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Major Events of the Twentieth Century

There have been many devastating events throughout the history of the United States. The American people, though strong in appearance to the rest of the world, have had their share of deadly blows and knockdowns that have affected generation after generation. Three of these horrendous events have happened in the twentieth century alone. They include; The Great Depression of the 1930’s, followed by World War Two that drew U.S. involvement in 1941 with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and then the Vietnam War, one of the most controversial conflicts in United States history, which began in 1965.The Great Depression, which resulted in, bank runs, bread lines, and wild currency speculations, was the worst economic crisis in American history. The depression of the 1930’s was mainly caused by the unequal distribution of wealth throughout the 1920’s and the speculation of the stock market in the late 1920’s. The imbalance of wealth among the wealthy and the middleclass, combined with market crash, created an unstable economy and caused it to collapse.In 1929, 80 percent of Americans had no savings, while the top 0.1 percent controlled 34 percent of all savings. The Great Depression had little effect on the wealthy as they continued with their travels, parties, and purchases of collectibles. On the other hand, the depression was very hard on the poor, as they got poorer. Insecurities of income caused extreme strain on family life. From 1935 to 1939, the birth rate fell below zero, marriages fell by 25 percent, and divorces declined, mainly because of the cost of legal services, alimony, and child support.The other factor in the Great Depression was the stock market crash of 1929. On October 29, nervous stockholders sold 16,400,000 shares and by the end of 1929, the stock market cost investors nearly 40,000,000,000 dollars.After the crash, the country sank steadily into the worst depression in history. Banks failed, factories and stores closed, governments could not collect their taxes, and foreign trade came to a near halt. President Hoover assure the public that better times were right around the corner, but conditions grew worse. 6,000,000 Americans lost their jobs by the end of 1930, and this number doubled a year later. Over 32,000 businesses went bankrupt.Help would not come until 1933 in the form of the New Deal, implemented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. From 1933 to 1939, the New Deal’s objective was to provide the U.S. economy with relief, recovery, and reform. The New Deal aimed to boost industrial recovery, aid victims of the Great Depression, and prevent future economic crises.The second event covered in this essay is World War Two. When World War Two broke, there was no way that America or the rest of the world could possibly know the severity of this event. However, the United States knew that Hitler’s Nazi Germany and its allies had to be stopped from its quest in overrunning Europe.World War Two began on September 1, 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. Then in 1940, using lightening strikes, the German War Machine crushed Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. After the Germans and the Italians rolled over France, a failed air campaign over Great Britain, and an invasion of Russia, the United States was drawn into the war when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Soon after, the Allies halted advances by the Axis at El Alamein in North Africa, off Midway Island in the Pacific, and at Stalingrad in Russia. The Allies arrived on Japan’s doorstep with an amphibious invasion of Guadalcanal, and in Europe landed in Italy and France and moved into Germany. On September 8, 1943, Italy surrendered, April 30, 1945; Hitler takes his own life, followed by the surrender of Germany on May 7, and after atomic bombs I are dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,Japan surrenders on September 2, 1945.World War Two affected not only the United States, but the whole world also. The war cost more money, damaged more property, and killed more people than any other war in history. Those that were lucky enough to return home with their life were forever changed in an unimaginable way. The war also opened the door to a new kind of warfare. Not only was the Atomic Age born, but aircraft, warships, and ground forces now worked together with split-second timing to carry out attacks. Bombers and guided missiles along with paratroopers brought death from above.It is impossible to calculate the number of wounded, missing, and killed between September 1939, and September 1945. An estimated 9,000,000 Allied, and 6,000,000 Axis servicemen lost their lives in the war. Its cost exceeded 1,150,000,000,000 dollars. More than fifty countries felt the effects of this terrible war.The third and final event covered in this essay is the Vietnam War, which was never officially declared a war, was one of the most unique conflicts ever fought by the United States. The United States’ involvement began in 1950, when it began to subsidize the French Army in South Vietnam. This involvement escalated throughout the decade and into the 1960’s. Then on August 4, 1964, an American Naval Vessel was fired upon by North Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin. On August 5, President Johnson asked congress for a resolution in supporting freedom and protecting peace in Southeast Asia. On August 7, congress authorized President Johnson to take all necessary measures he deemed fit. Obligated by the Truman Doctrine, U.S. troops began arriving in Vietnam in March 1965.The United States had a clear advantage over the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong. Their military, combat training, and weaponry were far superior, and if not for the enemy’s knowledge for the terrain and guerilla warfare, the outcome may have been different. Also, the U.S. government sent only the number of soldiers it felt adequate to contain communism, not defeat it.As the war dragged on, U.S. victories in ground battles failed to reduce the number of enemy troops. The North Vietnamese replaced troops as quickly as they lost them. Then on January 30, 1968, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong attacked Saigon, the capitol of South Vietnam. This attack came at the beginning of Tet, the Vietnamese New Year celebration. It came to be known as the Tet Offensive. This attack shook the confidence of the American people and their leaders, who a short time earlier had reported that steady progress was being made.The Tet Offensive force President Johnson to act. To persuade the North Vietnamese to negotiate, on March 31, 1968, he restricted the bombing of North Vietnam to the southern part of the country, bringing the bombing campaign, Operation Rolling Thunder to a halt. Peace talks began in Paris in May ’68, but accomplished nothing.Four years later, on March 30, 1972, North Vietnam began a full-scale invasion of South Vietnam. In retaliation, President Richard Nixon, ordered a new air campaign. Operation Linebacker, which attacked targets like the rail line leading from China, was now underway. By the end of June, the enemy had been stopped, allowing American troops to be extracted from South Vietnam. South Vietnam also regained the city of Quang Tri.The losses on both sides in 1972 led to peace talks and a cease-fire. All American troops along with POWs returned home. However, soon after, North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam seizing Saigon on April 30, 1975, renaming it Ho Chi Minh City.Many wonder if Vietnam was worth the cost. America had invested more than 150,000,000,000 dollars in the war. More than 50,000 Americans were dead and 200,000 lay wounded. The United States had torn itself apart over this conflict. Demonstrations, especially the Kent State riot, had caused deep wounds. The United States had lost support throughout the world and in some circles; old friends and allies were driven away as the war continued. The United States entered the conflict to demonstrate her determination to fight communist expansion, but perhaps the cost was too high. However, if lessons have truly been learned and the mistakes are not repeated, then perhaps, it was not all in vein.

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