Skip to Local Navigation
Skip to Content
California State University, Long Beach
Print this pageAdd this page to your favoritesSelect a font sizeSelect a small fontSelect a medium fontSelect a large font

Monday–Prelude to the Sunbelt: World War II Production

How and why did the aerospace industry & suburbia develop in Southern California?

Monday provides context for the rest of the week by considering the origins of the aerospace industry in the period before the Cold War. In particular, discussions and readings emphasize the ways that World War II confirmed the region’s importance for the design, building, testing of aircraft and allied industries.

After breakfast, participants will join a walking tour of the CSU Long Beach campus, highlighting the historical development of the university from its origins as a naval facility during War II through its subsequent transformation into a public college in the early Cold War era. After the walk, participants will have the opportunity to view vintage yearbooks and photos of the early CSU Long Beach campus in the archive of the Main Library, including images of the military Quonset huts that served as the first campus buildings

Principal faculty member William Deverell will then provide a lecture-discussion of “The Southern California Sunbelt in National and Regional Perspective: Political, Economic, and Social Dynamics.” This talk will offer a broad perspective, comparing and contrasting the origins and development of the Southern California Sunbelt with similar patterns across the nation. These patterns include shifts in culture and demography—most notably, dramatic population growth (including large numbers of African Americans), and the beginnings of suburban sprawl. After Deverell’s talk, Professor Tim Keirn will lead a discussion of three readings. Kevin Starr’s “Fortress California,” explores the transformation of the Southern California during World War II. This reading includes a discussion of the incarceration of Japanese-Americans, roughly one third of whom lived in the LA area. The second article describes the state’s female war workers, including women of color, and the final reading examines the intersection of race and gender roles in wartime LA.

After lunch, participants will travel to the historic Long Beach Airport. They will tour the airport, learn about its role during World War II and the Cold War, and explore primary source materials with the airport archivist. The oldest municipal airport in Southern California, Long Beach Airport started to grow significantly when the city built hangars and administrative facilities for the military in 1928. This strong military air presence made sense in light of the fact that Long Beach Harbor was home to the US Pacific Fleet until 1940, when the Fleet was relocated to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Throughout World War II, the airfield serviced carrier-borne fighters and bombers, as well as utility aircraft and patrol planes.

The Long Beach Army Airfield included a historic Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron whose pilots transported planes from Southern California to various theaters of war. The Douglas Aircraft facility located at Long Beach delivered its first cargo plane two weeks after the Pearl Harbor attack, and produced more than 9,000 cargo planes, bombers, and attack planes. Southern California plants hired women for industrial positions in large numbers. Indeed, many of the most famous images of women factory workers during the war were taken by the Office of War Information at Long Beach’s Douglas plant. McDonnell-Douglas (later Boeing) continued to produce military aircraft throughout the Cold War.

Upon returning to CSU Long Beach in the late afternoon, participants will join Dr. Peter Westwick in a lecture-discussion on “World War II in Southern California: Development of Aerospace Politics, Economy, and Culture”, which underscores the war’s contribution to the development of the broader Sunbelt pattern explored by Deverell in the morning talk. Before dinner, there will be a short meeting explaining expectations for lesson plans and providing an introduction to MERLOT. Participants will then complete a daily evaluation online through MERLOT.

Return to Daily Activities