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Journal of America Team:

 Editor in chief: 
Abdus Sattar Ghazali

 Managing Editor:
Mertze Dahlin   

Senior Editor:
Arthur Scott

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Peacetime economy, what’s that?

By Mertze Dahlin  

Try as we might, it’s hard to define or even remember a peacetime economy. We would like to think of it as to be during any time when there is not a war. That is not true. All around us these days, it seems there is always a war. The difference to us is that we are not always involved in it so therefore, perhaps we think that those are the times when it must be that elusive peacetime economy, but we are wrong. It is not so easy for us to identify it because few, if any of us have really experienced it.

Peacetime Economy Era

I would like to think of the Peacetime Economy era as being during the years before the “Great Depression” back in September, 1929. Of course it also had to include the few years after the “war to end all wars”, which we refer to as World War I. That means perhaps that the 1920’s was the peacetime economy. We didn’t seem to be involved in any wars at that time and everything we did, as far as the general population knew, was of a peaceful nature. Our economy depended on what we could produce and sell to our citizens and ship abroad to another country for their enjoyment. We just kept on making money and making investments in all sorts of start-up companies while our expectations of fantastic growth of those investments knew no bounds.

The Stock Market Crash

We didn’t realize it then but in fact there were a number of ‘bounds’ as we unhappily found out. The foreign money stopped coming in and our domestic money was in very short supply while the stock market reversed itself. We struggled during those depression years after 1929 with trying to maintain that Peacetime Economy with the help from our Government. The main resolution to providing an income was introduced by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and enacted by an act of Congress called the “Works Progress Administration”, or WPA as it was known. Many parks, roads and other infrastructural jobs and food were provided for millions of people until suddenly we found ourselves at war.


We experienced the attack on our Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941.

One hates to think of it as a Godsend, but the War effort had now begun. Now the good-paying jobs were available. The able bodied young men were drafted into the army and the left-over people moved from their traditional family homes in various communities in this “vast” (as we thought of it then) United States, to migrate to the manufacturing places which opened up all over the country. Many had never before traveled more than about 50 miles from their home during their lifetime.

Economy Improves

The East Coast developed industries they never had before and ship-building was a new expertise learned by former farmers and day laborers along with a core group of actual ship-building Journeymen. Detroit and its environs began making military vehicles like they would never go out of style. The West Coast developed many military radio and aircraft manufacturing facilities and farms of all kinds put many people including temporary immigrants from Mexico (Bracero Program) to work during the crucial periods of crop and orchard growth. New Schools opened up to teach about the new technologies and to learn about management of the growth in industrial facilities which were becoming abundant and we were now “experts” in everything.

This continued wartime economy after World War Two was doing well and the military vehicle factories returned to making automobiles. We would hear the commercial advertisement on the radio, “every five minutes, of every working day, somebody buys a new Chevrolet; get yours, today “. 

The soldiers, those who managed to return home after the war, were newcomers to this new age of commercial technology and industry. They had finally left a kind of life where they were personally exposed to the enemy and had to fight them, or die while doing so. They felt strongly that they must overcome the “forces of evil” and felt completely right about subduing the enemy. They wanted to finish their fight and return home to their families and resume the life they left behind. Every soldier as well as his fellow sailor was welcomed home as a hero and enjoyed the new life-style of having a job and supporting his family and looking forward to a wonderful retirement.

We need War-Time Economy

Another phenomenon was developing here at home in that we were no longer making so many military armaments to supply a war. Those factories were closing down and we could see the beginnings of unemployment. Yes, it was becoming justifiable now to reopen the arms producing factories and keep the people employed. Our justification for that to continue is that we must stop the spread of Communism.

