One of the themes of being a veteran after the Second World War is the desire to change the status quo. This is very evident in the book when the author describes the experiences of minority veterans in post war life. The status quo for women changed immensely during and after the war. At the beginning of the war women were only allowed to serve for occupational specialties, however, because of their hard work and merit the list of duties women did increased to 239. When women veterans returned home they faced many difficulties such as unemployment, mental disorders, and a VA that was not available to them. These problems were also evident with African American veterans and Hispanic veterans. Both bravely fought and both did not receive much help when returning home. Women, Black, and Hispanic veterans all changed during the war and they all wanted to change the status quo about where their place in society was. The way they did this was through the creation of groups that fought for their rights and benefits. Women started their own veteran groups, the NAACP rapidly increased in size, and Hispanic veterans created the American GI forum. It was shocking to hear about the ineptness of the VA when it came to helping minority veterans. In the past minority veterans would have accepted the old status quo, but, the veterans of the Great War had great ambitions that made them aspire to be more than a house wife, a person with less civil rights, or an agricultural worker.
Archive for October, 2008
Our reading, pages 38 through 89, focused on many topics that affected veterans after they returned home from the Second World War. The first topic presented in our reading was the staggering number of deaths and injuries sustained by the soldiers. On page 38 it gives the statistics of the total who died in combat, 291,557, the total that died from wounds, disease, and accidents, 113,842, and lastly, the total of wounded, 671,846. The great amount of wounded soldiers returning home led to the second topic presented in the book which was the issues with the Veterans’ Administration. FDR administration was known for its substantial spending on government programs and the VA was no exception. The VA, lead by administrator Omar N. Bradley, sought to create and reform veteran hospitals with better care and facilities. One of the VA’s goals was to create hospitals that were on the cutting edge of the field of medicine and as a result they made great strides in the field. Also, along with the VA, there were many volunteer groups that were the grass root effort to help veterans. However, when the Democrats loss power and the veterans were successfully treated, the Veterans’ Administration could not receive the amount of funding its ambitions would need. Once the veterans healed from their wounds they had to overcome another obstacle which was the assimilation back into civilian life. Many veterans choose to utilize the GI bill and go to college and earn a degree. The returning veterans were eager to learn and they performed well in the classroom. Also, many veterans opted for career training and many completed their requirements for their high school diploma. This created an enormous increase in the amount of professional workers entering the work force. The great amount of college graduates created the transition from blue collar work to white collar work that started to become evident in 1950. The last topic in the reading was the role of the veteran in politics. The political culture changed and many voters grew to like a politician with a military background. I found this interesting because this was the start of this trend and it can still be seen today with politicians like John McCain and John Kerry. The veterans of the Second World War were involved in one of the most gruesome wars and when they returned home they were rewarded for it unlike previous American wars.
When Paul Fussell returned home after the war he decided to go through a personal revolution. The war made him change the way he viewed what life was and its purpose. He thought about how his near death experiences made him feel that other people “died in place of him” and that lead him to ask himself how he could justify his life. As a result he became more serious about his education than he was before the war and this brought him to aspire to be an English professor. Fussell also started to become more skeptical and resentful of American culture and status quo. He craved a culture with greater antiquity such as the French culture. This drove him to move to the “European” sophistication of the east and attend Harvard. His quest for knowledge, understanding, and independence were evident during his time in college and during his time as a professor.
There were several interesting stories throughout the reading that stuck out in my opinion. The first thing I found interesting was how Fussell read these satiric readings that nourished his mind about the infantilism of American men’s obsession with sports and the hypocrisy of American advertising. This made me question my obsession with sports and how American culture fosters this obsession that is in fact childish if you really think about it. Also, I liked how he described his professors and college experience in full detail. I found many things that I can relate to now as a student. Throughout his whole life, Fussell stuck to his ideals that he adopted after he returned from war. It is absolutely incredible how one traumatic experience can alter your beliefs, your life goals, and in absolute…the person you are.
Paul Fussell’s Doing Battle gave a great first hand experience of a WW2 soldier. Unlike the other first hand accounts we have already read, he was very descriptive in expectations going into the war. Fussell was different because he had to wait because he was in college. This can be seen as unfair because he got to wait when many were fighting, but as a college student myself I can relate to not wanting to leave. He was in the ROTC and he said that the experience of JTROC did not prepare him for anything. He would soon find out that it would not advance his rank and that it was nothing like what he was about to go through in boot camp.
It was very interesting how he changed dramatically when he entered the army. He described himself before the war as out of shape and not truely brave. Then later after being in the army he described himself as a fit killing machine. Also, it was interesting how his experience in the war proved to be just as gruesome as past wars. He described one instance where he saw a bunch of dead Germans with brains coming out of thier nostrils which caused him to walk away on his own to reflect. This showed that war is very dramatic and it can change a man profoundly no matter what war he was involved in.
The return of World War one veterans was reflective of the progressive government that the country had at the time. There were many agencies put in place to monitor how the soldiers felt, what issues they cared about, and what kind of issues were they complaining about. I found that interesting that for the first time, politicians saw the future impact returning veterans would have in political culture. The soldiers themselves were not shy to include themselves in politics. Many soldiers would write home telling their families to vote on issues that would bring them home faster. When soldiers got home they also sought out political power through joining legions or groups.
Though the soldiers tried to be active in politics, there was little else to be active in. Many soldiers returned home to high unemployment rates. Along with the troubles of finding employment, the soldiers did not receive compensation for their time in the war. This problem reached its peak during the bonus march. Many beleaguered veterans after the great depression were angry at Hoover’s failed economic policies and felt that he had let veterans down. They wanted their bonuses and they were not going to leave until they received some benefits.