Georgia and World War II

Posted: February 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

In 1938, three years before World War II would grip the United States, President Franklin Roosevelt declared in the “Report on Economic Conditions of the South” that the region was “the Nation’s No. 1 economic problem.”[1] During this period, the country was still feeling the effects of the Great Depression and the future seemed uncertain. Georgians, like many of their fellow Southerners, were in particularly dire straits. Within two years of FDR’s statement, the 1940 census had recorded a median family income in Georgia that was just over half the national average.[2]

According to Numan Bartley, one of Georgia’s preeminent historians, “the 320,000 or so Georgians who served in the armed forces during World War II found opportunities” through the various veterans programs that were lumped together as the G.I. Bill that offered opportunities for education as well as loans for home and land ownership. On the home front, thousands of Georgians found employment in the flourishing shipyards of Savannah and Brunswick and in the munitions factories in Macon and Milledgeville or as civilian employees as thriving military bases. World War II was, as Bartley noted, the main development that “fueled the state’s long-awaited transformation into an urban, industrial, and diverse society.”[3]Not only did this transformation put more dollars in Southerner’s pockets, it also produced a skilled work force. In the postwar era, many top corporations would build Southern offices and plants in order to take advantage of these new markets and talented labor pools in urban centers statewide.[4]

To discover the transformation that occurred near your hometown, click on the region of Georgia where you live.

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[1] Numan V. Bartley, The New South: 1945-1980. (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1995), xi.
[2] Thomas A. Scott, ed., Cornerstones of Georgia History: Documents That Formed the State (Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press, 1995), 193.
[3] Numan V. Bartley, The Creation of Modern Georgia , 2nd ed. (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1983), 180.
[4] Thomas Allan Scott, Cobb County, Georgia and the Origins of the Suburban South: A Twentieth-Century History (Marietta, GA: Cobb Landmarks and Historical Society, Inc., 2008), 180-181.