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Social Impacts of World War II

Armi Ahmad Bethan Phillips Emma Mann Ellese Jaddou Soline Skrzypczak Aakash Beesabathuni

Table of Contents Role of Women


The Home Front


African Americans and Minorities 7 Japanese-Americans


Propaganda and Censorship




Women in World II

During the war, many products like vehicles, weapons, ammunition, uniforms and more were needed. This created a demand for jobs which called for all workers- even women. But men were against this, thinking that women belonged in their homes. Soon in 1942, a poll showed that 60 percent of Americans were in favor of women working during wartime and on May 15 of that year, the WAAC (Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps) was formed to give women the benefit of an official status and salary. With a few hours of training, women were capable to take the place of a man. Most were recruited to work through neighborhood posters. The posters included faces of strong women and tips on how they can earn a job to possibly help their husband. But the most helpful campaign was Rosie the Riveter, a fictional character who became a symbol for war work and how women could make a difference. With these campaigns, the female workforce increased by 6 million. They had jobs such as crane operators, toolmakers, shell loaders, aircraft makers and lumberjacks. They also helped on the battlefield as nurses.

Even though a woman could work, they were constantly discriminated against. They made less pay than men, their facilities that they worked in were in poor condition, and Americans went on constant hate strikes against the idea of them working. African American women were also discriminated against. They were usually the last to be accepted and were not welcome to work as nurses since they were only allowed to treat African American patients. Those who were able to get a job, worked as welders. Although women struggled to prove themselves, the war gave them a way to provide for their family, a sense of independence, and a start to becoming equal to the common man.

The Home Front Life was ever changing for those overseas during the war. Men faced challenges day in and day out while fighting abroad. There were many hardships and tribulations met by the American people at home. World War II enveloped many aspects of routine life. Work environments and conditions, food and fuel, as well as family life and structure were all features that were changed. 12 million men were conscripted in World War II (Wright). Fathers, uncles, brothers, and cousins were all absent from the family in this time. Due to this, mothers were left on their own to raise their children and work. It was not unusual to see families come together for this reason. Children would spend time with neighbors while mothers were out running errands or working. Marriages were often rushed because young couples were eager to be wed before the man had to leave and go to war. Though the war did bring sadness to the hearts of many (note that there were approximately 418,500 World War II related deaths to US citizens alone), it was pivotal to the economic growth following the Great Depression (Danzer). During the worst portion of the Great Depression almost 25% of the American population was unemployed. With the agricultural, industrial, and military need being so great, just 1.2% was unemployed (Wright).

When you go shopping at the grocery store you are most likely able to get whatever you want and within your financial means. Meaning to say, what you buy and how much is up to you. During the war, however, people had to use ration coupon books. These were issued by the Office of Price Administration and started in 1942 (Wright). These coupons were needed to buy meat, cheese, butter, milk, eggs, coffee, canned goods, clothing, car tires, and oil. Rationing was beneficial for the troops because they were able to have access to material goods that otherwise would have been consumed by the American home front. Unfortunately, as many American consumers either could not get what they wanted/needed as much as before, the black market was developed (Wright). Recycling was also popularized by the slogan “use it up, wear it out. Make it do, or do without!� (Wright). In the same field as rationing were Victory Gardens. Americans started to plant and grow their own food so farmers could give almost all their crop to the troops. About 20 million were planted, including a few at the White House (Wright). Victory Gardens became a point of pride at schools, prisons, the rooftops and window sills of apartment complexes, homes, and the workplace. By the end of the war 40% of all vegetables in the US were from these gardens, equating to about 10 million tons of vegetables

African Americans and Minorities World War II prompted a call for more racial equality. African Americans created the Double V Campaign. This campaign called for a victory against the Japanese overseas as well as an end to racial prejudice. The editor of the Pittsburgh Courier wrote: "We call upon the President and Congress to declare war on Japan and against racial prejudice in our country. Certainly we should be strong enough to whip both of them." (Bailey, Beth and David Farber). Franklin D. Roosevelt and his forces decided only one of the wars would be fought, continuing the use of segregated forces. The official reasoning is paraphrased, as “we don’t want to upset anybody during this time of duress or upset public opinion”. This was a globally shared opinion as no government had concrete statements on equality laws, thus the USA was divided the government bowed to local customs. Enforcing certain laws in certain parts of the country.

