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Essay on Aftermath of World War 2: The Week of October 29th, 1945

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When looking back on history, it’s easy to forget that real people lived through the periods you’re looking at. Real people, with real feelings and emotions, just like people alive today. That’s why looking at LIFE magazines is such a good idea. It gives you a little peek into the lives of real Americans throughout history. The issue that I’ll be writing about is from October 29th, 1945. This is around a month and a half after the official end of the war, and that is definitely reflected in the magazine. While reading through it, it is impossible to miss the stories about the atomic bomb. The bomb was dropped very recently, and people were concerned about the future of this scary new weapon. This was also a time of great technological advancement. Tech was starting to become a greater and greater part of people's lives, and many ads are targeted towards that. Ads are also hinting at the approaching start of a new generation. The Baby Boom was also apparent through the use of advertising. While people were trying to move on from the war, there was still a great interest in what the world would be like after it. Because while people were trying to move on, it was indisputable that the world would be drastically different after WW2. This issue of LIFE deals with WW2 in many aspects. From the aftermath of the war and the atomic bomb to new technologies and the Baby Boom.

In this issue of LIFE, something that you’ll notice after reading through it is the number of ads targeted toward parents of babies and small children. A reason for this might be the massive spike in births after the end of the war. This is what would later come to be known as the “Baby Boom” generation. Nobody has realized it yet, but they were experiencing just the start of a long period of high birth and fertility rates that would last well into the 1960s (“What caused the baby boom?”). The Baby Boom phenomenon is enforced through an anecdote in the issue as well, and not just the ads towards parents. There is an ad for a movie called “Pride of the Marines”, which is about a real person named Al. The ad to the movie starts off like this, “His name is Al Schmid, and he lives in Philadelphia. He’s 26 years old, and since his discharge from the Marine Corps, he has married and had a baby boy” (LIFE 28). This quote seems to imply that this is just what normally happened when a man got back from the war. He would get married, and start a family. And with the hordes of men getting back from overseas around this time, the surge in births was bound to happen. Another baby-related ad that stuck out was a Gerber Baby Foods ad. In this ad, Gerber is partnering with the government to promote the sale of Victory Bonds (LIFE 60). The main quote in the ad is, “To a Baby Born in the year of Victory” (LIFE 60). The ad then goes on to talk about how lucky they are to be born after the war is over, and how good of a parent they would be if they buy Victory Bonds. This is an interesting ad technique and shows just how influential baby ads were, so much so that the government was putting its own bond ads inside them. Baby companies, and as we’ve seen, the government, wanted to capitalize on the influx of new families in the US. There was no better way to do that than placing dozens of ads in a popular media form.

Technology is also something that comes up again and again in the ads of this magazine. This was well into the technological revolution, and things such as clocks and mouse traps were being made electric. Movies were also a big part of American life at the time. Instead of all the personal entertainment we enjoy today, one of the only ways to consume a new product was to actually go to a movie theater and watch a movie. These new pieces of technology, such as clocks and toasters, were important and special to these people just as the newest iPhone or TV is to us today. New products and technologies will always be a big part of people's lives, even in times of war as shown in LIFE magazine.

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Because of how close to the end of the war this issue was released, there are many stories that talk about the aftermath of the war. Both at home and abroad. Just because the war ended didn't mean people didn't care about what was going on in the rest of the world. A major theme to come from this narrative is, of course, the atomic bomb. At the time that this issue was published, it has been less than 3 months since the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Issues were being thought about immediately after this regarding the bomb, “Who shall control the atomic bomb, manufacture it, or prohibit effectively its use by individual nations” (Borchard 1) A bomb of this size was a huge deal in the world, and that is reflected in this week's issue of LIFE. A story entitled “The Bomb” on page 36 talks about different ways to handle the existence of atomic technology, and the massive destruction it has and would be able to cause in the future (LIFE 36). Although the author in this article comes off as most critical of the atomic bomb, it’s interesting to read how people thought about the bomb at its inception. Another view on the atomic bomb comes on page 45. This article is solely talking about the scientists and the technology used to create the bomb. An interesting few sentences talking about how, unlike previous inventors and scientists that created the means for the destruction of lives, the scientists who worked and developed the atomic bomb are solely and directly responsible for the deaths caused by it (LIFE 45). The article then goes on to talk about how the “secret” of the bomb is not one we can keep for long, and another country finding the formula for a nuclear bomb is inevitable (LIFE 45). An interesting note from both of these stories about the atomic bomb is that people from that time were immediately looking toward the future and recognized how dangerous the bomb was going to be to future generations. This is a reality that we are living in now, and this reality was the first thing that the people of 1945 were thinking about. This is exactly what Borchard was talking about in his 1946 article about the bomb, “We may be sure that if one nation has atomic bombs in its armory, all other self-respecting nations will have atomic bombs in their armories as soon as they can get them” (5). This is almost a word-for-word prediction of what would happen in the future, especially during the cold war between the US and the USSR. The future was uncertain at the time, but the outline was easy to see.

