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America During World War 2

Updated on August 13, 2013

The War in Europe 1939

In 1939 when war broke out in Europe, most of the American people favored neutrality for their country. At this time the United States was a country unprepared for war, they only had a small volunteer army who were ill equipped.

By the summer of 1940, it was becoming clear to America that Hitler was becoming the master of Europe and American President Theodore Roosevelt pressed for congressional action to help Great Britain and her allies.

The Selective training and Service Act 1940

In September 1940, congress passed the Selective Training and Service act that required all men between the ages of 21 and 36 register for the draft. Once registered the government would select recruits through a lottery, when selected for the draft, recruits would have to serve for a period of 12 months. The selective training and service act also contained a clause for conscientious objectors who were inducted into the land or naval forces.

The Lend Lease Programme 1940

The Lend Lease program was also passed by congress, which meant that although America would stay out of the war against the axis, they would supply the allies with defense supplies, which they would pay for when the war was over.

Attack on Pearl Harbor

The unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor brought America into WW II
The unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor brought America into WW II | Source

America at War

America's isolationist policy was destroyed at 7:53 am on December the 7th 1941 when Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbor. During the attack, the Japanese killed 2403 men and 1176 were wounded, 11 ships and 169 aircraft were also destroyed.

On the same day, "The day of infamy" Japanese aircraft also struck at Hong Kong, Guam, The Philippians, Wake Island, and Midway Island.

On the 8th of December 1941 at 4:10 pm after votes in congress and the House of Representatives America, declared war on Japan on the same day Great Britain also declared war on Japan.

On December 11th 1941, Hitler declared war on America in support of the Japanese.

America like it or not was now a major player in World War II.

A Liberty ship Being Built

A liberty ship was built in 42 days rather than the 200 days would normally take.
A liberty ship was built in 42 days rather than the 200 days would normally take. | Source

The American Arms Race WWII

With the United States entry to the war, America's Industry went into overdrive producing arms around the clock to supply their troops all around the world.

Between 1941 and 1945, America produced over 250,000 aircraft, 90,000 tanks, 350 naval destroyers and 200 submarines.

Production of arms increased so much so that the working week increased from 40 hours to 48 hours and America was making over 40% of the world’s arms.

Industrialist Henry J. Kaiser found a way to mass produce ships with prefabricated parts cutting the production of supply ships from 200 days down to just 42 days. 597 of these identical Liberty ships were launched during the war.

At a factory in Connecticut Igor Sikorsky began the world's first helicopter assembly line and a mass of federal funds were poured into a top secret project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Los Alamos, New Mexico where scientists were trying to develop the worlds first atomic bomb.

This surge in American industry put an end to "The Great Depression" millions of previously unemployed men were brought in to the national effort.

Rosie The Riveter

Rosie The Riviter became a national Icon of World War 2
Rosie The Riviter became a national Icon of World War 2 | Source

Rosie The Riveter Song

American Women in World War 2

With the armed forces, taking millions of young working men off to the war the Government began a campaign to bring women into the factories and onto the production lines, with slogans such as. "Do the job He left behind". In addition, Propaganda posters featuring "Rosie the Riveter".

Rosie was a national heroine, featured in propaganda posters and cartoons, Rosie was also portrayed in a song doing her bit for her country and in 1944, actress Jane Frazee played Rosie in a movie.

Over 6 million American Women joined the production lines during World War 2, building aircraft, Tanks, ships guns and ammunition; some women even became test pilots for American fighter planes.

Women were also urged to join the armed services, and the 200,000 who joined the forces during the war received equal pay to men in equivalent jobs for the first time.

Because the money was good, women migrated from small country towns across the United States to defense plants and military camps.

Wives and Girlfriends of soldiers were also eager to enlist because it meant that they could stay close to their men at the military camps.

With so many men an women working in close proximity, relationships began to develop and horseplay on the factory floor became a problem, some factories tried to counteract this by hiring "Dorothy Dixie’s" Mother figures who would interject on factory liaisons and offering counseling for those girls who had personal problem

Black US Marine Corps troops

Black US Marine Corps troops show their dress uniforms at Point Montford, North Carolina, about May 1943. The dress uniforms, not part of standard government issue, cost each man $54 from his pay.
Black US Marine Corps troops show their dress uniforms at Point Montford, North Carolina, about May 1943. The dress uniforms, not part of standard government issue, cost each man $54 from his pay. | Source

Black American's in World War II

With the American arms race underway and factories in full production Black people were still being refused employment, turned away from the factory gates even though they supported the war against Nazism. Racism was still a major problem in the United States.

Racism was so bad that on one occasion Black GI's who were escorting German prisoners of war were refused service on railway dining cars whilst their prisoners were allowed to eat.

Through pressure from civil rights group’s congress passed legislation in 1941, which guaranteed blacks the jobs which they had been refused earlier in the defense plants.

Although the number of black people on the Governments payroll had doubled by 1945 they were still on lower wages than their white counterparts, earning 40-60% less.

Even with all of the day-to-day problems black people went through, they continued to support the American fight against Hitler as being the lesser of two evils.

Rationing and Restrictions in America WW2

With Production for the war in full swing people had more money in their pockets and were better off than they had been for a long time, but because factories were producing for the war less and less consumer products were available for them to buy.

In 1942 People began to notice that rubber was in short supply, buying new tires for cars was banned or very strictly limited to those who used their vehicles for work, other rubber products were also banned such as Hot water Bottles and garden hoses.

People improvised as best they could by retreading their old tires, the government in January 1942 brought in Tire rationing.

In another attempt by the government to save tires, gasoline rationing was introduced in December 1942, and normal citizens were limited to 3 gallons a week.

Car-pooling was the propaganda word of the day with slogans such as "If you ride ALONE, you ride with Hitler".

Public transport was overwhelmed, trains and buses were always overcrowded and America's Highways were almost empty.

As more and more effort and materials were, being put into the war effort more rationing was inevitable as can be seen on the table on the right.

Rationed Items
Duration if Rationing
January 1942 to December 1945
February 1942 to October 1945
July 1942 to September 1945
May 1942 to August 1945
Fuel, Oil and Kerosine
October 1942 to August 1945
Solid Fuel
September 1943 to August 1945
December 1942 to August 1945
Rubber Footwear
October 1942 to September 1945
February 1943 to October 1945
May 1942 to 1947
November 1942 to July 1943
Processed Foods
March 1943 to August 1945
Meats, canned fish
March 1943 to November 1945
Cheese, canned milk, fats
March 1943 to November 1945
March 1942 to April 1944


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    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      6 years ago from North-East UK

      Jimmy interesting hub. Pearl Harbour would be a hub all on its own but there's a good sense of context for their involvement in the war in this article.

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      6 years ago from UK

      Great hub Jimmy - incredible that they were able to cut production on those ships. Also incredible that black GIs were treated worse than the Germans they guarded :(

      Voted up etc


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