Canada sent troops to Vietnam
The second World War
The Cold War
Prosperity and civil rights
"New Frontier" and "Great Society"
Decades of change
On October 24, 1929, "Black Thursday", there were panicked sales on the New York Stock Exchange. Once started, there was no stopping the collapse of stocks and other securities. By 1932, thousands of banks and more than 100,000 companies had declared bankruptcy. Production in industry had halved, income on farms had fallen by more than half, salaries had been reduced by 60% and new investments by 90%, and one in four workers was unemployed.
Republican Herbert Hoover asked employers not to cut wages and tried to lower interest rates and support agricultural prices. In 1932 he agreed to form the Reconstruction Finance Cooperation, which lent money to banks in trouble.
But these measures turned out to be insufficient. The majority of the unemployed workers found Hoover numb and powerless to help them. In the 1932 presidential election, he was clearly defeated by the Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, who promised a "New Deal for the American people".
Former New York Governor State Roosevelt - dashing, optimistic, and a gifted speaker - was able to inspire public confidence in ways that Hoover could not. "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," said Roosevelt at his inauguration, and he quickly took action to deal with the emergency. In three months - the historic "hundred days" - Roosevelt had passed a large number of laws in Congress aimed at improving the economy. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) employed young men on projects related to afforestation and flood control. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) supported local and state relief funds that had been depleted by the economic crisis. The Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) paid farmers to reduce the acreage, which increased the price of the crops. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) built a network of dams on the Tennessee River, the southeastern region of the United States, to generate electricity, control floods, and produce fertilizer. And the National Recovery Administration (NRA) regulated the "fair competition" between companies and ensured bargaining rights and minimum wages for workers.
In 1935, the Social Security Act introduced contributory old-age and survivors' pensions and unemployment insurance.
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was one of the most effective measures of the "New Deal". Funded by taxes, the WPA created millions of jobs by building roads, bridges, airports, hospitals, parks and public buildings.
Roosevelt's New Deal program did not end the Great Depression. Although this program of government intervention improved the economy, the full recovery was only due to rearmament prior to America's entry into World War II.
The second World War
In September 1939 war broke out in Europe. Roosevelt announced that the United States, while neutral, would not be indifferent to events. When Britain was threatened by a German invasion in September 1940, the United States and Britain exchanged 50 obsolete American destroyers for naval bases in the western Atlantic. Two weeks later, Congress approved the first general peacetime conscription in American history. In early 1941, when Britain was no longer able to buy American products, Roosevelt convinced Congress to accept the so-called "lend-lease" bill. With the help of this program, the United States ultimately delivered $ 13.5,000 million in war supplies to Britain and another $ 9,000 million to the Soviet Union.
In the Far East, Japanese troops had taken Manchuria (1931), China (1937) and French Indochina (July 1941). Roosevelt responded to this aggression by banning American exports of scrap metal, steel and oil to Japan and freezing Japanese loans in the US.
On December 7, 1941, Japanese bombers brought in on ships attacked the naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Eight battleships were damaged and nearly 200 aircraft were destroyed in this surprise attack. The United States immediately declared war on Japan. Four days later, Japan's allies Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.
In 1941 the Japanese had a large navy and more aircraft than the United States could mobilize. A Japanese victory depended on whether Japan could beat the Americans before they could convert their powerful industries to war production. Japan failed to do this, and soon the United States was producing huge numbers of ships, planes, and weapons.
Driven by fear that the Germans might develop a nuclear weapon, the government spent $ 2,000 million on the highly confidential Manhattan Project, which built and tested an atomic bomb in 1945.
American, British, and Russian strategists agreed to beat Germany first. In November 1942, British and American troops landed in North Africa, from where they moved on to Sicily and mainland Italy in 1943. On June 4, 1944, after months of bitter fighting, they liberated Rome. Two days later, on June 6th, it was D-Day. Allied troops landed in Normandy in the largest overwater operation in military history. Paris was liberated on August 24th, and American units stood on the German border in September. In December 1944, however, the Germans launched a counter-offensive in the Ardennes in Belgium. It took a week until the Allied troops had reformatted and a month until the counterattack and the German withdrawal was forced. This action became known as the "Battle of the Bulge". It was the last German offensive in World War II. On April 25, 1945, Allied troops finally met the advancing Soviet troops in the town of Torgau. Germany surrendered on May 5, 1945.
