Learn more about Sacramento’s wartime role from 1941 to 1945 and how it shaped the Sacramento of today with World War II Sacramento
, a new book by Library archivists that is heavily based on research from Library collections.
The book will be available on April 22, the same day the Library celebrates the centennial anniversary
of the historic City Library located in Downtown Sacramento. The authors will be holding a book signing.
Library archivists Amanda DeWilde and James Scott and Library Supervisor Eric Webb crafted a unique view of Sacramento’s wartime contributions using Sacramento Room
archives, Library periodical collections, Link+, oral history and other Sacramento resources.
“From photograph to personal letter, the Sacramento Room’s bevy of World War II-related resources serve as veritable portals to the past,” Scott said. “These resources are a researcher’s best way to understand what has to be one of the more transformative stages in Sacramento’s long history.”
Unlike many other tellings of the war, World War II Sacramento
is unique in that it is an exploration of topical subjects of interest to the authors, instead of a chronological telling of Sacramento’s wartime history.
Civilian defense and rationing
Pieces from the time tell the story of a Sacramento very different from today, from local news publications such as the Galt Herald
and Sacramento Bee to
a school superintendent report from 1943 proudly declaring “Sacramento Schools Carry On In Time Of War.”
“War efforts involved entire communities, down to individual Sacramento citizens,” DeWilde said.
Everyone was involved, whether it was producing newsletters describing how ordinary citizens can become plane spotters to Sacramento City College offering coursework in engineering, medicine, communications and home economics to enable students to assist in the war.
Sacramentans in war and air bases
Using Link+, which allows Library patrons to check out books from other library systems for free, and air base histories written by base staff and collected in the Sacramento Room, Scott described Sacramento’s military importance in World War II — including the largely untold stories of Sacramento’s role in the Doolittle Raid and first nuclear bomb.
"Mather and McClellan — places that are just drive-by locations today — were where local men and women found themselves connected to local events," Scott said. "These are the things we try to bring to the surface in the book."
The stories of two Sacramento servicemen, as told by them and their families also provide an insight into the county’s role in World War II. Joe Wayne Fong and Jack Voss, two native Sacramentans, served overseas and continued to live in Sacramento after the war.
In the book, Voss recounts his experience of being shot down over Canton, China and being supported by Communist soldiers for more than 30 days after his plane was attacked while bombing Japanese warehouses.
Wartime agriculture and victory gardens
Victory Gardens, which gave everyday Sacramentans the opportunity to actively assist wartime efforts, could be found at every park and school and nearly every home. Sacramento Charter High School boasted 200 individual student plots, while the University of California, Davis was at the forefront of agricultural and canning innovations.
“My chapters on agriculture and Victory Gardens were a lot of fun, primarily because very little has been written on the subject from that era,” Webb said.
Most of the chapters were based on original research from primary documents from the Sacramento Room, agricultural reports and letters from local farmers from the University of California, Davis, and even a silent film following a prolific farmer in Land Park, produced by KFBK and the Sacramento Bee
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Many of the documents come from donations from families and clubs and from purchases made with the help of the Sacramento Public Library Foundation.
“What is really fun is taking stories people have never heard and covering topics that people have never covered and bringing it to light,” DeWilde said. “I think that for a lot of people, they imagine that their donations will be preserved and vaguely accessible and, maybe someday, someone will look at it. They never imagine that their family’s story will be told and shared.”
Many of the documents used are also available in the Library’s digital collection. Tens of thousands of images, including scans of periodicals, photo books and ephemera are easily accessible through the Library for research and education.
Hear from the authors
The authors are holding book talks at various libraries throughout the months of April, May and June where guests will be able to discuss and share their thoughts with the authors.
Amanda DeWilde has served as archivist for the Sacramento Room since 2010. She has co-authored two books on Sacramento history and was recently featured in Sactown Stories'
has been a reference librarian with the Sacramento Public Library since 2000. For most of that period, he has worked in the Sacramento Room, where he has co-authored five books on Sacramento history.