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The War at Home: How WWII Affected America


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Title: The War at Home: How WWII Affected America

The War at HomeHow WWII Affected America
US Preparations for War
  • Prior to entering WWII, FDR began increasing the
    size of the US military and ordered increased
    production of war materials like planes
  • The government awarded factory owners with
    lucrative contracts to increase military
  • After Pearl Harbor, almost all US industry was
    converted to military use

Selective Service and Training Act
  • Passed in 1940, after the fall of France to
  • First peace-time draft in US history
  • Required 12 months service if drafted
    (requirement dropped during war)
  • All men ages 18 -36 had to register (expanded
    during WWII to ages 18 65)
  • Over the 7 years the act was in effect, over 10
    million were drafted

War Production Board
  • Created after US entered the war to regulate
    war-time industry by deciding priorities, setting
    production goals, and controlling distribution of
    raw materials and supplies

Automobile Industry War
  • Auto factories were among first converted to war
    production, making jeeps, tanks, trucks, and
    other gear
  • Henry Ford even began building bombers on his
    assembly lines
  • By end of WWII, auto industry had produced 1/3 of
    all US military supplies used

Liberty Ships
  • Standardized cargo ships which could be produced
    quickly (could be built in just 42 days),
    cheaply, and in large numbers
  • Ships seams were welded, rather than riveted,
    which made them both cheaper and harder to sink
  • Over 2700 were built during the war, and only
    about 300 were sunk

War Revenue
  • War cost more than 300 billion more money than
    the US government had spent in its entire
  • War Bonds sold over 150 billion in bonds (small
    private loans)
  • Income taxes withheld directly from peoples
    paychecks for the first time tax rate raised

Wartime Rationing
  • Ration books to purchase many goods (tires, gas,
    silk stockings, etc.), consumers had to have
    special coupons allowing them to buy
  • Victory Gardens Americans were encouraged to
    grow their own food where possible
  • Scrap drives rubber, tin, aluminum, steel,
    animal fats and grease were all collected for

Patriotism Propaganda
  • Posters America was covered with propaganda
    posters promoting everything from recycling to
  • Newsreels movie theaters showed patriotic films,
    pro-US news clips to keep Americans motivated

Women in the Military
  • US Army accepted women for the first time
    (Womens Army Corp-WAC), but in non-combat roles,
    to free up more men for combat service
  • Over 275,000 women would serve in the WAC WAVES
    (US Navys Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency

Women in the Workforce
  • As men entered military service, women stepped
    into traditionally male roles, such as working in
  • Millions of women entered the US workforce and
    would show some reluctance to leave it after the

Rosie the Riveter
  • Character based on a popular song about a woman
    who took a factory job to support her Marine
    boyfriend in the war
  • Became a nationally recognized symbol for the
    important role of women workers

Double V Campaign
  • Due to a segregated military, some blacks did not
    support the war
  • Others supported the idea of a Double V
    campaign by fighting in the war,
    African-Americans could win a double victory
    victories over Hitlers racism abroad and over
    racism at home

Benjamin O. Davis
  • 1877 1970
  • Joined Army during Spanish-American War, worked
    his way up from Private
  • Highest ranking black officer in the US Army, was
    first black promoted to General
  • Promoted by FDR to show support for ending
    discrimination in the armed forces

Black Soldiers
  • Although the military remained segregated until
    after the war (1948), all-black units served with
    distinction and began to win respect from the
    military leadership and from their fellow soldiers

Tuskegee Airmen
  • 99th Pursuit Squadron
  • All-black unit trained as fighter pilots at the
    Tuskegee Institute in Alabama
  • Once allowed to entire combat in the European
    Theater as bomber-escorts, they proved their
    ability by not losing a single bomber on missions
    in which they were providing the protection

Executive Order 8802
  • Due to discriminatory hiring practices in the US,
    Roosevelt issued an executive order in June 1941,
    banning racial discrimination in government
    hiring and in industries engaged as defense
  • Established the Fair Employment Practices
    Commission to enforce the order the first
    federal civil rights agency since Reconstruction

Native American Soldiers
  • Thousands of Native Americans served, especially
    in the Marine Corps
  • About 300 Navajo worked as code talkers, using
    their native language to transmit radio messages
    for the Marines, a code which was never broken by
    the Japanese!

