Family Secrets & Patterns After World War II

family patterns genealogy inherited trauma veterans wwii Jun 07, 2021

We are living through a period of years where many things are coming to the light that were previously hidden in the darkness. It will be up to each of us to choose whether or not to look at these things and process and heal them within ourselves or to push them down, deny, ignore, and create more suffering for ourselves. One of these themes coming to light are family secrets, lies, and patterns after World War II.

Within each family, it has been said, one person was born to step up and heal the ancestral lineage. Sometimes this person is not born into a family but marries or is adopted into the family. I have had experience being the one born into my lineage to step up, speak out, and heal, and also to marry into a seriously traumatized family where no one stepped up yet the in-law ancestors made their presence known to me. Sometimes this brought me to my knees in grief and pain and other times I told them to go away. Please know that when you marry into a family, you still have the choice of whether or not to take on the in-laws and your spouse’s family trauma and secrets.

The Returning Veteran

As I explored my own war-related family patterns and secrets, especially over the last year, my Navy grandpa (died 1964) said I needed to start looking into what the programming and manipulation was of the veteran and the public upon the return of veterans after the war. Grandpa keeps telling me the story I think I know, which changes with the additional information I receive periodically, is not the whole story. Not his whole story or the whole story of our family. There are still many layers for us to heal. This led me to ask several questions.

  • What were families and veterans told?
  • What were they not told?
  • Where did this information appear?
  • Who had access?
  • How did families with parents who could not read or write (well or at all), obtain vital information?
  • How did the families process this information to help the veteran readjust to civilian life after the war?
  • Did my family know about this information? How did my grandma deal with her veteran husband’s return and war wounds? How did my dad and uncles deal with it?
  • How did their ability and inability to process what happened during and after the war affect me and my kids? How did the denial, shame, anger, and grief of what happened affect how I was raised? My beliefs? How I raised my kids?

What Was Available?

As I began my initial research, I discovered you can use online newspaper sites, choose your city or closest city, and dive into keywords to see what families and returning veterans were told.

Keywords like: returning veteran, returning soldier, veteran readjustment, GI bill, military readjustment, soldier to civilian, and other similar terms that relate to a veteran returning.

One thing to keep in mind as you read these articles, is they were written in the 1940s. Attitudes about men’s and women’s roles were very different. The programming at the time was for veterans to Come home, rebuild, get married, go to school, get a job, start a family, forget and shut up about your war experience.

For families the programming was a lot of wives be a good support to your husband, take care of his needs, be the perfect wife/mother, don’t ask questions, have more children, stay at home (especially if you were out in the workforce supporting the war effort).

These are a few examples of the cultural programming, not only in the U.S. but worldwide. However, this article focuses on the U.S.

To better understand the family patterns, lies, and secrets within each of our families after the war, we need to know what the programming and manipulation of people was, or propaganda if you like that term better. Once we better understand what the public was told, we can begin to dissect our family patterns, seeing them for what they are, not what we imagined them to be.

Resources to Start Your Exploration

Newspapers are a great resource because we can see exactly what was published for the public at the time veterans were returning and women had to leave the workforce, in many cases.

You can also read books that were written during and after the war for returning veterans and their families. I do question whether or not my grandmother would have known about the books I’ll list here and if she even had time to read them while raising a family, working, and taking care of her parents as needed. It feels she was more likely to read the newspaper or talk to the other wives at the butcher or baker.

Psychology for the Returning Serviceman. An Infantry Journal publication prepared by a Committee of the National Research Council. You can still get some of these as first editions. They are small books that cover a lot of information.

Soldier to Civilian. Problems of Readjustment by George K. Pratt, M.D. 1944.

Veteran Comes Back by Willard Waller. 1944.

All three of these books are also on Internet Archive if you like PDF files. I prefer to hold the books and was able to get first edition copies. They are extremely informative and have given me a new perspective on my grandparent’s lives after the war.

You can also read my article with journal prompts on Questions to Explore Your Family Patterns.

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