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U.S. Civilian Economy Grew During World War II


Of all the major countries fighting in World War II, the United States is the only nation whose civilian economy grew during the conflict, according to David Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize–winning author and historian.

“In this country and this country alone, the civilian portion of the economy grew by 15 percent,” Kennedy said. This is in contrast to allies Great Britain and the Soviet Union where that sector of the economy shrank by one-third.

Kennedy made those comments during his presentation, “A Tale of Three Cities: How the United State Won World War II,” at the second annual Teach In at the University of Oklahoma.

The decision in the United States to fight the war on a reduced scale, push back an invasion of Europe by a year, and access to the deep economic resources of the nation helped spare its civilian population from deprivation during World War II, according to Kennedy.

While thousands of Americans died in the fighting, Kennedy described the relatively low number of military and civilian deaths compared to other major countries fighting in the war.

He reports Great Britain had 350,000 people who died in World War II, with 100,000 of those civilians. In China, 10 million people died in the war, including 4 million civilians.

Twenty-four million residents of the Soviet Union died in the conflict, 16 million of whom were civilians.

“We think World War II was probably the first major war in history, certainly in modern history, where the civilian death toll actually exceeds the military death toll, world wide.” Kennedy said.

But in the United States the prosecution of the war resulted in 405,399 dead members of the military, with only six civilian deaths directly attributed to enemy action in the 48 states, according to Kennedy.

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