From Boomers to Millennials: A Modern US History Podcast

Episode 1 - 1946: Understanding the Baby Boomers' Parents

July 12, 2019 Logan Season 1 Episode 1
From Boomers to Millennials: A Modern US History Podcast
Episode 1 - 1946: Understanding the Baby Boomers' Parents
Chapters
From Boomers to Millennials: A Modern US History Podcast
Episode 1 - 1946: Understanding the Baby Boomers' Parents
Jul 12, 2019 Season 1 Episode 1
Logan

To understand the Baby Boomer generation, one first needs to understand the forces that shaped their parents & their childhoods. This episode examines the generation that experienced the Great Depression & World War II before giving birth to the Boomers. The program describes the impact of U.S. postwar prosperity, suburbanization, the G.I. Bill, and the departure of women from the wartime workforce. The year 1946 also contained often-forgotten tensions and conflicts, including clashes over labor relations and race relations. The 1946 episode concludes by looking at the unstable international situation, including a humanitarian crisis in Europe and ideological tensions that would lead the USA & the Soviet Union to their imminent face-off in the Cold War.

Show Notes Transcript

To understand the Baby Boomer generation, one first needs to understand the forces that shaped their parents & their childhoods. This episode examines the generation that experienced the Great Depression & World War II before giving birth to the Boomers. The program describes the impact of U.S. postwar prosperity, suburbanization, the G.I. Bill, and the departure of women from the wartime workforce. The year 1946 also contained often-forgotten tensions and conflicts, including clashes over labor relations and race relations. The 1946 episode concludes by looking at the unstable international situation, including a humanitarian crisis in Europe and ideological tensions that would lead the USA & the Soviet Union to their imminent face-off in the Cold War.

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Speaker 1:

From boomers to millennials is a modern US history podcast, providing a fresh look at the historical events that shaped current generations from the Cold War era to the present. Welcome to 1946 AKA episode one understanding the baby boomers parents because the actual members of the baby boomer generation are either newborn or unborn during 1946 few will appear as major characters today. However, I will begin to describe the cultural and social forces that shaped their childhoods. Obviously, as a general rule, the biggest influence during the first decade of a child's life is their parents and guardians, so to understand the baby boom generation, we will need some understanding of their parents' generation. We will also pay attention to the social and political events that began shaping the world the boomers grew up in. During this episode, I'll briefly discuss the social trend toward nuclear family formation, traditional domestic relations and suburbanization that accompanied America's increasing birth rate.

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I will then discuss the often forgotten fears and conflicts that were the psychological flip side to the postwar jubilation of 46 - this includes clashes about labor relations and race relations. It also involves American's efforts to understand their opportunities and responsibilities as one of the strongest global economic and military powers left standing after World War Two. The future looks bright for our Americans if world peace and stability could be maintained, but that was far from easy in the chaotic postwar world that included many nations and peoples that had been left devastated and desperate world war one had been billed as a war to end all wars, but amazingly, when it finally ended after four bloody years, another even bigger world war broke out. Within less than two decades of the World War war armistice, American leaders had to figure out how to avoid this cycle repeating itself, especially in a world where future wars might be even more apocalyptically devastating due to the ingenious and ominous American innovation known as the atomic bomb, which had been used for the first time in the war against Japan during 1945 but most Americans were more focused on nuclear families than nuclear weapons at this time.

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The baby boom started in 1946 when many men who had served in the military during World War II returned to their home towns in the USA and found a job, a house, and a woman who was willing to marry them. Pregnancies and births soon reached record numbers. Historian James T. Patterson notes that by the end of 1946, quote an all time high of 3.4 million babies had been born. 20% more than in 1945. close quote. During the war, people both serving abroad and living on the home. Fred had put their lives on hold for years, but now there was finally peace around the world and a surplus of good jobs available across the US many Americans decided this was a perfect time to finally start a family. To give you an idea of how consequential the children born during 1946 would be to the future of the country.

