The American people's lives underwent economic, political, and social transformation as a result of World Wars I and II. The war did, in fact, have a devastating effect on almost every aspect of American culture, including women and minorities. Racism enabled the emergence of hatred by bringing about racial prejudices and scrutiny of minority groups like South Eastern Europeans. The country was overcome by a wave of animosity, and the loyalty of the German immigrants was called into question. German groups and institutions had to close their doors as a result of the cultural shift. Additionally, a group known as the "Committee on Public Information (CPI)," which disseminated propaganda, published books and pamphlets that widened the hostility between the Americans and the Germans (Hyser, 2011). Unemployment and low wages became critical challenges and furthermore, some of them were laid off. The completion of employment opportunities led to racial riots and unrests which cultivated hatred. Economic growth of the nation declined, and enormous debt borrowed to finance the war made the country go into a severe financial constraint. Political tensions also set up in the nation and caused massive divisions. Government officials supported the Ku Klux Klan group, and this institutionalized racism.
Keywords: First World War, Second World War, Racism, unemployment, politics.
The Twentieth Century- WW I and WW II
How and Why America entered WW I and WW II
At the start of World War one in 1914, the United States, under President Woodrow Wilson, had maintained strict neutrality. However, Americans were angered by the Germans who were seen to be aggressors. The official trigger was the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare. In January 1917, Germany announced that it would lift all the restrictions on the submarine warfare, and this meant that the U-boat commanders of Germany were given the authority to sink ships that were believed to give aid to the Allies (Hyser, 2011). The focus was directed to the ships which were crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Canada and the United States. The first ship to be a victim of the policy was Housatonic, an American cargo ship which was sunk by the Germans on February 3, 1917. This significantly changed the position of the American, and in the spring of 1917, the idea of neutrality no longer seemed to hold (Berkin, 2014). The unrestricted submarine warfare of the Germans was taking its toll. Many of the American passengers and cargo were sunk, and this finally made President Wilson declare war on the Germans on April 6, 1917, and hence entered the WW I.
In the Second World War, the American nation also wanted to maintain its neutrality. However, Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, made the United States declare war on Japan and Germany. America wanted to prevent Japan from taking the Asian Empire. In an effort to do this, America placed an embargo on the sale of scrap and oil to Japan, and this made the Japanese nation attack the US Pearl Harbor so as to make America stop its interference in its mission to conquer the Asian empire (Berkin, 2014). President Roosevelt declared war on the aggressive Axis powers after the detrimental destruction caused at the harbor. The death toll was disturbing, and the number of casualties was about 3,500.
How World War I affected the Social and Political Landscapes
Politically, The Espionage Act was ruled constitutional in Schenck vs. the United States, and this limited the freedom of speech. It was argued that some speech was a danger and threat to the security of the nation, and hence, the need to limit this liberty. The nation imprisoned people whose speech was directed to interfere with its military operations, and the citizens became active in the identification of potential treasons (Hyser, 2011). Notably, World War I tended to stifle the American political life, and the nation emerged from this fight as the world superpower. The US interventions led by President Wilson made the country become a diplomatic leader, and it was seen to be the savior of the European continent (Berkin, 2014).
The social impact of the First World War was dramatic to the American society. The fear of radicalization and race riots affected the social life. In 1919 Communist parties were established in America, and this outcome culminated in a wave of bomb attacks by anarchists. Again, a huge number of the African Americans who had moved to the northern cities during the war from the south were attacked by the white communities, and riots became a response to the rampant discrimination that had taken deep roots in the society. Immigration became a significant social problem in the US as the open door policy that was embraced before brought in millions of people into the nation (Hyser, 2011). The resultant effect of this immigration was widespread intolerance to the foreigners which continued into the 1920's. The war also led to the death of many soldiers, and this left hundreds and thousands of children orphans while numerous women were widowed. The American factories were not critically ruined compared to those in Europe, and this made the US have more industrial production. What ensued was an economic boom. In essence, the First World War gave America an industrial success, and an economic strength over its European competitor's Markets was developed overseas which helped the US recover from the economic downturns. This also created employment.
Americans who fought in the Second World War
American people that battled WW II comprised of the US military personnel. Thus included military leaders, the American army, and American Marine Corps. The naval workforces were also significant in the war together with the Pacific theater. Besides, pilots were again involved in ferrying these people, to designated places and thus played an active role. The US air force, as well as the coast guard personnel, fought in the war. The combat experiences presented to be total nightmares, and the Second World War was where all decency and humanity could be lost (Hyser, 2011). Those who fought under the devastating conditions found it challenging to adapt to normal living when they returned home. Perhaps, post-traumatic stress affected many of these people. They also faced challenges in finding jobs and also fitting into their family system.
Impact of WW II on Women and African Groups
The Second World War vitally led to changes in the gender roles. Women originally played their role as mothers and could only handle household duties. These stereotypes and the views of women being inferior subjects changed in World War II, and a revolution in the workforce was highly evident (Hyser, 2011). The number of women that became workers in organizations increased, and this was objected to sustain their families. The sharp increase in working women in the impacted on women roles. Many husbands had gone to war, and those who returned home were in critical condition, and thus, they could not take care of their families. Also, many women serve in the military and hence challenged the social norms (Berkin, 2014). Other women involved in the Women Airforce Service as pilots and new positions were also taken by women in Women's Army corps. They served overseas in specified branches such as nurses. This war also affected the African groups. After the Second World War, there was the formation of the Civil Rights Movement which protested against segregation of the blacks.
Dropping of the Bomb and the Post-war Era
The atomic bomb era was an enduring culture that attributed to the large political changes in the post-war era. America successfully managed to destroy Japan's two cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki after dropping the atomic bomb. The US entered a new period, and a popular culture immediately began to grapple with its superiority and power. The dropping of the bomb also is linked to the development of the cold war. The American nation developed vengeance over the Pearl Harbor attack, and this created animosity between the US and the Japanese nation. This bomb also made the Soviet Union speed up its development of an atomic bomb to use in the cold war. Notably, the US and the Soviet Union became the two superpowers in the post-era, and they always carried out actions that sought to seek superiority and world attention.
Berkin, C. (2014). Making America. Boston: Cengage Learning.
Hyser, R. J. (2011). Voices of the American past. Cengage Learning