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World War II in American History: Still “The Good War”?. Michael S. Neiberg University of Southern Mississippi “The Good War”. The Good War. What Changed?. Theme One: Globalization. Europe in Ruins. 75% of Berlin’s buildings uninhabitable

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World war ii in american history still the good war l.jpg

World War II in American History:Still “The Good War”?

  • Michael S. Neiberg

  • University of Southern Mississippi


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“The Good War”

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The Good War

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What Changed?

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Theme One: Globalization

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Europe in Ruins

  • 75% of Berlin’s buildings uninhabitable

  • Food rationing continued in Britain until 1954

  • 10,000,000 DPs, most in Germany against their will

  • France lost 500,000 buildings

  • USSR lost 70,000 villages

  • Yugoslavia lost 75% of its livestock

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Europe in Ruins

  • Two-thirds of all German males born in 1918 were dead

  • USSR lost 20,000,000 men

  • 200,000 Polish children had no parents alive

  • Hungary’s ration was 550 calories per day (US intake is 3,000)

  • 5,000,000 Jews killed

  • Infant mortality in Europe exceeded 25% in 1945

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Potsdam Conference17 July to 2 August 1945

  • Unconditional Surrender for Japan

  • “The freely expressed will of the Japanese people” will determine its government

  • Each power to take reparations from its sector of Germany

  • Germany to be “denazified”

  • Surrender of Japanese forces in Korea and Vietnam agreed.

Clement Atlee, Harry Truman, and Josef Stalin at Potsdam. France was not invited to send a representative.

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Role of the USA

  • Marshall Plan

    • $4.6 billion in aid to democratic capitalist states

  • Rapid redevelopment of Germany

  • Creation of NATO

  • Permanent place of the USA

  • Insertion of US firms into European economy

  • Formation of the United Nations, IMF

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Theme Two: Home Front USA

Women welders at Ingalls Shipbuilders in Pascagoula, Mississippi, 1943

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Aircraft Production

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Artillery Pieces

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Major Naval Vessels

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Major Naval Vessels (USA included)

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Steel (in millions of tons)

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Labor Forces

  • 90 Division Gamble and Selective Service

  • US had three latent labor pools (women, African Americans, Mexicans)

  • US added 6,000,000 jobs in three years

    • GM alone added 750,000

  • In Germany there were 400,000 fewer female workers in 1941 than 1939

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Japanese Internment

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Detroit Race Riot, 1943

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What did the war really change?

Lunch counter sit in

Greensboro, NC, 1960

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Theme Three: World War II’s Uniqueness

Eisenhower and other senior American officers tour a liberated concentration camp

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The American Century

Signing of the UN Charter, San Francisco, 1945

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Contrast to Later Wars


“Police Action” in Korea

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Some Further Reading

  • Paul Fussell, Wartime

  • Studs Terkel, The Good War

  • E. B. Sledge, With the Old Breed

  • David Nichols, ed. Ernie’s War

  • J. Glenn Gray, The Warriors

Studs Terkel

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