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Consider that just during the summer of that year, Bill Clinton was born in the small town of hope, Arkansas. While up in Connecticut, the prominent Bush family welcomed little George W, into the world and down in Queens, New York, a real estate mogul named Donald Trump opened his eyes for the first time. Because these future politicians may sour some of you on the birth class of 1946 in fairness, I should also mention the legendary queen vocalist Freddie Mercury was born in 1946, as were fellow rock stars, David Gilmore of Pink Floyd and John Paul Jones of led Zeppelin, boomer divas, Dolly Parton and Cher made their debuts on earth that year as did directors, Steven Spielberg and actors, Danny Glover, Diane Keaton, Sylvester Stallone, and Cheech Marin. Why so many boomer babies starting in 1946? The birth rate had been low since the Great Depression started in 1929 during a decade and a half of depression and war, families questioned whether they could support children financially and whether the American system could still provide a bright future for a newborn generation.

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But now World War Two had just reached its conclusion and spoiler alert, the United States and its allies had won. I won't really be explaining World War II in this podcast. If you're interested in a narrow niche topic like the Second World War, if you dig deep enough, you might be able to find a little bit of information about it. I think there been a couple shows on cable television about it. Anyway, many of these older adults started families now that the US had finally entered a period of peace and prosperity. The baby boom was also caused by a simultaneous trend of younger adults getting married in their early twenties or even while teenagers. According to us census data, the average age of first marriage dropped from 26 years old for a man and 22 years old for a woman in the year 1900 to age 23 for men and age 20 for women in 1950 with the average age of first marriage approaching age 30 here in 2019 the record lows of the postwar period seem truly remarkable.

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The generation that gave birth to the baby boom is the subject of considerable attention and debate. About 20 years ago, former NBC news anchor, Tom Broka wrote The Greatest Generation a book that many grandparents from that generation received as a holiday gift. He argued that this generation successfully weathered one of the most trying periods in American history, courageously and during depression and war. He writes that this generation quote stayed true to their values of personal responsibility, duty, honor, and faith, close quote, and he implies that all future generations owe them a debt of gratitude. However, it does seem rather biased to use the term, the greatest generation in this podcast. After all, there have been a lot of generations in US history. Can we really be sure that this one was the greatest of them? All critics of the boomers parents know that this was a generation that sometimes unquestionably accepted that black people were denied civil rights in the south and face discrimination everywhere in the u s they often took for granted that women's primary role in society was limited to within the home.

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Many of them weren't particularly tolerant of people with cultural, political, or sexual orientations outside of the American norm and above all, when boomers reached early adulthood, many viewed their parents' generation as being excessively blindly patriotic conformists who were too hesitant to question authority. In fairness to Broca, he does acknowledge some of these critiques in his mostly positive profile of this generation. There's another designation sometimes given to the boomers parents, which is the silent generation. When I first heard that description of the pre boomers, I was a little bit offended on their behalf. To me, it seemed to suggest that this was a generation with nothing to say or one that wasn't saying anything interesting or valuable. Some demographers actually define the silent generation as a generation in between the greatest generation and the boomers, the distinct silent generation in this framing where the people who were too young to experience the struggle of having to financially maintain a household during the great depression and to experience the trauma of overseas service during World War II.

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Nevertheless, I want to point out that even that generational cohort experienced childhoods marked by material deprivation and geopolitical anxiety during this depression and war era. The term silent generation was first coined in a 1951 time magazine article that claimed this group was less ideological and more practical and career focused than its generational predecessors. On reflection, I do think there is some truth in the term silent generation. Many boomers remember their fathers being reluctant to talk about the details of their service. This was probably a coping mechanism of dealing with bad memories from a good war that was often more harrowing and its violence than we generally acknowledge. Many parents, regardless of gender, weren't too eager to talk about the indignities and scarcity they suffered during the great depression. Even those pre boomers who were not coping with direct trauma often came across as emotionally distant.

