Post World War II America and the Cold War. Changes in Post World War II America. Peace and Prosperity as a Global Superpower. Returning veterans from World War II were given the opportunity to attend college. Vets were also given low interest loans with which they could purchase houses.
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Post World War II America and the Cold War
Peace and Prosperity as a Global Superpower
While FDR was President, Eleanor Roosevelt had served as the “eyes and ears” of the President. After he passed away in April of 1945 – just before the end of World War II – she remained an influential figure.
While she was the first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt fought for African-American equality. She also supported anti-lynching bills in Congress.
Eleanor Roosevelt held news conferences just for female reporters, encouraging greater opportunity for women.
She was also an ambassador to the United Nations later in her life, where she advanced the cause of human rights.
The “JC” stands for Jim Crow.
Good jobs and prosperity were available to everyone willing to work hard during the boom of the 1950s. Many returning veterans used the G.I. Bill of Rights to get started, built homes, and started families. The economy boomed as housing construction increased and American factories transformed from making war materials to more domestic goods.
Following World War II, the economy of the United States was strong. The housing market boomed, American factories were productive, and new worldwide markets purchased American goods.
After the Soviet Union launched Sputnik into space, Americans started to believe that the USSR had surpassed us in terms of science and technology. By the end of the 1950s, the “missile gap” was considered a major shortcoming of the United States. Part of the reason the USA invested so much money into math and science classes and invested into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was to make certain that we led the way in terms of science and technology.
Dwight Eisenhower was so impressed by the Autobahn in Germany that he insisted that the United States – for military and commercial reasons – build an interstate highway system of our ownduring the 1950s.
Women had gained the right to vote in the 1920s with the passage of the 19th Amendment. During World War II, the contributions of women to factory work and the war effort had made a major impact on the outcome of the conflict.
After the war, women demanded greater economic and social independence, insisting that if they so chose, they should be able to work outside the home in any capacity they wished. Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique to articulate this message, and the National Organization for Women (NOW) also pushed for equal rights.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 would forbid discrimination against women on the basis of their sex.
Throughout the decades of the 1960s and 1970s, feminists attempted to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, as well. It never passed.
Reasons for the Rapid Growth of the American Economy
The United States went through a brief transition period following World War II, but quickly became the strongest and most productive economy in the World. Consumer goods and international markets helped US business grow.
Purchasing costly goods – like cars, electronic appliances, or houses – required consumers to buy with credit. Using credit cards for payment started in the 1950s. Soon, Americans would rely on these short term loans to purchase a wide variety of goods.
Gender roles during the 1940s and 1950s dictated that women should leave there jobs in the factories to make way for returning veterans. Men were considered the breadwinners in society. Many women felt discontent with the arrangement!
The Guggenheim Museum in New York is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous works.
A War of Ideology and Visions, 1945 - 1991
The United Nations was formed near the end of World War II to create a body for the nations of the world to try to prevent future global wars. Today, it serves as an international peacekeeping organization.
The Cold War was the longstanding state of tension between the United States and the Soviet Union - without actual fighting between Americans and Russians directly - which divided the world into two camps from 1945 – 1991.
The two nations engaged in a prolonged arms race which brought the world to the brink of nuclear war on several occasions.
Both sides believed that the goal of the other side was world domination. Both sides believed that the others were conspiring to take over other nations throughout the world.
Much of Europe was in ruins following World War II. Soviet forces occupied Eastern and portions of Central Europe, including East Germany, after WW II.
In 1947, President Harry S. Truman introduced the policy of containment by announcing that the United States would provide over $400 Million to Turkey and Greece to prevent the spread of communism. The Truman Doctrine – and the $400 Million - saved Turkey and Greece from communist aggression. The money was given to supporters of capitalism and democracy – our most treasured American values. Communism was halted. The containment policy had been successful.
The Marshall Plan for reconstructing Europe provided over $13 Million to any nation in Europe which pledged itself to democracy and capitalism. Compared to the Soviet Union’s exploitation of nations in Eastern Europe, the United States plan looked pretty good!
Germany was partitioned into East and West Germany following World War II. West Germany became democratic, and capitalistic, and was allowed to resume self-government after a few years of American, British, and French occupation.
The Soviet Union had been attacked twice by Germany in the 20th Century, and did not whish to see Germany reunified. East Germany remained under the domination of the Soviet Union and did not adopt democratic institutions. It would remain communist until 1989.
Similarly, the city of Berlin was divided into four parts. When Joseph Stalin attempted to take control of the city with the Berlin Blockade in 1948, American and British intervention saved the city.
The United States
The Soviet Union
Communism – the government controlled all.
No Individual Rights – Dissent was not tolerated.
The United States
The Soviet Union responded to NATO with its own defensive alliance in 1955, when it created the Warsaw Pact. All of the nations of Eastern Europe – which the Soviet Union occupied militarily – were forced to join the alliance.
Following its defeat, Japan was occupied by American forces. With Douglas MacArthur acting as the military governor of the islands, the nation was reconstructed as a democratic, capitalistic ally of the United States of America. The people of Japan even took on baseball as a pastime. Today, Japan is one of the United States closest allies in Asia.
The Korean War ends in a STALEMATE.
North Korea attacked South Korea in the summer of 1950.
The United Nations gave permission for American forces to restore South Korea by invading.
MacArthur and his soldiers pushed the North Koreans out of South Korea; then, they attempted to take over North Korea.
China entered the war and pushed Americans back to the 38th Parallel, and the war ended in a stalemate.
The Korean War ended in a stalemate. After Chinese forces attacked the United States and UN forces, the war ended with Korea divided at the 38th Parallel.
The United States intervened in Vietnam after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident took place in 1964. It would ruin Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Presidency, and millions of Vietnamese – along with close to 59,000 Americans – would die in the war. LBJ and others feared that if Vietnam fell to communism, other nearby nations would, too. This was the domino theory.
Americans were very much divided over the war in Vietnam. Hawks wanted to continue fighting against communism no matter the cost. Doves argued that the war was not just, and that the Vietnamese only wanted independence and self-government.
The Cease Fire ended the war in 1973, but it would still be years before the US had all of its troops out of Vietnam.
NOTE: Lyndon Johnson died in 1964 after a massive heart attack. He passed away just days before the cease fire was signed.
In 1989, Germans tore down the Berlin Wall. Germany was reunified in 1990. Communism was very much on the decline – China, N. Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba were the final practitioners.
The Soviet Union allowed it’s satellites in Eastern Europe to choose their own course going forward. Then, in 1991, the Soviet Union itself collapsed. Russia – without it’s fifteen controlled states – was reborn.