Once the war ended, there was an influx of wounded veterans being shipped home. The American public, according to Gambone, took this well and completely threw themselves into aiding the wounded and helping them adjust. Perhaps a slight overstatement? Congress, much more liberal after FDR’s four terms, was also willing to help. With the general approval of the government, the Veteran’s Administration, under General Omar Bradley and Paul Hawley, managed to make major changes in VA hospitals. Plans were in the making for new hospitals, and rehabilitation and psychological care was expanded in already existing hospitals. These hospitals suffered from a lack of doctors, mostly consisting of civil service employees, before and during the war, but after the war extensive medical programs and research grants were introduced in order to attract doctors and nurses. Problems arose, however, when Republicans took control of Congress, cutting much of the funds to the VA. The public, as well, felt it was time to move on.
Returning veterans were left to fit back into society. With the government paying, some finished up high school, others went to college as they had originally planned, and some who had not intended to go to college made plans. Many more vets than expected attended higher learning institutions, creating a much larger population of college-educated people than America had ever had before. There was an increase in white-collar jobs, contributing to the rising middle class. On the unfortunate side, colleges had less focus on teaching humanities than they traditionally had, and the bigger classes and student-to-teacher ratios created a less personal atmosphere. Most veterans, however, went straight to work. Some got vocational training and some got jobs related to the specialized skills they learned in the military. The increase in pay in many blue-collar workers also helped produce the growing middle class.
Veterans also became social leaders, raising money for various organizations, charities, and hospitals. They became involved in national politics, with more than half of the Eightieth Congress being veterans from various wars (making the VA funding cuts ironic). Military records were expected, and service exploits were often used in campaigns, though sometimes embellished. Veterans, however, did little to change policymaking, overall. Some veterans took time to adjust (wandering the country) or never adjusted at all. Veterans “found the company of other veterans, the distractions of civilian freedom, or their own silence to offer sanctuary within and from wartime memories (89).”
So Gambone, who is relatively young and, as far as I know, not a veteran, writes from the general point of view that all is hunky-dory for the returning veterans. Compared to what vets from previous wars got (that is to say, not much of anything), things were pretty good. As we mentioned in class, WWII is considered the “Good War,” and that is the approach Gambone takes. He does discuss problems and negatives that arise, but nothing to the extreme. I notice, though, that he has yet to make much of a mention of black veterans. Did they experience the same homecoming as white vets? Did the GI Bill provide equal opportunities for them? I highly doubt it.
Fussell, as well, has his bias. He’s a pessimist and a skeptic so he tends to take a hard line in his thoughts about his homecoming and the condition of American life at the time. Fussell writes of his personal feelings, while Gambone is able to have a more objective stance. On the other hand, Gambone can’t truly understand the experiences of veterans without being a veteran himself. Also, while Gambone relies on many sources for his information, Fussell just uses his memory, which is not always reliable. For instance, when he was describing the point system, he incorrectly described the number of points given to soldiers with children.
Overall, both books are important to read in order to understand the subject of WWII veterans, despite any bias they may have. Every author writes with some kind of bias, and this is why it is important to read and research from as many sources as you can before making any judgments.