12 Jul 2022


Effects of World War II and the Cold War on the United States

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No nation that is party to a war or conflict emerges unscathed. For much of its history, the United States has been involved in conflicts. The Second World War and the Cold War are just some of these conflicts. The country did not emerge out of these wars unaffected. The wars had far-reaching impacts on all aspects of the nation (Thalakada 43). The social and political affairs as well as the country’s economy were affected by the wars. This paper looks at some of the effects of the Second World War and the Cold War on the United States. 

Economic changes 

As already mentioned, the impacts of World War II and the Cold War on the United States were far-reaching. Regarding the economy, World War II transformed production in the country. In an effort to tip the balance of the war in its favor, the US embarked on a campaign where weapons were produced in massive volumes. The country dedicated much of its production capacity to the manufacture of weapons and other tools that supported the war effort (Winkler par. 2). The Second World War also affected the nation’s economic health. In the previous years before the broke out, the US had been hit by the Great Depression. This phenomenon was characterized by high unemployment and depressed production. As the US invested in its defense and military capabilities, new industries were set up and millions of Americans who were previously unemployed found work in these industries (Winkler par. 2). The Second World War also forced private enterprises to become involved in the war effort. They understood that their success hinged on the performance of the United States in the war. As a result of the Second World War, the United States faced shortages of such commodities as food, clothing and gas (Winkler par. 8). These shortages were the result of the policy that saw the nation divert its production processes to the manufacture of weapons. To address the shortages, the US established a rationing policy where families were issued with stamps that they used to obtain food and other items. 

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The Cold War also shaped the American economy in numerous ways. This war led to a deepening of the American trade deficit. One of the strategies that the US employed in the cold war was investing in nations that were at risk of being consumed by Communist influences (Dugger par. 1). The country provided these nations with capital and imported their products. While the investment in these nations allowed the US to emerge victorious, it widened the gap between imports and exports. The US ended up importing more than it exports and this presented negative impacts for the economy (Dugger par. 3). Another impact of the Cold War on the American economy is that it promoted infrastructure development. The Interstate Highway System is a direct result of the Cold War (Bakken 612). This system was developed in an effort to connect the country and to boost defense. From the discussion so far, it is clear that the effects of war on a country’s economy are mixed. While war boosts expenditure and addresses unemployment, it creates additional problems such as increased trade deficits. 

Political changes 

The Second World War and the Cold War ushered political changes in the United States. One of these changes concerns the internment of Japanese Americans. Following the attack of Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces, the American government introduced a policy that saw Japanese Americans and all those of Japanese descent held in camps (Davenport 21). This internment was clearly the result of war hysteria and the government justified it with the argument that the Japanese Americans would betray the United States. The other political change that resulted from World War II was that the American people lost faith in their government. Most Americans were opposed to the war and the decision by the government to drag the nation into the war was not welcomed by many. Another political change that was introduced by World War 2 is America’s voting tradition. Traditionally, presidents have served for a maximum of two terms. The nation broke away from this tradition as Roosevelt ran for a third term (Korzi 80). His decision to defy tradition was based on the fact that the US needed a steady hand that would guide the nation through the war. Since the war occurred at a time when the presidency was scheduled to switch hands, it was thought wise to keep Roosevelt in the White House. The Cold War also affected the social aspect of American life. Thanks to this conflict, a phenomenon referred to as Commie Phobia. Essentially, this refers to a dislike of communist ideals and principles (Chapman par. 1). The country was united in its fight against communism. Individuals who were suspected of having communist links faced persecution and hate. The Cold War also emboldened the American people as they understood their supremacy on the global political space. 

Social impacts 

The impacts of the Cold War and the Second World War on the social aspect of American life were profound. One of these impacts concerns the place of women. Previously, women worked primarily in their homes and were denied access to opportunities in industries. As the nation was drawn into the Second World War, it was forced to appeal to all Americans to join the war effort. Women abandoned their homes and offered their input in factories (Winkler par. 6). They performed roles that were previously reserved for men. Members of the black community were also affected by the war. The nation recognized the important role that they could play in defending the nation against foreign aggressors. The war also changed the consumption of media. The American government wished to maintain the country’s morale at high levels. To do this, it turned to the media and film industries. These industries produced programs that contained patriotic themes and portrayed American enemies in negative light (Koppes & Black 17). All this was done in an effort to win support from the American people for the war initiative. The Second World War also heightened racial tensions as the Japanese American community was ostracized and persecuted. 

The Cold War also shaped American social life. As a result of this conflict, the American film industry focused on anti-communist programs (Shaw & Youngblood 67). These programs were developed in an attempt to defeat communism. Additionally, the Cold War facilitated the end of the injustice that the African American community faced. In its push to defeat communism, the US was driven by the desire to deliver democracy and equality. This was rather ironical since the nation was oppressing its own people on the basis of race. After reflection, the US implemented policies that addressed the injustices endured by the black community. 

In conclusion, that conflict is mostly negative is not in question. Conflict results in death and devastation. All effort should be dedicated to promoting peace and harmony. The US is no stranger to conflict as it took part in the Second World War and the Cold War. These conflicts introduced changes that altered the country’s political, social and economic landscape. The overall impact of these conflicts is negative. For this reason, the US needs to embrace peaceful resolution of conflicts. 


Bakken, Gordon Morris. (Ed.). The World of the American West. London: Routledge. 

2010. Print. 

Chapman, Roger. From Cold War to Cold War: The Legacy of Commie Phobia in 

American Politic s. H-Net Reviews . Web. 

Davenport, John. The Internment of Japanese Americans during World War II: Detention 

Of American Citizens. New York City: Infobase Publishing. 2010. Print. 

Dugger, Robert H. Cold War Roots of U.S. Economic Problems . The Globalist. 2008. Web. 

Koppes, Clayton R., & Black, Gregory D. Hollywood goes to War: Patriotism, Movies and the 

Second World War from Ninotchka to Mrs Miniver. London: Tauris Parke Paperbacks. 

2000. Print. 

Korzi, Michael J. Presidential Term Limits in American History: Power, Principles & 

Politics. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press. 2011. Print. 

Shaw, Tony & Youngblood, Denise Jeanne. Cinematic Cold War: The American and Soviet 

Struggle for Hearts and Minds. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. 2010. Print. 

Thalakada, Nigel. Unipolarity and the Evolution of America’s Cold War Alliances. 

New York: Springer. 2012. Print. 

Winkler, Allan M. The World War II Home Front . The Gilder Lehrman Institute of 

American History. Web. 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). Effects of World War II and the Cold War on the United States.


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