Lesson Theme: World War II

With the entry of the U. S. into World War II in December 1941, New Jersey became an important component of the national effort to mobilize all sectors of U. S. society in support of the war effort. Over 560,000 New Jerseyans served in the armed forces during World War II, and the state was an important center of industrial production, military training and related activities in support of the war effort. Major military installations in New Jersey were expanded to process over three million members of the armed services who fought overseas, most notably Fort Dix in Southern NJ and Camp Kilmer in Central NJ. The mass mobilization for the military was not solely confined to men, as almost 10,000 women in NJ served in the Women's Army Corps (WACS), the Women's Reserve of the U. S. Naval Reserve (WAVES) and other auxiliary groups established during the war.

NJ industry employed close to 1 million workers by 1945 to fulfill government contracts for the war effort, more than double the number of workers employed in NJ industries in 1939. As men left for service in the military, many industrial jobs were filled by NJ women, who were critical in fulfilling the more than $12 billion worth of contracts awarded to NJ industries during the conflict. Civil defense plans and projects were implemented throughout the state once the U. S. declared war on the Axis, mobilizing civilians through training programs and impacting the daily lives of many New Jerseyans, including students at colleges such as Rutgers, Princeton and others in the Garden State.

This curriculum module invites teachers and students to explore the broad-based impact of World War II on New Jersey society, with special emphases placed on the roles of women, how civil defense policies and practices were implemented, and how industrial production in New Jersey supported the national effort to win the war against the Axis.

Related Lessons

Sources Consulted

Piehler, G. Kurt. "World War II." In Maxine N. Lurie and Marc Mappen, editors, The Encyclopedia of New Jersey. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004.