Without question, World War II left the United States different than it had been before. Yet the crucial question remains: Just how different had the nation become? Historians throughout the postwar decades have argued about the intensity of the war’s impact, even as they have debated the degree to which it was a watershed in the country’s course. The debate began in the first treatments of home-front issues written shortly after the war and has continued unabated in subsequent years, revolving around the relative importance of the many changes sparked by the war. While definitive answers remain elusive, the discussion itself provides a starting point in an attempt to understand the ultimate effect of the struggle.
Some historians have stressed the marked change experienced by wartime America. Richard Polenberg, in War and Society, Geoffrey Perrett in Days of Sadness, Years of Triumph, and James MacGregor Burns, in Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom, are among those who have underscored the profound and powerful impact of the cataclysmic conflict. While the nation suffered no physical destruction within continental borders, this analysis posits that the American people’s all-encompassing involvement in the greatest struggle ever known brought economic, social, and political change to an unprecedented degree.
The war ushered in the Keynesian revolution as it brought a return of prosperity after the dismal Great Depression. The mas-