Program Overview

“This is my first NEH experience and it was great to see the collegiality the directors created among the teachers. The topics and site visits were organized in a way that we were able to create a mind map of events and experiences.” -2014 NEH Landmarks Teacher Participant


Participating educators will explore the important historical events memorialized in the neighboring cities of San Francisco, Richmond, and Alameda as well as the innovations developed by scientists on the UC Berkeley campus.

In visits to World War II home front landmarks such as the USS Red Oak*, the last remaining victory ship completed in the Kaiser shipyards, participants will make explicit connections between regional landmarks and the national war effort.

Walking through shipyards and state and national parks, participants will also gain insight into the geography of the California Bay Area, which contributed to its central role in the mobilization for war.

  • Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historic Park - The National Park Service has developed a historic park commemorating the experiences of women who joined the home front workforce.  The park features rich museum content, including teacher resources, oral histories, photographs, and film in addition to outlining a tour of nearby sites.
  • Japantown - Anchored by malls, Japanese oriented businesses, and a peace pagoda, this symbolic center of the Japanese American community in San Francisco presents a modern consumer oriented face while also serving to illuminate the Japanese experience in the Bay Area.
  • Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial– On July 17, 1944, 320 men were killed when two ships, which were being loaded with munitions to be carried to the Pacific theatre, exploded. It was the war’s deadliest home front disaster and highlighted racial disparities within the armed services. Nearly two thirds of the men killed were African American. The National Park Service will arrange a visit to the memorial, which is located at the active Military Ocean Terminal in Concord, CA.
  • MIS Historic Learning Center– The Military Intelligence Service Historic Learning Center recently opened to the public. This landmark is the original site of the military language school for which Japanese American soldiers were secretly recruited to enlist in November 1941. The site offers docent-led tours of its exhibits, screens a short film about the site’s historical significance, and provides meeting space for a lecture.
  • U.S.S. Hornet*– Completed in 1942, this naval carrier is moored in Alameda. The carrier played an important part in the Pacific theatre of World War II. Under air attack 59 times, the carrier was never hit. The ship returned to the Bay Area on February 9, 1946 and was initially decommissioned on January 15, 1947.

Foundational Texts

The below texts provide the intellectual framework for the week of study. Participants will be asked to read portions of these as well as additional primary and secondary sources.

  • National Framework: James Sparrow’s Warfare State: World War II Americans and the Age of Big Government (2001) presents a national overview of how involvement in the war renegotiated the relationship between citizens and the federal government.

  • California-Specific Framework: Kevin Starr, Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace, 1940-1950 (2005) locates the changes in American society within the specific context of California, highlighting how national trends were concentrated, magnified, and accelerated in the state.

  • “Bridging Cultures” Framework: Mark Brilliant, The Color of America Has Changed (2012)explores how the multiracial population of California presaged the changing demographics of the nation and how the state’s system of multiracial segregation began to be dismantled in the 1940s.

*Please note that access to the U.S.S. Red Oak Victory and U.S.S. Hornet requires the use of a steep ramp and stairs as well as narrow passageways.