World War 2 Essay Example: “The Good War” in the United States

  • Category: War, World War II,
  • Pages: 6
  • Words: 1486
  • Published: 15 April 2021
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For many Americans the second world war will be remembered as the good war the question remains, is this depiction of the war an accurate depiction and does this description fit for all.  The ideals that were able to rise from this war indeed make a good argument for this war to be remembered as the good war.  But that is the case for all Americans. The Japanese Americans, for example, had a vastly different experience of wartime America. 

1939 saw the world gripped by a far-reaching devastating war that had far-reaching effects for many generations. Though the rest of the world has the view that this was a very dark period of human history except for America where this war is remembered as the good war. However, even in America the devastation and destruction that was caused as a direct result of World War was felt very heavily in America, there is this juxtaposition of the Good War alongside some of humanity’s darkest history.

Leading up to the onset of Second World War America had been in the grips of the great depression, a period that had lasted from 1929 until 1942  with over half the male workforce unemployed in the years between 1930 and 1939 the average unemployment rate was at 18.2 percent. This level of unemployment had a devastating impact on credit, spending, and prices, with no end in sight until the onset of the second world war which is what eventually ended the great depression was. 

Between 1941 and 1945 was the most significant short term increase in economic growth in the history of the American economy according to gross domestic product figures. Though the key driver of this was government spending, the war also saw virtually a 0 percent unemployment rate and a more even distribution of wealth across society.  From 1942 on we begin to see women entering the labour force in much larger numbers with 6.5 million women entering the labour market. Between 1940 and 1945, the female labour force grew by 50 percent with an increase from 13.9 percent to 22.5 percent of women who were working outside of the home. 

One in ten married women had entered the American labour force. These changes in the American labour market during this time frame was due to the need to free men from the labour market to enter the war. For women, these changes would bring about the seeds of women’s liberation as for the first-time women could experience first-hand that they were just as capable as their male counterparts in the labour force .

The Social Change in America

The second world war was a catalyst for social change in America with changes to the labour force that forever transformed American life. This period also saw changes in the area of civil rights through the Jim Crow laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States was in full effect this was not the case in the Northern states. By 1945, more than 1.2 million African Americans would be serving in Europe, and the Pacific African American though these soldiers were placed in segregated units the prior to 1941 these men would have been trained as bakers, cooks or in other non-combat service roles. 

The American Military would desegregate until 1948 with Tumen’s executive order 9981 the groundwork had been laid by President Roosevelt.  Who prior to the United States’ entry into the second world war, signed into law Executive Order 8802. This order prohibited racial discrimination by government defence contractors. This executive order would later pave the way forward for further affirmative action in wider society. 

Though African American GI’s were seeing the start of affirmative action within the military this was not the case when they returned home from the war, though there was a degree of acceptance from those that they had served with.  Wider society was still not accepting of African Americans. Consequently, African American veterans attempting to access the Servicemen's Readjustment Bill, often referred to as the GI bill to gain homeownership were unsuccessful with banks not willing to lend to African American veterans or real estate agents wanting to sell homes in the new suburban developments to African Americans. These GI’s also face restrictions on accessing tertiary education, unlike their white counterparts due to limited places within African American colleges or other colleges simply not admitting African American students.  Returning African American GIs were optimistic that their lives would improve as would their position in society through being aware that this may take further action on their behalf.

During the second world war America experienced a finical boom with the seeds of women’s liberation planted due to the experiences of women entering the labour force and the ideals of civil rights beginning to take form with Roosevelt’s executive order banning discrimination on the grounds of colour and race though it would take another seven years for the Military to desegregate it would take American society until the 1954 Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ending segregation of schools to experience desegregation at a societal level and the birth of the civil rights movement. 

