Published Date

January 1, 1945

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 33: What Will Your Town Be Like? (1945)

New York’s Genesee County has developed a program of keeping in direct touch with every man and woman from that county in the armed services. Records of each person show whether he (1) plans to return to Genesee County; (2) wants his old job or a different kind of job; (3) wants to go into business for himself; or (4) does not know what he wants to do.

As might logically be expected, many ideas for community programs of this sort grow out of suggestions made by servicemen in their letters home. Obviously, the clearer the serviceman’s own ideas and plans, the more efficiently he can go about putting them into effect, irrespective of what kind of community program he finds when he gets back to the old home town.

At the same time, the individual’s own plans will have to be flexible enough to meet the changes he will find. We have talked about some of the wartime changes already apparent. Now let’s look at some others that will affect Hometown after the war.


Will you want more changes made?

Although Americans are noted for their restlessness, not many men in the armed services had ever been away from “home” as long as they will have been by D (for Demobilization) Day. Most of them will be surprised at how different things are. If you go away for a week, Hometown is pretty much the same old place when you get back. But months and years allow time for little changes to add up.

One town may have a whole neighborhood of brand new wartime housing, possibly prefabricated units that contrast, in their biscuitlike similarity, to the older houses. In other communities there may have been very little building material available during the war.

But in the ordinary place, like our typical Hometown, the really big changes are likely to come after the boys get back. That is because the war has done two things: It has held back a lot of changes that would have taken place in the ordinary course of events and which, as a result, will probably occur a lot faster now. And it has created a lot of new energies, ideas, and possibilities for other changes that might never have happened without the war. Let’s unscramble some of these possibilities.

Some of the greatest changes in postwar community life will result from changes that have taken place in people during the war; others will result from changes in things.

Do you think you haven’t changed?

Obviously, the greatest change in people has occurred among the men and women in the armed services themselves. The average soldier would probably insist that he’s “the same kind of a guy” he always was-but the record doesn’t agree. Every serviceman has learned new disciplines, gained new experiences, and found new skills as a result of his Army life. Many have seen new places, traveled over strange continents, and lived among unfamiliar peoples. Individual experiences may have ranged from fighting in hot, wet jungles or campaigning across blistering deserts, to living in the placid or raucous atmosphere of remote foreign cities.

Such experiences sink in. A soldier who has driven a jeep where there were no roads or helped to change the course of a river to make way for an army may find the ordinary, slow and orderly civilian way of doing things too tame. How do you suppose Hometown’s committee on building a new airport is going to approach its problem if one of its members has been flying explosives and gasoline “over the hump” to China and a second has spent a month taking off from hedge-rowed French grainfields in a “Maytag Messerschmitt” observation plane? The local future of aviation will have a different look to them than it would have had before the war.

The folks who stayed home have also changed. Many have learned new skills as warworkers. Others have accumulated sufficient funds and experience to start a small business of their own. Few people have not had their spirit of enterprise quickened and their outlook broadened by the pressures of total war.