Houston News & Search
Updated 6:00 am, Friday, March 31, 2017
The entrance of the United States into World War II after the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor set in motion an industrial boom across Texas.
According to the Texas Historical Commission, before the war started in the European and Pacific theaters the state was sparsely populated. Most Texans lived in small towns and rural areas, and only 40 percent of residents even had a high school education.
During the war nearly 1,500,000 military personnel came to the state for work and training. Even more people joined war-related industries, leaving behind farm work for urban centers where the industrial war effort was starved for manpower.
Male and female civilians found jobs in all manner of fields and the pain of the Great Depression (which hurt Texas intensely) was eased. Cities like Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Corpus Christi saw population increases.
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An astonishing 142 major military installations dotted the state from naval bases on the coast to air fields in North Texas and out west.
Women were thrust in to the workplace to help support families and themselves with men off fighting Nazis and the Japanese. The notion of the independent Texas woman was born during this era.
Of course World War II in Texas wasn’t all about military heroics and civilians pitching in. Sadly Crystal City was the site of the Crystal City Internment Camp which held people of Japanese, German, and Italian descent during the duration of the war. A great deal of these people were born on American soil, but still perceived as possible enemies, and were not at all Axis-related.
It officially closed in 1948. At its height of use it held 3,374 detainees within its boundaries, according to the Texas Historical Commission.
According to the THC, some 750,000 Texans served in uniform around the world. Twenty-two thousand Texans died for their country in combat.
When the war was over these brave Texans went back to work and helped shape the next 50 years of state prosperity. Many military members who served and trained in Texas decided to put down roots and the state’s population grew.
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The higher education system was inundated with veterans taking advantage of benefits and Texas got smarter, in many ways.
One of the biggest wins to come from the war-effort was the increase in the petrochemical industry along the coast from Beaumont and down to Corpus Christi.
Once veterans returned home they were able to find lucrative jobs in the energy sector, setting off a chain of events that would make Houston a world power of sorts.
Houston News & Search