Home Front: Santa Clara Valley’s World War II Experience

Pacific Hotel Gallery, December 2008-September 2009. Melissa Johnson, Curator

Home Front explores how San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley were affected by, contributed to, and benefited from World War II. Young men and women left their families and hometowns, many for the first time, to serve in far off places like Monte Cassino, Tarawa, Normandy, and Okinawa. At home, people were constantly reminded of the war through newspapers, radio, correspondence, work, and entertainment. To support the war effort, essential goods like tires, gas, sugar, coffee, canned goods, and metal were rationed. The public was encouraged to work for victory, purchase war bonds, and grow Victory Gardens.

During this time of patriotism, those at home experienced unprecedented change. Uncontrolled fear led to the internment of Santa Clara Valley’s Japanese population, yet women and other minorities were given opportunities to work in positions formerly unavailable to them. Local industry adapted to support the war effort by increasing canning production and manufacturing machinery and other equipment to be sent overseas. Entrepreneurs in the evolving technology industry supplied much needed communication devices to the war effort. By the end of the War, the Valley’s economy was no longer solely dependent on the fruit industry. Manufacturing and technology that were developed during the war continued to grow into today’s Silicon Valley.