Veterans of the Delta

This exhibit will explore the connection between the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region and its influence on those who end up serving in the Armed Forces. Conversly, it will also explore the military veterans who settled in the Sacramento-San Joauqin Delta region after having served in World War II and Vietnam. 

Is there a connection to living and growing up in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta region that translates into serving your country honorably? 

Veterans of the Delta

When Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, widespread panic erupted across every one of the forty-eight United States. California, was especially wary of what America’s entrance into World War II would bring. For one, its citizens soon developed an intense fear that, at any given moment, the same naval forces that attacked Hawaii could also strike doom into any one of California’s cities. Ironically, as months went by and just as Californians were learning how to live in constant fear of war, the state’s aircraft and shipbuilding industries catapulted, creating a robust war effort that virtually eliminated the Californian unemployment rate and brought about a new wave of economic prosperity. However, few California companies prospered as heavily as the ship manufactures located along the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, an extensive inland river delta formed where the southbound Sacramento River and the northbound San Joaquin River meet. Stockton shipbuilders in particular were able to receive such a large number of government contracts “because they met the War Department’s requirement that manufacturing of strategic military materiel be produced 60 miles or more from the sea in order to be outside the range of naval gunfire.”

Over time, the California Delta enabled an otherwise agricultural region of the state to become one of the most productive contributors of America’s war efforts. By 1965, the same year President Johnson ordered American combat forces into Vietnam, California had already become the “heartland” of the United States’ military/industrial complex, “leading the nation in defense contracts and supporting an impressive array of military bases across the state.”

California’s military feats should come as no surprise given the Delta has always played a vital role throughout the states’ history, beginning with the miners of the Gold Rush era (1848-1855) employing the great expanse of Delta waterways as useful transportation corridors, making it possible to travel from San Francisco to the mining districts in the Sierra Nevadas. According to the Delta Protection Commission, “the story of the Delta is unparalleled to anywhere else in the nation in regards to how humans have transformed a vast region of natural wetlands into a system of waterways, levees, and farmlands. Though, despite the region’s rich heritage, there is one part of the Delta’s story that is scarcely known.

By now, we are familiar with the ways in which humans transformed the Delta region long ago, but not quite as familiar with the ways in which the Delta continues to interact with one of its most vital communities, namely, communities of United States military veterans who decided to settle along the Delta region following their tenures as active servicemen and women. The Delta’s role in strengthening most of America’s war efforts over the years has usually consisted of providing settlers with a strong synergy between the region’s rich, fertile soil, as well as its valuable sloughs and waterways. However, the impacts that U.S. veterans have made on the region in turn are much more social and cultural in nature as opposed to agricultural or geographical.