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.
Ap Us History Dbq ( When World War I Broke Out, the United States Declared Its Policy of Neutrality. to What Extent Did the United States Follow a Policy of Neutrality Between 1914 and 1917? )
1162 WordsSep 19th, 20125 Pages
United States History
Part A 1. When World War I broke out, the United States declared its policy of neutrality. To what extent did the United States follow a policy of neutrality between 1914 and 1917?
On April 6 of 1917 America officially entered WWI as an ally power after much vouching of their neutrality. Up to that point many government officials preached to America the great strategy of neutrality especially the president of the time Wilson. At the beginning of WWI in 1914 America did stick to practiced isolationists point of view but as the war progressed and German aggression increased the American extent of neutrality decreased leading to their eventual entrance into the war. Germany blamed much of Britain’s…show more content…
This effectively made it impossible to trade with Germany as Document C reinforces when reflecting on the war. The British navy was one of the strongest in the world for America to go against them would be suicide and they also depended much more on Britain for trade and economic reasons than Germany. Which meant America was to stick to their neutrality and do nothing. They continued trading to the countries they were able to and left alone the countries they could not. In the letter of secretary of state William Bryan to the Senate Committee of Foreign Relations (Document D) he implies that the U.S. is still neutral. He then goes on to explain what a tight place the U.S. is in. He addresses many of the points made in Document B and articulates why the U.S. has made some of the decisions it has and gives very convincing argument that the U.S. has had neutrality as its motivation the whole time. Germany was most likely irritated with the United States passive manner and upset that they did not come to German rescue when they still openly traded with they’re enemies and then claiming neutrality. In their eyes America’s standoffish attitude most likely justified they’re actions towards the U.S. but to the United States nothing could justify the German aggression they were going to receive as the war progressed. By 1915, the true grittiness of the war had been reached. Germany sent out a mass warning to the people in the United