U.S. Soldiers After World War II


The accounts from soldiers describing combat in general 
present an image of a hellish nightmare where all decency and humanity 
could be lost. For men who fought under these conditions, coming home 
was a very difficult transition. Above all, these men wanted to return 
to "normalcy", to come back to a life that they had been promised if 
the war was won. This would turn out to be harder to obtain then first 
expected, problems ranging from the availability of jobs in the work 
force to child raising and post-traumatic stress would make this 
return to "normalcy" very troublesome. This laborious task of 
reintegrating into American culture would eventually lead to problems 
in the gender relations in post war America. 

 One of the major problems that G.I.'s faced upon there return 
to the States was the availability of jobs. During the war, the U.S. 
government encouraged women and minorities to enter the industrial 
work force due to labor shortages and increased demand for war goods. 
By 1944 a total of 1,360,000 women with husbands in the service had 
entered the work force. This, along with the a migration of 
African-American workers from the south, filled the war time need for 
labor. This attitude toward women in the work force changed 
dramatically at the end of the war. The propaganda promoting "Rosie 
the Riviter", suddenly changed, focusing on the duties of women as a 
homemaker and a mother. Even with these efforts and those of the G.I. 
bills passed after the war, returning soldiers had a difficult time 
finding jobs in post war America. This independence given to women
during the war and its removal with the advent of the returning men, 
had a definitive effect on gender relations in American society and 
which one of the seeds of the womens rights movements in later 

 Another hardship encountered by returning soldiers was the 
reactions of the children they left behind. Most of the fathers that
returned from the war concerned with how they would fit into the 
family system. Some fathers were determined to take an active role in 
the family and they did by becoming the master disciplinary. Returning 
fathers came to home to find undisciplined and unruly children, a far 
cry from ordered military life they had lead during the war. Some 
children even resented at the strangers who had re-entered their 
lives, lives that seemed complete without him. One of the roots of 
these feelings was that children that lived in extended families 
during the war enjoyed being pampered and disliked the determination 
that some returning fathers had to fulfill his paternal role and 
impose discipline. The fathers return disrupted the homefront in 
various other ways also. Some children feared that their fathers would 
not stay and as a result didn't want to become to attached to them, in
fear that they might again leave. Other children were angry that the 
fathers had left in the first place. The homecoming was especially 
hard on both father and child in a family where the child was born 
during the war or was very young when the father left. Most of these 
children hardly recognized there fathers and where fearful at these 
new strangers. Another problem faced by returning fathers was their 
believe that their son had become "soft" in the absence of a strong 
male-role model. The return of the father in the domestic life also 
effected the gender relation after the war. Most children found there 
lives complete without there fathers and some even found that they had 
more freedom when there father was gone. Girls that found there 
mothers working and performing what was before considered male role, 
were found to develop less traditional feminine sex roles. It could be
said that the working mom inspired the children of the era to be more 
independent themselves. This also could serve as a origin to the 
feminist movements in later decades.

 Post-traumatic stress, "shell shock", was common among the 
returning soldiers. Most wives and children noticed behavioral changes 
in the men that the knew before the war. Veterans returning from the 
battlefield would suffer nightmares and flashbacks of combat, about 
their alienation and loneliness , desperation and withdrawal. These 
results of combat and the increase in alcoholism among the returning 
G.I.'s lead to an upward spiral in the number of divorces that 
occurred after the war.

 The return home for many soldiers was not at all comfortable. 
After fighting under unbearable conditions for years, the return to
domestic life was undoubtedly not what was expected. With the problems 
of find work and those encountered on the family scheme, this 
reintegration was anything but smooth. 


Quotes: Search by Author