The United States was considered an important figure during World War II because it has the biggest arms industry during this period. Contrary to popular belief, however, the US did not sell weapons out of patriotic duty – it created and sold arms to restore its economy.
The Importance of the United States in World War II
All societies reinvent their pasts to a certain extent. Doing so was not intended to establish a pattern of deliberate lying, but to make the understanding of history more manageable.
When history is recreated in such a manner that it is composed of useful, interesting or exciting events, it may prove to be helpful in understanding how past problems or situations that is similar to those in the present confronted. Furthermore, a society’s desirable traits such as collective courage, idealism and national strength are showcased (Adams, 1994).
But there are instances when the past is fabricated to make it appear better than it actually was.
These reflect wishful thinking or the desire to reconstruct the past according to a favored interpretation rather than how it actually happened. The construal of the past according to wishful thinking is dangerous – the former ceases to be real history and is instead transformed into myth or folklore. A mythologized history, in turn, does not have the capacity to explain the course of a given society (Adams, 1994).
World War II: The “Good War”
World War II is one of the most mythologized chapters in the history of the United States. It was sometimes referred to as the “Good War,” a war that was carried out for the noble purpose of protecting the world against German fascism and Japanese militarism. World War II likewise transformed the image of the US from a country that was reeling from the effects of the Great Depression into a triumphant and benevolent world leader. The US “lifted (both wartime allies and adversaries) from the ashes of defeat, reshaped them in (its) image of democracy, contributed to their prosperity and encouraged them to resume roles of world responsibility” (Adams, 1994).
The involvement of the US in World War II has a darker, more sordid and less celebratory dimension to it. The Great Depression virtually wiped out the country’s economy. The stock market crashed, bankruptcies were by the thousands and unemployment became very rampant. Many families from all social classes were already on the brink of poverty. Starvation was a common phenomenon among residential areas (Steingart, 2008).
World War II, therefore, proved to be a chance for the US to attain economic recovery. It became the largest munitions manufacturer during the war, with an arms production that was almost equal to the combined total of both its friends and adversaries between late 1943 and early 1944 (Gropman, 1997). The Roosevelt administration financed this industry with loans against future earnings. As a result, the country’s federal debt rose from $22 billion in 1933 to $50 billion in 1940, $79 billion in 1952, $143 billion in 1943, $204 billion in 1944 and $260 billion by the end of World War II (Steingart, 2008).
The very large sum of money that the Roosevelt administration invested in the US munitions manufacturing industry led to the conclusion that the amount it spent between 1940 and 1945 was the same “as all administrations combined had spent in the preceding 150 years” (Steingart, 2008). But it was a good investment. Between 1939 and 1944, the Gross National Product (GNP) of the US increased by 52% (Gropman, 1997).
Consumption likewise rose due to a surge in employment. During the war, factories throughout the US were utilized to their full working capacity. An increasing number of civilians left their homes to work in these manufacturing establishments. The number of workers in wartime arms factories in the US was said to have reached 19 million – this figure included housewives, retirees, teenagers and college students (Steingart, 2008).
But it must be noted that the massive wartime arms production of the US was nothing phenomenal, as explained below:
But United States industrial production was neither a “miracle” nor was its outputs comparatively mighty given the American advantages of abundant raw materials, superb transportation and technological infrastructure, a large and skilled labor force, and, most importantly, two large ocean barriers to bar bombing of its industries. Germany, once it abandoned its Blitzkrieg strategy, became similarly productive, if not more so, and British and Russian industry, given German attacks on Britain and the Soviet Union, performed outstandingly, too. (p. 2)
It would be fair to say, therefore, that the US surpassed Europe in arms production during World War II because it was not damaged by enemy attacks. As the US was surrounded by the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean, staging aerial and naval attacks would really exhaust enemy resources. The only direct attack on the US during the entire duration of the war was the Pearl Harbor bombing on December 7, 1941.
The arms trade of the US during the war also resulted in its political, economic and military expansion overseas. In exchange for its selling of arms to England, for instance, the US obtained the air and naval bases of the former from Newfoundland to Jamaica and British Guyana. The dismal state of the British economy also left England dependent on the US for economic aid. Consequently, global finance and trade transferred from London to New York (Steingart, 2008).
The US was an important figure in World War II mainly because it was the biggest arms manufacturer during this event. Under the guises of “patriotism” and “safeguarding the free world,” the US restored its failing economy by making and selling munitions. The large profits that the US generated from its arms industry turned it into a major creditor to other countries in the period of restoration that followed the war (Kaufman, 2006).
Indeed, World War II is one of the most mythologized chapters in the history of the United States. The “Good War” label that the US attached to World War II reveals its psychology as a nation – that advancing one’s interests through any means possible is justifiable, as long as others are made to believe that it is done in the pursuit of a noble cause. Thus, the world should no longer be surprised if the US ventured into post-World War II campaigns such as the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the Iraq War.
Adams, M.C.C. (1994). The Best War Ever: America and World War II. Baltimore:
Gropman, A. (Ed.). (1997). The Big ‘L’: American Logistics in World War II. Darby:
Kaufman, J.P. (2006). A Concise History of US Foreign Policy. Lanham: Rowman &
Steingart, G. (2008). The War for Wealth: the True Story of Globalization, or Why the Flat World is Broken. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional.
Cite this The Importance of the United States in World War II
The Importance of the United States in World War II. (2016, Oct 17). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-importance-of-the-united-states-in-world-war-ii/