Soviet Union appears in the news

As time went on, we kept hearing ominous news on the radio. Communist Russia was greatly expanding her territory by annexing her neighboring countries and claiming her share of Germany. We were now becoming more aware of the role that the Soviet Union was playing as a communist country and that she intended to make it grow larger. She seemed to be a further influence to Eastern countries as she had to China and now in particular to that of Korea: This country was being taken over by Communism, but we didn’t come right out and say that now we have to fight the Russian expansion in Korea. Somehow the division of Korea at the 38th parallel wasn’t in agreement with all parties involved. In some ways, many of us didn’t care because of course; it was on the other side of the world.

Again, this seemed as if it could be a patriotic war because Communism was on the rise and we didn’t want it coming here. We were not ready to handle a different political belief system and we considered ours to be the finest. We could wait no longer; we had to straighten out the disputed border, which was now non-existent as the Communist armies were nearly entirely within all of Korea, and we had to contain the Communists, preferably to remove them from Korea.

Beginning of Korean War

The draft system worked well during the Second World War in that every able- bodied man was duty-bound to serve his country, and he felt duty-bound to do so. The draft worked equally well to generate more troops to go to Korea; however, the war in Korea felt different than that as experienced in Europe. The opening of the war further strained our relations with the Soviet Union. China also apparently felt strongly about permitting Korea to join them in embracing Communism. Communist China was therefore involved and there seemed to be no end to the Chinese troops. Our machine guns became red hot as we shot them down while they approached wave after wave over the hilltops. We had to retreat since our guns would stop working. Our troops were finally realizing that there was no way to get the upper hand and actually take North Korea, as there was an endless supply of Chinese troops coming from the North. We finally stopped and returned home in frustration. We were treated well upon returning home, but there was this gut feeling that something was not right.

Back to Wartime Economy

Our wartime economy was doing reasonably well despite having lost                                                          thousands of Servicemen; and we were entering into a more sophisticated electronics age. Little by little, people were adding a television to their household necessities and Japan could also recognize these “golden eggs”. That’s where our real competition was coming from now and it was hard to pass them by. Our financial experts in Washington DC were reading the “writing on the wall” in that we need to increase production of everything or anything, in order to keep the economy moving freely.

Economy now determined by Soviet Union

After the Korean War, the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” had become by now, the very large Soviet Union. This was due to its huge expansion to its West and South, meaning the annexing of several Eastern European countries and several Asian countries to the South. These then became known as part of the Soviet Union. The fear factor was introduced to the American people by the media because of the possibility that Communism may reach to our shores. Just the possibility of war was termed a “Cold War”, and that was enough to get the factories running and start rebuilding our stockpile of war armaments.

Fear of War spurs new industries

Somehow that fear factor may have been over-emphasized a bit because many of us resorted to building underground air raid shelters in our back yards. Young men were joining the army not only from duty-bound patriotism, but simply because it was another choice of occupation; and retirement appeared to arrive at a rather young age. Twenty years sounded good and it left you with enough time to enter another field and perhaps retire from it as well. Conceivably, that’s where the term “double dipping” was coined.

As the Soviet Union continued its expansion, there was the fear of the “Domino Effect” in that one by one the Asian countries would fall into the hands of Communism; and we could see that begin to happen in Vietnam. Many of the men who were eligible to be in the army still remembered our limited success in Korea where many died to no avail and there was no feeling of having conquered the “enemy”. Also, our economy was now doing marvelously well and that seemed to be the impetus to check into several other possible wars.  These were the “mini wars” we had entered in Panama, the Falkland Islands in South America, and our excursion with Colonel Gaddafi in Libya, which turned out to be too small to amount to any measurable increase in our “Gross National Product”. No reason for war seemed to be fitting for the active minds of these young people soon becoming subject to the military draft.

Communism in Vietnam

Now to enter into combat against the Communist North Vietnamese people was a hard decision to make. It didn’t matter to many of us that perhaps all of Vietnam would become a Communist country.  We had again instituted the Draft program to get men into the Service. This meant that good paying jobs would have to be left behind just to go off to a far away Asian country that we never even heard of. We were not convinced that somehow they were a threat to us or even a threat to someone else. For many of us, Canada was our place of refuge to avoid the draft.

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