Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016.
It will always be a day which lives in infamy. But in Seattle, December 7, 1941, will also be one that will be remembered for how it prompted paranoia and prosperity.
"December 7 changes everything," said Leonard Garfield, executive director of the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI). "Our industry, which was struggling, became crucial to the war effort."
In fact, according to MOHAI, 50,000 people moved to Seattle to work for Boeing alone. Shipyards were converted to build throughout the clock, and local bases were expanded. Fort Lawton in Seattle and Sandpoint Naval Air Station saw their populations swell. Hundreds of federally subsidized homes were built on Beacon Hill to handle in the influx.
"People came to Seattle who never dreamed of it. From the South, African Americans came to Seattle, women entered the workforce, the complexion of Seattle changed dramatically," said Garfield.
In four years, the Seattle population swelled by 50 percent.
Allen Clark and Albert Beers are among the men who moved here. Both are World War II veterans and were stationed in the South Pacific. They sat on the same couch on the 75th anniversary of the attack at their Aegis Living Center in Shoreline, recalling how they got here.
"I was a farm boy back in the country," said Beers, who grew up in Oregon.
Clark worked for Chevron after his days in the service. They are examples of service members who cashed in on the G.I. Bill and built a life in Seattle after their war days were done.
"The population boom of war years actually became a population boom of the rest of the 20th century," said Garfield.
However, the prosperity was not without paranoia, which is still discussed to this day.
"If they could attack Pearl Harbor, they could attack Puget Sound. It was a legitimate fear," said Garfield.
Months after the attack in Oahu, there was another on Dutch Harbor in Alaska. There were concerns the Japanese could do the same in Seattle, with its military buildup in particular.
"Seattle felt that threat seriously and imminently," said Garfield.
The City had blackouts, which seems odd in hindsight. The entire West Coast was urged to turn off the lights after 11 p.m. to make sure Japanese bombers would not be alerted.
It also led the government to relocate anyone of Japanese descent. There were huge pockets of Japanese families living in places like Bainbridge Island, Sumner, Kent, and Puyallup. They were sent to internment camps at the now State Fairgrounds in Puyallup and elsewhere across the country. Garfield said lives were changed forever.
"In the hysteria of war, the threat of war, and some of those decisions (have been) proven to be wrong," he said.
Garfield said many of those families never came back. The landscape had changed.
There are still plenty of reminders of that period in time.
Fort Lawton, with its checkered history, is now Discovery Park. There are still old munitions bunkers visible at Sand Point, now known as Magnuson Park. MOHAI is also in an old armory, where soldiers and sailors were trained.
Garfield said that post-war Golden Age is in some ways reminiscent of the current one, and set the course for the next several decades.
"In some ways,” Garfield said, “It's day one of modern Seattle."