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Arizona Heritage Center, Part 5

Continuing our journey through historic Arizona, we pass into the 20th century. On display is, what was at that time, a modern artillery piece drawn by a team of two horses. The Army had subdued the Native Americans and forced them onto reservations, a part of our history as a nation with which we cannot be proud. But more such indiscretions would follow.

A huge historical event occurred on February 14, 1912 — Arizona became the 48th state.

The early part of the 20th century saw the transformation of transportation from horse power to horsepower and the internal combustion engine drove both personal and business transportation to new heights.

Here on displayed is a truck built by the Moreland Motor Truck Company of Burbank, CA. The company slogan was "Built in the West — for Western Work". Unfortunately, the company was forced to close in 1940 due to wartime shortages. This vehicle is being restored by the museum.

Further along, I found an invitation (see the little sign above the chair?) to "Please Sit". When did you ever see such an invitation in a museum? Usually, the sign says, "Please do not think of touching the furniture".

This is a reconstruction of a typical mid-20th-century living room corner with Dad's chair next to a table with a radio and a reading lamp. Unlike the real thing, this one has two buttons which the visitor is invited to press.

The blue button interrupts the music or comedy show that is playing on the radio to announce that Japanese forces have attacked ships docked at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands. Sitting there listening to that broadcast almost made me feel like it was really happening at that moment.

My late parents told me of their experience that fateful day while on a picnic at Loch Raven Dam (near Baltimore) they heard sirens from emergency vehicles which sounded ominous. They got in their car and turned on the radio to hear that same news as reconstructed here.

The green button plays the beginning of President Roosevelt's "Day of Infamy" speech delivered to Congress the next day. It also produces chills up and down one's spine.

As most of you know, the battleship USS Arizona was sunk during that attack with the loss of 1,177 officers and crewmen. On display here is a hatch from the ship's smokestack.

The Arizona was irreparably damaged by the force of the magazine explosion, although the Navy removed parts of the ship for reuse. The wreck still lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor and above it is the USS Arizona Memorial, dedicated to all those who died during the attack.

The United States was now at war and civil defense became a part of everyday life — here a siren used to warn of possible attacks.

That system is still in use in Hawai‘i to warn of tsunamis and more recently expanded to cover the possibility of a missile attack from North Korean. Unfortunately, a false alarm was issued recently and, for a short while, people in the islands pondered the possibility of their last day on Earth — much like folks did in the midst of WWII.

War drives fear and Americans began to fear Americans of Japanese Ancestry to the extent that President Roosevelt issued an Executive Order forcing more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans to internment camps.

I did not know and was surprised to learn that four centers were located in Arizona (red dots on the map). Further, a line was drawn across the state. Japanese-Americans living north of the line were allowed to continue their lives normally. Those south of the line had to report to an assigned internment camp.

At least two of the internment camps were located on Indian reservations, but neither tribe approved of their land being used for the camps. Records show that tribal councils opposed treating the Japanese in the same manner the native Americans had been treated. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Army overruled the tribes. When the war ended, the camps were closed and the land was returned to the Indian Tribes.

At the spot of the Poston Relocation Center stands a Memorial Monument, a 30-foot tall concrete pillar erected in 1992. The memorial contains this quote: “This memorial is dedicated to all those men, women, and children who suffered countless hardships and indignities at the hands of a nation misguided by wartime hysteria, racial prejudice, and fear. May it serve as a constant reminder of our past so that Americans in the future will never again be denied their constitutional rights and may the remembrance of that experience serve to advance the evolution of the human spirit.”

Wikipedia says, "Camp Papago Park was a prisoner of war (POW) facility located in Papago Park in the eastern part of Phoenix. It consisted of five compounds, four for enlisted men and one for officers. The property now is divided between the Papago Park Military Reservation, belonging to the Arizona National Guard, a city park, residential neighborhoods and a car dealer's lot.

Called Schlaraffenland — the land of milk and honey — by its mostly U-boat-crew inmates, Camp Papago Park was very different from Axis POW camps, especially with regard to how prisoners were treated: Inmates were not required to work or study, though many chose to as a means of combating boredom (though mostly the latter, as there were only 700 volunteers for labor tasks). The camp had a theater where films were screened twice a week and the camp choir could practice. Much of this was discussed, along with anything else the prisoners who wrote The Papago Rundschau, the camp's newspaper, chose to include."

Wikipedia also describes the Great Papago Escape. "In December 1944, twenty-five POWs escaped from Camp Papago Park into the surrounding desert, among them Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross recipient Kapitänleutnant Hans-Werner Kraus. Originally thought to be impossible to tunnel through, the hard clay of the surrounding area turned out to be conducive to tunneling as it softened greatly when wet. Over time, the escapees dug a tunnel 176 feet long, three feet high and half as wide, without being detected. Though the guards proved easy to get past, the vast distances and desert terrain were insurmountable, resulting in most returning to the camp within a few weeks. One escapee turned himself in on seeing the camp’s planned Christmas menu. Indeed, most of the escapees were aware that returning to Germany was nearly impossible and had “escaped” as more of a prank. This did not mean all had abandoned any hope of making it home, and a few of the men brought along boards they intended to fashion into a raft. This would then be used to float down the Salt River to the Gila River, which they had seen on local maps but not personally. Unfortunately for their plan, the river was not flowing at the time of their escape, and what they found was a dry arroyo instead."


As I am sure you know, African-Americans were also not treated as full members of society. Facilities such as the Tucson USO pictured here and the Recreation Center for Colored in Phoenix were for Blacks only. It was only in 1948, after WWII, that the US Armed Forces were integrated by an Executive Order issued by then President Harry S. Truman.

Arizona also played an important role in World War II providing a primary flight training facility for Allied pilots, named Thunderbird Field #1 which was located in Glendale (west of Phoenix) as well as Luke Air Force Base located west of Glendale. The aircraft on display is a North American T-6 Texan trainer which was one of the primary planes used for training purposes.

After the war, Thunderbird Field was sold as surplus and eventually became the Thunderbird School of Global Management, a post-graduate business school. The T-6 became and remains a popular warbird aircraft used for demonstrations and static displays. Additionally, it has also been used many times to simulate various Japanese aircraft, including the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, in movies depicting World War II in the Pacific.

In fact, Arizona continues in that role at Luke Air Force Base which is still a major training base of the Air Education and Training Command (AETC), training pilots in the F-16 Fighting Falcon. In 2011 it was announced that the F-35A Lightning II would replace the F-16 as the primary training aircraft at Luke, expected to eventually provide a home for some 144 of the new state-of-the-art aircraft.

After the war, Arizona began to blossom with the draw of warm weather, natural resources, fertile land and vast tracks of buildable land. The automobile and cheap gas were the glue that pulled it all together — for better or worse, Phoenix was on the track to replicate the growth of Los Angeles — building out not up. In case you can't read the sign posted on the gas pump, the total including taxes was $.25 per gallon.

This concludes our tour of the Arizona Heritage Center. I hope you enjoyed it and perhaps may take the opportunity to see it in person — after all, there was no way for me to share everything that the museum has to offer.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com