Utah's History

By Thomas G. Alexander; Eugene E. Campbell et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 27
The Impact of World War II

John E. Christensen

The outbreak of war in Europe, the feverish buildup in national defense, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the full- scale American participation in World War II produced significant repercussions in Utah. Wartime spending lifted the state's economy from the depths of depression to the peaks of prosperity. Rapid population shifts subjected her citizens to stresses not found in the stability of peacetime. Political leaders had to deal with very different issues, though the years of hard times had conditioned them for more active roles than had traditionally been assigned to government in Utah.

As noted in an earlier chapter, the impact of the Great Depression was more severe for Utah than for most other states. Utah's expenditures for public assistance in relation to her income were among the highest in the nation. As late as 1938, compared to national averages, Utah had thirty-two percent more workers on WPA projects, forty-five percent more in the CCC, fifty percent more enrolled in the NYA, and sixty percent more on PWA payrolls. Not until the arrival of the defense industry during World War II was the state's economy revitalized. Comprised of both military and civilian operations, this activity transformed unemployment into worker shortages. Personal incomes climbed. Shifts in the relative importance of agriculture, mining, and manufacturing fashioned a new economic portrait for Utah.


Defense Industry

The state legislature that met in January 1941 responded to Governor Herbert B. Maw's suggestion to establish a Department

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