1941: Pearl Harbor
- Budget deficit: $4.9 billion (3.8% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $49 billion (37.9% of GDP)
The U.S. military base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was attacked by the Japanese, forcing the United States to join the war. Italy and Germany declared war on the United States the same year, and Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill, to provide financial aid to World War II veterans.
1942: Draft age lowered
- Budget deficit: $20.5 billion (12.4% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $72.4 billion (43.6% of GDP)
Due to the war, the military draft age was decreased, from 21 to 18. The Battle of Midway took place between Japan and the United States in June.
1943: Battle of the Bismarck Sea
- Budget deficit: $54.6 billion (26.9% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $136.7 billion (67.3% of GDP)
U.S. bombers, assisted by Australian fighters, successfully destroyed eight Japanese troop transports, four Japanese destroyers, and 102 Japanese fighter jets in the Bismarck Sea in March.
1944: Invasion of Normandy
- Budget deficit: $47.6 billion (21.2% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $201 billion (89.6% of GDP)
On what would come to be known as D-Day, 156,000 American, Canadian, and British troops landed on the beach in Normandy, France. The ensuing Battle of Normandy led to Western Europe’s liberation from Nazi Germany.
1945: World War II ends
- Budget deficit: $47.6 billion (20.9% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $258.7 billion (113.5% of GDP)
In August, U.S. forces bombed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, bringing an end to World War II. In the same year, the Nuremberg Trials began in Germany, bringing Nazi war criminals to justice.
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1946: Cold War begins
- Budget deficit: $15.9 billion (7% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $269.4 billion (118.4% of GDP)
The Cold War, an ongoing feud between the United States and Soviet Union, began just after World War II and continued for years. In December of 1946, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) was established.
1947: The Truman Doctrine
- Budget surplus: $4 billion (1.6% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $258.3 billion (103.5% of GDP)
President Truman committed to assisting democratic nations threatened by authoritarian forces, in order to protect international peace and U.S. security. He requested, and received, $400 million from Congress in order to help protect democracy in Turkey and Greece.
1948: Marshall Plan
- Budget surplus: $11.8 billion (4.3% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $252.3 billion (91.9% of GDP)
Also referred to as the European Recovery Program, the Marshall Plan was enacted to help rebuild Europe after World War II. Within three years, almost all countries involved grew their economies.
1949: NATO created
- Budget surplus: $580 million (0.2% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $252.8 billion (92.8% of GDP)
In an attempt to protect signing nations against the Soviet Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was jointly created by the United States, Canada, and several Western European nations. All agreed that if one was attacked, it was considered an attack on all of them.
1950: Korean War
- Budget deficit: $3.1 billion (1% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $257.4 billion (85.8% of GDP)
The Korean War began in June, when North Korea, supplied and aided by the Soviet Union, invaded South Korea. More than five million people died—half of which were civilians—before the war ended in 1953.
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