The social impact of the Second World War
The social impact of the Second World War
The Second World War had a profound effect on white men who lived in the United States during the 1940s. Many volunteered for overseas military service, and many more joined the army in the nation’s first peacetime draft, which occurred in 1941 as a precursor to the United States’s future involvement in the war. World War II also, however, had a profound impact on the lives of women and ethnic minorities in the United States. Because white men were the primary candidates of the draft, women and minorities were able to fill job openings that were created when over 1 million Americans went to fight the war. This was not true of Japanese-Americans, however, who were treated with high levels of discrimination and were detained on account of their ancestral background, on the grounds that they were perceived as a threat to national security in the United States.
Thus, while the average domestic American woman and ethnic minority benefited from the Second World War, Japanese-Americans were often targets of racial profiling and bigotry, suffering greatly during the war. Until the United States became involved in World War II, women were primarily confined to domestic duties. With the Great Depression affecting the lives of all American families prior to the war, there were not enough jobs for women and men to fill, and thus men received priority when jobs were being filled. Once many men left the United States to fight the war, however, women were able to fill jobs that were now vacant. Women were soon found commonly in industrial positions, as searchlight workers, and nurses in the military.
One important political figure during World War II was Rosie the Riveter, who was portrayed as a buff-looking woman who represented female factory workers during this time period. This was an important figure for the United States because it convinced women to apply for jobs that were previously considered “man’s work”, in order to secure a paycheck and support the nation’s wartime effort. Women idolized the idea of supporting the United States by working for companies that produced war supplies and foodstuffs for the military. This shift in gender roles and social changes in the lives of women was only temporary, however, as the role of women in America returned to that of a housewife after victory in Japan was sealed and the men and women who went to fight the war returned home.
Many married women and mothers did continue to work, however, and the percentage of working women in the United States remained at its highest in history. This is a profound social impact that still affects the role of women in American society today. African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans were also socially impacted by World War II. Both ethnic groups migrated toward large cities in the United States and, like women, took jobs previously denied to them because they were already filled by white males. Once the military draft occurred, however, many vacancies appeared and job openings became prominent, even for African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans. In addition, both ethnic groups had a sizeable representation in the United States’s military troops that fought the Second World War. While many soldiers from these groups were drafted into the military, many more volunteered for Allied service.
Whether because they felt obligated to serve out of patriotism, or if they hoped to gain additional civic rights as a reward for military service, the importance of these ethnic groups in the military during World War II is not something that can be neglected. During and after, ethnic minorities – African-Americans especially – rallied much support for the desegregation movement. The people of the United States soon would no longer be legally allowed to socially isolate people based on their race as they had done in the past. All public buildings would have their “Whites Only” and “Colored Only” in favor of equality and social integration of all races. These dramatic social benefits for ethnic minorities of the 1940s and the future were all caused, directly and indirectly, by the Second World War.
While women, African-Americans, and Hispanic-Americans may have benefited from the outbreak of the war, Japanese-Americans were subject to much bigotry and were detained in internment camps throughout the time that the United States was involved in the Second World War. President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 approximately 2 months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This order stated that the American government had the right to detain anyone in the United States who could compromise national security during the war. While this affected a few hundred people of German and Italian descent, the order was primarily directed toward Japanese-Americans, of whom over 100,000 were detained for the duration of the United States’s involvement in the war. Even before being incarcerated, Japanese-Americans were the subject of much racism and discrimination among other Americans due solely to their heritage.
They were labeled as “Japs”, a common abbreviation for a Japanese person that became an ethnic slur following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Other Americans treated Japanese-Americans as inferior beings and treated them similarly to how African-Americans had been treated in recent American history. Thus, Japanese-Americans suffered greatly during the Second World War, in contrast to the benefits that women and other ethnic minorities experienced. While white men were the primary participants in the United States’s World War II effort, of whom hundreds of thousands enlisted in the military or were drafted, the Second World War had profound impacts on women and ethnic minorities as well.
Opportunities emerged in job fields that now had vacancies since so many men left to fight the war. In addition, women were able to join the war effort by serving as nurses, and colored men were able to enlist and serve the Allies as soldiers. Japanese-Americans, however, were subject to much bigotry and racism from other Americans and were even detained throughout the course of American involvement in the war. Even though the United States government eventually apologized for its actions toward Japanese-Americans, they suffered greatly during the war and did not benefit socially from the Second World War, as did women and other ethnic minorities.