World War II Soldiers


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 decades. 

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. 

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