POSTWAR ECONOMIC ANXIETIESThe decade of the 1930’s had left deep scars. The war had banished the GreatDepression, but would the respite last? Grim-faced observers ominously warned that thereturn of GI’s would step out of the army’s chow lines and back into the breadlines of theunemployed. The answer to this fear was passage of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act(GI Bill) – describe how it would work and its significance.
The faltering economy in the initial postwar years threatened to confirm the worstpredictions of another Great Depression.The growing muscle of organized labor deeply annoyed many conservatives, but aRepublican-controlled Congress in 1947 passed the Taft-Hartley Act over Truman’s veto.What were its major provisions?The Truman Administration took some steps of its own to forestall an economic downturn.Describe each of the following: * The Employment Act (1946) * VA Loans
THE LONG ECONOMIC BOOM, 1950-1970 Beginning about 1950, the American economy surged onto a dizzying plateau of sustained growth that was to last virtually uninterrupted for two decades. Nothing loomed larger in the history of the post-WWII era than this fantastic eruption of affluence. It did not touch all people evenly, but it transformed the lives of a majority of citizens and molded the agenda of politics & society for at least two generations.
Millions of depression-pinched souls soughtto make up for the sufferings of the 1930’s.The size of the “middle class” doubled frompre-Great Depression days and included 60%of the American people by the mid-1950’s.By the end of 1950’s the vast majority ofAmerican families owned their own car,washing machine, television, and approx. 60%of American families owned their ownhomes.
THE ROOTS of POSTWAR PROSPERITYSo what factors propelled this unprecedented economic explosion? First, andforemost, was the Second World War itself. Defense spending quickly extinguished theGreat Depression. The Korean War and other Cold War appropriations fueled economicgrowth.
Also contributing were some momentous changes in the country’s economicstructure, especially the accelerating shift of the work force out of agriculture.Agribusinesses began to dominate the agricultural landscape.Identify and explain the other factors contributing to the economic boom.
THE SMILING SUNBELTThe economic changes of the postwar era shifted the American people. For 30 yearsafter 1945 an average of 30 million people changed residences each year – social impactof this mobility? Especially striking was the growth of the “Sunbelt” – a 15 state areastretching in a crescent from Virginia through Florida and Texas to Arizona andCalifornia.
These modern pioneers came in search of jobs, a better climate, and lower taxes. A floodof federal dollars accounted for much of the sunbelt region’s new prosperity. Thesedramatic shifts of population and wealth further broke the historic grip of the North onthe nation’s political life. Sunbelters were redrawing the Republic’s political map.
THE RUSH to the SUBURBSAmerica’s migrants, if they were white, fled from the cities to the new suburbs. Whatgovt. policies encouraged this “white-flight” from the cities? Describe theimpacts, both politically & socially.
THE POSTWAR BABY BOOMOf all the changes in postwar America, none was more dramatic than the “baby boom” –the huge leap in the birth rate in the decade and a half after 1945.Explain the timing of the baby boom.What has been the demographic significance of the baby boom?
TRUMAN: THE “GUTTY” MAN from MISSOURI Presiding over the post-war period was an “accidental president,” Harry Truman. Truman was called the “average man’s average man.” Identify Truman’s perceived strengths and weaknesses. But if he was sometimes small in the small things, he was often big in the big things. Not one to dodge responsibility, he placed a sign on his desk that read, “The Buck Stops Here.”
YALTA: BARGAIN or BETRAYALAt the final conference of the Big Three at Yalta (1945), Stalin, Churchill, and FDRreached momentous agreements – identify and explain the areas of agreement. Ofthe decisions made at Yalta, which one was the most controversial? Why was Stalinnegotiating from a position of strength? Following the war, the USSR did not live up toits agreement pertaining to eastern Europe.
THE U.S. & U.S.S.R. and the COLD WARThe wartime alliance between the U.S. & U.S.S.R. was doomed for failure: * Ideologies were like “oil and water” (democracy v. communism) * The U.S. had not recognized the USSR for 16 years * The British and U.S. had delayed opening a second front * The USSR was excluded from atomic plans * The U.S. cancelled lend-lease and a reconstruction loan – U.S. approved one for Britain * Different visions of the post-war world (both were determined to spread their system) Soviet Intentions: •Stalin is determined to create a buffer zone for his country; he would create “satellite” states to accomplish this goal. •Stalin is determined to spread his communist “revolution” worldwide; a devastated Europe is a vulnerable area.
