Three Major Events in United States History
Throughout United States history we have seen events that have had either positive or negative impacts on our nation. While there are many events that are equally as important, there are three major events that seem to be amongst the most important within the history of the United States. Those three events include the Great Depression, World War Two, and the Cold War. All three events shaped U.S history in a variety of ways.
To start, the Great Depression is one of the most important events in U.S. history and one of the reasons why our economic system is shaped the way it is now. The Great Depression took place from 1929 to 1933 and it is considered to be the worst economic downfall in the history of the United States and the industrialized world. The great depression began shortly after the stock market crash back in October of 1929 which greatly affected Wall Street and put out of business over a million of investors. Years after this, the number of consumer spending and investing declined, causing a huge downfall in industrial output and employment. The working class was affected due to the fact that many companies were failing economically which consequently lead to workers being laid off, leaving thousands of people without any type of income.
Throughout the 1920’s, the economy within the United States expanded rather fast and the nation’s overall wealth was more than double of the amount before. This event took place around 1920 to 1929 and is known as “the Roaring Twenties”. However, during this time is when the stock market comes into the picture. The stock market was located at the center of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall street in New York City. People ranging from a variety of backgrounds invested a large majority of their savings into stocks given the great economic stand within the United States. Due to this, the stock market was forced to expand at a fast pace and reached its peak by August 1929. At this time, production was declining and the unemployment in the United States was rapidly growing which resulted in stock prices being extremely overpriced and at a cost much higher than what they were actually worth.
On October 24, 1929, what many Americans feared would happen unfortunately occured, the stock market crashed. On this day, it is recorded that about 12.9 million shares were traded and it is now known as Black Thursday followed by Black Tuesday five days later on October 29. On Black Tuesday, it is estimated that about 16 million shares were traded. Unfortunately, millions upon millions of the shares traded ended up being worthless, wiping out completely investors who had purchased stocks on margin. By the time 1933 came around, it is said that about fifteen million americans were unemployed and approximately half of the country’s banks had shut down. That same year when Franklin D. Roosevelt took over as the president of the United States, he ordered all remaining open banks to shut down. The economic situation of the country was at its worst, so much so that even the U.S. Treasury did not have enough money or cash resources to pay its own government workers.
During Roosevelt’s term in office, his administration passed legislation that was focused on stabilizing industrial and agricultural production, creating jobs for the unemployed, and hopefully commence a national recovery. Roosevelt also seeked to reform the nation’s financial system and created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in order to protect depositors’ accounts as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission with the hope of regulating the stock market and to prevent events similar to the ones that led to the crash of 1929. The great
depression is an important part of history due to the impacts it had on the nation and its residing citizens. People were forced to adjust to an environment that had never been seen before. It also
forced our nation to change its ways in regards to the financial part of it and created new ways to help prevent anything similar from happening in the future.
Next, as you have seen, the Great Depression was an important part of history but that wasn’t the only event that occurred. Six years after the great depression came World War Two, which is a whole heinous event within itself. World War 2 lasted from 1939 to 1945 but to be precise, it officially commenced on September 1, 1939. World War 2 is remembered for its attempted genocide of Jewish people during the Holocaust and for the first use of an atomic weapon during a war. On September 1,1939 Germany conducted its first attack on Poland and although the United States was not involved at this point, it is important to note that this was the event that started it all. Two years after World War 2 began, Japan was looking to expand due to being newly industrialized and was hoping to take over a huge portion of Southeast Asia.
However. Japan was extremely worried about the United States and feared that they might try and stop them. Due to these assumptions from the Japanese government, they decided to conduct a surprise attack against the United States’ Pacific Fleet hoping to scare off the United States from trying to join the war in the Pacific. On December 7, 1941, Japan sent airplanes to attack the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Just two hours after the attack started, it has been recorded that approximately 21 U.S. ships had either been seriously damaged or completely sunk. The United States was completely outraged at the attack as they had not provoked it and
decided to declare war on Japan the following day. Three days after the Japanese attack , the United States decided to declare war on Germany as well. Before the United States had a chance to retaliate against Japan, the Japanese conducted another attack on the U.S naval base in the Philippines on December 8, 1941. This battle is known as the Bataan Death March and the U.S. ended up surrendering due to the unexpected airattack and ground invasion.
Nonetheless, on April 18, 1942 a U.S. aircraft carrier dropped bombs on Tokyo, Yokohama, and Nagoya. This event is formally known as the Doolittle Raid and although it didn’t cause a lot of damage, the United States still managed to catch the Japanese off guard but the Japanese were still dominating the Pacific War. However, things took a turn on June 4-7, 1942 when the U.S. was able to decode many secret Japanese codes and learned that the Japanese were planning a secret attack on the U.S. air base on Midway. Due to the fact that the U.S. learned ahead of time what the plans against them were, they prepared an ambush and won the Midway battle against Japan. As the war progressed, Japanese Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushijima decided that he was going to kill as many Americans as he could at Okinawa, Japan. The U.S. landed on Okinawa on April 1, 1945 but after three months of battle the U.S. managed to capture Okinawa which led to the demise of World War 2.
