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Unit 9


Changing Times

Lesson 2
A New Deal and a New War


Custer State Park set up  
State cement plant started  
Stock Market crashed  
Franklin Roosevelt became president  
Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor  
Korean War began  
Captain 11 show opened  
Interstate highways started  
Missouri River dams completed  
George McGovern ran for president  
AIM took over Wounded Knee  
Eros Data Center opened  
South Dakota celebrated 100 years  
Captain 11 show closed  
State cement plant sold  
Homestake Mining Company closed  

     People across the United States needed work. When Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president, he knew he had to do something. The year was 1932. He set up federal programs to help. He called them the "New Deal." These programs put people back to work; helped them feed their families; made business and industry stronger; and helped farmers farm better. People called them "federal relief." These programs were important in South Dakota. Within two years, almost forty percent of the people in the state were in these programs. That means that forty out of every hundred people were getting aid. It was the highest percentage in the country.

     The New Deal set up the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA hired people to build things. They built schools and libraries. They put up post offices and courthouses. The WPA gave jobs to teachers and others. It hired writers and artists. It spent thirty-five million dollars in South Dakota. The New Deal set up other programs, too. For young men, there was the Civilian Conservation Corps. For farmers, there was the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA). By this time, the price of a bushel of wheat had fallen to 32˘. The AAA urged farmers to plant less. This then drove up the price.

 Woman cooking with electricity
Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Historical Society

Winter Count
Winter Count


     The New Deal brought hope to many people. A new law gave American Indian tribes the right to set up their own governments (you read about this in Unit 8). It also lifted restrictions on American Indian language and culture. The Rural Electrification Act (REA) was passed. It helped to bring electricity to farms and ranches. A new law changed the price of gold. The Homestake Mining Company grew and did well. It put miners to work. It put more tax money back into the state.


     Other things gave people a feeling of hope, as well. Two Army Air Corps pilots made history in a helium balloon. The men lifted off from the Stratobowl near Rapid City. Their balloon soared 13.7 miles into the air. They set a world record and learned more about the air above us. The four faces of Mount Rushmore were carved. More rain began to fall; there were fewer grasshoppers. Farmers in the state had a big harvest. The days of the Dust Bowl were over. Then the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The date was December 7, 1941. Many Americans died in the attack. The United States declared war on Japan.

Balloon Pilots
Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Historical Society


Soldiers Facing Tank
Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Historical Society

     Within days, the United States was also at war with Germany and Italy. The whole country was now caught up in the Second World War. South Dakotans lined up to enlist in the army, navy, marines, and air corps. Women joined up, too. Many served as nurses, clerks, radio operators, and pilots. They were in groups like the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). Some Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota men joined a very special unit. They were called Sioux code talkers. About ten percent of the people in South Dakota served in the armed forces. By the end of the war, two thousand South Dakotans had died.


     The Second World War changed everyday life in South Dakota, too. Almost everyone was fighting the war on "the home front." Schoolchildren collected scrap metal, paper, even bacon grease. These things could be used to build equipment for the men on the front lines. Children gathered milkweed pods, which were used as filling in life jackets. Gasoline, sugar, and meat were rationed in South Dakota and across the nation. These things were saved for the men and women fighting the war. People were urged to grow their own food.

Volunteer Poster
Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Historical Society


Watertown Airbase
Photo courtesy of Codington County Historical Society

     Thousands of women went to work for the first time. They became factory workers, truck drivers, carpenters, and so on. The Homestake Mining Company stopped mining gold. Instead, it made hand grenades and airplane parts. The Army Air Corps built bases in South Dakota. They were in Sioux Falls, Watertown, Mitchell, Pierre, and Rapid City. The war itself came to the state in a small way. Balloon bombs drifted across the Pacific Ocean from Japan.


     Then Germany surrendered. It was 1945. The United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. The Second World War was over, but the world would never be the same.

enlist (v.), join up; enter into

percentage (n.), a portion of something in one-hundredths

rationed (v.), gave out only so much; limited the amount

restrictions (n.), limits or controls on something