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Unit_12: 1940s & 1950s

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The Big Picture:
The seeds of new conflict had been sown in WWI.  The postwar years brought to Europe economic difficulties and a rise of powerful dictators driven by nationalism and the desire to expand their territory.  Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler established totalitarian governments in Russia, Italy and Germany. Militant leaders took control of Japan.  These actions of totalitarian aggression led to World War II in 1939. The US struggled to remain neutral but eventually was drawn into WWII after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.  On the battle front, the USA fought on two fronts: the Pacific and in Europe. At home, Americans committed to total war, women and minorities participated by working in factories, the government took increasing control over the American economy. After FDR’s death in 1945, new president Harry Truman ended the war by utilizing the advances of the Manhattan Project by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. World War II transformed America into an economic and political superpower. However, America’s rivalry with the Soviet Union began a new era known as the Cold War. The USA used economic aid, formed military alliances, built up nuclear weaponry, and fought proxy wars in an attempt to contain the growing spread of communism in Europe and across the globe. At home, the post-war economy boomed and the U.S. standard of living increased. In the 1950s, America experienced a surge in consumer spending, a baby boom, growth in suburbs, an independent youth culture, the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll and TV, and the beginning of the Civil Rights movement for African-Americans.