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They grew up in a more formal, stoic and emotionally repressed era. Certain topics such as mental illness, physical disabilities, financial challenges, and sexual improprieties were taboo to talk about among respectable company. Things that embarrass the so-called good name of the family were sometimes covered up. For example, the famous Kennedy political dynasty covered up the fact that their daughter Rosemary was intellectually disabled. This taboo on certain topics was accepted by powerful sectors of American society, including the press in the 30s and forties President Franklin d Roosevelt did his best to prevent the American people from knowing the extent of his polio related physical hardships such as his reliance upon a wheelchair. Perhaps more remarkable for present day Americans is the fact that the media largely played along with FDRs deception rather than exposing it and at front page breaking news headline. Some of this restraint probably was ingrained in pre boomer generations from their earliest childhood days.

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Parents during the early 20th century were encouraged by scientific experts such as influential psychologist John B. Watson to impose strict rules and routines on children very early on in life. They were even warned that expressing too much affection could be detrimental to a child's social and moral development. In our current baby boom year of 1946 a physician named Benjamin Spock published a book called the Common Sense Book of baby and child care. Of course, this was not the Mr Spock from the Star Trek Universe, although given the doctor Spock was still a famous name in the 60s when that science fiction program first stared, he may have consciously or unconsciously inspired the creators to use that name for a character. Anyway, Benjamin Spock's book question, the prior generations childcare practices and encourage parents to be a little less strict and to show a little bit more affection. The book was a hit and some boomer parents began following Spock's advice while others likely stuck to the methods their parents used on them.

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Somewhat humorously, critics of the radical activism of some baby boomers occasionally pointed to Spock's book is the source of all the claiming that his indulgent childcare methods created a generation of spoiled, self-centered hippy. Brad's lacks respect for authority. This theory seems a little farfetched, but different child care methods and childhood experiences were surely one factor among many that caused the boomer generation to differ from its predecessors. For the purposes of this podcast, I don't think there are enough significant differences between the greatest generation and silent generation to consider them as different groups. So if we're settling on one label, calling them the silent generation seems to dismissive of their major accomplishments, but calling them the greatest generation seems a bit too worshipful. I do think that any group that led America through the ordeals of depression and war with our democratic system intact and our military forces triumphant over fascism does deserve to be called grade.

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But there is that flip side to that stoicism, conformity and formality that caused them to clash with the boomers. And I want my terminology to reflect that too. So my admittedly awkward compromise solution will be to refer to the boomers parents as the great silent generation now on with their story. Many Americans returning from their military service abroad fear to reversion to the dismal prewar economy of the depression years. However, this did not happen. Americans' economic rivals in bombed out Europe. We're a long way from recovering their industrial and agricultural capacities. The war left many governments such as the British imperial regime deeply in debt, but the North American balance sheets were in far better shape. These factors meant that the postwar us economy provided plenty of job opportunities to citizens' u s government policies also played a key role in reintegrating returning veterans into the economy. In 1944 Congress passed the GI bill and President Roosevelt signed it into law.

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In his book, freedom from fear historian David M. Kennedy notes that this bill offered ex-serviceman quote, vocational training and higher education as well as housing and medical benefits while in school and low interest loans thereafter for buying homes and starting businesses. Kennedy writes about the spectacular growth in college enrollment that occurred as a result of this government program. Higher Education had previously been the province of elite, a luxury limited to under 10% of the u s population. In part because of the GI bill, the percentage of Americans who are college graduates doubled in just two decades. As an aside, I now give any millennials listening out there a painful that college tuition costs and real estate prices were remarkably low. In comparison with their 21st century equivalent even after controlling for inflation, one less celebrated and more controversial social phenomenon. They coincided with the return of World War II veterans to the States was the displacement of women from the industrial labor force.

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Rosie the riveter and her compatriots were essentially told good work well done now if you don't mind politely escort yourself app so the men can have their jobs back. The military deployment of huge numbers of American men during World War II caused labor shortages and many women were drawn into a wide variety of industries, particularly novel was American women's recruitment into heavy manufacturing jobs such as operating waves, assembling munitions, welding and well riveting. These tasks required dexterity and physical strength. They had traditionally been considered men's work but during World War Two the courageous efforts of American soldiers were buttress by the labors of American workers. Often women who produced essential planes, tanks, weapons and other supplies. Now, some women likely wished to return to domestic life after their tenure in the harsh factory environment, particularly if they planed to start a family, but many others relished the independence and self confidence they gained in the workplace.