U.S. Intentions:•President Truman grudgingly accepts Stalin’s planfor a buffer zone, but he draws the line with thenations of Western Europe.• Truman adopts a policy of “containment” to checkSoviet expansion: 1. The Marshall Plan 2. The Truman Doctrine 3. Occupation & Rebuilding of Japan
SHAPING the POSTWAR WORLDDespite many obstacles, the U.S. did manage at war’s end to erect some of the structurethat would support FDR’s vision of an open world. These organizations included theInternational Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the United Nations. Explainthe purpose for each one.
THE PROBLEM of GERMANY Hitler’s ruined Reich posed especially thorny problems for all the wartime Allies. The Allies joined in trying 22 top culprits at Nuremberg, Germany, during 1945-1946. Justice was harsh. 12 of the accused Nazis swung from the gallows, and 7 were sentenced to long jail terms.
Beyond punishing the top Nazis, the Allies could agree on little about postwar Germany.What was the biggest disagreement about a postwar Germany? Along withAustria, Germany had been divided at war’s end into 4 military occupation zones, eachassigned to one of the Big Four powers. Disagreements quickly emerged regarding theharshness and length of the partition.
With the irreconcilable split regarding a postwar unified Germany, Stalin responded bytightening is grip on his eastern zone. West Germany eventually became an independentcountry, wedded to the West. It became apparent that Germany would remain indefinitelydivided. Eventually, Eastern Europe virtually disappeared from the western sight behindthe “iron curtain” of secrecy and isolation. This division would last for more than fourdecades.
With Germany now split intwo, there remained the problem ofthe rubble heap known as Berlin.
Lying deep within the Soviet zone, Berlinhad been divided into sections andeventually consolidated into an East and aWest sector.
Stalin attempted to starve-out the Allies in West Berlin by cutting-off all rail andhighway access.
Berlin became a hugely symbolic issuefor both sides. At stake was possiblewar between the two superpowers.The U.S. organized a gigantic airliftthat lasted for nearly a year.Thousands of tons of supplies wereflown-in each day.The Soviets, their bluff dramaticallycalled, finally lifted their blockade inMay 1949. In the same year, the govts.of the two Germanys East andWest, were formally established.
CRYSTALLIZING the COLD WAR Moscow’s hard-line policies in Germany, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East wrought a psychological Pearl Harbor. Truman’s piecemeal responses to various Soviet challenges took on intellectual coherence with the formulation of the “containment doctrine.” Critics, past and present, charged that Truman overreacted by promising unlimited support to any despot claimed to be resisting “communist aggression.”
A threat of a different sort loomed in Western Europe – especially France, Italy, andGermany. They were in grave danger of being taken over from the inside by Communistparties that could exploit these hardships. Truman responded with the spectacularlysuccessful Marshall Plan, which called for spending $12.5 billion over four years in 16cooperating countries.
Sec. of State Marshall offered the same aid to the Soviet Union and its allies, if theywould make political reforms and accept certain outside controls. But Soviets denouncedthe “Martial Plan” as one more capitalist trick.
In the end, the Marshall Plan and other aid poured into Europe. But note the emphasis onthe “developed” world, with relatively little aid going to what are now called “Third World”countries.
AMERICA BEGINS to REARMThe Cold War, the struggle to contain Soviet communism, was not a war, yet it was notpeace. The Soviet menace spurred Congress to pass the National Security Act in 1947 –identify its provisions. The Soviet threat was also forcing the democracies of WesternEurope into an unforeseen degree of unity that included the U.S. This unity culminated inthe North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949.
RECONSTRUCTION and REVOLUTION in ASIAReconstruction in Japan was simpler than in Germany, primarily because it was largely aone-man show, under the supreme Allied commander, Gen. Douglas MacArthur. MacArthurenjoyed stunning success – why was Japan so cooperative? Did Japan benefit?If Japan was a success story for American policymakers, the opposite was true inChina, where a bitter civil war had raged for years between Nationalists and communists.
