The impact of World War II on the United States and the rest of the world has been well chronicled. However, few historians have explored the experiences of individual states during the turbulent war years. In this study, Jerry Purvis Sanson gives a comprehensive account of Louisiana’s homefront from 1939 to 1945, examining the developments in politics, education, agriculture, industry, and society that forever changed the Pelican State.
The World War II era, Sanson shows, was a particularly important time in Louisiana’s colorful political history. The gubernatorial victories of anti-Longites Sam Jones in 1940 and Jimmie Davis in 1944 reflected the wrath that greedy Longite politicians had incurred from the voters and heralded a changing of the guard in the statehouse. This created a system of active bifactional politics that lasted until 1960. The war transformed the state’s economy, as agricultural mechanization accelerated to compensate for a shortage of labor and industries increased production to meet wartime demands. Louisiana’s educational system modified its curriculum in response to the war, providing technical training and sponsoring scrap-metal collections and war-stamp sales drives.
Sanson closely examines the war’s effect on the everyday lives of Louisianians, showing how shortages, rationing, war bond and stamp sales, and scrap drives provided a sense of personal participation in the titanic effort against the Axis powers. He also points out that, while most found their lives limited by war, two groups—African Americans and women—enjoyed increased opportunities as they moved out of traditional low-paying jobs and into more lucrative positions vacated by white males who had departed for the service.
By examining World War II’s impact on the state level, this work provides a wide-ranging yet intimate look at how the war was brought home to the people of the Bayou State, filling a critical void in the annals of Louisiana history.
Found an Error? Tell us about it.