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U.S. Soldiers After World War II Essay, Research Paper

The accounts from soldiers describing combat in general

present an image of a hellish nightmare where all decency and humanity

could be lost. For men who fought under these conditions, coming home

was a very difficult transition. Above all, these men wanted to return

to “normalcy”, to come back to a life that they had been promised if

the war was won. This would turn out to be harder to obtain then first

expected, problems ranging from the availability of jobs in the work

force to child raising and post-traumatic stress would make this

return to “normalcy” very troublesome. This laborious task of

reintegrating into American culture would eventually lead to problems

in the gender relations in post war America.

One of the major problems that G.I.’s faced upon there return

to the States was the availability of jobs. During the war, the U.S.

government encouraged women and minorities to enter the industrial

work force due to labor shortages and increased demand for war goods.

By 1944 a total of 1,360,000 women with husbands in the service had

entered the work force. This, along with the a migration of

African-American workers from the south, filled the war time need for

labor. This attitude toward women in the work force changed

dramatically at the end of the war. The propaganda promoting “Rosie

the Riviter”, suddenly changed, focusing on the duties of women as a

homemaker and a mother. Even with these efforts and those of the G.I.

bills passed after the war, returning soldiers had a difficult time

finding jobs in post war America. This independence given to women

during the war and its removal with the advent of the returning men,

had a definitive effect on gender relations in American society and

which one of the seeds of the womens rights movements in later

decades.

Another hardship encountered by returning soldiers was the

reactions of the children they left behind. Most of the fathers that

returned from the war concerned with how they would fit into the

family system. Some fathers were determined to take an active role in

the family and they did by becoming the master disciplinary. Returning

fathers came to home to find undisciplined and unruly children, a far

cry from ordered military life they had lead during the war. Some

children even resented at the strangers who had re-entered their

lives, lives that seemed complete without him. One of the roots of

these feelings was that children that lived in extended families

during the war enjoyed being pampered and disliked the determination

that some returning fathers had to fulfill his paternal role and

impose discipline. The fathers return disrupted the homefront in

various other ways also. Some children feared that their fathers would

not stay and as a result didn’t want to become to attached to them, in

fear that they might again leave. Other children were angry that the

fathers had left in the first place. The homecoming was especially

hard on both father and child in a family where the child was born

during the war or was very young when the father left. Most of these

children hardly recognized there fathers and where fearful at these

new strangers. Another problem faced by returning fathers was their

believe that their son had become “soft” in the absence of a strong

male-role model. The return of the father in the domestic life also

effected the gender relation after the war. Most children found there

lives complete without there fathers and some even found that they had

more freedom when there father was gone. Girls that found there

mothers working and performing what was before considered male role,

were found to develop less traditional feminine sex roles. It could be

said that the working mom inspired the children of the era to be more

independent themselves. This also could serve as a origin to the

feminist movements in later decades.

Post-traumatic stress, “shell shock”, was common among the

returning soldiers. Most wives and children noticed behavioral changes

in the men that the knew before the war. Veterans returning from the

battlefield would suffer nightmares and flashbacks of combat, about

their alienation and loneliness , desperation and withdrawal. These

results of combat and the increase in alcoholism among the returning

G.I.’s lead to an upward spiral in the number of divorces that

occurred after the war.

The return home for many soldiers was not at all comfortable.

After fighting under unbearable conditions for years, the return to

domestic life was undoubtedly not what was expected. With the problems

of find work and those encountered on the family scheme, this

reintegration was anything but smooth.


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