During World War II, African Americans thought their fighting for the USA would result in equal citizenship but were sadly mistaken. After returning home many African Americans and other minorities (mostly Latin and Native Americans) had trouble finding work up to their normal standards. Because of this, up to 1.5 million soldiers stayed in Britain, where there was no segregation ("The Change in Attitudes towards the Racial Question in the USA"). This sometimes led to tension between black and white Americans on British soil. Later in the war President Truman introduced idea of equality into congress (1946 Fair Deal). Which included ideas like no tax to vote (did not succeed), laws against lynching (did not succeed), and a desegregated army (did succeed).

Labor demand drew more than 300,000 migrants to Detroit (Loyola, Mario). In June 1943 three blacks were promoted to work alongside whites in the Packard plant, roughly 25,000 whites left on strike. During the strike a voice outside the plant reportedly shouted, “I’d rather see Hitler and Hirohito win than work beside a n***** on the assembly line.” The race riots of 1943 showed the tension that had risen with the influx of migrants and African Americans. It left 30 dead, and lasted 3 days before authorities gained control (The Change in Attitudes towards the Racial Questions in the USA).


Three months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a new government order to imprison all of the Japanese Americans living on the west coast. One of the biggest reasons that people accepted this was because of the racist attitudes of America making many people believe that Japanese Americans were devious and disloyal. Another reason for the imprisonment was because of the fear caused by the Pearl Harbor attack. The Japanese were not treated well in these imprisonment camps. They were usually forced to leave their houses in very short periods of time and were brought to live in horse stables or other crowded, dirty places. Many Japanese families had to share small rooms with other families and the bathrooms/food areas were small and far from the living areas. Also, these people weren’t allowed to bring much with them, so they had to leave behind their better lives to live in these camps even though they did nothing wrong.

The camps were first controlled by the military but then by the War Relocation Authority (WRA). The WRA let some Japanese Americans have the chance to be set free, because they feared growing anger and permanent imprisonment of them. They allowed release of some prisoners for farming work and to get jobs. Another way was by joining the military. By the end of the war, almost all of the Japanese Americans had been in the military.

After WWII was over America had imprisoned many Japanese Americans, leading to some consequences. This made the American political leaders/structure look bad, because they were fighting against the racist problems in Europe, while those problems were present in America. Also, America had to give back twenty thousand dollars to each surviving families of the Japanese Americans.

Censorship and Propaganda

Censorship has occurred many times throughout American history. The first documented moment was during the Civil War in Prisoner of War camps. In World War II the censorship was much more widespread. For example it was very common for a common soldier's letters home to be censored. The reasoning for the censorship was that the government did not want any potentially dangerous information to end up in the enemies’ hands. Things that were censored included what division the soldier was in, the location of a base, and any actions that showed weakness in a soldier including announcing fear. Censorship was not a secret action that the government took, it was commonly known to the general public and soldier alike. Even though soldiers knew about censorship they still attempted to write on the edges of envelopes to truly communicate with their families. After a soldier’s letter was censored they would be talked to by their superior and simply be asked not to repeat the action again.

In the beginning of World War 2, many Americans were wary of propaganda, as it was a tool of dictatorships. But in 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Office of War Information (Danzer). The job of this new office was to spread patriotism in the home front through radio, posters, newspapers and even Hollywood (BBC). The United States government made propaganda posters mainly against the German and Japanese. They pushed for the American people to see the Nazis and German people in the same light. Caricatures of the enemy leaders were made to ridicule and demean them.

Along with ridiculing enemies, many war posters glorified Americas’ allies as defenders of democracy. For example, the Englishman was depicted as a fighter for freedom and the Chinese were seen as oppressed by Japanese tyranny. War bond posters were also popular. The government tried to convince all citizens to help the war effort by buying a bond to pay for military equipment. The people would be paid back by the government later. Propaganda was a key tool in gathering American support for World War II.

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Loyola, Mario. "Houston, we have a solution: a tale of two cities." National Review 19 Sept. 2011: 41. U.S. History in Context. Web. 4 Mar. 2014. Packard [Motor Car Company] Auto Plant, Detroit, Mich. 1900-1910. Photograph. Library of Congress, Detroit, Michigan. Passengers Climb from Rear of Streetcar Stopped by Mob during Race Riots in Detroit, Michigan. 1943. Photograph. Library of Congress, Detroit, Michigan. PBS. "American Experience." PBS. PBS. Web. 04 Mar. 2014. "The Change in Attitudes towards the Racial Question in the USA." BBC News.

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