World War II and America
World War II was a global military conflict that commenced in 1939 and ended in 1945. This war involved many nations of the world, including all nations that are considered as great powers. It was executed by two conflicting military alliances i.e. the Allies side and the Axis side. This war remains to be the most widespread and deadliest war in the history of mankind, resulting to more than 70 million casualties. More than one hundred million military personnel were marshaled by the conflicting sides in a state of total war. The key participants of this war directed all their scientific, industrial and economic capabilities towards it without drawing any lines between military and civilian resources. The war was also marked by considerable military action against the civilians such as the use of nuclear weapons and the Holocaust.
World War II is generally believed to have commenced on the first day of September, 1939 when the Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Consequently, France and several other Commonwealth countries, and some countries belonging to the British Empire declared war on Germany. It is important to note that by this time, several other countries were already at war. For instance, Italy and Ethiopia were being involved in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, while Japan and China were already pursuing the Second Sino- Japanese War. Other countries joined the war at later stages due to imminent events such as the invasion of the Soviet Union by Germany and the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and other overseas British colonies, which led to the declaration of war by the US, Netherlands and British Commonwealth on Japan.
World War II ended in 1945 with the triumph of the Allies. It left many political alliances and social structures within the entire world significantly distorted. The United Nations was also born as a result of the war so as to enhance international cooperation and avert future conflicts. Nevertheless, the US and the Soviet Union emerged as opposing superpowers after the war, setting the ground for the commencement of the Cold War which lasted within the next 46 years. In the meantime, the principle of self determination gained wide acceptance, thus hastening decolonization movements in Africa and Asia. On the other hand, Western Europe started moving towards enhanced political integration and the process of economic recovery.
The debate which seeks to answer the question of when and why America entered into the Second World War continues to raise and attract strange theories. Nevertheless, it is generally agreed that the fundamental reason was the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces. It is quite clear that an attack of this nature is tantamount to the declaration of a war. It is also generally agreed that the Japanese invasion of China and the oil embargo which America imposed on China are a significant factors which pushed the United States to join the war.
While Germany forces were freezing before Moscow on the seventh day of December in 1941, Japanese forces made a surprise attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor in the United States. Four days later, Germany, under Adolf Hitler, declared war on America. This situation made President Franklin Roosevelt to urgently call the Congress for the need to discuss how they could expand the American armed forces massively. Nevertheless, it was clear that twenty years of indifference and neglect could not be trounced in just a few days. Military commanders in Washington worked very hard to establish a headquarters that could direct distant attacks, and coordinate and balance their ground and air fighting forces. In 1942, military commanders met with President Roosevelt to advise him on how to develop strategies that would see them coordinate with Britain. In March that year, the armed force was divided into three main commands: Ground Forces, Air Forces and Service Forces. Army planners approximated that for them to win the war; they would need to organize about nine million men into two hundred and fifteen combat divisions. These estimates proved to be accurate with regard to the overall manpower that was required, but was too ambitious with respect to the combat divisions since they ultimately created ninety divisions which were able to give them victory. Planning for the war was very expensive. Billeting, war equipment and training areas were all insufficient. In addition, the United State’s industry had to support the militaries of its Ally nations in addition to its own military. For instance, Britain was in need of large amounts of munitions and equipment and so the US helped them with many trucks and war vehicles which helped Britain to mechanize the Soviet forces. This war also required a lot of landing craft and support vessels yet their production was a very expensive undertaking.
The US made several developments between 1940 and 1945 so as to boost its efforts of getting the victory in this war. These developments were made towards taxes and other government controls, labor and labor unions, civilian support, draft legislation, rationing among many other developments, and they instigated further developments after the war.
First and foremost, World War II brought about a contentious federal tax policy. Generally, most Americans agreed on the need to increase taxes so as to raise enough funds to support the war. Nevertheless, President Roosevelt was battling against a conservative Congress which did not allow him to increase the tax on incomes so as to exceed $25,000 as he wanted. By 1944, almost all employed Americans were paying federal income taxes as opposed to only ten percent of them who used to pay these taxes in 1940. Many market controls were established on the economy such as price controls which were imposed on many commodities and monitored by the Price Administration Office. Employees’ incomes were also controlled by the government. All in all, the problem of unemployment ended in America when WWII began. Millions of new jobs were created through the stepping up of wartime production. In particular, women entered into the workforce so as to replace the men who had quit their jobs to join the armed forces. President Roosevelt emphasized on the importance of personal sacrifice by the civilians who remained at home so as to support the war. The war also brought a significant change concerning the role that women played in the society.
