World War Two was pivotal for Spokane and the Inland Northwest. The U.S. Military viewed the region as strategically valuable, so existing military facilities, including Fort George Wright and Felts Field were expanded. Thousands of American soldiers came into the area for training, including bomber pilots and crews at Geiger Field and submarine crews at Farragut. New supply depots were built, including the Spokane Army Air Depot which was renamed Fairchild Airforce Base following the war, and Velox one of the nation’s only inland naval supply depots in the Spokane Valley.
Local industries and businesses did all they could to support the war effort. Local aluminum from Kaiser was used to produce parts for the B-17 and the P-51, two of the Army Airforces primary aircraft during the war, and magnesite from Chewelah became a vital resource for producing steel. Spokanites and others around the inland northwest worked tirelessly to support the war, despite constant fears that the military presence could bring air raids. Hometown heroes joined the military to fight against tyranny in Europe and the Pacific.
The war also brought controversy to the area. The federal government feared that Japanese citizens would be loyal to Japan, so leaders of the local Issei/Japanese-American community were arrested and detained by the FBI. Axis POWs were brought to camps in Washington and used as a labor force. Local efforts to maintain morale were not always successful and some resulted in disaster.
Sponsored by the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture as an extension of the American Inheritance: Unpacking World War II exhibit. The Spokane in World War 2 Tour incorporates existing Spokane Historical stories as well as new stories from students of Dr. Cebula’s Nearby History course, which was co-taught with Freya Liggett, the History Curator at the museum. Students collaborated with the museum to research artifacts in the collection and write about them for the exhibit. Several of the new stories are directly related to the artifacts the students researched and expand upon those themes, others are additional stories not touched upon within the physical exhibit.