Though for the American Japanese the second world war would come to have an entirely different meaning and a more negative connotation as they themselves were oppressed throughout the second world war due to the attack on Pearl Harbour. As a result of the Imperial Japanese Navy attack on Pearl Harbour, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066.  Authorizing the removal of any or all people from Military areas “as deemed necessary or desirable.” The US. Military then classified the entire West Coast as a Military area. Setting in motion an unprecedented internment of Japanese Americans and those of Japanese descent who had lived primarily on the West Coast.  As officially American Japanese were now an alien enemy approximately 122,000 men, women, and children were sent to internment camps across the six western states and Arkansas. Though of these Japanese Americans interned were from the west coast Japanese Americans from Alaska and the western parts of Oregon and Washington states were not detained and lived as non-aliens with restrictions on their liberty.   

The Result

As a result of the executive order American Japanese on the west coast and Hawaii lost property, businesses and more importantly, they had been deprived of their liberty and their identity as Americans.    Later the American Japanese experience of concentration camps and the oppression they suffered they would be compared to the Jews of Europe and the African American communities by groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), who were the only civil rights groups to publicly speak out about the interments in the early years of the war.  

While for the majority of Americans, yes, the second world war was a good war making this title of the Good War appropriate for the majority. This was due to the financial boom that America experienced during the war years  for America the second world war was indeed a good war for the American people, despite the loss of human life, it was the seeds of women’s liberation and civil rights that had been planted thought-out the war years period of financial growth that had pulled America out of the great depression that cements this view in the American mindset.  

Works Cited

1. Romer, C. D. (1992) “What Ended the Great Depression?” The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, 52(4), pp. 757–784.

2. Robert J. Samuelson, (2002), The Concise Encyclopaedia of Economics, Great Depression, https://www.econlib.org/library/Enc1/GreatDepression.html

3. ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES of WAR on the U.S. ECONOMY, 2011, Institute for Economics & Peace. http://economicsandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/The-Economic-Consequences-of-War-on-US-Economy_0.pdf  

4. Women & World War II, Susan M. Hartmann, The Home Front and Beyond: American Women in the 1940s (Boston: Twayne Publishers1982). https://www.msudenver.edu/camphale/thewomensarmycorps/womenwwii/

5. McEuen M. A, (Jun 2016), Women, Gender, and World War II, Oxford Research Encyclopaedia of American History. https://oxfordre.com/americanhistory/abstract/10.1093/acrefore/9780199329175.001.0001/acrefore-9780199329175-e-55?rskey=6SlNWB&result=6 

6. Folmsbee, Stanley J. "The Origin of the First "Jim Crow" Law." The Journal of Southern History 15, no. 2 (1949): 235-47. doi:10.2307/2197999.

7. Mormino, Gary R. "Gi Joe Meets Jim Crow: Racial Violence and Reform in World War II Florida." The Florida Historical Quarterly 73, no. 1 (1994): 23-42. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.canterbury.ac.nz/stable/30148725.

8. Taylor D.A. (1989) Affirmative Action and Presidential Executive Orders. In: Affirmative Action in Perspective. Recent Research in Psychology. Springer, New York, NY 

9. Herbold, Hilary. "Never a Level Playing Field: Blacks and the GI Bill." The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, no. 6 (1994): 104-08. doi:10.2307/2962479.

10. Onkst, David H. "First a Negro... Incidentally a Veteran": Black World War Two Veterans and the G. I. Bill of Rights in the Deep South, 1944-1948." Journal of Social History 31, no. 3 (1998): 517-43. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.canterbury.ac.nz/stable/3789713.

11. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/347/483/

12. Greenberg, Cheryl. "Black and Jewish Responses to Japanese Internment." Journal of American Ethnic History 14, no. 2 (1995): 3-37. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27500003.

13. Executive Order 9066, February 19, 1942; General Records of the Unites States Government; Record Group 11; National Archives.

14. Daniels, Roger. "Incarceration of the Japanese Americans: A Sixty-Year Perspective." The History    Teacher 35, no. 3 (2002): 297-310. doi:10.2307/3054440. 

15. Daniels, Roger. "Incarceration of the Japanese Americans: A Sixty-Year Perspective. Pp 354" The History Teacher 35, no. 3 (2002): 297-310. doi:10.2307/3054440.

16. Greenberg, Cheryl. "Black and Jewish Responses to Japanese Internment." Journal of American Ethnic History 14, no. 2 (1995): 3-37. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.canterbury.ac.nz/stable/27500003.