In today's Bleat, James Lileks wonders about how many World War II veterans became pilots after the war. He writes: "Someone should do a long, boring, footnoted scholarly paper on the number of Greatest Generation types who took up flying in middle age. The very idea to me is remarkable: let’s learn to fly. And so they did."
Here is footnote number one. During the war, the American Historical Association worked with the U.S. Army to produce G.I. Pamphlets that educated the soldiers on all manner of subjects relating mostly to the postwar world. The relevant title (and my favorite) is "Will There Be A Plane In Every Garage?"
Now to the boring academic stuff: Nothing captures American optimism for future at the end of the war quite so well as a pamphlet for vets seriously wondering if everyone would be flying planes in a few years. Coupled with the wild optimism about nuclear power--witness the ubiquity of Atomic Frisbees! and Atomic Bubblegum! and Atomic Underwear! in the first few years after the war--such ponderings also indicate the level to which that postwar optimism was tied to faith in technology. That faith would lead to some magnificent break throughs in, for example, the space program, but it would also get us in trouble by leading to a misplaced faith in science, especially social sciences, to guide behavior. Just another indication of how much World War II changed the country.