Unfortunately, even after World War 2 ended, the Japanese were not ready to surrender and the death toll in the pacific was at its all time high. The U.S. feared that the Japanese would continue to kill U.S. soldiers if they decided to invade Japan which led them to contemplate a plan against the Japanese. President Truman decided to use a new never before seen deadly weapon against Japan with the hopes that it would force Japan to surrender without conducting
an actual invasion. On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima located in Japan and then dropped another atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki three
days after the first one was dropped. On August 16, 1945 Japan had no other option but to surrender to the United States. World War 2 is an important part of the U.S. History as it led to the first atomic bomb launch and it took the lives of over 220,000 innocent people during the atomic bombing alone. World War 2 also created two major superpowers which include the United States and the Soviet Union. These two nations worked together to fight back against Nazi Germany but turned against eachother in what is now known as the Cold War.
The Cold War began just two years after World War 2 ranging from 1939 to 1945. During World War 2, the United States and the Soviet Union joined together as allies against the Axis powers but their relationship was extremely tense. Americans were distrustful of Soviet communism and were not okay with Russian leader Joseph Stalin’s ruthless rule over his own country. On the other hand, the Soviets were resentful towards Americans for refusing to treat the USSR as a part of the international community and for their delayed entry into World War 2 which cost the lives of millions of Russians. After World War 2 ended, all of these events caused a feeling of mutual distrust between the nations. Many Americans feared that Russia had a plan to control the world and decided that the best defense against the Soviet threat was a strategy called containment. American officials encouraged the development of atomic weapons similar to the one that had ended World War 2 which consequently led to the arms race.
By 1949, the Soviets had developed their own atom bomb and tested it for the first time. The U.S. was not okay with them doing that which led to President Truman announcing that the
United States would build an even more powerful atomic weapon. The threat of nuclear annihilation had a significant impact on American domestic life which led people to build bomb shelters in their backyards as well as practicing attack drills in schools and other public places. The Cold War was a constant presence in the everyday lives of thousands of Americans because although there was no physical war going on, there was still tension between the nations in regards to nuclear weapons. There were also other factors such as Space exploration which became a competition between both nations. The Soviets were the first to launch a man-made object into space in October of 1957 which was not taken lightly by the U.S. as they were used to being ahead of everyone else. By 1958 the U.S. launched its own satellite and ultimately started the space race but when Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon , the U.S. won the space race against the Soviets.
However, before all of this occurred, back in 1947 the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) interpreted the Cold War from a different perspective. HUAC believed that there were Americans with communist beliefs and didn’t agree with any Americans thinking that way. HUAC went as far as forcing people who worked within the movie industry to renounce left-wing political beliefs and testify against each other. During this time, more than 500 people lost their jobs and were “blacklisted”. People who were “blacklisted” such as writers, directors, etc. were unable to work again for over a decade. Anticommunist politicians such as Senator Joseph McCarthy decided to target federal/government workers in his witch hunt to blacklist people. Due to his actions, thousands of federal employees were fired, investigated, and prosecuted. In June of 1950, the first military action of the Cold War began.
The Sovient Union invaded part of Korea which led the U.S. to send American military into Korea. However, the Korean War resulted in a stalemate and ended by 1953. Years later when President Richard Nixon took over as the president of the United States, he implemented a new plan to approach international relations, his plan included using diplomacy instead of military action to approach the Soviets. Nixon encouraged the United Nations to recognize the Soviet Unions’ government which led to establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing. Nixon seemed to have calmed the tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union specifically after signing the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty which banned the production of nuclear missiles by both nations. This treaty brought relief to people as it significantly reduced the threat of nuclear war.
Yet, that didn’t last long because when President Ronald Reagan took over office, he provoked the Soviets due to his beliefs that the spread of communism threatened freedom all around the world. Reagan decided to provide funding and military aid to anti-communists governments everywhere and became known as the Reagan Doctrine. At this time, the Soviet Union was facing a huge decline due to severe economic issues and political issues within the USSR. In 1989, every state that once considered itself communist replaced their entire government with a noncommunist one and by November of that same year the Berlin Wall was destroyed which was a symbol that represented the Cold War. Two years after the removal of the Berlin Wall the Soviet Union completely fell apart which ultimately concluded the Cold War
In conclusion, these three events were critical to the contemporary development of the United States. The Great Depression taught us that that money is an important aspect of our society and the massive consequences that come with a failing economic system. World War two taught us the dangers of nuclear weapons and the heinous acts countries are willing to commit when they are under pressure. Lastly, the Cold War taught us that forcing people to change their political beliefs causes nothing but trouble.
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