Participation in World War II had a profound influence on the United States. Although no fighting took place on the American mainland, the war engulfed the nation and became the focus of all its activity between 1942 and 1945. It demanded intense military and diplomatic efforts, at unprecedented levels, to coordinate strategy and tactics with other members of the Grand Alliance. It required a monumental productive effort to provide the materials necessary to fight. And it resulted in a meaningful reorientation of social patterns at home.
The United States became a major force in the war. Although its entrance into the struggle came late—more than two years after hostilities began—America had been increasingly committed to the Allied cause even before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 elicited a declaration of war. United States naval convoys had already been protecting shipments of military and economic aid for the beleagured overseas democracies, exports that American factories had been working hard to produce. While the nation’s formal entrance into hostilities merely ratified a process already underway, active involvement gave the United States a vested interest in the outcome of the conflict and validated the enormous effort being undertaken by the American people.
In making that ultimately successful effort, American society changed. Ravaged by the Great Depression, the United States re-