In commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War II, this exhibition explores contributions from the High Desert to the war effort and the war's lasting effect on the region.
The High Desert’s remoteness and relatively low population made it central to the war effort; it served as an important site for training camps and military training exercises. The region was also home to several Civilian Public Service camps, where conscientious objectors could fulfill their national service duties. Because of its remoteness, the High Desert also became a site for several internment camps. In 1942, Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, paving the way for the War Relocation Authority to remove Japanese Americans living along the West Coast and place them in detention centers. The exhibition features works of art created by those interned and illuminates Japanese Americans’ wartime experiences.
With many men fighting overseas, the nation faced a major labor shortage. High Desert farmers needed help harvesting their crops. The Emergency Farm Labor Service recruited a diverse workforce that included Japanese Americans, German prisoners of war, the Women’s Land Army and the Victory Farm Volunteers. International workers, especially those from Mexico, were among the largest group of farm laborers. An agreement between the United States and Mexico, the Bracero Program, brought contractual laborers to the U.S. The program promised good housing and competitive wages, although many encountered harsh conditions instead.
The region’s rural and remote nature also made it the perfect site, from the perspective of those working on the Manhattan Project, for the production and testing of nuclear weapons. It was home to Hanford, the Nevada National Security Site and New Mexico’s Trinity Site. The exhibition reveals their role in the war effort and the lasting effects of nuclear production and testing.
World War II: The High Desert Home Front reveals the wartime activities that took place in the High Desert, including some of the most celebrated and tragic chapters in our country’s history.
View the Museum Program Guide which includes all the programs and events sponsored by the Museum, Deschutes Public Library and Nancy R. Chandler Visiting Scholar Program with the COCC Foundation associated with this exhibition.
Photo: Camp Abbot, 1942. Soldier climbing the wall. Courtesy of the Des Chutes Historical Museum.
With support from Bigfoot Beverages, Central Oregon Radiology Associates, P.C., Century Insurance Group, LLC; the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation; Jones & Roth CPAs & Business Advisors and Summit Bank.