speak Its Name. Dec. 2009. http://speakitsname.com/2009/12/05/delivering-bad-newswestern-union-in-the-mid-20th-century-us/

Nation World War II Museum, “By the Numbers: The U.S. Military” http://www.nationalww2museum.org/learn/education/for-students/ww2-history/ww2-by-the-numbers/us-military.html

Reynolds, Gary K. “U.S. Prisoners of War and Civilian AMerican Citizens Captured and Interned by Japan in World War II” Dec. 2002. http://www.thebradentontimes.com/news/2011/05/30/weekly_features/the_forgotten_story_of_how_the_fallen_of_wwii_came_home/#.Uy-EA_ldUnp

Teaster, Gerald. “Pacolet and World War II” Junior History Press. http://pacoletmemories.com/worldwar.html

Family Economics during the Second World War

The decade before World War Two is widely considered the worst economic period in the history of The United States. The Great Depression began in 1929 and lasted until 1933, and during this time period U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell by roughly 50% and unemployment rose as high as 25%. 

The years between the Great Depression and WWII are called the New Deal Era. The New Deal was President Roosevelt’s attempt to help the economy recover from the Great Depression. Despite a diverse and extensive selection of government programs implemented to facilitate economic growth, unemployment remained around 17% and GDP still did not reach pre-depression levels.

After a full decade of economic turmoil, the United States entered WWII, and along with it, a period of rapid economic recovery. Over the course of the war, GDP skyrocketed to $223.1 Billion (more than double pre-depression levels) and full and healthy employment was achieved. In many ways, World War Two was a savior of the United States’ economy.

Upon entering the war, the United States’ government implemented a series of wartime policies that would help us win the war. Among these policies were; high taxes, the ban of durable good production (things like cars, houses, and household appliances) in order to focus on producing goods for the military, rationing of food, clothing, gasoline and other goods to ensure soldiers had enough, and price and wage controls to help prevent inflation. These policies were extreme, and caused inconvenience and discomfort for many American people, but ultimately were a tremendous factor in not only winning the war, but reviving the economy.

Another leading cause of America’s success during the war was the patriotism of American families on the home front. Many men, women and children took on a largerworkload or tougher jobs to help the war effort. Because of the ban of durable good production, housing was in limited supply, so families had to double and triple up in single family homes. American’s at home suffered through the harsh government policies because they knew that by doing so they were helping the war effort.

In some ways, family life, at least economically, was improved very quickly as a result of entering the war. Within a year of entering the war, full and healthy employment was reached. This means that the entire American workforce had jobs. In fact, there were so many war jobs that in industrial areas of the country, companies sent out sound trucks to drive through the streets asking people to come work. Savings rates were also at an all time high during the war. This is attributable to the extensive war bond advertising done by the government, as well as the lessons learned during the Great Depression.

Despite rapid economic recovery, there were still many economic difficulties faced by families during thewar. Income taxes were raised to unprecedented levels, with the top bracket paying between 81 and 94% throughout the war. Not only were taxes raised, but the income to be in the top bracket was dropped from $5 million a year to $200,000 a year. Along with these high taxes, many common household goods were rationed, causing people to have to make due without as much as they might have liked or could have afforded.

There were many economic ups and downs for families during WWII, but in the end, the war was the biggest factor in America’s economic recovery. The Great Depression forced the United States to its knees, and World War Two is what helped us back up and made us the thriving superpower that we remain today.

Image Sources:

http://blogs.cas.suffolk.edu/history182/2013/03/21/question-2-the-great-depression-and-the-new-deal/

http://pdmarquart.wordpress.com/2010/10/31/what-if-world-war-ii-happened-today/