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Riveting a center wing section for a B-24
Riveting a center wing section for a B-24E bomber
Photograph courtesy U.S. Naval Historical Center



9. WHAT WAS THE IMPORTANCE OF PEARL HARBOR IN MOBILIZING THE U.S. FOR WAR?
 

“Let’s Remember Pearl Harbor,” a song written immediately after the attack, caught the spirit of the United States: The sneak attack, as the Japanese air raid was called, united the U.S.

On Monday, December 8, long lines of volunteers formed at U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps recruiting offices; men and women wanted to don uniforms and avenge Pearl Harbor.

Other, long-term results:

  • The war encouraged the U.S. to become a highly mobile society: Between the more than 15 million people who joined the U.S. armed forces and the additional 15 million who went to work in the civilian war effort, more than 20 percent of all Americans moved from their hometown. African-American migration, in particular, peaked during World War II, with 1.5 million departures from the South to northern cities--and war-plant jobs--in the 1940s.
  • The U.S. government rounded up about 120,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry on the U.S. West Coast. Nearly two-thirds were U.S. citizens, and more than one-fourth of them were children under 15. They were taken to remote relocation centers in the western United States. Not until early in 1943 were Japanese-Americans allowed to enlist in the Armed Forces.

    More than 17,000 Japanese-Americans fought for the United States in World War II. Nisei (persons born in the United States of immigrant Japanese parents and therefore United States citizens) formed the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Fighting against Germany, the combat team became the most decorated military unit in U.S. history, winning thousands of medals, awards, and citations. But when many of these soldiers wrote home, they addressed their letters to detention centers.
  • In 1940 women--most of them telephone operators, nurses, teachers, and social workers--made up 24.3 percent of the U.S. workforce; by 1945 the percentage was 34.7. When women walked into jobs in war plants and shipyards, they crossed a threshold and would never turn back. Also, some 13,000 women rushed to enlist on the first day of registration; by war’s end more than 200,000 would serve in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAC) and the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES).
  • The United States became an arsenal of democracy: From 1941 to mid-1945, U.S. war plants produced ten battleships, nearly a hundred aircraft carriers of all sizes, thousands of tanks, merchant ships, invaluable LST landing ships and other landing craft, hundreds of thousands of airplanes, millions of military trucks, rifles and carbines, machine guns, and billions of rounds of ammunition.
 

 
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