When the war ended, most of the munitions manufacturing industries were closed down. Most of the women were also replaced by war veterans even though those of them who wished to continue working in the manufacturing industries were allowed to do so. During the war, some sectors of the economy, especially agriculture felt labor shortages despite the fact that many farmers were exempted from being drafted. This is because most farmers moved or volunteered to go to the cities to do factory jobs. Prisoners of war were mostly used as farm laborers since agricultural products were seriously needed by the military and civilian populations.
Almost all the labor unions at that time supported Roosevelt’s administration and the war efforts. However, most of the mine workers took an isolationist stand before the war and had even challenged the reelection of President Roosevelt in 1940. Since most of the labor unions pledged not to go on strikes during the war, the government rewarded workers by forming an arbitration that was mandated to determine the wages of employees and other favorable terms for new contracts which led to modest wage increments within the earlier years of the war, but was not sufficient to be maintained due to inflation. Employees were also allowed to get vacation pay which was previously available to only a few of them. In addition, the wage gaps between the highly skilled laborers and the less skilled laborers were greatly narrowed. Gender discrimination in some jobs was also significantly reduced since women were now able to work in non-traditional jobs.
Concerning civilian support, there was the formation of the Civil Air Patrol which recruited civilian spotters in air surveys, search and rescue operations and transport processes. The Coast Guard Auxiliary was also established to execute the same duties using civilian boats and crews. Civilians were also trained and placed on towers which were erected in coastal and border towns and cities so as to spot enemy aircrafts.
Concerning the draft process, draft legislation was passed by the Congress in 1940 which stipulated issues like the size of the army, who was supposed to control the draft and the importance of deferments. This draft was generally acceptable to many people. By 1943, the American nation had gone through relentless manpower shortage. Industries realized that the army was in serious need of foodstuffs and critical war materials than the soldiers. One of the issues that brought about contention during the drafting process was the drafting of fathers. Eighteen year olds were also drafted due to public opinion through voting. Apparently, Asians, Blacks and Whites were equally drafted to the army. Professionals from all fields were also drafted. For instance, it was found out that several engineers, bankers and skilled mechanics became privates during the war. Farmers demanded to be given occupational deferment. Nevertheless, those who remained at home were not given post-war veteran benefits. During the later stages of this war, many previous deferment categories also became eligible for drafting.
The Second World War led to large-scale scale migration of people to industrial centers in the US. Most of these immigrants moved to the West Coast with millions of women following their husbands to the established military camps. The South saw an establishment of many military training sites. This situation made it difficult to secure good housing in the cities. Car transport was also limited through the rationing of gasoline. People shared their cars or used public transportation thus creating a lot of congestion and overcrowding.
The commencement of WWII led to many women staffing millions of jobs and other community service duties in America such as Red Cross and USO since many men went to war. Women started gaining more respect in the face of men during this war. In particular, women began to be incorporated in jobs that were previously viewed as masculine such as Airforce Service Pilots. The end of this war also brought about the birth of the “Baby Boom”. Birth rates started increasing after 1945 since couples who had delayed their marriages due to the war started coming together. On the other hand, the government started providing free prenatal and natal care for women. Nevertheless, women were forced to balance between their roles as mothers as a result of the Baby Boom and the jobs which they secured while their husbands were at war. They therefore strained so much in order to accomplish all the tasks that they were required to do. This war also led to the birth of the federal executive order which stipulated that companies which were in contract with the government were not supposed to discriminate anyone on the basis of religion or race in the process of employment. In particular, this order helped African Americans to obtain jobs in the industrial sector.
In conclusion, it is evident that WWII led to major developments in the United States, which might not have been realized earlier were it not for the war. For instance, the war provided the opportunity of increased employment for everyone especially in the industries. Women began to gain the respect of men since they started being absorbed in careers that were previously viewed as masculine. African Americans were also able to acquire jobs in industries unlike previously when they used to be discriminated because of their race. Last but not least, this war led to the development of the spirit of cooperation among the Americans and in the entire world since it led to the birth of the United Nations which was steered by President Roosevelt with the major aim of enhancing international cooperation and averting future conflicts.