Fifty years after World War II erupted, 49% of all Americans believe global war will consume the world again one day, a Media General-Associated Press poll has found.
A majority of those who expect another world war believe it will happen within two decades, the survey found. And if it does recur, most Americans fear it will escalate into an all-out nuclear conflagration.
A majority of respondents to the poll also said one of World War II's darkest episodes could recur: A holocaust on the order of Nazi Germany's murder of more than 6 million Jews.
The 1,163 respondents were asked: "Do you think that kind of thing could happen again--that is, the killing of millions of people because of their religion or ethnic background?" Six in 10 said it could.
Six in 10 poll respondents said the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, in which up to 200,000 people died, was right.Seventy percent of the men in the survey supported the bombing; half of the women agreed.
Two in 10 respondents said they sometimes think of Japan as the enemy because of the war. And with Japan now one of the world's leading economic powers, nearly four in 10 said the United States did too much to help rebuild Japan after the war.
A smaller group, 24%, said the United States did too much to help rebuild West Germany. One in 10 said they sometimes think of Germany as the enemy.
Seventy percent of the respondents strongly supported the reunification of Germany, which was divided after the war into democratic West Germany and Communist-ruled East Germany.
Overall, nearly 70% considered themselves familiar with the events of World War II. Older people were far more apt to rate themselves as "very familiar" with the war--57% of those older than age 64 chose that category, compared to just 12% of those younger than 45. Familiarity with one aspect of the war was overwhelming--95% had heard of the Holocaust.
Of the 49% who said they expect another world war at some point, 6% said it is likely within five years, 29% within 10 years and 26% within 20 years. Thus, 61% of this group--or 30% overall--foresaw World War III within two decades.
The poll was conducted by telephone July 7-16 among a random sample of adults in the continental United States. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.