Rosie the Riveter and World War II changed social roles

ArlenJ.com
March 10, 2020

Objective scholars and historians concede that the United States and its allies lost the Vietnam War. Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam’s independence at the end of World War II. President Harry S. Truman refused Ho’s request to help evict French occupiers, and instead helped the French in 1946. The United States was viewed as the enemy from that point forward.

How Vietnam won

The reasons the USA and its Western allies lost in Vietnam vary depending on who you ask. “South Vietnam” was not a real country. It was a U.S. construct with no organic population or patriotism among the people. Thus the South ceased to exist when the United States stopped funding it in 1973. The simplest, most direct reason is that the Vietnamese were fighting to preserve their culture and history. The U.S. government was fighting for world dominance, imperial agendas. The National World War II Museum estimates that 61% of WW2 soldiers were draftees, versus only 39% who volunteered.

The Viet Cong were brilliant strategists who understood their strengths and weaknesses. Guerrilla warfare was utilized versus direct frontal assaults since the Western allies were far better armed and equipped. An intricate network of underground tunnels, complete with deadly booby traps, were integral to the Viet Cong strategy.

The “home field advantage” also played a crucial role in the Viet Cong’s success. They knew the terrain and weather patterns well. But it was the women who played the most critical role.

Viet Cong women transported tons of equipment and weapons through the tunnels to prepare the men for battle. They also served as caretakers for injured soldiers. Every woman understood that the more soldiers available, the better chance the Viet Cong had of winning and preserving their culture. Thus many women worked while pregnant, with all of them staying pregnant throughout the war to ensure strength in numbers. Vietnam had a crude birth rate of over 40 per 1,000 people from 1953-1963, according to World Bank data. The United States averaged about 25 births per 1,000 people in that same time period.

World War II and US marriage

The United States faced severe labor shortages in the early 1940s. The sheer number of men being drafted and deployed for World War II was taking its toll on industries across the country. Rosie the Riveter posters with the slogan “we can do it” were distributed to tens of millions of American women to encourage their help with the war effort. Most did so begrudgingly since they knew the work was temporary and would be given back to men upon their return from overseas.

Women represented 37% of the U.S. workforce in 1945, according to History.com. That was up from 27% in 1940. One in four married women worked outside the home by this time as well. Women accounted for 65% of aircraft industry workers in 1943, compared to less than 1% in the 1930s. There were also 350,000 women in uniform during the war.

The influx of women in the workforce was meant to be temporary. But many experienced self-sufficiency for the first time with their men fighting overseas. Marriage rates dropped by 22% from 1929-1933, during the Great Depression. This was of course due to financial issues among couples. Marriage rates rebounded to all-time highs in the 1950s. But there has been a downward spiral ever since. A Pew Research survey found that 72% of Americans over 18 were married in 1960. That number was 57% in 2000, and today just barely over 50%

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