Leading the World War II Generation
"You young Americans today are conducting yourselves in a manner that is worthy of the highest, proudest traditions of our nation...We here at home are supremely conscious of our obligations to you, now and in the future. We will not let you down."
- Franklin Roosevelt, September 3, 1942
Over 16 million Americans served in the military during the war. Most had been civilians in 1941. They included people of all races and ethnic backgrounds and - with Roosevelt's support - 350,000 women, who served as nurses and in special service branches throughout the military.
The President and Mrs. Roosevelt felt a strong connection to these young people, whose ranks included their own four sons. They often visited their training camps and made time to meet with them during overseas trips.
FDR believed America owed a special debt to this generation. With his strong support, Congress passed the "GI Bill of Rights" in 1944. It provided millions of veterans with generous educational and medical benefits and low-interest loans for homes, small businesses, and farms. Between 1944 and 1952 the Veterans Administration backed almost 2.4 million home loans to returning veterans. By 1956, 7.8 million veterans had attended college or received job training under the GI Bill.
The United States was part of a coalition of over two dozen nations fighting the Axis Powers during World War II. Nearly 50 million people died in the war, which spanned five continents and lasted almost six years. American dead totaled over 400,000. Losses among America's allies were even greater. The chart above contains estimates of military and civilian casualties for select Allied nations.