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SergeantQueen's avatar

In what ways did the United States economically benefit from World War 2?

Asked by SergeantQueen (3378points) January 6th, 2017

This isn’t a homework question, I saw a segment on TV about World War 2 and I was just curious about the benefits America gained. I know most wars are started because of a resource issue- so did America gain any new resources? The segment said that Great Britains Job employment spiked- did Americas? I never actually learned this information in High school

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14 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Technology stolen from Germany after the war.
Lower unemployment because a lot of yanks were ended overseas.

CWOTUS's avatar

It is a myth to suggest that “the United States benefited economically” from WWII. It’s true that the economic status of the USA was raised vis-à-vis all other combatants and participants in the war, which is to say that its economic status relative to all combatants was improved, but no one would rationally say that the cost of over 600,000 dead soldiers was “a good trade-off” for a relative improvement against some other countries.

In point of fact, the war cost the USA billions of dollars, much of which was expended in bombs and munitions overseas, lost ships, tanks, planes and other capital items, diverted production from peaceful enterprise, etc. ... and of course, the dead soldiers and civilians involved in the war effort, as well as the victims – both military and civilian – at the business end of the dropped bombs, artillery shells and bullets. And all of that was paid for – to the extent that it ever would be – by heavy increases in taxation of American citizens.

Which is not to say that there were zero economic benefits. The introduction of peaceful nuclear power stems from its use as the most horrific weapon of mass destruction yet developed, and in fact, the introduction (and limited proliferation) of nuclear weapons has so far prevented a repeat of that war. Again, rational holders of nuclear weapons do not want to expend or “use” them as other than threats.

And some people certainly did become rich from the production of war matieriél, but on balance “the USA” did not benefit directly in an economic sense. Of course, having the only continental land mass that was nearly devoid of conflict or wartime damage and the strong “relative” position of the US economy after the war enabled its production to switch fairly rapidly back to peaceful use after the war, without having to rebuild factories, bridges, roads and railroads, harbors and docks, etc. (that is “nearly all infrastructure”) after the war ended, but it can hardly be said that a nation “benefited from the war by not being bombed”. That’s a negative benefit if there ever was one.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Well a lot of arms manufacturers made out really well, and as @ragingloli pointed out unemployment was way down because a lot of yanks met their end over seas.

stanleybmanly's avatar

There is no question that the arrival of the war put an abrupt and definitive end to the depression. The war benefitted the United States in ways too numerous to mention. While we did indeed have our share of casualties, we alone of the major combatants had not a single battle, bomb or shell disrupt ANYTHING here. We went overnight from slowly climbing from recession to full employment, and then to a situation where ANYONE could get as much or MORE work than they desired. If you want a mind boggling experience, just have a look at the staggering tables on industrial and manufacturing output in wartime America. At the outset of the war Roosevelt called for the production of 50,000 warplanes. By 1944, we were producing 96,000 A YEAR. At the war’s end, the U.S. with its cities and factories untouched by war, was the unrivaled industrial colossus of the world, and the standard of living of ALL classes in the country went up by better than 50% between 1939–45. We became a more egalitarian and fair society with enlightened goals. The momentum from those wartime years sustained the American dream for close to 40 years.

janbb's avatar

Another benefit to the USA of the war was the high degree of employment of women in non-traditional jobs such as manufacturing. “Rosie the Riveter” was not just one person. many women proved themselves capable of demanding jobs and were forced to give them up to returning GIs at the end of the war. This arguably was one of the factors initiating the Second Wave of feminism.

Strauss's avatar

My aunt was a “Rosie the Riveter”, as was my mother. The difference was “Aunt Rosie” was somehow able to keep her job as a welder until she retired in the 1970s. She had no children to keep her at home. Mom, OTOH, worked as a forklift operator, at a shipyard and was phased out when the war ended.

kritiper's avatar

It brought the United States out of The Great Depression. Everyone had a job.

Cruiser's avatar

America experienced record economic growth after the war primarily because automobile production quadrupled and the housing market exploded in part by easily affordable mortgages for returning servicemen which gave birth to our modern version of Suburban life. TV also played a role as in 1946 there were only 17,000 TV’s in our country. 3 years later Americans were buying 250,000 TV’s a month. Corporate sponsored TV shows and later commercials influenced viewers buying decisions like never before further expanding our economic growth.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

We got in late, when our allies were nearly spent. And we had two oceans east and west of us, and two large allies to the north and south of us as buffers for invasion, and thus never had to suffer the chaos and destruction of our infrastructure like all the other participants. So, we spent less money, lost less men (workforce) per capita than everyone else and therefore were the last industrial country standing when it was over. When everyone else suddenly needed to rebuild, we profited by our manufacturing, banking, etc.

ucme's avatar

Charlie Chaplin memorabilia slightly altered, sales went through the roof.

Cruiser's avatar

Just to supplement what @Espiritus_Corvus mentioned….after the war, the US passed legislation called the Marshall Plan which was an American initiative to aid Western Europe, in which the United States gave over $12 billion (approximately $120 billion in current dollars) in economic support to help rebuild Western European economies after the end of World War II. The goals of the United States were to rebuild war-devastated regions, remove trade barriers, modernize industry, make Europe prosperous again, and probably most importantly, prevent the spread of communism.

The same thing was happening simultaneously in Japan except on top of the rebuild efforts we undertook, we must add in the occupation of Japan. Both efforts in Europe and Japan were a ginormous financial burden on the US and other Allies as well, but we all benefitted economically by all these new demands and commitments and both the blue collar and white collar jobs these rebuilding efforts demanded.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

^^Just for clarification: None of what I posted above was meant in any way to disparage the US actions after WWII. The word “profit” is not a derogatory term as far as I’m concerned. We did put together the Marshall Plan and I consider it one of the smartest blends of business, self-preservation and sheer magnanimity this country has ever been involved in.

We were the last large industrial nation standing and if we hadn’t profited fairly from our manufactures and services to those countries nearly destroyed by six years of total war, we could never could have made the Marshall Plan work.

We needed to assist our former trading partners to rebuild as soon as possible, as their societies were threatening to disintegrate after ten years of deep economic depression followed by six years of world war. We needed them to rebuild quickly, we needed to bring them back into the capitalist economic fold under the umbrella of Democracy, or we would fall as well. Instead of just giving our vanquished allies food, we gave them fish hooks and showed them how to fish again—and we rebuilt our former enemies in our own image.

Stalin was looming on the eastern borders of Europe and the Northern borders of China, champing at the bit to claim more territory for his particular sort of Communism. Within three years after the War, Mao had taken mainland China and was threatening the Korean Peninsula just across a relatively small body of water from our post-war ally, Japan.

Actually, we, and Canada, had no other choice but to carry out the Marshall Plan. But that doesn’t desparage the incredible effort, wealth and the painful putting aside of our war enmity it took to carry it out.

Cruiser's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus What inspired me most about the Marshall plan as it was designed and implemented because it was the right thing to do and profit was not part of the equation. I would be hard pressed to say the same about any recent policy our country puts forth.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

^^I agree. It was perhaps our finest moment. It is a shining chapter in our history and represents all that we can be. But little is taught about it in our schools.

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