The need for more laborers, soldiers, and support for the American cause during World War II dramatically altered American identity. However, at the time society was seemingly becoming more inclusive, some constitutionally questionable decisions were made that also altered the United States. Overall, World War II changed the face of the United States and set into motion movements that would transform what it meant to be an American in the decades to come.
As war seemed inevitable, Americans were called to factories to begin the process of rebuilding American military power and to also bolster America’s only free ally, Great Britain. Most factories employed white men exclusively as most unionized jobs were held by whites. As America seemed to be preparing for war A. Philip Randolph, president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, started a movement to allow African Americans to gain access to jobs preparing for the war effort. Mr. Randolph threatened a “March on Washington” if “loyal Negro citizens” were not granted the right to work in the common effort to defeat Nazi Germany (Doc. 1). President Franklin Roosevelt responded with an executive order to require that all industries with government contracts hire African Americans. As the United States entered the war, the call for soldiers increased, and millions of men volunteered to fight to defeat Germany and Japan, including African Americans. While still having to serve in segregated units that had white officers, thousands of African American men served proudly. An example of their ability to fight well was demonstrated by the all-black Tuskegee Airmen who flew many missions with distinction (Doc. 5). Although inequality lasted for the duration of the war, the foundations for a modern civil rights movement were being created as acceptance of African Americans into traditional roles in the military began to extend to other aspects of American life.
Women began to change their role in American society to one in which they would be looked upon as more of an equal to men. As the war progressed and more men went off to serve in the military, more women were required to take their place in factories. “Rosie the Riveter” became an American icon during the war, where she demonstrated her devotion to the cause to defeat the Axis Powers (Doc. 3). African American women made great strides in society as they left their traditional service jobs as maids and washer-women and also took the role of Rosie. Women also joined the military in the WACS, WAVES, and WASPS, and although they usually served in clerical positions, they were able to free more men to fight in the war effort. After the war ended, many women remained on the job as their husbands returned home and took advantage of the GI Bill and went to college. Women remaining on the job led to an evolution of a society with dual-income homes. Women’s identity as Americans thus was changing, as they became breadwinners and also gained respect as equals.
While African Americans and women were becoming more identified as equals and as “Americans,” Japanese Americans were forced to lose what little American identity they had gained. Executive order 9066, signed by FDR after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, forced thousands of Nisei and Issei to be sent to detention centers (Doc. 2). Families were forced to live in limited quarters with no freedoms. This action was declared constitutional by the Supreme Court in the 1944 decision Korematsu v. U.S. as the fear of espionage and sabotage seemed to be very real in places like California after America was attacked by Japan (Doc. 6). Therefore, although African Americans and women were beginning to take on the identity as full citizens, Americans of Japanese descent did not.
As the constitutionality of the detention of a group of Americans was determined, the constitutionality of censorship was not. During World War II, Americans gave up some of the freedoms that identified them as Americans; for example, the U.S. mail was censored to potentially protect the well-being of American troops overseas (Doc. 4). Americans also temporarily lost the freedom to buy as much of certain products through rationing.
For the duration of World War II, American identity changed. Groups traditionally not granted full rights as citizens were gaining more respect from those who had had rights and power since the inception of the United States. Within twenty years of the conclusion of the war, African Americans and women had made legal gains that led them to equality; even Japanese Americans had made headway to a semblance of equality. And as the war ended, Americans expected their freedoms to be restored. While Americans held proudly to their identity, it was clear that they were willing to give up some of the ideals they held as part of their identity and were also willing to expand the scope of who was considered an American during a time of national emergency.
ID#: 1450800 World War I Essay World War 1, occurring between the years 1914 to 1918, was very devastating for Europe. The countries there, among other places, suffered millions of dollars of damage and hundreds of millions of losses, including jobs, homes, and lives. The United States, however, joined this war in 1917, and it had a significant impact on this country for the month that it continued. Politically, civil liberties helped to keep the country in line. Socially, women’s rights, labor rights, and the role of African Americans flourished during wartime, which helped this country in the long run. Economically, prohibition helped to garner more time to help with war preparations. Thus, America’s involvement in the war was politically, socially, and economically invested. Politically, civil liberties were a big impact in the United States during this time. Not only were the Germans discriminated against in every way, but many leaders and associates were prosecuted as well. Many people complained because they felt that these prosecutions and discriminations were bending, if not breaking, the First Amendment. However, the Supreme Court ruled in 1919 that this amendment can be revoked if there is a “clear and present danger” to the nation stemming because of it. Socially, the role of the African American flourished. During the war, tens of thousands of African Americans migrated to the North to find employment. The problem with this migration was that many of them moved into previously all-white