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The state of Washington from 1939 to 1945


Seattle
Seattle

Washington did not fully recover from the Depression until World War II (1939-1945). During the war, the demand for ships and aircraft soared. Existing plants again began to operate at full capacity, and new ones were built. The Boeing Airplane Company developed and produced B-17 and B-29 bombers, and its payroll rose to 44,745. The aluminum industry was established in 1940 with a plant at Vancouver to take advantage of Washington’s cheap water power. The Hanford atomic installation, opened at Richland in 1943, converted uranium to plutonium for nuclear weapons and conducted nuclear research. Washington had the second highest number of defense contracts in the nation. All these jobs attracted war workers from other states, and Washington’s population grew rapidly. After the war many women who had joined the workforce to help the war effort quit or were forced out of their jobs as men, many of them returning veterans, replaced them. The rate of population growth tapered off.

Slow expansion of the labor force, together with new industrial development, eased the transition to a peacetime economy. The war brought particular hardship to one segment of Washington’s population. After Japanese planes dropped bombs on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in 1941, President Roosevelt ordered all Japanese living west of the Cascades to relocate to the east of the mountains for reasons of “national security.” Japanese nationals and Americans of Japanese descent alike were forced to move to makeshift housing in eastern Washington or Idaho. When the relocation centers closed, many Japanese returned to their homes to find possessions gone, their savings and bank accounts impounded, and their fields overgrown. They also often faced racial prejudice. In 1988 Congress allotted $20,000 in compensation to each Japanese American who had been sent to an internment camp during World War II. "Washington" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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