The 1940's were dominated by World War II. European artists and intellectuals fled to the United States from Hitler and the Holocaust, bringing new ideas created in disillusionment. War production pulled us out of the Great Depression. Women were needed to replace men who had gone off to war, and so the first great exodus of women from the home to the workplace began. Rationing affected the food we ate, the clothes we wore, the toys with which children played. After the war, the men returned, having seen the rest of the world. No longer was the family farm an ideal; no longer would blacks accept lesser status. The GI Bill allowed more men than ever before to get a college education. Women had to give up their jobs to the returning men, but they had tasted independence. The purpose of this web / library guide is to help the user gain a broad understanding and appreciation for the culture and history of the 1940-1949 period in American history. In a very small way, this is a bibliographic essay. To see the whole picture, we encourage users to browse all the way through this page (and the other decades as they come online) and then visit the suggested links for more information on the decade. As you can see, the best way to immerse oneself in a topic is to use both Internet and the library. Some information is best viewed or read in books. This is where the real depth of information can be found. Then there is information that will be found only on the Internet. If you can add a valuable site or information to this page, we invite you to write. Thanks for the visit. ENJOY! Art & Architecture | Books & Literature | Fashion | Fads | Historic Events | Music & Radio | Sports | Television | Theater & Film
The forties are pretty well defined by World War II. US isolationism was shattered by the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt guided the country on the homefront, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower commanded the troops in Europe. Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Adm. Chester Nimitz led them in the Pacific. The successful use of an antibiotic, penicillin, by 1941 revolutionized medicine. Developed first to help the military personnel survive war wounds, it also helped increase survival rates for surgery. The first eye bank was established at New York Hospital in 1944. Unemployment almost disappeared, as most men were drafted and sent off to war. The government reclassified 55% of their jobs, allowing women and blacks to fill them. First, single women were actively recruited to the workforce. In 1943, with virtually all the single women employed, married women were allowed to work. Japanese immigrants and their descendants, suspected of loyalty to their homelands, were sent to internment camps. There were scrap drives for steel, tin, paper and rubber. These were a source of supplies and gave people a means of supporting the war effort. Automobile production ceased in 1942, and rationing of food supplies began in 1943. Victory gardens were re-instituted and supplied 40% of the vegetables consumed on the home front. In April, 1945, FDR died, and President Harry Truman celebrated V-E Day on May 8, 1945. Japan surrendered only after two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The United States emerged from World War II as a world superpower, challenged only by the USSR. While the USSR subjugated the defeated countries, the US implemented the Marshall Plan, helping war-torn countries to rebuild and rejoin the world economy. Disputes over ideology and control led to the Cold War. Communism was treated as a contagious disease, and anyone who had contact with it was under suspicion. Alger Hiss, a former hero of the New Deal, was indicted as a traitor and the House Un-American Activities Committee began its infamous hearings. Returning GI's created the baby boom, which is still having repercussions on American society...
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