Punishment of the Axis Powers was on everyone's mind after the war. Both in Europe and the US. They had put the world through war for years, now they lost and it was time that they got what was coming to them. This issue of LIFE saw a story that featured the mugshot of 24 Nazi war criminals that were all indicted for war crimes, some of them executed. Two full pages were devoted to showing the mugshots of these 24 men and the crimes that they had committed. In all, there were 13 trials held in Nuremberg in an attempt to hold the Nazis responsible for their actions (Anderson 1). All but the first of these were held only by the Americans(Anderson 1). This shows how much the US really cared about dealing with justice from the war, and it makes you understand why people would want to see 2 pages of evil faces in their favorite magazine. Nazis were not the only axis power that showed up in this issue. A story on page 51 concerned itself with the Japanese “Zaibatsu.” These were the people that were in charge of the Japanese economy and industry (LIFE 51). The article discusses whether or not some guilt should be placed on them for supporting the war economically, and if it is possible to have the Zaibatsu as well a democratic future. The Americans obviously deeply cared about preventing this sort of conflict again in the future, by both holding the aggressors responsible, and discussing who should still be able to hold power in Japan.

Throughout this issue of LIFE magazine and the week that it was discussed, we see that America was concerned with a lot of things. They were still in the immediate aftermath of World War 2, and a lot of the stuff going on was new to them. Ads were targeting the babies being born, and who would have thought the end of the war would trigger one of the biggest birth rates jumps in the country's history? Technology was also important to these people, and they wanted to know about all the latest products coming out around the time of the publication of the issue. The atomic bomb had just been dropped. The people living then witnessed and lived through the biggest single manmade destructive event in the history of the world, and it was a scary new technology. Nobody knew what the future would hold regarding nuclear bombs, except how destructive they were and what one could do to a city like New York. They were also concerned about how to handle the people they had just beaten in a war and what to do to minimize the chance of a world war ever happening again. The people in America during the week of October 21st to the 29th were looking towards the future, and what would come next.

Works Cited

  1. What caused the baby boom? (1991). Population Bulletin, 46(3), 3. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.mnsu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.mnsu.edu/docview/237068044?accountid=12259
  2. LIFE, October 29th, 1945.
  3. Borchard, Edwin. “The Atomic Bomb.” The American Journal of International Law, vol. 40, no. 1, 1946, pp. 161–165. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2193900.
  4. Anderson, Tim. “Chapter One: Seeking Justice.” Nuremberg Trials, Great Neck Publishing, 2017, p. 1. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=15315713.
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Essay on Aftermath of World War 2: The Week of October 29th, 1945. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 2, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/essay-on-aftermath-of-world-war-2-the-week-of-october-29th-1945/
“Essay on Aftermath of World War 2: The Week of October 29th, 1945.” Edubirdie, 21 Apr. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/essay-on-aftermath-of-world-war-2-the-week-of-october-29th-1945/
Essay on Aftermath of World War 2: The Week of October 29th, 1945. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/essay-on-aftermath-of-world-war-2-the-week-of-october-29th-1945/> [Accessed 2 Mar. 2024].
Essay on Aftermath of World War 2: The Week of October 29th, 1945 [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Apr 21 [cited 2024 Mar 2]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/essay-on-aftermath-of-world-war-2-the-week-of-october-29th-1945/
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