USA Home Front 1950’s

Arvin TV ad

Arvin TV ad

By the time WWII was over, the American people were exhausted. They had given their all between enduring the Great Depression and then depriving themselves even more for the war effort. They had had rationing and lost their men. They wanted to forget it all and as quickly as possible. They wanted their lives to change, to move forward and they went for these goals with both feet.

The military at home was being drastically reduced and there was ample talk of eliminating the Marine Corps entirely. Among those in favor of that budget-cut included such men as: Omar Bradley, Dwight Eisenhower and Louis Johnson, Secretary of Defense. Johnson was responsible for the Corps being down to only 70,000 men, spread throughout the world.

John Wayne in Camels ad

John Wayne in Camels ad

When Pearl Harbor was attacked, the whole country, no matter where they were or what they were doing, remember hearing the news and were immediately aware that the country was at war. This was not so in 1950 when the North Korean army crossed the 38th parallel. As we enter the Korean War section, you will clearly notice the transformation on the home front. The lifestyle described in my guest posts for Greatest Generations drastically changes from the WWII era and partly accounts for why this became such a forgotten war.

Harriet Nelson for Hotpoint

Harriet Nelson for Hotpoint

The American public knew nothing of “police actions,” in fact, the term did not exist until the media coined the phrase. President Truman was capable of committing U.S. troops to a combat zone without a declaration of war by Congress – who knew? The idealism, enthusiasm and support from WWII was rapidly fading.

The civilians wanted communist aggression halted, but not at the cost of losing more troops; especially the longer it seemed to drag on – was it really worth the cost? There were very few protests against the war and some reason for that were the infamous McCarthy Senate investigations; many feared being put on “the list” of communist sympathizers. Joseph McCarthy’s accusations that the government contained “card-carrying” members proved unfounded, but his hearings continues, as did the newspaper headlines. The political atmosphere of the U.S. was poisoned and when General MacArthur was reined in – the situation deteriorated all the more.

Coffee pot that turns off automatically!

Coffee pot that turns off automatically!

In December 1950, Truman ordered that all statements made by government or military officials must be cleared by Washington first; the trust and support for the war dropped even farther. The polls showed 56% of all Americans felt the U.S. had made a mistake by getting involved. In the spring of 1951, the Truman administration became the most unpopular in American history (to that date). The president wanted a limited war, while MacArthur and many in Congress felt, “there is no substitute for victory.” A ‘win or get out attitude’ would begin the general’s dismissal and the polls read 60% for MacArthur and 29% for Truman.

International Harvester Refrigerator

International Harvester Refrigerator

America had changed. Salaries were up, unemployment was down to 2% and the public had money to spend. The American population was a mere 6% of the world, but they made about half of the manufactured products for the planet. Industry, without competition, booked in outrageous proportions. Detroit was rolling out both tanks and automobiles. Televisions hit the market in such quantities that 2/3 of all households owned at least one.

the latest in milk delivery

the latest in milk delivery

Despite nighttime news reports on the war, the public continued to get most of their updates in newspapers. The TV cameras, at the time, were still bulky and it was difficult to get them up to the front. But in the fall of ’52 and spring of ’53, the war headlines abated. (American lives were lost in large numbers in this time period in the small-scale engagements and the ferocious battle of Pork Chop Hill. These months were the stage of war depicted in the TV series M*A*S*H*.)

"Cookie-cutter" housing development, Levittown, PA

“Cookie-cutter” housing development, Levittown, PA

People went on vacations, traveled, went shopping without ration cards and the majority virtually went about their daily lives as if there was no war at all. Developments sprung up around the country of ‘cookie-cutter’ homes such as in East Meadow, Long Island and Levittown, PA. Couples picked out their new refrigerators and stoves. Children had backyards to play in with swing sets and no victory gardens taking up space. Women shopped for new clothes and kitchen items. Young men could even avoid the draft or postpone it with college deferments. Red Sox fans were torn between national pride and support of the team when Ted Williams was sent as a Marine pilot to Korea for 39 missions. But, he did return in time to finish out the 1953 season, batting over .400 in 37 games. After the 1930’s depression and 1940’s restrictions, Americans as a whole were enjoying the good life.

The latest in Harley-Davidson 'hogs'

The latest in Harley-Davidson ‘hogs’

This was a time of contradictions that the “boomers” were born into. A population explosion mixed with political upheaval, the birth of rock ‘n roll, convenience, a totally new lifestyle and a hidden war that would set a president for all those that followed.

1950 Sears ad

1950 Sears ad

I did not have information about countries outside the U.S., so I would love to hear what life was like around the world at this period in time. Thank you all – you’re great.

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Current News –

A monument was erected for War Horse, SSgt. Reckless at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, at Quantico, Virginia.

SSgt. Reckless, USMC

SSgt. Reckless, USMC

“You picture a horse, but she was truly a Marine.” _______ Mike Mason, Korean War Veteran

Two remarkable stories about the Korean war horse who received medals for her service, including carrying ammunition to the front in 51 trips under fire – in one day alone.

http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/national_world&id=9187461

http://www.sgtreckless.com/Reckless/About_Reckless.html

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Farewell Salutes –

Eugene Wilkinson – Long Beach, CA; U.S. Navy (submarines), WWII, Silver Star, commander of nuclear sub “Nautilus”

Ponciano Tabac Ponce – Maui, Hawaii & L.A., CA; U.S. Army, Korean War

Clyde Shorey, Jr. – Washington D.C. & Cranberry Island, ME; U.S. Army Air Corps, WWII

David Goldfinger – Bronx, NY & Laguna Woods, CA; U.S. Air Force, sergeant in WWII

Charles McCreight – Oledo, OH & Lake Worth, FL; U.S. Army WWII

Joseph Bali – Gary, IN & Phoenix, AZ; U.S. Air Force, WWII

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on July 30, 2013, in Home Front, Korean War and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 141 Comments.

  1. Ik ben geboren bij de bevrijding en kan me de jaren 50′ 60′ dus nog goed herinneren.Mijn grootvader heeft krijgsgevangen gezeten en mijn vader is weggevoerd maar ze zijn allenbei terug thuisgekomen

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  2. I remember a time when one’s family was housed on one quarter of a father’s salary. And now, families can’t afford a humble house, with both father and mother working. We could afford a humble home and we went on a holiday every summer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So do my family. But don;t you think that their frugal nature, after going through the Great Depression had something to do with that. They didn’t spend $700 on a Playstation for each kid at Christmas, go get their nails done every week, etc.
      What are your thoughts on this?

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  3. The advertising material seems so different from what we see today. It is a remarkable story how we survive and move on. Wonderful content, again.

    Like

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