It has been said that a feature of 20th century wars was their significant impact on the population at home. Looking at the application of this concept through World War II, it is possible to see the accuracy of this statement. The impact on the home population could be seen on both the Axis and Allied sides of the war, affecting those in countries on whose soil the battles were fought and on those whose soldiers were simply participants in the war itself. In some cases, even those countries who were not direct participants in the war were affected on the home front as well.
Looking first to the United States, those at home were affected before the country even opted to enter the war, paying careful attention to the direction of the battle, the causes that were being fought for, and viewing the war from an economic perspective; though America was not yet involved in the war, she still worked to send supplies to her British counterparts, assisting them in their war efforts indirectly. As a result of this participation, the economy received a huge boost as production of certain goods and materials ramped up, more jobs were available, and there was a greater influx of capital into the country itself, a necessary and welcome change from the Great Depression less than a decade prior. When the United States entered into the war, following the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor, those who remained at home were even further impacted (The U.S. Home Front During World War II, 1). Scrap metal drives were started, bonds were issued and purchased, and everyone, including small children worked to do their part to increase the war efforts of the country (The U.S. Home Front During World War II, 2014). Women left their homes and started working in the factories, taking the places of the men who had so recently held those positions, for the men were now engaged in training activities and exercises, preparing to head off to war. Blackout curtains were common and air raid sirens were frequently heard. The nation lived in a state of cautious readiness, prepared in case the war decided to bring itself to American shores.
Across the globe, in Europe, home life in countries therein were affected as well. The British who were not fighting were engaged in the war effort in some way, working either to continually replace goods that were used in the course of the war, providing assistance to those who needed it, and those who were in the country opened their homes up to the orphans of the nation, much as described in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.
Germany’s home front saw changes as well. Not only did those at home, those not actively fighting in the war, either work to further the efforts of the war through distribution of propaganda, maintenance of supplies and supply lines, and the provision of goods necessary for the army, these individuals were also responsible for collecting any material deemed seditious, working to ensure that the ration system was setup effectively, and were even responsible for either attempting to smuggle in luxury goods or attempting to smuggle out individuals (if the German in question was against the persecution of the Jewish population) (Lyons, 1). “Wartime became a way of life” for the German people and they came to live with the daily possibility of having the war on their doorsteps, literally (Lyons, 1). In addition to being constantly on guard, afraid to display any behavior that may have been viewed as the least bit seditious, including engaging the services of a Jewish businessperson, the home population of Germany had to deal with the adverse effects on their economy, constant threat of bombing, the possibility of the country’s decimation at the conclusion of the war, and a general fear for life in general (Lyons, 1). The stressors of the German population increased overnight and immediately.
Those in the U.S.S.R. (United Socialist Soviet Republic) were affected by the war on their home front as well. The amount of goods coming into the country was sorely reduced, as the countries who were previously engaged in trade were concentrated on their own war efforts and ensuring that they had enough goods for their troops before even allowing themselves to consider the possibility of outside trade. The availability of certain luxuries were reduced due to the supply lines being changed and focus increased on getting supplies to the troops. And though the country was a part of the war itself and held a non-aggression pact with Germany, the eastern front was fraught with tension, tension that served to leak into the daily lives of the populace, resulting in increased stressors, increased tension, and a change in the manner in which daily life was conducted; all this was prior to the failing of this pact and the invasion of the Soviet Union (Invasion of the Soviet Union, June 1941, 1).
Through an understanding of the different means by which the wars of the 20th century significantly impacted the population at home, regardless of the country being referred to as home by the populace, is clearly visible in the events and the effects of those events during World War II. Wars do not simply affect those who are called to serve, those who volunteer to serve, or those who find themselves dead in the middle of a combat situation; war affects all individuals, regardless of whether they are children sitting at home in a country far away, or whether those individuals are viewing the battles through the window into their own backyard.
- HISTORY.com. ‘The U.S. Home Front During World War II – World War II – HISTORY.Com’. N.p., 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.
- Lyons, Scott. ‘World War Two’S Effect On The German Home Front’. World War II Diaries. N.p., 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.