In the Pacific, the Japanese initially had a number of quick wins. By May 1942 they had taken the Philippines and forced the surrender of 11,500 Americans and Filipinos who were brutally treated in captivity. In an atmosphere of war hysteria, 111,000 Americans of Japanese descent living in the western United States were forced into camps. Government officials justified this action as a measure against sabotage and espionage, but no American of Japanese descent was convicted of any disloyal act during the war, and many fought valiantly in the American military.
On May 8, 1942, the Japanese threat to Australia was ended by the Battle of the Coral Sea. In June, the main Japanese fleet heading for Hawaii was repulsed in the Battle of Midway and lost four aircraft carriers.
Over the next three years, American forces approached Japan with the "island hopping" strategy - capturing strategic islands in the Pacific and bypassing others. An Allied army under the orders of General Joseph W. Stillwell supported the Chinese and troops under General Douglas MacArthur returned to the Philippines in October 1944. The central island of Iwo Jima in the Pacific fell to the Americans in March and Okinawa in June 1945. B-29 bombers flew devastating attacks on Japanese cities.
American troops were now ready to invade the Japanese islands. Hoping to end the war quickly, President Harry Truman ordered the use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9). Japan surrendered on August 14th. Nearly 200,000 civilians had been killed in the nuclear attack, but military experts agreed that the number of wounded and dead, both American and Japanese, would have been much higher if the Allies invaded Japan.
The Cold War
After the war ended, tensions quickly arose between the United States and the Soviet Union. During the Yalta conference in February 1945, Roosevelt, Churchill and Josef Stalin had promised free elections in all the liberated nations of Europe. The western allies restored democracy in western Europe and Japan, but the Soviet leaders introduced communist dictatorships in eastern Europe.
In 1947, the American Secretary of State George C. Marshall proposed an extensive aid program for the reconstruction of Europe. The USSR and Eastern European countries were invited to participate, but the Soviets rejected the offer. Americans realized that an impoverished Europe, where hardship and despair were widespread, was susceptible to social and political developments that oppose Western traditions of individual freedom and democratic government. The Marshall Plan was a generous and hugely successful program. Over a four year period, it paid $ 12.5 million in aid and rebuilt the economies in Western European countries.
In May 1947, the US began to send military support to the Greek government fighting communist partisans, as well as to Turkey, which was being pushed by the Soviet Union, to surrender territory. At that time, Germany was divided into a western zone under American, British and French occupation, and an eastern zone under Soviet power. In the spring of 1948, the Soviet Union blocked access to West Berlin in order to subdue the isolated city. The western powers responded with an airlift of enormous proportions. Food and fuel were flown in until the end of the blockade in May 1949. A month earlier, the United States had joined forces with Canada, Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Portugal to form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
On June 25, 1950, North Korea, armed with Soviet weapons and with Stalin's consent, invaded South Korea. President Truman immediately assured the United Nations that it would defend South Korea. American troops were sent into battle, which were later reinforced by British, Turkish, Australian, French and Filipino units. In September 1950, North Korean troops had captured much of South Korea. The U.N. Troops were confined to an area near Pusan, on the southern tip of the Korean peninsula. Then General Douglas MacArthur launched a courageous attack across the water on Inchon in central Korea. The North Korean army was strategically bypassed and driven out, and MacArthur's forces turned north, toward the Yalu River, the border between Korea and China. In November, Chinese forces attacked, forcing the U.N. Troops are withdrawing south of the 38th parallel (the border between North and South Korea). MacArthur advocated sea and air strikes on China, but President Truman felt that such a strategy would lead to greater conflict. On April 11, 1951, he removed MacArthur from his command. Peace negotiations began three months later, but the fighting continued until June 1953 and the final agreement left Korea in two parts.
Many Americans, frustrated by the stalemate in Korea and angry with the communist takeovers in Eastern Europe and China, searched for "those responsible" and came to believe that their government could also be infiltrated by communist allies. Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed the State Department and the military were full of communists. McCarthy's sensational investigations did not uncover enemies of the state, but his accusations and defamations ruined the careers of many diplomats. In 1954, during live broadcasts on national television, he was exposed as a swindler and later reprimanded by the Senate. Tolerating dissenting political opinions is one of the most basic and important American traditions. The McCarthy era was a serious departure from this tradition.
