Recorded May, June and July, 2005 ~
The impact of World War II the watershed event of the 20th century reached far beyond the battlefield. It affected everything from science, women, racism, the Pacific Northwest, war veterans, to diplomacy and President Harry Truman, changing life as we knew it.
Seven distinguished history professors will talk about the impact of the last world war and how it irrevocably changed the fabric of our life
Audio CD #1 & #2 ~ "Harry Truman: One of the Many Changed by the War" ~ Richard S. Kirkendall, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Washington
Like millions of Americans, Harry Truman felt the powerful force of World War II. It changed him as it changed his nation. Most obviously, it moved him to the top of American politics and government. When the war began in 1939, he was first-term senator facing the strong possibility of defeat in the senatorial election of 1940. By war?s end, he had become president of the United States. It seems almost certain that has the war not come along, he would not have move so high. As it was, the war created an opportunity that he was prepared to seize; he seized in, and his handling of it gave him the prestige to move up.
This, however, was only the most obvious illustration of the war?s impact on him. It affected him in still other ways. If affected him intellectually as well as politically. First of all, it strengthened his confidence in one of the major components of his point of view, his big idea about how the world worked that had been shaped by his many experience with war before this new one began. Then, WWII added a new dimension to his way of looking at the world and the role of his nation in it. Finally, World War II gave him a sharply focused conception on his mission as president. His top job, he concluded by the war?s end, was to present World War III, and his point of view told him, at least in broad outline, how to do that
Audio CD #3 & #4 ~ "The Physicists' Post-War: Military Research and the New World" ~ Bruce W. Hevly, Associate Professor of History, University of Washington
World War I was the chemists' war, but after World War II the physicists stepped in to the spotlight. The consequences of the war were far-reaching not just for physics, but for American science more generally and for the Ameican universities housing research efforts newly important to the national defense. At the University of Washington, for example, Manhattan Project veterans comprised some of the scientific manpower for the expanded faculty, and the Applied Physics Laboratory just off campus kept UW scientists connected to the demands of national security.
Historians have most often written about the politics of postwar science: how institutions jockeyed for federal support, for example, and how individual scientists negotiated their relationships with government power. But politics formed the background for even more profound changes in the aftermath of World War II: fundamental changes in how scientists learned to think about nature and in how they acted in their working lives. In turn, these changes spread throughout academia, transforming the university as a whole.
Audio CD #5 & #6 ~ "World War II and New Horizons for American Women" ~ Elizabeth Escobedo, Assistant Professor of History, UT San Antonio
World War II and New Horizons for American Women will discuss the roles of Anglo, African, and Mexican American women on the U.S. home front both inside and outside the nation?s defense factories. For many American women, the war years represented a general breakdown of social boundaries and patriarchal relationships. Women of all backgrounds experimented with their social and sexual roles, engaging in public leisure activities in record numbers. For women of color, in particular, the respectability now associated with work and leisure on the nation?s behalf gave the previously overlooked laborers new public recognition, thereby increasing their drive to claim the right to first-class citizenship and inclusion within the wider American polity.
Most historians generally agree that by war?s end, a majority of American women found themselves limited in job prospects and expecting to return to their homemaker roles. But as Dr. Escobedo will argue, in spite of these material losses, women?s ideological beliefs and behavioral changes remained largely untouched. American women had expanded their social and sexual autonomy, gaining increasingly public roles in U.S. society. The new social
environment would lay the foundation for the social activism of the 1960s, with the daughters of World War II?s Rosie the Riveters leading the way.
Audio CD #7 & #8 ~ "The War and Race: A Changed America?" ~ Quintard Taylor, Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Professor of American History, University of Washington
The War and Race: A Changed America? challenges the conventional wisdom which claims World War II was a singularly transformative experience for African Americans and Other People of Color. The impact of the war on Japanese Americans as a consequence of internment obviously challenges the idea of racial progress in this region as well as the nation. Yet 30,000 African Americans who arrived in the region in unprecedented numbers also saw their lives changed in unanticipated ways. Certainly the War complicated ideas of race for all of the region?s citizens. We will examine that new complexity.
Audio CD #9 & #10 ~ "War and the Transformation of the Pacific Northwest", John Findlay, Professor and Chair, History Department, University of Washington
The Second World War transformed the Pacific Northwest in ways both imagined and unimagined. For decades before 1941 the business and political leaders of the region had tried and failed to achieve rapid economic and demographic growth. In many ways the Second World War delivered that desired growth. It quickly transformed the region's economy and population, so that Northwest inhabitants became much more diverse and Northwest industries became less dependent upon extraction of natural resources. Military bases and defense contractors established a more substantial presence than before, heightening the power of the federal government in the region. Long regarded as something of a colony within the nation, the Northwest became more fully integrated into the American mainstream during wartime. Many regarded the wartime changes as a form of progress; others, however, disapproved of many of the changes and lamented the new directions the region was taking.
To appreciate the significance of changes to the Northwest during World War Two, they need to be placed into two kinds of perspective. One is chronological. The war was preceded by the Great Depression and New Deal, and it was succeeded by the Cold War. In order to understand the changes that took place during the early 1940s, we need to appreciate how the region had been transformed during the 1930s, and how it continued to change during the sustained mobilization after 1946. The other perspective is geographical. Urban regions gained in population, for example, while rural ones experienced net losses. Washington state received more than its share of enduring industrialization, military spending, and nuclear waste, while Oregon and Idaho were less affected. We need to understand how and why wartime changes affected Northwest places and peoples unevenly.
Audio CD #11 & #12 ~ "The Meaning of WWII for the Americans Who Fought in It" ~ Otis A. Pease, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Washington
The meaning of World War II for the Americans who fought in it had many dimensions: Blueberry pie, national power and morality. The postwar culture also had many themes as veterans returned to become college students thanks to the GI bill; Veterans and the Long Civic Generation: The Best Years of our Lives and Veterans: The Greatest Generation.
Audio CD #13 & #14 ~ "The War as a Diplomatic Revolution for the United States" ~ Wilton Fowler, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Washington
World War II forced the United States to emerge from its past as an isolationist power with no alliances. The U.S. joined the United Nations and began a new path as a world leader working with other nations.