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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
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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