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According to who historian Lane Tyler May's book, homeward bound American families in the Cold War era, quote three out of four employed women hope to keep working after the war. Close quit. Well, women sometimes held onto jobs in more traditionally female positions such as teaching secretarial and other service sector work. Men required the vast majority of blue collar jobs after the war. Some employers adopted policies designed to nudge women toward the door. For example, Elaine Tyler May notes that women's average weekly pay dropped 26% after the war compared with the total national postwar wage decrease of just 4% historian James T. Patterson sums up the scale of the transformation. Nicely quote, by early 1946 approximately 2.2 5 million women workers had quit their jobs either because they wanted to or because they saw the handwriting on the wall. Another million were laid off. Close quote, the return of male veterans to the industrial workforce occurred because of various cultural and economic factors.

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There was this sense that servicemen had earned the benefit of steady employment through their sacrifices in the war. It was also a reversion to the tradition in the early 20th century that most families got by on the husbands wage alone. Single women sometimes worked for a wage during that era, but at customarily came to an end. Once they got married, men's wages were expected to adequately provide for their households, but their control over those funds gave them the opportunity to be irresponsible if they so desired. Women were sometimes powerless to stop men's earnings from being squandered on personal indulgences instead of benefiting the family. Nevertheless, in 1945 poll found that 63% of Americans did not approve of married women working if their husbands were able to financially support them. Before mid 20th century innovations and prosperity brought labor saving household appliances into the average home. The combination of cleaning, cooking, and childcare were often very time consuming for housewives.

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Before the 1930s many parts of rural America lacked electricity and you can imagine how much more difficult it would be to keep a household warm, bright, clean, and well-fed without the help of electronic devices. Biographer Robert K. Rowe provides some insight into domestic life before electric power. In his book, the path to power, he describes farm women repeatedly carrying buckets of well water and piles of firewood for the stove and fireplace, doing laundry. Even that involved hours of tedious scrubbing with Abrasive soap made from lye. Rural housewives, usually too poor to have servants, of course usually had only children to assist them because men were doing their own exhausting work, raising the crops and caring for the farm animals. By the 1940s technological advances were gradually easing the burden on homemakers. By the early sixties the stereotype of the board, housewife had some validity, but until the postwar era, many women were likely to busy and exhausted to ruminate much about the tediousness of their lives.

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As we have seen the post World War II, U s attempted to return to the familiar prewar status quo on gender relations only after several years of this conservative domesticity did people begin to question it in large numbers. Of course, the 1960s and seventies would bring forward the most powerful women's rights movement since suffragettes had demanded the right to vote way back in the 1910s but in 46 we are still years away from the birth control pill, no fault divorce, de-stigmatization of same sex relationships or a service dominated economy and the rise of second wave feminism. Consequently, women leaving the workplace usually ended up marrying a man and beginning to have children right away in the years after the war, two contradictory social impulses coexisted in the postwar era. One was the aforementioned desire for what after World War One was termed a return to normalcy, a wish to enjoy the calmness and stability possible only during peace time.

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This tendency resulted in the rise of marriage and birth rates during the night late 1940s as we have discussed along with an increase in suburbanization and a revival of religious participation. The contrasting simultaneous samples was to take some of the energy that had been channeled into winning a total war, one of the most intense cooperative endeavors a human society can go through and to unleash some of that fierce dynamism and crusading spirit upon peace, time, social struggles at home. For example, racial conflicts took place during and after World War Two which often began when African Americans sought jobs in traditionally white fields moved into white neighborhoods or otherwise violated the racial taboos of the time most conflicts occurred in 1943 when black people and white folks battled in Detroit and Manhattan, while whites and Mexican Americans rumbled in Los Angeles large scale racial insurrections were more rare in 1946 but some did occur such as the airport homes, race riot in Chicago, which involved white residents attempting to drive out black families who were trying to move in formerly all white public housing.

