Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Perspectives of Minorities and Women During the War

It is no surprise that times of war are times of great personal, social, and national upheaval, but World War II was arguably the most tumultuous of all for America because it was a total war effort, on a scale never seen before or after in this country. Out of this effort came great social change, both good and bad. America's racial, ethnic, and gender minorities experienced a large part of the changes in society during the war. With a large portion of American males fighting overseas, women filled important positions in both the industrial and professional workforce. Women's experiences at work during this time led directly to an increase in the call for women's rights in the following decades. But not all minorities made such gains. After the attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese Americans on the West Coast suffered an increase in discrimination, had their homes and businesses taken away from them, and were forced into relocation camps.

While by no means exhaustive, the three essays in this section focus on the experience of minorities during World War II, both on the homefront and overseas. The first essay is a general overview of life on the homefront for women, African Americans, and Japanese Americans. The second essay, by Dr. David Silbey focuses on the Japanese American troops of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Dr. Silbey presents testimony from the men of the 442nd that gives readers insight into their conflicting emotions over fighting for a country that was simultaneously imprisoning their loved ones. Validation was given to their struggle after the war when President Harry Truman said to the men of the 442nd: "You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice–and you have won." In the final essay, Dr. Marian Desrosiers details the opportunities given to women who served in the military during World War II, particularly in the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps. These women, and others like them at that time, were given the chance to succeed in positions that had previously been closed to them. Many took the skills they learned in the military and applied them to civilian positions after the war. These three essays give but a glimpse into the experiences of minorities during World War II.

 

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