United States participation in WWII brought many changes to the United States. Having been thrust from an isolationist foreign policy back into the spotlight of a new Cold War, the nation began to accept and embrace its status as a world superpower. Although the War changed the United socially and politically, the most significant changes were economic in nature.
The social order prior to WWII changed drastically after the war. One such area of transition was that of the role of women in society. (Amott & Matthei pg. 18) Women in general and married women in particular had an increased presence in the work force. There were two factors from WWII that prompted this. (Amott & Matthei pg. 19)
One was the fact that most able-bodied men were drafted into the military, leaving a gap in the labor force that women were openly encouraged to fill. (Amott & Matthei pg. 20) The second factor was the increased need for production during war time. (Amott & Matthei pg. 21) After the war, while many women returned to the domestic lifestyle that was glorified by the media at the time, many more women stayed in the working world lured by increased pay incentives and a better overall economy. (Amott & Matthei pg. 42)
On the hiring side, women were no longer limited by the so-called “marriage bar” that made it extremely difficult for married women to find employment. (Amott & Matthei pg. 47) The working woman served as an example of the type of independent person that many women sought to emulate in the 1960s and 1970s. (Amott & Matthei pg. 50) It was after the war that women began to truly break down the social barriers, particularly in the work place that had kept them in traditionally female jobs, such as teaching and nursing. (Amott & Matthei pg. 190)
The War also portended a renewed struggle for civil rights for minorities in the United States. African-American men and women fought along with their white counterparts in segregated units during WWII. (Bailey & Farber, 817) The African-American community was galvanized to domestic action through a program called “Double-V”. (Bailey & Farber, 819)
The two “v’s” stood for victory at home and victory abroad. The victory at home was to be against racial prejudice, but the federal government did not take that portion of the slogan very seriously. (Bailey & Farber, 820) Nevertheless, African American participation in the war effort both at home and overseas saw many people unable to support the racial superiority theories and other inborn prejudices that led to the social inequality of the nation up until the War. (Bailey & Farber, 821)
After the war, changes began to occur at a far more rapid pace for race relations than before. The president of the United States, Harry Truman, desegregated the military by executive order in 1948, and as the 1950s and 1960s came, an increased sense of entitlement among minorities led to a burgeoning civil rights movement that captured the attention of the entire nation. (Bailey & Farber, 823)
From the Bus Boycott in Montgomery, Alabama in the mid-1950s, to Dr. Martin Luther King’s March on Washington, the effort to call attention to minority issues had finally seen the light of day. (Bailey & Farber, 825) A spate of Supreme Court decisions and federal legislation wiped away the last vestige of legal discrimination on the basis of race; and while racism did not disappear during this time, it was, in most places, shunted into the dark corners of society, where it dwelled among the abhorrent and outdated attitudes that marked a backward and degenerate portion of the population. (Bailey & Farber, 830)
The end of WWII marked a new era in international relations for the United States as well. (Dauer, pg. 18) The race for the technology to use Atomic weapons was won by the United States, but the Soviet Union, which had expanded immensely as a result of the War, quickly obtained the technology to keep up with America. (Dauer, pg. 21) This fact, plus the growing animosity engendered by the two conflicting political and economic policies of Democracy and Communism, set up a new world order where two powers sought to spread their ideology throughout the remainder of the world. (Dauer, pg. 31) US foreign policy was dictated entirely by this struggle from the closing days of WWII until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
(Dauer, pg. 34) As early as 1948, the United States engaged in an airlift of supplies to West Berlin in order to keep the remainder of the city from yielding to a Communist blockade. US policy in post-war Europe was entirely contingent on the European nations’ attitudes toward Communism.
(Dauer, pg. 41) Under the Marshall Plan of recovery, only those nations committed to the notion of Democratic government, and thus opposed to Communism were to receive material aid to rebuild after the war. U.S. policy of containment, which was the notion of keeping Communism within its post-WWII borders, dominated the political landscape throughout the 1950s and 1960s. (Dauer, pg. 53) The United States joined yet another war only five short years after the end of WWII, entering Korea to prevent the Communist regime in the North from unifying the peninsula under the aegis of the Communist theory. (Dauer, pg. 57)
All over the globe, the United States sought to intervene to arrest communist influence. These concerns reflected in the support of Israel in the Middle East, the Southern leaders in Korea and Vietnam, Batista in Cuba, and US association with all manner of undesirable leaders who had the sole virtue of not being communist. (Dauer, pg. 89)