Effects of World War II on Alabama
Dr. Leah Rawls Atkins, Auburn University (retired)
Correlates to Alabama Course of Study: Social Studies 11th Grade Content Standard 7, p. 78
Correlates to Graduation Exam Eligible Content Standard VII, Objective 2
- Federal dollars poured into Alabama through various army training bases and air fields:
- Maxwell and Gunter Air Bases in Montgomery
- Craig Field in Selma
- Fort Rucker in Ozark/Enterprise
- Fort McClellan and Anniston Ordnance Works in Anniston
- Huntsville and Redstone Arsenals in Huntsville
- Brookley Field in Mobile
- War contracts developed Alabama industry:
- TCI, Bechtel-McCone Aircraft Modification Co., O'Neal Steel in Birmingham
- DuPont Chemical in Childersburg
- Alabama Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Co., Mobile
- Hundreds of thousands of Alabama citizens had served in the armed forces or labored in wartime industries, thereby receiving thousands of hours of technological or industrial instruction. The Alabama labor force after the war was much more highly trained than before the war. Many of these workers were women.
- The G.I. Bill allowed veterans to go to college.
- Many Alabama blue collar and farm families saw the first members of their families attend college.
- College degrees provided job opportunities and higher salaries, which moved thousands of Alabama families into the middle class.
- G.I. Home Loans allowed veterans to purchase homes, many of them newly constructed FHA houses that required little or no down payment and had low interest mortgages. Home ownership moved thousands into the middle class.
- The war created new opportunities for women and African Americans. Although there were racial tensions in the workplace during the war, most were adjudicated and widespread racial violence avoided. However, African-American veterans who returned from the war were not willing to return to the old ways of Jim Crow and segregation. As more blacks received college educations, purchased homes, traveled outside Alabama, went to graduate schools at northern or western universities (because their majors were not available at Alabama's black colleges and they were not allowed to enroll in the state's white universities), pressure for change began to build. Alabama increased its black middle class as more African Americans became teachers, education and medical doctors, dentists, and lawyers. World War II laid the foundation for the Civil Rights Movement, which began ten years after the war was over.