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Catholics in Time of War

World War II

Hundreds of thousands of American Catholics fought in World War II. Millions more worked in factories, Nazi-church war posterraised children in the absence of fathers, waited anxiously for the return of loved ones, and prayed for an end to the war. Some objected to the war on religious grounds and refused to fight.

Whatever the role individual Catholics played, the impact of the war was tremendous. For many, it was an opportunity to prove that immigrant Catholics were finally assimilated fully into the values and culture of the United States. The GI Bill that followed the war sent predominantly working class Catholics to college in record numbers, resulting in both the socio-economic advancement of millions of Catholic families and the flourishing of hundreds of Catholic colleges and universities.

Although the vast majority of Catholics supported the war effort and viewed the defeat of Germany and Japan to be morally necessary, the methods the war introduced—including the saturation bombing of cities that culminated in the atomic bombs of August, 1945—raised moral questions that lingered among American Catholics for decades to come.

Poster images courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration (public domain)

Catholic war memoirs

Linus Bergman

John J. Carrigg

Robert Flischel

Grace Smith