How has the GI Bill (Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944) been significant in the history of the United States of America?

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

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One way in which the GI Bill has been significant in American History is that it recognized a wrong and sought to fix it.  The treatment of veterans who served in World War I played a significant role in the conception and the passage of the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944.  Those who served in World War I, members of the "Bonus Army," recognized that the nation's political leadership did not make much in way of provision for their well- being after serving their country.  President Hoover's inability to provide for the veterans was a significant factor in history's judgment of him.  The veterans who felt abandoned by President Hoover formed the "bonus army," an action that carried as much in way of symbolic failure as well as political miscalculation.  

In large part, President Roosevelt's desire to provide for those who served the nation dutifully in World War II emerged from a desire to avoid past mistakes. President Roosevelt wished to provide for the poorest of veterans.  Over time, this expanded to an increasingly large number of veterans.  In this regard, providing for those who served in World War II helped to establish "the greatest generation" in a peacetime transition.  The ability to have established veterans in the post- war successful transition of America serves as one reason why the GI Bill is so significant to the history of the United States.

Those who served the nation found their prospects significantly enhanced as a result of the GI Bill.  The legislation's provisions that provided for education in different forms enabled soldiers to return to American society and find their own particular calling.  At the same time, low interest, zero down payment aspect of the bill enabled servicemen to return and begin the process of establishing a pattern of domesticity.  The emergence of post-war America as successful in both monetary terms and establishing a culture of achievement was in large part due to the GI Bill.  Under the GI Bill, veterans were able to return to America and be a large part of its success.  They were active participants in determining power and deciding issues of personal autonomy.  The GI Bill helped to establish veterans as arbiters of power and insiders as opposed to returning from war to a condition of being an "outsider."  It is in this regard where the GI Bill can be seen as so significant to American History.

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