In the early 20th Century, men reinforced their manhood with work and the pursuit of monetary success. When the Great Depression hit, many men lost their jobs and their faith in work as a stable, masculine institution(Kimmel, 132,199). From there, most men returned to their role as father, becoming more and more involved with the lives of their children, contributing time and affection where there used to be income. As the economy recovered, men found that the work available was not the solid pillar it used to be. The jobs created by the New Deal and the industry of the Arsenal of Democracy were seen as temporary, and therefore not dependable as a route to lifetime success and stability. During WWII, the workplace as a means for masculinity was even more problematized. Women began working alongside men in the factories, infringing on the masculine space of the workplace. The jobs were also highly mechanized and existed almost exclusively in urban areas. Mechanization and urbanity both infringe on long-held masculine ideals of creating goods and an income with your hands, free from the constraints of others and outside structures.

War Mobilization

The explosion of the defense industry in response to WWII changed the face of the United States. Fifteen million civilians made significant moves during the war, most of whom moved to urban areas to work in industries that were essential to the war effort. Civilian mobilization was especially influential on cities like Detroit and Los Angeles, that housed massive defense factories. The industrial migration was a significant boost to the preexisting trend of urbanization.

The labor migration, along with domestic military bases, training, prisoner of war, and internment camps created enclaves that consisted primarily of young men that were detached from their families and familiar social structures. Red light districts sprang up around these places, as did as concentrations of "Victory Girls" -- young women that pursued sexual relations with enlisted men (Costello, 8).


Prior to the 1943 construction of the nation's largest naval munitions depot, Hastings, Nebraska was comprised of 15,500 people, nearly all of whom were white and native to the area. With the construction of the NAD, civilians from across the nation moved in, and the Naval detachment brought a continuous flow of diverse people moving in and out. At its peak in 1945, the Hasting NAD employed approximately 2,000 military personnel, 6,700 civilian production workers, and 2,000 civilians involved in ongoing construction.