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World War II, 1939-1945


American mobilization for World War II spurred significant changes in the nation's social and economic landscape. Americans who remained on the home front contributed to the war effort in various ways. With so many men in the armed services, industry had a lot of jobs to fill. For the first time, women joined the workforce in record numbers, finding work in previously male-dominated industries such as factories and shipyards. The acute need for workers also opened up new employment possibilities for African Americans, who migrated to the West Coast from other parts of the country. Many Mexicans came to California through the government-sponsored Bracero Program, which was organized to fill the need for agricultural field workers. After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the government saw Japanese Americans as possible enemies. Nearly 122,000 Japanese Americans were relocated against their will to internment camps in the West and Northwest, where they spent the duration of the war. Some Japanese American men voluntarily joined special fighting units, such as the much-decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

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