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As ugly as these incidents were. Thankfully there was less overall violence in 1946 related to race. Then there had been after the previous world war, explosive energy among returning veterans and civilians steeled by the hardships of wartime at the left and infamous legacy after World War One. The summer after the first World War, armistice became known as the red summer of 1919 because of its bloody racial violence, black veterans of World War One returned to the states with justifiable pride in their wartime service and accomplishments, but at home they still were treated as members of an inferior cast. Within America's social hierarchy, tensions between increasingly assertive African American veterans and resentful whites determined to keep them in their so-called place. Led to vicious conflicts. In Summer 1919 over 100 people, most of them black died in race riots across the u s but today we are in 1946 and this time, black people struggle for a quality and respect would not be quickly derailed.

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Many African American veterans of World War II were quietly channeling their war, time, energy, and pride into methodical efforts to reform the American racial status quo. Historian Thomas Borstal Stillman notes in his book the Cold War and the color line, that membership in the most prominent black civil rights organization, the National Association for the advancement of colored people or NAACP, more than doubled in membership between 1940 and 1946 blacks organizing to push for equal rights by political and legal means now had a few powerful white allies to assist in the fight such as former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. By the 1940s northern white elites in the u s were usually more critical of racism than they had been back in the 1910s in the 1910s theories of white superiority had widespread pseudo-scientific respectability, even at Ivy League universities among northern racial liberals who often coexisted uneasily alongside southern segregationists. Within the Democratic Party in the post World War II era, there were now some prominent leaders who pushed government to take action against racial discrimination in response to such demands.

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President Harry Truman used an executive order at the end of 1946 to appoint a presidents committee on civil rights to investigate race relations and proposed changes to protect minority rights. The committee's efforts would soon bear fruit as we shall see, but it was only the beginning of a multi-decade struggle for civil rights. Another area where Americans brought wartime level energy and intensity to the home front in 1946 was in the arena of labor relations during World War II. The government helped facilitate a truce between company management and labor unions in which workers were guaranteed adequate wages and management was guaranteed adequate profits in exchange for both sides, agreeing to abstain from strengths and lockouts with the war over that truce had come to an end. Some labor activists were eager to push their rights further and to organize more industries and regions. While many companies were already cutting back generous wartime wages and benefits.

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As a result between the Japanese surrender in 1945 and the autumn of 1946 the United States experienced one of the largest strike waves ever in its history. According to grand expectations. The United States 1945 to 1974 by historian James T. Patterson, the strike wave at his peak involved quote 1.8 million workers in such major industries as meatpacking oil refining electrical appliances, steel and automobile manufacturer. Patterson notes that about one in 14 working Americans went on strike in 1946 unfortunately for labor union members, the strikes proved to be a mixed success at best and an outright failure at worst. The outcome of Operation Dixie and unsuccessful attempt to organize the historically anti-union American south was particularly disappointing for big labor and its allies. President Truman had a mixed record in terms of support for labor unions and he generally disapproved of the strike wave a strike by railroad workers. In May, 1946 angered him so much that he threatened to draft strikers into the military, but the labor dispute was settled before he could attempt to enact these draconian measures.

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Strikes, did result in wage and benefit increases for some groups such as auto workers, but they also produced a powerful backlash among non-unionized workers, middle-class consumers, and economic elites who resented the disruptions to commerce and the scarcity of consumer goods that occurred because of closed minds, railways and factories. The Republican Party would successfully exploit this backlash against labor unions in the 1946 midterm congressional elections to provide context for the political upheaval of 46 we must consider the party politics status quo that existed prior to the end of the war. The political views of the great silent generation had been shaped by, you guessed it, the anxieties of depression and war. The Republicans had been dominant in national politics during the 1920s but they lost credibility when they seemed unable to halt the economic freefall that began with the stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent onset of the Great Depression.

