This chapter examines the legal history of public lands in the US West reserved for military use by president Franklin D. Roosevelt during wartime. Military land withdrawals ordered by FDR followed territorial precedents: nature reservations (national forests, national monuments, national wildlife refuges) and Indian reservations. Over the long nineteenth century, the management of war (including wars against Native peoples) and the administration of western lands each made the executive more powerful. During World War II these related realms of power amplified each other exponentially. Military reservations persisted after the end of FDR's wartime emergencies. Their persistence on the federal map into and beyond the Cold War is an underappreciated legacy of World War II. The story of how these reservations came to be, and continue to exist, offers insights into US expansionism at home and abroad.
During World War II the aerodynamicist Theodore von Kármán and his student Frank Malina drew on the burgeoning expertise in rocket propulsion and flight at Caltech to establish in Pasadena the US Army–funded Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which developed Jet-Assisted Take Off for planes and military rockets. At UC Berkeley, funded by what became the Manhattan Project, the Nobel physicist Ernest O. Lawrence mobilized his cyclotron laboratory to realize a prototype technology for the production of fuel for one type of atomic bomb and, building on a discovery in his laboratory, spawned the sprawling reactor complex at Hanford, Washington, to generate the fuel for another type. All three laboratories flourished in the Cold War years, forming key elements, along with Stanford's Electronics Research Laboratory, in the robust interleaving of science, technology, industry, and the military that constituted the High-Tech West.
This chapter traces the institutional and economic evolution of four Pacific Coast knowledge economy clusters from wartime to Cold War to commercialization: Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and San Diego. The immediate effects of war spending were largely transitory, but postwar military priorities swung markedly toward "experimental, developmental, test and research work"—a shift that strongly favored the Pacific region. Los Angeles emerged as the dominant center for aircraft and aerospace; the Bay Area for computers and electronics; Seattle was an aerospace center dominated by the Boeing Company; and San Diego lost out in aerospace but built on long-standing connections with the US Navy to develop a leading biological and health sciences complex, centered at UC–San Diego. With the end of the Cold War, Los Angeles aerospace virtually collapsed, while the Bay Area was already well on its way toward commercialization of high-tech products.
During the years of World War II and the early Cold War, Seattle and Phoenix's distinct political cultures were seen in the way each city responded to the federal infusion of wartime resources and the rules that accompanied them. At the same time, it was the older political cultures of Seattle and Phoenix—the geographic and earlier twentieth-century institutions and culture—that influenced how each city reacted to wartime federal activity. The 1940s, rather than acting as a turning point, functioned more as a speed ramp as wartime federal interventions mobilized networks of conservatives in Phoenix and activated a progressive infrastructure in Seattle, pushing each city along distinct political axes. This comparative case study suggests that America's political divisions have a deeper history than is typically appreciated.
A handful of Mexican Americans from the Southwest, who had served in or come of age during World War II, built a national movement of conservative Hispanics. Their conservatism was in part the result of ideas they had developed about defending freedom and democracy, and the possibility of economic uplift, during and after the war. This conservative Hispanic movement developed in tandem with the rise of conservatism in the West more broadly and was influenced by western politicians such as Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan. The tensions within the conservative Hispanic movement due to the Republican Party's move to the right on immigration and border enforcement also developed in the West because of demographic and economic transformations caused by World War II.
When the federal government cut child-care center funds in 1946, California stepped into the breach and established a singular, state-funded program. Most centers were in Los Angeles, formerly an epicenter of wartime production and home to a long-standing system of public school nurseries that served poor and immigrant communities. This prewar history, combined with overcrowding and social strain that outlasted the war, led many Angelenos to embrace an unusually progressive view of child care as an entitlement, a part of public education, and a social good that strengthened democracy. Their vision, however, went unrealized. In 1947 sharply limited eligibility and the rationale for the program gradually narrowed as the number of parents who could claim a connection to military or public service declined. These changes set the stage for the its transformation into a welfare program once federal monies again became available during the mid-1960s.
The American West is usually thought to end at the Pacific shores of American states, but this chapter argues that the increased US presence in the Pacific world in the aftermath of World War II made US-dominated areas of the Pacific Ocean part of the American West. US military and foreign policy leaders thought of the ocean as an "American lake," to be secured and used for US national security purposes. They imagined settled areas like the Marshall Islands to be empty spaces, ideal for nuclear testing. The United States did not withdraw its military presence but continued to occupy Guam and other islands and built bases that would be relied on for future wars. Exploring the impact on Pacific Islanders, this chapter argues that the effect of American actions on the islanders should be remembered in histories of the US West.