Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 brought declarations of war from France and England, launching the Second World War. Japan had invaded China two years earlier. These escalating wars turned national attention to defense. Roosevelt, who had been re-elected in 1936, sought to rebuild a military infrastructure that had been neglected after World War I. Work on army camps and roads and airfields became a new focus of the WPA as private employment still lagged pre-depression levels. But as the war in Europe intensified with France surrendering to Germany and England fighting on, ramped-up military production began to reduce the persistent unemployment that was the main face of the depression. Jobless workers were absorbed as trainees for defense jobs and then by the draft that went into effect in 1940, when Roosevelt was elected to a third term. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 that brought the United States into World War II sent America’s factories into full production and absorbed all available workers.
1. What kinds of goods were hard to get during the depression?
2. How did the depression affect family life?
3. What was the hardest thing to deal with during the depression?
4. Do you remember what Christmas was like during the Depression?
5. Did the Depression put your family out of work? If not, what were typical wages like then?
6. What are some stories that you remember from the Depression?
7. What do you think were the causes of the Great Depression?
8. How is your life different today?
9. What were the solutions that relieved suffering during the Great Depression?