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US History: World War II & Aftermath (1935 - 1949)

Updated on November 19, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years' experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history, and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.

Cartoonist Talburt, in the Pittsburgh PA Press
Cartoonist Talburt, in the Pittsburgh PA Press

The New Deal and WWII

This is a political joke from 1935, handed down through the generations via old newspaper clippings and word of mouth:

Socialism: You own two cows, so you give one to your neighbor.

Communism: You give both cows to the government and the government gives you back some milk.

Fascism: You keep both cows, but the government takes your milk, and sells some of it back to you.

New Deal: You shoot both cows and milk the government.

This type of joke divided Republicans and Democrats more fully into extreme opposite camps, one wanting more to help the less fortunate and the other wanting more for people to help themselves, despite their circumstances. The parties have maintained much of this distance into the 21st century.

During and after the presidential administration of FDR, some naysayers claimed that "He made an awful lot of lazy people" with his helping programs. Whether or not that is true, he did save many lives by providing food and work, among other necessities. Other voices called him a savior of sorts, creating jobs and preventing masses of people from dying of starvation.

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Artist Douglas Granville Chandor painted this detail in 1945.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Artist Douglas Granville Chandor painted this detail in 1945.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Artist Douglas Granville Chandor painted this detail in 1945. | Source

The Last Three-Term President

President Roosevelt was the last president in the US to serve three terms. In truth, he was elected to a fourth presidential term, but died in 1945 before he could serve.

This is the longest US Presidency in the history of the nation (1933 - 1945), but does not approach the length of some foreign regimes, like Fidel Castro's term as head of the nearby Cuban government, which lasted from 1958 to 2008.

While FDR could have served 16 years and did serve for 12, Fidel Castro served for a full 50 years.

FDR served with three Vice Presidents as well, including John Garner, Henry Wallace, and Harry S. Truman, who became the next President.

Highlights of the Roosevelt Presidency:

  • The New Deal took affect in the first 100 days of the first Presidential term.
  • Prohibition of alcoholic drinks was repealed.
  • The Social Security Act of 1935 created a retirement income.
  • The Wagner Act.
  • Hitler's invasion of Poland.
  • USA gave much needed assistance to U.S. allies in military equipment.
  • Declared war on Japan on 12/08/1941, a day after their attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Japanese government officials were meeting at the White House at the same time of the attack.
  • Instituted Japanese interment camps for detaining any Japanese in America, even those who were US citizens, including all their descendants living in America. Famous detainees these camps included actors George Takei and Pat Morita. This internment occurred despite the fact that the US military itself included Japanese and Japanese-American personnel, including 19,000 US soldiers. In the 21st century, Takei produced a theater production about the experience.

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George Takei at the Phoenix Comicon in Phoenix, Arizona. Pat Morita in 1971.
George Takei at the Phoenix Comicon in Phoenix, Arizona.
George Takei at the Phoenix Comicon in Phoenix, Arizona. | Source
 Pat Morita in 1971.
Pat Morita in 1971. | Source

Executive Order 9066

Executive Order 9066 of the President required the incarceration of 110,000 Japanese Americans. Some 46 years after the end of the war, the US government officially apologized to the families of these people and paid reparations to make amends. Sadly, over 55,000 of the detainees were children. About 70% of the whole group of people were US citizens. Many lost their homes and businesses while interned.

Labor Unions Saved Lives

A Summary of the Wagner Act

  1. Employees have the right to form labor organizations in order to bargain collectively for rights and benefits.
  2. Employers are not:
  • To interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees regarding their unions.
  • To dominate or interfere with labor organizations or contribute financial or other support to them.
  • To discriminate against the hire or tenure of employment; or, terms or conditions of employment with regard to the roles of labor organizations:
  • To fire or discriminate against an employee, because he or she has filed charges or given testimony under The Wagner Act.
  • To refuse to bargain collectively with the union representatives of their employees.

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Surplus Commodities Program, 1936
Surplus Commodities Program, 1936
Surplus Commodities Program, 1936 | Source
Eleanor Roosevelt at the United Nations in 1947.
Eleanor Roosevelt at the United Nations in 1947. | Source

The Fair Deal

Harry S. Truman speaking to Congress in 1947.
Harry S. Truman speaking to Congress in 1947. | Source

President Harry S. Truman. 1945 - 1949

Vice President Truman became President of the US when FDR died shortly after his election to an unprecedented fourth term.

Truman witnessed Japan refuse to surrender after VE-Day (Victory in Europe) Truman ordered the devastating atomic bombs dropped onto Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a result. These cities were leveled and Japan surrendered. Many Japanese survivors suffered cancerous conditions and some radiation-produced genetic mutations that passed to their offspring.

In 1947, the United Nations Charter was signed. During the same year, the 22nd Amendment was activated in order to reduce the maximum number of US presidential terms allowable to 2 full terms or 8 years.

President Truman sought to expand New Deal initiatives and his plans were renamed The Fair Deal, especially in regards to fair labor practices. He aided Turkey and Greece in withstanding Soviet attacks under the Truman Plan and aided Europe in war recovery efforts through the Marshall Plan. Japan was also provided with recovery assistance.

Read more about the work of Truman and how he stated many times: "The Buck Stops Here."

Old "Music Video" of Jimmy Durante Promoting NRA

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS


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