Did World War II help the US escape the Great Depression?

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enotechris's profile pic

enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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Not only did the Second World War enable the United States to manufacture itself out of the Great Depression, it enabled all the other countries of the world to do so as well.  When the war began, the US supported England, who by 1940 was the sole opposition to Germany, by supplying war materiel under a program known as "Lend-Lease."  Of course, as the US entered the war, the demand for materiel increased; not only did the US supply itself, Canada, England, and other remnants of the British Empire, but the Soviet Union as well.

The terms of the Versailles Treaty annihilated German war production; the Reparations demanded by the victorious allies at the conclusion of World War I destroyed the German economy.  While the US was enjoying the 1920's "boom,"  Germany was wracked with double-digit inflation and social upheaval.  By ignoring the Treaty, Germany began a rearmament program, which restored its economy, and consolidated the Fascist regime.  However, the problem with making war materiel, no matter whose side you're on, is that someone is bound to use it.


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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The level of production and economic growth spurned by World War II helped the United States out of the crippling depression of the time.  There was much in the entry of the Second World War which helped to generate economic growth.  The proliferation of business and industry, the need for massive labor pools, as well as the continual need prompted by the wide nature of the war helped to develop more revenue streams.  This was vitally important in helping the United States escape from the clutches of the massive depression which held the United States.  On many levels, the capitalist cycle of boom and bust had been turned into the former over the latter with the United States' entry into WWII.

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Agree completely with the above post.  In addition, besides 16 million Americans being employed by the armed forces, consumer goods were strictly rationed during the war, and we had nearly full employment.  Wages rose, and the middle class that had been destroyed by the Depression was restored.

When the war ended, rationing ended along with it, but Americans had huge savings accounts - there had been nothing to spend their earnings on for four years.  So the economy was lifted once again after World War II and prosperity continued late into the 1950's.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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World War II didn't just help America escape the Depression.  It was just about the only reason the US did escape the Depression.

People usually give the New Deal the credit for ending the Depression, but all it really did was to make things a little less bad than they had been.  Things were still pretty bad up until the US started getting ready for the war.

After that, the factories started building war material and the men started getting drafted.  That took care of all the unemployment problems that were plaguing the economy during the Depression.

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