Washington had half-heartedly supported the Nationalistic govt., but ineptitude andcorruption within the Nationalist regime gradually began to corrode the confidence of thepeople. In late 1949 Jiang was forced to flee with his followers to Formosa (Taiwan). The collapse of Nationalist China was a depressing defeat for America and its allies in the Cold War. The “loss” of China became a bitter partisan topic in the U.S., but in the end, the outcome was probably out of U.S. control.
More bad news came in Sept. 1949 when Truman announced that the Soviet had explodedan atomic bomb, three years earlier than expected. To outpace the Soviets in nuclearweaponry, Truman ordered the development of the “H-bomb” (hydrogen bomb), a citysmashing device many times more deadly than the atomic bomb. The U.S. detonated an H-bomb in 1952. The era of M.A.D. had begun.
FERRETING OUT ALLEGED COMMUNISTS Another “Red Scare” engulfed the nation following the war. In 1947 Truman launched a massive “loyalty” program. A Loyalty Review Board investigated more than 3 million federal employees. In 1948 Richard Nixon, an ambitious red- catcher, led the chase after Alger Hiss, a prominent ex-New Dealer. The case of Alger Hiss attracted national attention. Senator Joseph McCarthy became a reckless anti-communist crusader – sowing fear among Americans. The stunning success of Soviet scientists in developing the a-bomb was partially blamed on the cleverness of communist spies in stealing American secrets. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted in 1951 of espionage.
DEMOCRATIC DIVISIONS in 1948 The Republicans had won control of Congress in 1946 and their presidential prospects looked good after more than a decade of Democratic rule. Truman was only re-nominated after Eisenhower turned down the offer. Southern Democrats were against Truman because of his civil rights support. “Dixiecrats” nominated Gov. Strom Thurmond of S.C. Thus, Truman’s nomination split the Democratic party. Henry Wallace further split the party.
The Republicans nominated NY Gov. Thomas Dewey.
The seemingly doomed Truman launched a vigorous campaign.
On election night, the Chicago Tribune ran the headline, “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.”The headline was premature …
… Truman had won and the Democrats had regained control of Congress. What were thekey factors for Truman? With his victory, Truman launches his “Fair Deal” agenda.
THE KOREAN VOLCANO ERUPTS (1950)Korea was split by the two new superpowers following WWII. Both professed to atemporary division, but two competing regimes were established. Sec. of State Achesondeclared that Korea was outside theh essential U.S. defense perimeter in the Pacific.War came on June 25, 1950, with the North invading the South. With astonishing speed,the North Koreans were on the brink of knocking out the South. Truman (“containmentdoctrine”) quickly acted. It was the triggering mechanism for the classified NSC-68.
Truman took full advantage of a temporary Soviet absence from the UN Security Councilwhen he obtained a unanimous condemnation of North Korea as an aggressor. It alsocalled upon all UN members to “render every assistance” to restore peace. Officially, U.S.involvement was labeled a “police action.” Gen. MacArthur was appointed UN commanderof the entire operation. The environment and the fighting were brutal for Americantroops.
THE MILITARY SEESAW in KOREA Faced with disaster, MacArthur launched a brilliant amphibious counterattack with stunning success. Within two weeks, the North Koreans had been driven behind the 38th parallel. This huge turn of events would create problems between Truman and MacArthur. For Truman, the victory fulfilled the UN mandate and his containment. MacArthur chafed at the thought of allowing North Korea off the ropes at this critical juncture. Truman relented, provided that there was no Chinese or Soviet intervention. The Chinese had publicly warned that they would intervene if hostile troops approached the Yalu R. MacArthur assured Truman that the Chinese were bluffing. He was wrong. In Nov. 1950, the Chinese poured over the border. American forces were pushed back to the 38th parallel. For the U.S., it was an entirely new war. Disagreement between MacArthur & Truman turned into insubordination, forcing Truman to fire the popular general. Truman was condemned at home.