How did The Second World War affect America? Essay
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Having been drawn into World War II by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, America was inevitably altered in many ways by the wartime circumstances and the affects of which are still noticeably present today. The war induced economical, social and political reforms in America.
America is one of the world’s great superpowers and with such massive territorial and economical resources she became the main source for arms and equipment flowing into Europe. Existing factories were adapted to cater for the demand for war machines and with this sudden influx of business, provided by the Allied war effort, America found herself in a wartime economic boom.
More jobs were available due to the new demand and wages increased leading to a generally higher standard of living. With the primary focus on arms and weapons there was a shortage of consumer goods during the war but following that saw a return of consumer goods and mass exportation to Europe opening up a new market for commerce. To fund the initial production of the arms in demand federal taxes were significantly raised mainly in the form of income tax. Government spending has led to increased taxation remaining a permanent, long-term feature of the US government since WWII.
Socially the war benefited the majority of black-Americans and women in America who before then, were normally classed below white males living in America. For example, restrictions were placed on blacks and women in America that made it hard to get a job or receive equal pay. Women were seen as housekeepers and were not considered as workers unless in extremely poor circumstances and un-married (even then women were not paid equally in comparison to men), for it was the men that supported their wives and household, alone.
However with men being conscripted into the army during the war many positions in the labour work force were being deserted and if this continued there would not be enough workers and soldiers in order to maintain a consistent high rate of production and supply troops to fight a war. As a result women were brought in to replace those sent off to fight and gained adequately paid positions in factories and other jobs that were otherwise only available to men, therefore when the war ended the soldiers returned and found jobs were no longer as readily available as was previously, because women provided more competition and sexual discrimination started to diminish but it was by no means completely wiped out. By 1945 36% of the workforce was female and two thirds of these women stayed in employment after the war demonstrating a permanent social shift created by the war effort.
Discrimination against African-Americans also began to subside slightly as President Roosevelt implemented the F.E.P.C. (Fair Employment Practices Committee), to end racial indiscrimination in the war industries, following the actions of A. Phillip Randolph in 1941. This was sparked off by the increased segregation of blacks and whites in the US armed forces despite the supposedly unified war effort and the fact that other countries did not implore segregated units. The black population were angry that their colour would instantly condemn them to low indignant lives. However during the war reforms were welcomed to certain extents and by 1945 blacks employed by the government rose from 60,000 to 200,000. Then without the intervention of the FEPC all three war services allowed black officers still however segregated but nevertheless improving standards between blacks and whites. It seems that the war did not have an active role in reforming the situation in America between blacks and whites but it provided a form of passive provocation.
With the increased need for workers and factories many cities became popular sites for those seeking employment such as the African-Americans and poor southern farmers. The Industrialisation of America because of the war effort requiring greater arms production and manufacturing of goods led to urbanisation in the late 1940s and 1950s and suburbs were inevitably formed; there became areas of great prosperity and others of poverty due to neglect by those who left for the industry.
Politically the war had a significant impact on policies and the routes taken by the wartime presidents Roosevelt and, following on, Truman. Firstly FD Roosevelt was a Democrat and introduced an expensive New Deal policy, which was designed and hoped to bring America out of the depression however it came up against great opposition by many Republicans.
To counter this threat he ran for the 1944 election with a more conservative Democrat running mate, Harry S. Truman in turn creating a more seemingly moderate approach, which later secured victory for Roosevelt in the election. Then after Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, Truman became president and hoped to continue Roosevelt’s domestic policies. Both Roosevelt and Truman were fierce anti-communists and in 1947 during Truman’s term it was decided that in US interests the Marshall Plan and Truman Doctrine should be incorporated to keep the European market open for America’s capitalisation and therefore keep chances of communist take-overs minimal.
Both policies were part of the idea of Containment and fed money into Europe in order to ensure its revival, which would then lead to American prosperity for consumer goods would be in demand and exports would be available but also to prevent communist expansion. Truman also tried to enforce the ‘Fair Deal’, which was similar to Rooselvelt’s new deal but less money was involved. This aimed to improve social security, provide full employment, increase the minimum wage, build more homes and secure employment equality for all races. This ambitious policy never really achieved its aims for the mostly Republican Congress largely opposed the Fair Deal due to its high expenditure and need for increased taxation. This led to Government control being reduced considerably as was introduced during the Depression and wartime.
Socially America has changed considerably and sexual and racial discrimination has been tackled. Women in particular have been granted or have fought for the right to work with the fortunate circumstances of the war creating a definite social change. Also economically America has benefited for many of what were the Allied countries are still within a trading circle with the USA as its centre and looking at the more short-term benefits, America prospered with all the required arms production resting upon her factories. Politically taxes have remained high and Government power has been reduced but without the policy of Containment Eastern Europe may not have recovered with such effectiveness and America may have descended into another depression due to poor over-seas commerce.