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Essay: The Good War: How World War II Transformed America and its People

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  • Subject area(s): Sample essays
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  • Published: 1 April 2019*
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  • Words: 1,395 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 6 (approx)
  • Tags: World War II

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World War II will be remembered forever for it shaped millions of lives throughout the world, even decades following its end. Historian Studs Terkel took storytelling on another level when he decided to interview various individuals on their firsthand experiences during this period of time. He titled it The Good War, for many Americans viewed themselves as liberators fighting on the field or at home for a war that overall benefited their lives and others involved. These Americans believed the world is better in result of this just war that lasted six years. Initially, it is ironic to view World War II as being a “Good War,” considering it took the lives of more than 80 million military troops and civilians around the world, with approximately half a million of that being American lives. However, in the grand scheme of things, the second World War offered a new life to many Americans during and after the war. It helped transform the American culture and economy, allowed for advancement in technology, and created more opportunities for all Americans, especially women. Regardless of the pain and suffering many faced in result of the war due to lost lives, overall, World War II was a war that brought growth to the nation and its people, making the term “Good War,” fitting overall.

America was going through a great deal during the time between the two World Wars, from seeing economic growth to a complete turnaround with the stock market crash, which caused suffering to many families and businesses. Around the 1920s, the economy was on a continuous growth, which meant Americans were making a great deal of money from the stock markets and the wages of workers were increasing (pg.781). There were various opportunities for economic growth for individuals and businesses in America, which was needed for it was post first World War. However, America and the rest of the world was suddenly struck with tragic news of the crash of the stock market, which signified the start of The Great Depression on October of 1929. This was not something people saw coming for they were rebuilding from the last World War, and the economy was a positive light in their growth. This caused many people to lose their jobs and great amounts of money, along with businesses being forced to close their doors to the public for good. The public began to lose faith in the economy and blamed the president at the time, Herbert Hoover for their current economic state; which is why President Roosevelt was elected because he spoke of new strategies to get American out of its Depression (pg.789). His policies did help with the suffering of Americans; however, the Great Depression did not end for America until their entrance into the second World War. American’s involvement in the war benefited the economy because of their needed aid to other countries. America’s economy was boosting from the demand they were receiving for their advancement in weaponry and transportation from other countries who was fighting in the war. In result of this high demand, the economy of the United States was slowly growing and getting back to where it was prewar times.

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on October 1941, America entered World War II signifying the changes every family was about to face. Americans united together as a country to put all their efforts to coming out strong in defense for the nation. All their home front efforts and commitment were focused on how to aid the troops out on the battle field [1]. This meant that American resources were prioritized to go to the military, forcing families to make sacrifices. For example, meal donations were being made, along with clothing and gas were being rationed. Each family received ration stamps, which were used when buying their household necessities (pg. 874). These were significant because it evenly distributed American resources and supplies to each family in order to make sure that the American military was getting their maximum amount of goods to keep fighting in the war. The supplies that were rationed during the second World War included meat, sugar, fat, butter, vegetables, clothing, and fuel (pg. 875). Every individual’s sacrifices at home allowed for advancement of the nation in the warzone.

With thousands of American men who left home to fight for their country, women were forced to step up in the workplace to keep the nation running. Women’s efforts were needed more than ever, which allowed them to prove their capabilities were beyond the typical household roles they were restricted to prewar time (pg. 875). This opened up new opportunities for women during and beyond the war, because their skills were showcased in environments only men were allowed in prior to the war. Therefore, this brought a lot of attention from the War Labor Union to deal with the gender inequality in the workplace. Women were proving that their work was just as valuable as the men that came before them, so whether the work was done by a man or woman was irrelevant [2]. For instance, there was a clear gap in the wage rate between men and women even though it was the same exact work that was being done. Ultimately, the board mandated for equal pay for men and women holding the same position and performing the same tasks.

As World War II was still going on, there was a fear of postwar depression for the nation because for the past six years, the nation put in all its efforts to the battle they faced together. The National Resources Planning Board began preparation for programs to aid men and women who served in the armed services to prevent postwar depression stemming from unemployment [3]. As a result, the American Legion introduced the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act to Congress before the world war ended. They desired to make sure veterans were receiving the proper aid to continue their education in school or college; therefore, this act provided approximately eight million veterans with tuition, subsistence, books, supplies, equipment, and counseling to help them postwar [3]. With the act allowing veterans to get back on their feet, many of them built a good life for themselves and their families. For example, World War II veterans bought 20 percent of the new homes built after the war, which was beneficial to the economy [3]. This economic turn for the United States continued, guaranteeing the nation to not face new depressions anytime soon.  

The six years of World War II will always be a historic time period for the world and America’s entrance in the war will remain one of the most memorable with the Pearl Harbor attack. With any war, there are tragedies due to the amount of lives lost from all the military troops and civilians of all countries involved. Studs Terkel sat down with numerous individuals and interviewed them about their World War II experiences, whether that was fighting on the battle fields or supporting their countries on their homeland. It gave the public a firsthand look into how many Americans viewed their efforts in support of the second World War. He titled his work The Good War, for the Americans he spoke to viewed WWII as a benefit to their lives and the nation. Many would question how a war could be classified as good, for wars bring heartache to families all across the world. However, the United States was suffering a great deal prior to the war with the crash of the stock market and cause of the Great Depression. First, the war allowed Americans an opportunity to rebuild and create a better economy through their aid to other countries with advanced weaponry and transportation. There was not only growth in the economy but a growth in the American culture. Second, World War II was an opportunity for women to showcase their capabilities and skills through their bravery of stepping into roles only men were allowed to be in prior to the war. And lastly, the United States created numerous opportunities for their people postwar. This meant that Americans were at a better state than they were prewar time. Those involved in the war saw great opportunities to grow further as individuals as well as a nation. It united the country more than ever to fight for each other and their loves for their nation.

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