Stockman's History Extravaganza
The Postwar United States
THE RISE OF THE MIDDLE CLASS
With large numbers of discharged soldiers returning from the war, the nation faced a problem of assimilating these veterans back into U.S. society. To help, Congress passed the GI Bill (Servicemen’s Readjustment Act. GI stood for government issue.
The legislation provided military veterans with benefits such as jobs, money for education, training, and loans for purchasing houses. In addition, the nation experienced a population explosion known as the Baby Boom in the late 1940's and early 50's into the 60's.
The GI Bill also had lasting effects on education, prior to the war, most working class citizens did not go to college. Many returning soldiers enrolled in colleges and universities despite their social class.
In 1958, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act.
This law provided aid for education and was geared towards boosting the study of science, math, and foreign languages.
PROSPERITY AND CONSUMERISM
With the end of the war, the U.S. entered a period of great prosperity.
The nation once again became a consumer society. People bought sewing machines, washing machines, refrigerators, and a new invention; the television. The automobile industry also boomed as more and more people bought cars.
WOMEN IN SOCIETY
With the men home from the war, Rosie the Riveter was encouraged to put down her tools and return to the kitchen. A woman’s place was widely believed to be that of a housewife. Her purpose was to raise kids, clean the house, cook the meals, and be devoted to her husband while remaining pretty and happy. Their image was portrayed on the nation’s most popular television shows.
A NEW RED SCARE
A great fear swept across the nation in addition to fears of a nuclear war. During the Great Depression, many citizens joined the communist party or at least spoke in agreement with certain communist ideas. They felt communism offered the economic relief they needed.
In the late 1940's and 50's, the government harassed and arrested many people due to their alleged connections to the Communist Party.
GOVERNMENT POLICIES DEALING WITH COMMUNISM AND THE THREAT OF NUCLEAR WAR.
Concerned with the threat of communism, President Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947. This act helped create the CIA, their first mission was to spy on Russia.
Congress also relied on the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). It was established in 1938 to help root out communist in government and society. In 1947 a blacklist was formed in Hollywood that consisted of writers, actors and directors with suspected ties to communism.
Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy believed Communists had infiltrated high levels of government and the U.S. military. He even accused former Army Chief of Staff and Secretary of State George Marshall. Communist aggression in Korea helped McCarthy and his ideas gain popularity. However, McCarthy had to defend his views in a series of televised hearings. By the time the hearings ended in June 1954, most citizens viewed McCarthy as paranoid. It was called McCarthyism (the ideas and fears of communism is everywhere).
PREPARING FOR POSSIBLE WAR
The Cold War meant that a strong military force needed to be maintained.
The Selective Service Act allowed the government to draft young men between 18 and 26. Concerns of a nuclear strike caused President Eisenhower to strongly support the National Highway Act of 1956. The Highway Act provided improved mobility for citizens.
After WWII, mistrust of the Soviets led to the belief that the U.S. must build up and maintain a strong military force.
The changing economy and culture led to demographic changes. The western population grew and became home to the emerging post war defense industry.
More minorities migrated from southern rural areas to northern urban areas in search of work. New interstate highways made migration easier and aided population shifts that occurred after the war.