Aftircan American Progress in World War II

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World War II, global military conflict that, in terms of lives lost and material destruction, was the most devastating war in human history. It began in 1939 as a European conflict between Germany and an Anglo-French coalition but eventually widened to include most of the nations of the world. It ended in 1945, leaving a new world order dominated by the United States and the USSR. More than any previous war, World War II involved the commitment of nations' entire human and economic resources, the blurring of the distinction between combatant and noncombatant, and the expansion of the battlefield to include all of the enemy's territory. The most important determinants of its outcome were industrial capacity and personnel. In the last stages of the war, two radically new weapons were introduced: the long-range rocket and the atomic bomb. In the main, however, the war was fought with the same or improved weapons of the types used in World War I. The greatest advances were in aircraft and tanks. “For African Americans, World War II was a fight on two fronts. It was a struggle to prevail over the nation’s external enemies and a battle against a familiar home-grown foe: bigotry” (Allen). When World War II began in Europe in 1939, blacks demanded better treatment than they had experienced during World War I. Black newspaper editors insisted during 1939 and 1940 that black support for this war effort would depend on fair treatment. They demanded that black soldiers be trained in all military roles and that black civilians have equal opportunities to work in war industries at home. African Americans were some of the quickest and most energetic to condemn the risings of fascism in Europe. They instantly understood the risks Nazism and its Aryan doctrines imposed on the world. Some had read Hitler’s Mein Kampf and had taken offense to its unfavorable comments toward blacks. It was also claimed that in 1936 Hitler had refused to treat African American Olympic stars Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalf with common decency in Berlin. Also the knockout of the black idol Joe Louis in 1936 by Max Schmeling had fueled some bitter emotions toward Nazism and it was fueled once again when Louis exacted his complete revenge in 1938. At the beginning of the war Afri... ... middle of paper ... at the back of the bus. Robinson refused. “He was arrested and court-martialed for “disrespectful” conduct and disobeying orders, he was acquitted, but the incident prevented him from going overseas with the 761st” (Allen). Robinson would go on to become the first black baseball player to integrate the major leagues. “The World War II experience was a watershed for African Americans. Jim Crow remained intact, but the ideological bases of white supremacy and colonialism were undermined by the horrors of the Holocaust” (Earle 87). The war experience gave about one million blacks the opportunity to fight racism in Europe and Asia, a fact that black veterans would remember during the struggle against racism at home after the war. Perhaps just as important, almost ten times that many white Americans witnessed the patriotic service of black Americans. Many of them would object to the continued denial of civil rights to the men and women beside whom they had fought. After World War II the momentum for racial change continued. Black soldiers returned home with determination to have full civil rights. President Harry Truman ordered the final desegregation of the armed forces in 1948.

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