Prosperity and civil rights
The United States experienced a long period of economic growth from 1945 to 1970, interrupted only by brief and relatively weak recessions. For the first time, most of the American population achieved a good standard of living. In 1960, 55% of all households had washing machines, 77% owned cars, 90% had televisions, and almost all had refrigerators.
During this time, the United States was slowly moving towards racial equality. In 1941, President Truman lifted discrimination in the war industry because of the threat of African American protests. In 1948 he ended racial segregation in the military and all federal agencies. In 1954, the Federal Supreme Court ruled in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, unanimously states that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. Nevertheless, the southern states continued to resist integration. In 1955, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. led a boycott of segregated public transportation that ultimately ended city bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1957, the governor of Arkansas tried to prevent African American students from visiting an all-white school in the capital, Little Rock. To enforce compliance with the law on integration, President Dwight D. Eisenhower deployed federal troops.
That same year, Americans were roused when the Soviet Union launched the first human-made satellite - Sputnik - into space. This came as a shock to the United States, a nation that has always prided itself on its technical achievements. In response, the American government stepped up efforts to build a satellite and invested more money in the education sector, particularly in the natural sciences.
"New Frontier" and "Great Society"
The Democrat John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960. Young, energetic and handsome, Kennedy promised to bring the country forward again, to a "New Frontier". But one of the president's first foreign policy acts was a failure. In an effort to overthrow Fidel Castro's communist dictatorship in Cuba, Kennedy supported the invasion of the island nation by a group of Cuban exiles trained by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In April 1961 they landed in the Bay of Pigs and were arrested almost immediately.
In October 1962, reconnaissance planes discovered that the Soviet Union was installing nuclear missiles in Cuba. They were so close to the United States that they could reach American cities in minutes. Kennedy pushed through a blockade against Cuba. In return for the American promise not to invade Cuba, Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev agreed to dismantle the missiles.
In April 1961, the Soviets achieved another victory in space: Yuri Gagarin was the first man to enter Earth orbit. President Kennedy responded by promising that the United States would send a man to the moon before the end of the decade. In February 1962, John Glenn became the first American to fly into orbit and was welcomed at home as a hero. It cost $ 24 thousand million and years of research, but Kennedy's promise was kept. In July 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped off the Apollo 11 rocket and stepped on the moon.
In the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. led a peaceful campaign to desegregate southern restaurants, national bus routes, theaters, and hotels. His followers encountered enemy police officers, violent crowds, tear gas, water cannons and electric shock devices. Kennedy's administration sought to protect the rights of civil rights workers and secure the right to vote for African Americans in the southern states.
In 1963, Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, Texas. He wasn't popular with everyone, but his death shocked the nation.
The new president was Lyndon Johnson, who was vice president under Kennedy and who became president on his death. He persuaded Congress to adopt the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, which banned racial discrimination in public institutions and in all businesses that received government funds. Johnson was elected for another term by a large majority in 1964. Encouraged by his election victory, Johnson pushed through many congressional welfare programs: government aid in education, the arts, and the humanities; Health Insurance for Seniors (Medicaid); cheap housing and urban renewal. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 eventually gave all African American Americans the right to vote. Discrimination against immigrants has also been lifted: nationality quotas have been lifted, making more immigrant visas available to Asians.
Although most Americans were now in good living standards, the 1962 book "The Other America" showed slums in urban slums, in most of the neighborhoods of African Americans, and among the poor whites of the eastern Appalachians. President Johnson then declared a "war of poverty" that included special preschool programs for poor children, vocational training for early school leavers, and community jobs for slum youth.
America's involvement in Vietnam did not begin under President Johnson. When communist and nationalist rebels fought against the French colonial power in Indochina after World War II, President Truman sent military aid. After the French withdrew from Southeast Asia in 1954, President Eisenhower dispatched American advisers and aid to help build a democratic, pro-Western government in Vietnam. During President Kennedy's tenure, thousands of military officers trained South Vietnamese soldiers and sometimes flew Vietnamese fighter planes in combat.
In August 1964, two American destroyers reported attacks by North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. In return, President Johnson carried out air strikes against North Vietnamese naval bases. The first American combat troops were sent to Vietnam in March 1965. In 1968 there were 500,000 soldiers in the country. At the same time, the Air Force slowly stepped up its attacks on North Vietnam. First military targets were attacked, later industrial plants and power stations near Hanoi.
Demonstrations against the participation of the Americans in this undeclared, and by many perceived as unjust war, began at universities in the USA. There were numerous violent clashes between students and the police. In October 1967, 200,000 demonstrators marched to the Pentagon in Washington demanding peace.
