Mobilization and the Home Front

World War Two

The Military

When the Japanese decided to attack Pearl Harbor on December 7th, they woke up a sleeping beast; America. From when war was declared after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 to the year of 1942, the United States military had swelled greatly. The Navy had swollen from 300,000 to 600,000, the Army from 1.4 million to 3 million, and the Marines from 54,000 to 150,000. These numbers included 300,000 Mexican Americans, 25,000 Native Americans, and 1 million African Americans. The African Americans were in segregated units, and those units became some of the most decorated of the war.

In the Pacific Theater, the Americans had a tough fight against the Japanese. Japan had superior weapons and a well trained, highly motivated Army. The Japanese believed that to surrender was to shame one's family and one's self and would therefore fight to the death, creating a vicious monster of an army for the Americans to oppose.

In the European Theater, on June 6th, 1944, Operation Overlord took place. Allied troops stormed the beaches of Nazi-occupied France in the largest amphibian invasion in history. Approximately 4,500 Allied personnel were killed on D-Day, as it is commonly known as. Throughout the war years, America's army had grown and strengthened to become one of the top military powers in the world.

Picture to the Right) American Army.

Picture Below) Invasion of Normandy.

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American Industry

As the military began to gear up for war, the United States industry did as well. Factories were converted by the WPB to create war materials. Henry Ford's factories produced 8,000 B-24 Liberators or "Flying Fortresses". Henry Kaiser cranked out merchant ships in four and a half days each, ships that had taken a year or so to complete. In other factories around the nation, bombers were coming off the line every five minutes. Each year, the goals were raised for the factories and each year the goals were met. Thanks to the massive defense spending, the American economy pulled out of the Great Depression and the new need for workers to produce war-time materials increased so that every worker had a job.

America also instated the Lend-Lease Act, which allowed any nation to purchase weapons with cash and transport them with their own ships. This act was seemingly neutral, but in fact was very much the opposite; Allied Power Great Britain had control of the waterways and the British economy was in much better shape than that of Germany and many other nations ruined by the Treaty of Versailles and the collapse of the American economy on Black Thursday. Without the American industry to pump out war materials, the outcome of World War Two may have been significantly different.

Picture 1) Bombers on the assembly line.

Picture 2) Tanks on assembly line.

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The Role of Women on the American Home Front

When the work force was depleted when the call to arms was issued, employers had to look to new, relatively untried sources of labor. When their husbands and sons and brothers went off to war, nearly 35,000 women responded. Many found jobs in heavy industry, shipbuilding, constructing aircraft, tanks and many other vital war materials. Seventy-five percent of these women were married and sixty percent were over the age of 35. The Women's Army Corp provided clerical workers, truck drivers, instructors, and lab technicians in 1943 as well as many other jobs formerly occupied by men. 57,000 nurses went and served overseas for the casualties of the European and Pacific Theaters; out of those 57,000, 600 received medals. Even after the war, women continued to work in the American industry, a trend that continues even today.

Picture 1) Rosie the Riveter Propaganda Poster.

Picture 2) Women assembling shells.

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Home Front Sacrifices

As the men overseas were sacrificing their lives, many sacrifices on the home front were needed to help the war be successful. When all the women joined the nation's work force the government saw the need to spend 50 million dollars on day cares for the children. Instead of taking advantage of the day cares, women preferred to leave their children in the care of relatives or close friends. Tin and rubber drives collected the necessary materials for tanks, guns, etc. Like Elvis of the 50's, Frank Sinatra was the pop culture star of the war years. Kept out of the military because of a busted eardrum that resulted from a difficult birth. Like Frank Sinatra's music, propaganda united the nation with an intense hatred for the Nazis and Japanese. For those who had sons, husbands or brothers in the military, everyone dreaded when a man would show up at their door with a telegram announcing the death of a loved one. Gold stars in windows represented a family member killed in action. America was also united once again when Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed away one month before VE Day (victory in Europe). Vice President Harry Truman had a tough job ahead to instill trust in the American people.

Rationing of numerous everyday items such as meat, gas and coffee were common. Citizens were encouraged to plant "victory gardens" and grow their own food to help the war cause. The time of rationing and sacrifices helped unite the nation as one mind.

Picture 1) Propaganda poster showcasing the gold star of a KIA family member.

Picture 2) Poster promoting Victory Gardens.

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Japanese Americans Loose Civil Liberties

During the war years, Japanese Americans were seen as enemies of the USA. On the West Coast, where a Japanese invasion was feared, it was believed that the Japanese Americans living there would assist any invasion. Order 9066 cleared the way for Japanese Americans on the West Coast to be relocated from their homes and put into internment camps. There was ten camps around the country, mostly in the mid-west. These included the following: Tule Lake, Manzanar, Poston, Gila River, Topaz, Minidoka, Heart Mountain, Granada, Rohwer, and Jerome. Many important figures in the government, such as J. Edgar Hoover, were against the internment of the Japanese Americans. Hoover stated that the camps were a result of wartime hysteria. It was not until 1988 that the United States government apologized for Order 9066, which at the time they had declared a wartime necessity. There was no Japanese invasion during the course of the war, so the removal of the Japanese Americans from their homes.

Picture 1) A flier showing Order 9066.

Picture 2) Japanese Americans waiting in line at an internment camp.

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