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Essay: How American History Wars Shaped our Society – The Spanish-American War, WW1, WW2 and Vietnam War

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War has shaped our society in many ways throughout American history. The Spanish-American war was a brief period that included a few battles. This war had a major impact that signaled to the rest of the world that the US was now a major player. The war demonstrated a US move towards imperialism. The Vietnam War also held a major role in American history. Many Americans describe the Vietnam War as the war that killed trust. Vietnam changed the way we look at politics in a way that we became aware of our leaders lying about the war: the fabricated Gulf of Tonkin incident, the number of “pacified provinces” and the body counts.

   Two major wars occurred between the Spanish-American war and the end of the Vietnam War, WW1 and WW2. In 1917 the U.S. entered into WW1 under President Woodrow Wilson. On April 4 the U.S. Senate voted in support of the measure to declare war on Germany. Because of Germany’s attacks on passenger and merchant ships, this became the primary motivation behind Wilson’s decision to declare war on Germany. Most Americans were worried about the involvement in WW1 because they had kept out of foreign affairs thus far. WW1 also brought a new kind of intolerance to foreigners living in America at the time. Anti-immigration laws slowed immigration down to what it had been before. WW1 also increased other types of intolerance, a conspiracy was something that Eugene Debs was thrown into prison for. He spoke against the constitutionality of the draft. The 19th amendment guaranteed women the right to vote. Many men had opposed this amendment because they believed women would make prohibition their number one priority. Some say that WW1 killed the progressive movement because Wilson had convinced the American people that the Democrats should make up the election a “solemn referendum” on the League of Nations. During 1919 the largest wave of labor strikers started to appear and turn against unfair labor laws. During the roaring ’20s the Republican Party controlled the presidency and Congress, this era helped reshape the Republican Party as the party of small government. The US economy soared during the ’20s as did the value of stocks on the exchange. Technology also had a huge role during the ’20s. Automobile production grew from 1.5 to 4.8 million and by 1929 half of all-American families owned a car. People started going to the movies more and buying radios. The standardization of consumer products and entertainment created a more uniform American culture.

   WW2 was the second major war that impacted American society. The US was drawn into WW2 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The US declared war on Japan, while Germany and Italy declared war on the US. One of the first major effects on society during this time was the number of men that were sent off to fight in the war. More women had to go to work in factories because of the large amounts of men that were sent off overseas. Another major impact for society was the increased use of technology in developing stronger and better weapons which lead to the development of the first atomic bomb.  In January of 1942, FDR authorized the creation of the Manhattan Project which developed and researched the production of the first nuclear weapons that we used to defeat the Japanese. Another major impact of WW2 on American society was that the United States took on a more global role economically, politically, and militarily. Because of the United States ability to develop technology and the resources they had they became a major player in the world.

When the Second World War ended in 1945, over 1.1 million African American veterans returned to civilian life, thinking that their commitment to their country would earn them the right to be treated equally. The GI Bill stated that all veterans were entitled to receiving a business or mortgage loan that would be guaranteed by the Veterans Administration, but this was not true for African American veterans. They were denied the right to get any type of loan simply because of the color of their skin. This led to the civil right movement. More black leaders began to speak out against the segregation and injustice in the US. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an American minister and activist who became the most inspirational spokesperson and leader during this time. Dr. King achieved more for African American’s in his 13 years than anyone had before. This was a major impact on American society because this started the groups of people who wanted to keep segregation in place. The main group that people know about is the KKK. They originated from a group of Confederate Army veterans who used terrorism against groups or individuals whom they opposed. America is always changing and the events that happened in this time have helped shape our society today.​

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