At the same time, urban riots broke out as younger and more militant African American leaders denounced the peaceful tactics of Martin Luther King Jr. as ineffective. His murder in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968 sparked race riots in more than 100 cities. Business districts in African American neighborhoods were burned down and 43 people were killed - most of them African American.
Increasing numbers of Americans from all walks of life opposed United States participation in the Indochina War. In the 1968 presidential election, President Johnson faced great challenges. On May 31, faced with an embarrassing foreseeable defeat at the ballot box and an apparently endless conflict in Vietnam, he withdrew from the election campaign and offered negotiations to end the Vietnam War. The voters narrowly voted for the Republican Richard Nixon. As President, he addressed "Middle America", the "great silent majority" who were unhappy about the violence and protests in the country.
In Indochina he pursued a policy of "Vietnamization" and slowly replaced American soldiers with Vietnamese soldiers. But heavy bombing of communist bases continued, and in the spring of 1970 Nixon sent American troops to Cambodia. This led to the strongest and most violent protests in American universities in history. The National Guard killed four students during a demonstration at Kent State University in Ohio.
Then, when the American people realized that the war was ending, the situation changed rapidly. Calm returned to the universities and cities. By 1973, Nixon had signed a peace treaty with North Vietnam, brought American soldiers home, and abolished conscription. Students increasingly rejected radical political currents and oriented themselves more towards individual advancement. Many African Americans still lived in poverty, but many finally found access to well-paying jobs. The election of African American mayors in many major cities - Cleveland, Newark, Los Angeles, Washington, Detroit, Atlanta - helped ease tension.
Decades of change
Political activism did not disappear in the 1970s - it was only diverted into other areas. Young people worked to enforce environmental laws or joined consumer protection groups or protested against the nuclear power plants. Following the example of African Americans and other minorities - Hispanics, Asians, and American Indians - homosexuals demanded more rights.
Since the Second World War, women have increasingly been in the labor market. In the 1970s, the women's movement fought for the legalization of abortions, for day-care centers, equal salaries and job opportunities for women. In 1973 the Supreme Court banned most abortion restrictions, but this decision only made an intense, nationwide discussion more difficult. While feminists defend abortion as a constitutional right, others saw abortion as the destruction of innocent life.
President Nixon achieved two diplomatic goals: resuming official contacts with the People's Republic of China and negotiating the first "Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty" (SALT I) with the Soviet Union. In the 1972 election campaign, he easily beat George McGovern, an anti-war Liberal Democrat.
During the campaign, however, five men were arrested for breaking into the Democratic Party headquarters, the Watergate building in Washington. Journalists investigating the incident discovered that the men had been employed by Nixon's election office. The scandal was compounded when the White House attempted to cover up the link to the break-in. In 1973 it was revealed that President Nixon had taped the conversations about the Watergate Affair. Congressional committees, special prosecutors, federal judges, and the Supreme Court asked the President to release the recordings, and after long resistance they were finally made public. The tapes showed President Nixon's direct involvement in the cover-up. In the summer of 1974 it became clear that Congress was likely to condemn and remove the president from office. On August 9, Richard Nixon became the only American president to step down.
Republican Gerald Ford, who became president after Richard Nixon's resignation, was sympathetic and forgiving. Ford did a lot to restore public confidence, although some voters never forgave him for pardoning his former boss Richard Nixon. In 1976 Democrat Jimmy Carter, former Georgia governor, won the presidential election. Carter had limited political experience, but many voters now preferred an "outsider" - someone who was not part of the established Washington circle.
It was precisely because he was an outsider that Carter found it difficult to work with Congress. It also failed to solve the biggest economic problem of the 1970s - inflation. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) had raised oil prices since 1973, and this led to a general price hike. In 1980 inflation was 13.5% annually and the nation went through a period of economic hardship. Carter signed a second Strategic Arms Limitation Treatment (SALT II) with the Soviet Union, but it was not ratified by the Senate after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. It also remained ineffective in another crisis: in 1979, Iranian radicals stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran and took 53 Americans hostage. Carter's greatest success was the negotiation of the Camp David Agreement between Israel and Egypt, which resulted in an historic peace between the two nations.
