The American West Transformed: The Impact of the Second World War. By
Gerald D. Nash. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.
Pp. x+3o4. Preface, photographs, appendix, notes, bibliography,
In this work Gerald D. Nash presents the reader with an interesting
and frustrating book. He attempts to provide his audience with an
overview of developments in the American West during World War II,
which profoundly changed the economic, social, and cultural aspects of
the region. From beginning to end the author hammers at his theme
that, while in 1941 the West faced the future with a stagnant econ-
omy, little population growth, and colonial dependence on the East, it
emerged from World War II "as a path-breaking self-sufficient region
with unbounded optimism for the future" (p. 216).
Specifically, Nash deals with the impact of the war on labor supply,
urban conditions, and minorities, as well as its effects on scientific and
cultural development. Recounting the problems of providing adequate
labor for the industries and farms of the region during the war, the
author also describes the challenge that this increased population posed
to various western cities.
Nash concludes that in many ways-World War II affected the various
minority groups similarly. The war, he writes, "did much to hasten inte-
gration in the United States, acting as a catalyst to break down various
barriers in the way of racial equality" (p. 152), thus setting the stage for
future civil rights developments. He observes that the tragic experience
of the Japanese-Americans hastened their integration into American
Nash argues that World War II set the stage for future scientific ad-
vances in the West. Not only had a shift to the West of scientific exper-
tise, especially in nuclear physics, already begun before the war, but the
vast, isolated, federally owned lands of the region provided ideal loca-
tions for secret scientific projects. European emigres played a vital and
significant role in stimulating both scientific and cultural activities in
the West. Their influence "transformed southern California from a
provincial and local cultural center to one of national and international
dimensions" (p. 198).
Despite the admirable qualities of this work, it suffers some unfortu-
nate flaws. Perhaps the most frustrating is the repetitive nature of the
narrative. Not only does the author belabor the overall theme of the
work, but he constantly reiterates the salient points within each chapter.
Essentially this is a straight, factual account, with little analysis or col-
orful writing. The author's failure to integrate his material well gives
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117152/. Accessed August 29, 2015.