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 Berkeley Home Front

November 11, 2016 – April 8, 2017

The United States entered World War II seventy-five years ago, following the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941. It is also almost a century since the United States entered World War I, the “Great War,” in April, 1917. 

For our Fall/Winter exhibit at the Berkeley History Center, we take a look back at the local impacts of the two world wars. 

While Berkeley was far from the active combat zones of both conflicts, the community was profoundly impacted and changed.   Our exhibit will explore some of these “home front” experiences and effects. 

Both wars were so vast and long that it would be impossible in our modest exhibit space and program to comprehensively describe the entire scope of the local experience.   Instead, we’ve chosen a series of small “vignettes” describing episodes, experiences, and features of the “home front”. 

For Berkeley, these include:

• the forced internment of Berkeley’s entire Japanese-American population in 1942

• major demographic changes to the community as war workers, many of them African-American from the Deep South, flocked to the East Bay for manufacturing jobs and found not only jobs but permanent homes in Berkeley and surrounding communities

• the role of local women in shipyard work, including construction of cargo vessels named for, and sponsored by, the local community

• some Berkeley factories that produced war materials in World War II

• temporary and permanent changes on the UC Berkeley campus as the University went on a year-round “war footing” and undertook military instruction and research on the campus, including military aviation training and local volunteers, led by “Mother Tusch,” who provided support for young airmen away from home for the first time

• the way some locals, including Berkeley schoolchildren, viewed the wars and sought to contribute to the war effort

• homegrown civilian groups organized to provide local relief, including Berkeley’s Mobilized Women organization

• local “civil defense” preparations after Pearl Harbor, as many locals expected an imminent attack by Japanese military forces. 

Join us on Veterans Day, Friday, November 11, for the opening day of the exhibit, with "USO" style refreshments.


“Home Front” is curated by Phyllis Gale and Steven Finacom for the Berkeley Historical Society.


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