Impact of Second World War on American and British Society

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The Second World War proved to be the most devastating war of its time, witnessing a level of carnage previously inconceivable. However, for the vast number of Americans, most of who were on the home front, the war provided a very different experience, their only insight to it being through the “newsreel images that flickered across America’s theatre scenes.” According to statistics, of the 50 million people that died during the war, only 1 per cent of them were American. In America, the war “galvanized American patriotism and unity”, “propelling the nation out of the morass of the Great Depression” by igniting a beam of prosperity. People relocated across the country in search of new jobs that the war created, prospects of employment for African- Americans and women also opened up and as a result of this progress, America rapidly acquired its status as the worlds only superpower. After Pearl Harbor, “ like a giant awaking from sleep” , America came to life; industrial growth contributed to its military strength, which was said to be able to defeat any fully armed western European or Asian country. During the Great Depression, America’s “mighty economy machine” collapsed, rendering millions jobless and therefore shattering the faith in the capitalist system. Despite an attempt as resolving the crisis through New Deal plans and other agencies, by 1939, overall unemployment stood at close to 8.9 million. However, America seemed to bounce back rapidly once they entered the war; U.S gross national product increased to 60 per cent, living costs rose 30 per cent, total earnings went up by 50 per cent and by the year 1945 America was in possession of half of the worlds shipping, and nearly all of its manufacturing capacity. What was essential to financial recovery was public expenditure, for instance between 1939 and 1940, the Congress paid double of what it had on the New Deal in the span of eight years on the military. Regardless of this success, according to Michael Adams, “ this economic miracle loomed large in the nation’s imagination- to a point where anyone who was alive in the 1940’s is assumed to have been gifted with special powers.” To elaborate, for example, the direct cost of the war amounted to $381 billion of which only 44 per cent was covered through direct taxation; amount left over was paid in through government bank loans and floated bonds. This rendered the American government in national debt of $260 million, up from only $50 million, and it was not until 1970 that the initial cost of the war was paid off. By weakening the small producer in agriculture, the war seemed to “complete the triumph” of larger corporations, by “inaugurating the society” of which we are all members of, and work in. As put by Adams, as the big got bigger, the little were squeezed out, for after Pearl Harbor, it was reported that over 200,000 small business corporations went under such as independent car dealerships and washing machine distributers. An important consideration regarding the impact of war on American society is the impact it had on the minorities; Japanese-American, African-Americans and women. During the time of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans only occupied up to one percent of the entire population. They were constantly in the face of racial discrimination- laws prohibiting intermarriage with Americans, laws keeping them out of certain clubs, swimming pools, dance halls, and even bars to employment and to middle-class housing areas, the Immigration Act of 1942 made further immigration from Japan illegal and there were several other state laws rendering Japanese Americans without the right to vote and own land. There were demands from professional agitators, such as the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West and from several congressmen in California, calling for the evacuation of the Japanese from local residences. There was a general air of a “nobody wants the Japanese” attitude in the country, with the then...
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