Bracero Program
  • Due to labor shortages on farms in the Southwest
    US, the federal government arranged for Mexican
    workers to help with the harvest
  • Over 200,000 Mexicans entered the US as part of
    the Bracero Program, and began a tradition of US
    reliance on Latino migrant farmers

Zoot Suit Riots
  • June 1943
  • Anti-Latino racism and a rise in juvenile crime,
    coupled with the unpatriotic fashion of zoot
    suits (large baggy suits which wasted material)
    which had been adopted by Mexican-American teens
    led to large-scale fights between soldiers and
    Latinos in Los Angeles
  • Violence continued for days and led to a ban of
    Zoot Suits by the City of Los Angeles

Hispanic-American Soldiers
  • Despite episodes of racism, over 500,000 Hispanic
    Americans served in the Armed Forces during the
    war, primarily Mexicans and Puerto Ricans
  • They served in every theater of the war and won
    17 Medals of Honor

Japanese Internment Camps
  • Fear of spies and saboteurs amongst the
    Japanese-American population on the West Coast
    prompted the US to relocate over 100,000 to
    internment camps
  • Those interned lost homes, businesses, and jobs
    while detained from 1942 - 1945

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Korematsu v. US
  • Dec. 1944
  • Fred Korematsu sued the US government, claiming
    that his rights had been violated
  • US Supreme Court ruled that the internment camps
    were legal because they were a matter of
    military urgency and were not based on race,
    but also ruled that loyal US citizens can not be
    held against their will, prompting the government
    to begin releasing those held at the camps

Japanese-American Soldiers
  • Again, despite racism, many Japanese-Americans
    served in the US Armed Forces during the war,
    including the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, who
    became the most decorated unit of the entire war

Population Shifts
  • Over 15 million Americans moved during the war to
    fill open jobs
  • Many moved into major industrial centers in the
    North, Midwest, and California, but more moved
    into the Sunbelt across the southern US
  • Once again, millions of blacks left the South for
    northern and western cities, leading to racial
    tensions (the Second Great Migration)

Wage and Price Controls
  • To control inflation, the government acted to
    freeze prices on consumer goods and to freeze
    workers wages
  • These frozen wages had the potential to create
    labor disputes

Unions During the War
  • Most unions pledged to not strike during the war
    but to instead seek mediation through the
    governments War Labor Board
  • Not all unions cooperated, and a 1943 strike by
    coal workers under John L. Lewis forced the
    government to intervene

Unions After the War
  • Labor unrest and strikes became common
    immediately following the war, disrupting the
    post-war economy
  • Another coal strike was so serious that President
    Truman ordered the mines seized by the government

Taft-Hartley Act
  • In 1947, Congress passed sweeping labor reform
    which banned closed shops (where all employees
    had to be union members) and allowed employers to
    sue unions for damages in some cases

Automation Threatens Jobs
  • As American factories increasingly modernized
    after the war, machines began to take the place
    of unskilled labor, costing jobs and hurting
    union membership

  • Eventually, powerful new super-unions arose,
    such as the AFL-CIO, a merger between the
    American Federation of Labor and the Congress of
    Industrial Organizations in 1955, which
    represented over 15 million workers

Election of 1948
  • Democrats ran President Harry Truman while
    Republicans ran NY Governor Thomas Dewey
  • Nearly everyone expected Dewey to win easily, but
    were surprised when Truman pulled off a narrow
    victory, becoming President in his own right
    rather than by default (death of FDR)

Trumans Fair Deal
  • Truman began to pursue a series of social reform
    programs he called his Fair Deal
  • Included expansion of Social Security, increasing
    minimum wage, and funding low-income housing,
    among other things

The GI Bill
  • Passed in 1944
  • Designed to help GIs transition back to civilian
  • Helped veterans by paying for college tuition,
    providing one years unemployment pay, and
    providing easy to get loans for purchasing
    housing or starting businesses

Growth of Middle Class
  • As hundreds of thousands of GIs became better
    educated and able to acquire better jobs, the
    middle-class in America grew significantly during
    the 1950s
  • This expanded middle-class increased the demand
    for consumer goods and single-family housing

Baby Boom
  • Returning GIs were also anxious to marry and
    start families, leading to a dramatic surge in
    the birth rate from 1946 to 1964
  • This generation of children, the largest in US
    history, came to be known as the baby boomers

Why is this a problem TODAY?
Growth of Suburbs
  • Growth of middle-class families led to a dramatic
    spike in demand for housing
  • Since space was limited (and therefore expensive)
    in the cities, millions of Americans looked to
    the areas just outside of the cities to live and
    raise their families

William J. Levitt
  • 1907 1994
  • Real estate developer who popularized building
    large developments of cheap assembly line style
    housing within commuting distance of major
    cities, areas called suburbs
  • Affordable housing allowed many soldiers
    returning from WWII to marry and start families
  • First project was in Levittown, NY between 1947
    -1951, where Levitt built over 17,000
    single-family homes

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