USAA in the 1940s: Post-World War II




USAA employees in 1949 as USAA membership expanded and the company adjusted to post-war life.​USAA employees in 1949 as USAA membership expanded and the company adjusted to post-war life.​

USAA employees in 1949 as USAA membership expanded and the company adjusted to post-war life.​

Shortly after the Allied victory in World War II, a USAA member appeared at the company's Grayson Street home office in San Antonio to renew his policy and cash a weathered dividend check. And he had a story to tell.


The check had spent three years with its payee as a prisoner of war in the notorious Japanese camp on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. Along with the member's 1941 Household Goods Policy, it had survived the ordeal in his shoe. With nothing else to read and little else to do, he and his fellow POWs spent their three years in captivity discussing and memorizing the terms of the policy. But when he began to recite them, he had to be told that, like so much else during and immediately after the war years, the policy had changed completely while he was away. “Well," he replied, “I'm not going back to Bataan just to memorize the new policy!"


For USAA, the changes were almost as sweeping as those to its policies. As officers left active service following the war, its membership dropped for the first time in 1946. The decline didn't last long. With the Cold War in full swing and the U.S. again at war, in Korea, membership nearly quadrupled to 134,000 by 1952. 


At the same time, the new members had new and growing needs. To meet them, USAA expanded its fire coverage to include damage from natural disasters in 1945. It also had to find a way to cover members and their families deployed to Europe and the Pacific as part of the American occupation forces.


And it had to do all of this while also dealing with changes to insurance regulations in the nation's largest states and a growing loss ratio as members returned home and once again took to the roads as wartime fuel rationing ended.


Throughout this time, USAA worked to meet its commitments to members who had made the ultimate sacrifice during the previous war, keeping policies open for members who hadn't been heard from and ensuring that the tens of thousands of dollars in dividends it held for those members were paid out.



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