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In 1932 the nation's voters handed the federal government over to President Franklin D Roosevelt, Aka FDR and large democratic majorities in Congress. And together they ushered in one of the great reform areas in American history. FDRs so-called new deal federal government programs intervened in the U s economy to an unprecedented degree, ensuring the solvency of banks, expanding the power grid to include rural electrification, providing government jobs to large numbers of unemployed Americans and establishing the social security retirement benefits that remain politically popular. To this day, apparently most Americans approved of these efforts because Democrats retained control of Congress for the entirety of the 14 years from 1932 to 1946 remarkably, Roosevelt had been reelected not once, not twice, but three times. You may be thinking, wait, can't presidents only serve two terms? Obama couldn't run for a third term. He wasn't eligible. Well, that's the case today, but it was only an unofficial custom for presidents to limit themselves to eight years before Roosevelt's era.

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FTR had been willing to break that tradition, which he justified in part by the supposed need for stable leadership due to the likely imminent outbreak of the Second World War. He had been reelected in 1936 by a landslide. His races in 1940 and 1944 or much closer, but he still kept winning. He may have seemed politically immortal, but by his final term in office, he was a sickly old man and he died just six months after his final electoral victory in 44 and four months before America's military victory over Japan in 45 Republicans and others concerned about another popular president matching or surpassing Roosevelt's tenure in office would push through the 22nd amendment to the u s constitution in the late 1940s that prohibited any president from serving more than two elected terms. With FDR out of the picture, the presidency pass to Harry Truman of Missouri and every man figure who lacked the political track record and the patrician yet fatherly demeanor of his predecessor.

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Although Roosevelt was strongly disliked by many American economic conservatives, geopolitical isolationists and wealthy business interests, most Americans had developed something of a bond with Roosevelt whose folksy, cheerful speeches had been broadcast live to them over the radio. Throughout the course of many troubled years. US voters didn't know Truman well. He had only been vice president for a few months before FDRs death and they were very aware of the fact that Democrats had dominated the federal government for an awfully long time. It turned out that the American people were ready to shake up the political status quo. The Republicans used the slogan had enough in the 1946 congressional elections, they exploited the public dissatisfaction with widespread labor unrest and rising prices of consumer goods that had resulted from an abrupt ending of wartime price controls. Historian Nelson Lichtenstein, who researched the economics of this era in his labor biography, The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit suggest that, quote:

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Between March and November, 1946 the cost of living index surged by more than 14% Lichtenstein also finds the low turnout by liberal voters, left uninspired by Truman's leadership was also a factor in the Republican capture of both houses of Congress in the 1946 election. The Republican success in 1946 cast doubt on whether the Democratic Party coalition that had dominated the past 15 years would hold together in the absence of Roosevelt and the crises he had led the country through the US ideological pendulum had swung to the right for a full decade in the aftermath of World War One and it now appeared possible. This pattern may be repeating itself. In the wake of the Second World War, the election of a potentially hostile congress was only one of many problems facing President Truman during his first full year in the White House. He faced not only domestic turmoil, but also international instability.

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The world faced the paradox that the most destructive war in human history was brought to an end in part by means of the most destructive weapon in human history. After the U s military dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan in August, 1945 the imperial Japanese government promptly surrendered bringing in to World War II, but the death disease and utter devastation caused by those atomic weapons shocked the world. People around the globe fretted that if such destructive weapons became commonplace, the next world war might bring an end to human civilization. This made establishment of the lasting peace seem utterly essential as a general rule, pieces easier to maintain amidst conditions of prosperity and stability. Unfortunately, the material and political situation in Europe during the aftermath of World War II was truly dire. The British writer Keith low labeled it a savage continent. Law and morality broke down as people engaged in a desperate struggle for survival amidst the physical and institutional rubble of what had been the center of the so called civilized world.

