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How World War II Changed The Face Of Sacramento

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, May 27, 2011

Sherwood Brock was born and raised in Texas.  He graduated high school in the summer of 1941 and moved to Redding, California to find a job. 

While he was there, he saw a help wanted ad for a job as an airplane mechanic at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento. He applied, but heard nothing until December of 1941.

SHERWOOD BROCK: "When I was on the way into town to pick up some items at the post office, some mail at the post office. I happened to hear President Roosevelt announce that Pearl Harbor had been attacked by Japanese aircraft.  And it was just two weeks after that I was called down here to go to work."  

Almost as soon as Brock started his job as an airplane mechanic, he was drafted into the army. Like many young men at the time, he was deployed to the South Pacific.
Dan Sebby is the director of the California Military Museum. 
DAN SEBBY: "They were actually bringing in troops from as far east as Camp Shelby Mississippi by rail and all these trains either came through Los Angeles, Sacramento, or Seattle."
Sacramento swelled with troops on their way to San Francisco, then to the South Pacific. In the 1930's, Sacramento had become one of California's largest commercial centers.  The war only made it bigger.  
DAN SEBBY: "The economy grew so much so fast, it was almost overnight."   

Before the war, Sacramento fought constantly for federal money.  In the late 1930's, as America's entry into World War Two began to seem unavoidable, federal money started flowing into Sacramento.  That money financed the construction of McClellan Air Force Base and the Army Depot, and it revived the dormant Mather Air Force Base. 

As California became more critical to the war effort in the South Pacific, these bases hired hundreds of workers.  Marcia Eymann is the Sacramento City Historian. 

MARCIA EYMANN: "These were educated employees that were coming out to work for the military and they were mainly civilian employees and not military personnel."   

The Sacramento region's population also grew more diverse. Migrant farm workers were allowed to live and work in the area under the Bracero Program.  Campbell's started production on a soup plant south of the city.  More than 100 thousand people moved to the Sacramento Area during the war. 

MARCIA EYMANN: "If you look at the history of Sacramento you can really look at two key periods of history that actually created the city and actually boosted its population.  The first being the gold rush, when gold was discovered in 1848.  The city literally burst on the scene overnight.  And the second time was WWII."

In the late 1940's, Sacramento's population boomed again as veterans of World War Two returned to civilian life but not to their homes in the Midwest.  They preferred California's warm climate and many landed good jobs at the local military bases.  Sherwood Brock was one of them.  
SHERWOOD BROCK: "I liked the work I was doing It was good pay in those days even though I was only getting a dollar and .02 cents my first work after returning to the base an hour."
World War Two veterans like Brock fueled the post war baby boom, and by the 1950's, Sacramento's population was triple what it had been before the war.  Rancho Cordova and North Highlands sprouted and thrived.  The average worker and veteran who moved here during the population boom surrounding World War Two was in his late 70's when Mather Air Force Base and the Army Depot closed in the 1990's  
MARCIA EYMANN: "For the last ten years the population has mainly been going out and not coming in at the level that it used to."
When McClellan Air Force Base closed in 2001, many of those veterans were gone.   
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