In the 1980 election campaign, voters turned down Carter's second term and voted for Ronald Reagan, a Conservative Republican and former California governor. As a result of the election, Republicans won a majority in the Senate for the first time in 26 years. By giving Ronald Reagan an overwhelming election victory, the American people signaled a desire for a change in the style and content of American leadership. Throughout his presidency, Reagan demonstrated an ability to instill pride in their country and optimism about the future in Americans.
If there was a central theme on Reagan's national agenda, it was the belief that the federal government had grown too big. When the government took office in 1981, the government's immediate problems were stagnant economic growth, high inflation and rapidly rising interest rates. Reagan quickly began to fundamentally reorganize the federal budget, particularly in the area of domestic spending. Reagan's program was based on the belief that the nation would grow and be prosperous if the forces of the private sector were unleashed. The government also requested and received substantial increases in defense spending.
Despite the growing federal budget, the economy had recovered by 1983, and the United States was entering one of the longest periods of unbroken economic growth since World War II. In office, like Eisenhower, during a period of relative peace and prosperity at the end of the first term, President Reagan and Vice President George Bush were overwhelmingly re-elected.
In foreign policy, President Reagan wanted the nation to play a bigger role. The United States faced a rebellion in El Salvador and the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. In 1983, US troops disembarked in Grenada to save American lives and overthrow a regime that had seized power after the elected prime minister was assassinated. The US also sent peacekeeping forces to Lebanon to prop up a moderate, pro-Western government. The mission ended tragically when 241 American soldiers were killed in a terrorist attack. In 1986, US military forces attacked targets in Libya after Libya-arranged attacks on American personnel in Europe. Furthermore, the United States and other Western European nations kept the vital passages for oil shipments through the Persian Gulf clear during the Iran-Iraq conflict by escorting tankers through the war zone.
Relations between the United States and the Soviet Union fluctuated during Reagan's tenure between political confrontation and far-reaching agreements on arms restrictions. In December 1987 the USA and the Soviet Union signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which included the destruction of an entire category of missiles. However, further attempts to impose massive restrictions on other strategic weapons have not been completed, largely due to the strong desire of the Reagan administration to develop the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), also known as the "star wars" missile defense system.
After 24 successful flights, the Challenger space shuttle exploded on January 28, 1986, 73 seconds after takeoff. All inmates were killed. The Challenger tragedy was a reminder of the limits of technology at a time when another technological revolution, in computers, was rapidly changing the way millions of Americans work and live. By the middle of the decade, Americans owned an estimated 30 million computers. In late 1988, the US successfully launched the newly developed Space Shuttle Discovery, which launched a satellite during the first flight since the Challenger disaster.
The Reagan administration suffered defeat in the 1986 congressional election when the Democrats regained a majority in the Senate. The greatest challenge, however, was the discovery that the US had secretly sold weapons to Iran in the hope of freeing American hostages in Lebanon and to fund the Nicaraguan Contras, even though this had been banned by Congress. Subsequent hearings in Congress raised fundamental issues about the public's right to information and the correct balance between the executive and legislative branches. Despite these difficulties, Reagan was unusually popular at the end of his second term.
Reagan's successor, George Bush, benefited greatly from his predecessor's popularity. In the 1988 election he defeated the Democratic challenger Michael Dukakis by a large majority.During his election campaign, Bush promised to continue the economic policy of the Reagan administration. He reiterated some of Reagan's attitudes on social issues, such as a firm stance against abortion, while reassuring some of Reagan's critics by calling for a "nicer, friendlier nation" and reaffirming his commitment to education and schools.
The dialogue between the United States and the Soviet Union deepened and broadened in the first year of the Bush administration, at a time when unrest and notable political changes were taking place in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe - most eloquently symbolized by the opening of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. In the two years following this event, the world witnessed the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of its dominant influence in Eastern Europe. The Bush administration promoted the concept of a "new world order" based on a new set of international realities, priorities and morals.
The idea of a "new world order" was first tested when Iraq invaded Kuwait with its huge oil reserves in August 1990. In January 1991, when Iraq disregarded United Nations resolutions to force its withdrawal from Kuwait, American troops who were part of a multinational coalition liberated Kuwait and achieved a swift and unequivocal victory. Immediately following the victory, the Bush administration took over and brought together centuries-old antagonists in the Middle East for a series of unprecedented peace conferences. As the 1992 presidential election approached, President Bush became increasingly focused on domestic issues and problems, such as economic review, unemployment, crime, education, and health care.
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