How World War II Changed America

University of Virginia

William I. Hitchcock is the James Madison Professor of History in the Department of History at the University of Virginia. He studied at Kenyon College and Yale University, and has written numerous books, including The Bitter Road to Freedom: A New History of the Liberation of Europe, which won the 2009 George Louis Beer Prize from the American Historical Association and was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. His latest book is the New York Times bestseller Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s.



The Second World War had a dramatic impact on almost every aspect of society, the economy, politics, entertainment, perceptions of the world and America’s place in it. Up until about 1940, most Americans believed that they could avoid direct involvement in the on-going wars in Asia and Europe. While U.S. sympathies lay with China and the western European states under German occupation, most people did not want to fight. Those attitudes began to change in late 1940; by the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941, Americans concluded that to protect democracy, they would have to vanquish tyranny abroad.

In three years, the United States transformed itself into the world’s largest industrial economy, capable of supplying air, naval, and ground forces that could fight simultaneously in two immense battle fronts on opposite sides of the world. This transformation had long-lasting consequences for American society, politics, and economic strength, as well as its own perception of itself as a global power. In this lecture, Professor Hitchcock will examine some of the major changes–some welcome and some unwelcome–that came to America as it fought and won the world’s great and most costly war.


Recommended Reading:

The American People in World War II, by David M. Kennedy

Why the Allies Won, by Richard Overy

Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, at Home and at War, by Linda Hervieux




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Nancy Gorka

excellent lecture!

2 days ago
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