SOCIAL STUDIES FACT CARDS
CALIFORNIA HISTORY BY DECADES
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1940s


Pasadena Freeway became California's first freeway


The first section of freeway in California was opened on December 30, 1940. A true "freeway" uses concrete overpasses or underpasses to eliminate crossroads. The section that opened in late 1940 was called the Arroyo Seco Parkway and was only six miles long, though it was soon extended to become the Pasadena Freeway. It was extremely expensive to build, costing $560,000 per mile at a time when the value of the dollar was low. There was a traffic jam on the Arroyo Seco Parkway just a few days after it opened, as people thronged to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl game and the Rose Parade. Freeways soon spread throughout California. By 1946 there were over 3,000,000 automobiles in California, and the miles of highway increased rapidly. California remains the United States leader in miles of freeway; it also has much of the worst traffic in the nation.


Japanese-Americans were sent to relocation centers


Between 1942 and 1943, some 112,000 Japanese living on the West Coast, two-thirds of whom were American citizens, were moved to relocation centers. Under the orders of General John L. DeWitt, head of Western Defense Command, Japanese people were forced to sell their homes, businesses, and land for low prices. Radios, cameras, and other "suspicious" devices were taken away from them. The Japanese, whether first or fourth generation Americans and despite no real attempt to determine their true loyalty, were sent to security camps in Modoc and Inyo counties, as well as in Heart Mountain, Wyoming and Topaz, Utah. They were kept in these camps until December 1944, living behind barbed wire under military guard.

A general wariness toward the Japanese in California had existed for years, due to Japanís desire to expand its empire, and to the economic success of Japanese immigrants in the United States. After the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanís air force, popular sentiment was strongly anti-Japanese. Various citizen organizations convinced California attorney general Earl Warren to support the relocations. No instance of Japanese-American sabotage was ever reported, and only once did California come under the direct attack of Japanese forces. Historians and scholars now consider that this was a serious violation of constitutional rights. Today, signs at the camp sites read: ". . .May the injustices and humiliation suffered here never recur."


Only direct attack on the American mainland during World War II occurred in Santa Barbara County

On February 23, 1942, a spot near Santa Barbara became the only place on the American mainland to come under attack by the Japanese during World War II. The Ellwood oil field, a coastal drilling station just west of the town of Goleta, was wrecked when a Japanese submarine surfaced and used its cannon to shell the structure. Although little serious damage was done and no one was reported injured, residents of the town put their houses up for sale, packed their bags, and fled the area.

Two days later a second attack on the mainland was reported, when the Los Angeles Times said that Japanese planes had bombed Los Angeles, but this turned out to be false. While American anti-aircraft guns had fired into the sky, no Japanese aircraft were actually there. Nevertheless, people along the coast became nervous and watchful. Property values dropped and many Californians moved inland. No further attack on the mainland came, though Hawaii was bombed several times, and some of the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska were occupied by Japanese troops.


United Nations was founded in San Francisco


The charter of the United Nations was signed in San Francisco on June 26, 1945. That year marked the end of World War II, as both Germany and Japan (the Axis powers) surrendered to the Allies (which included the U.S.) The countries that had banded together as the Allies wanted to insure that such a war would never happen again. Although many of these countries differed from each other in politics and ideals, they agreed to form the United Nations. Fifty countries signed the charter of this organization. The charter states its purpose as being "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war." Five member countries which had made the largest contribution during World War II (United States, Soviet Union, Great Britain, France, and China) became members of the United Nations Security Council.

The United Nations began to function on October 24, 1945, with its headquarters located in New York City. The United Nations remains an important organization, playing a crucial role in giving aid to developing countries, ensuring the fairness of elections, conducting peace negotiations, and sending peacekeepers to war-ravaged lands to maintain cease-fires and truces. Nearly every country in the world now belongs to the United Nations, and most participate in decisions of the organization.


POPULATION

CALIFORNIA
6,907,387
Los Angeles
1,504,277
San Francisco
634,536
Oakland
302,163
San Diego
203,341
Long Beach
164,271


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