How Did Ww2 Affect American Society?

Topics: World War II, United States, Great Depression Pages: 6 (2554 words) Published: April 22, 2013
How did World War II affect American Society? Kirsty Gourlay On December 7th, 1941, Japanese fighter planes staged an attack on U.S naval and military forces based in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii. In around just two hours, America suffered from approximately 3,435 casualties including 2,000 deaths. The shattering defeat cost the U.S, 8 battle ships and around 200 airplanes. The following day, President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan. This was approved, and more than two years into the conflict, America had eventually fully committed to the war. December of 1941, fundamentally altered the United States and its role globally. Pearl Harbour changed attitudes related to war involvement for many American’s. Patriotism soared like never before and socially, American society was affected in many ways. To begin with, U.S citizens had conflicting opinions and were very much divided on whether their country should get involved or stay out. Many took an increasingly hard line towards involvement as America had a natural desire to isolationism. However, President Roosevelt had begun building up defences in an attempt to prepare the country for war, long before America had officially entered it. Popular opinion at the time of conflict was narrowed down to two groups. The isolationists, whose aim was to keep the country out of war at almost any cost, and the interventionists who believed America should do everything in their power to support the Allies. After the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour, isolationists began to change their view, and this proved to be a big turning point. Another turning point in isolationism was associated with the Lend Lease Act, 1941. This allowed America to ‘sell, transfer title to, exchange, lend, lease or otherwise dispose of, to any such government, any defence article’. This act effectively put an end to America’s pretence of neutrality. Patriotism and nationalism in America rose to an all-time high, more so than ever after Pearl Harbour. Due to lack of incoming shipments and factories using their resources for other uses, America faced a significant shortage which is when the rationing system was put in place. Civilians had to make do with less in virtually every area of life which became irritating to most. Coupons were issued by the ‘Office of Price Administration’, which had to be provided by individuals in order to purchase items such as meat and dairy, in short supply. Items such as silk, shoes, nylon and gasoline were also rationed as well as many more. Cutbacks even affected clothing style and fashion, skirts became shorter and outfits were simple. Many procedures were put in place to remind people that America was at war and help encourage those not involved. This helped civilian spirit on the home front. Local activism was important in American society and in coastal and border towns; towers were built in an attempt to help recognize enemy aircraft. City life day to day generally included practicing blackouts and extinguishing all exterior lighting with thick blackout curtains placed over windows. Recycling was a way of life and very little went to waste. ‘Scrap drives’, in neighbourhoods allowed scrap brass and copper to be collected for military use such as making artillery shells. Everyday commodities were vital to war effort and kitchen waste, such as fat drippings were used for soap production and other fats were a raw material for explosives. In 1941, groups such as the Salvation Army, National Catholic Community Service and the National Jewish Welfare Board etc. came together and founded the United Service Organizations (USO). This was in reply to a request from President Roosevelt and helped provide morale and recreational facilities and aid to uniformed military personnel. Government propaganda was another way to ensure civilian activism levels were kept high. Slogan posters were used with eye catching phrases, “Get some cash for your trash”, to encourage recycling...
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