In 1941 the United States entered World War II. About 750,000 Texans from all ethnic groups and regions enlisted in the armed services. Texans occupied every rank. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was born in Denison, commanded the Allied forces in Europe. Admiral Nimitz was one of 12 admirals from Texas. About 12,000 Texan women were service personnel, including Oveta Culp Hobby of Houston, the first woman colonel.
The state built or enlarged more than 100 military bases where soldiers, sailors, and pilots from all over the United States came for training. Many camps housed captured German and Japanese soldiers. Some of the camps held Japanese American civilians, who were wrongfully suspected of anti-American feelings.
The Home Front War planners expected Texas to provide 80 percent of the oil necessary to fight the war. Texas also possessed adequate supplies of natural gas, water, timber, and sulphur, so it was the logical site for wartime industrial expansion. Aircraft factories were concentrated in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Shipyards were built along the coast. In fact, the coastal region between the Brazos and Sabine Rivers became one of the most heavily industrialized areas of the world. Wartime construction created a huge demand for labor, and about one-half million rural Texans moved to cities to work in the factories.
After the War When World War II ended, many of the factories that had produced war goods began producing consumer goods. Women who had worked in factories generally were fired so that returning servicemen could have their jobs. Farming became much more mechanized. The GI Bill of Rights was passed in 1944, and one of its provisions was to pay for veterans to attend college. Texas universities hurried to build more facilities for the growing number of students.
African American and Mexican American soldiers realized the unfairness of fighting and dying for democracy when many of their rights were denied to them at home. They became much more active in demanding civil rights.