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In the aftermath of German surrender. In May, 1945 President Truman enlisted republican x, President Herbert Hoover in a bipartisan s effort to provide food for tens of millions of Europeans who were facing starvation according to postwar by his story in Tony Jet, the United States United Kingdom and Canada distributed some $10 billion in relief throughout Europe between 1945 and 1947 but even those Europeans with full bellies still faced a host of other dangers. Greece was in a state of outright civil war and all around the continent. Re-Emergent nation states struggled to reimpose order in an environment where vengeance against foreign occupiers, their local collaborators and perceived ethnic or ideological foes sometimes was meted out via thefts, beatings, rapes, and even murders. Postwar military settlements shifted. Europe's causing a large numbers of Germans, Poles, and other groups to become refugees after their homes ended up located within somebody else's country. Stateless minorities such as Jewish people and Romani people, then commonly referred to as Gypsies, who had already been decimated by the horrors of the Holocaust, found themselves especially vulnerable.

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At this time, the areas of eastern Europe occupied by the United States, unlikely World War II ally, the Soviet Union were in a particularly difficult situation. These nations joy at their liberation from Nazi rule through the efforts of the Soviet Red Army was short lived as the leadership of the authoritarian regime in Moscow was determined to ensure that those countries would have ideologically friendly communist governments so they could serve as close partners. That is a virtual puppet states of Soviet Russia. The Soviets claimed they simply wanted a buffer zone of friendly nations to prevent them from being vulnerable to another surprise attack from the west, such as they had suffered at the hands of Nazi Germany in 1941 however, the Soviets installation of single party authoritarian socialists, governments in eastern Europe, appalled many in the west who denounced the undemocratic nature of these regimes and who feared the further spread of communism into other parts of Eurasia.

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One of those alarmed by these developments was former British leader, Winston Churchill. He had recently been defeated for reelection as UK prime minister, but he retained the admiration of people around the world for his stirring oratory and bold leadership during Britain's darkest wartime hours touring the United States. Churchill declared in a March, 1946 speech at a Missouri college that the Soviets had installed a quote iron curtain around Eastern Europe. Churchill gave the following morning from what I have seen of our Russian allies during the war, I am convinced that there is nothing they admire so much as strength and there is nothing for which they have less respect than weakness, especially military weakness. The speech went viral. As we now say, Churchill's phrase, iron curtain stuck and Americans grew more suspicious of their former Soviet allies. Many top advisers to President Truman within the u s government shared Churchill's view that the Soviets intended to expand communist power in a manner potentially threatening to capitalists and democratic nations.

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The volatile state of the postwar world meant that US leaders faced a number of deadly serious geopolitical questions at the end of 1946 could the Americans maintain their nuclear weapons monopoly for long and should they? Could the U S and its allies construct a global institutional framework for peace in the post-war world or would attempts at international cooperation end up as impotent as the League of Nations had proven to be after World War One? Could American occupying forces help transform the former empire of Japan into a non militaristic democratic nation with civil war raging in China with the departure of the Japanese from occupying that vast region? Could peace in Asia be maintained in Europe and beyond? Could American efforts provide sufficient relief to assuage various humanitarian crises? Could the already strange u s relationship with the Soviets be salvaged or must communist nations be opposed militarily just as the fascists had been because of their alleged ideological inability to coexist peacefully with democratic governments.

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That question loomed above all the others. The fuzzy and uncertain international situation of 46 would begin to come into focus during the year 1947 during that year, Americans would commit to take on the mantle of global military and diplomatic leadership during the post World War II era. However, this US shift away from its traditional position of relative isolationism would be justified in large part by the specter of a new international superpower conflict that would dominate political and social debates for decades to come. Instead of being called to stand down after achieving victory in a red hot global war, the American military diplomatic and intelligence forces would soon be redirected to wage shadowy, ideological struggles around the world, and what soon became known as the early Cold War.

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hey there, Logan here, letting you know that if you enjoyed our program on 1946, you can help keep these episodes coming in a timely fashion by making a small donation to our patrion at patrion.com/boomer to millennial, two L's, two n's and millennial, or by leaving a favorable review of from boomers to millennials on your favorite podcast providing platform. We also made a Twitter because hey, everyone who tweets has complete credibility. Uh, anyways, you can follow us at boomer underscore to. That's @boomer_to. Above all, subscribe to our feed so you can be fed our latest delicious content. Finally, I want to recognize that our listeners truly are the greatest generation regardless of their birth year. So thank you for listening. Yeah.