Mountain Region

Though other regions had experienced high rates of urbanization during the previous half century, the South had remained predominantly rural and most Southerners lived a meager life as impoverished farmers. The distinctive “Jim Crow” system of racial segregation throughout the South limited the rights of the region’s large black population and confined African Americans to the lowest economic status and place in society. In an effort to rescue the Southern economy, President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs established a Federal commitment to the region’s welfare and set an investment precedent that would continue throughout World War II. As the United States prepared for the coming conflict, the Federal government poured defense dollars into Southern states in the form of military installations and defense contractors.

President Roosevelt signs the Lend-Lease bill in 1941

From the time that World War II began on September 1, 1939, until December 1941, the United States was not directly involved in the conflict. The country did, however, send aid to many of its allies in Europe and Asia in the form of war materiel and other resources. American citizens authorized the Federal government to participate in the Lend-Lease program that shipped airplanes, munitions, food, and other supplies to Great Britain, France, China, and the Soviet Union. Since the United States did not wish to openly declare war on the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan, the Lend-Lease Act granted a degree of involvement to America by assisting the countries that were locked into the bitter struggle. Georgians, like most Americans, desired to see an end to the oppression and tyranny that was occurring throughout much of Europe. In fact, Congressional Representatives from seven Southern states, along a majority from the rest of the South, voted in favor of the Lend-Lease Act.

On December 7, 1941, the United States was drawn into the conflict that was igniting the rest of the world. The United States Navy was nearly destroyed in a surprise Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory. The Japanese carrier fleet sent wave after wave of fighters, bombers, and torpedo bombers to prey upon the shocked and unprepared American servicemen stationed aboard Navy vessels and Army Air fields. In one day, twelve United States ships were sunk or were beached, nine other vessels were damaged and more than 160 United States aircraft were destroyed with an additional 150 damaged. When the smoke had cleared, more than 2,300 Americans had been killed in this surprise attack.[1]

The next day, President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on the Empire of Japan and within three days of this declaration, Congress declared war on Germany as well.

World War II permanently altered the rural Georgia landscape and forever changed the lives of Georgians. Factories within small towns and commercial hubs located in larger cities experienced metamorphosis almost overnight into production industries that would aid the war effort. Though it strengthened the economy of Georgia, private industry was not the only factor in the transformation of the state as military bases dotted the countryside.

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[1] “Today in History – December 7,” The Library of Congress – American Memoryhttp://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/dec07.html(accessed February 12, 2011).