L.A. in the Shadow of War

USC Digital Library

On the eve of the U.S. entry into World War II, photographers from the Dick Whittington Studio captured street scenes, public events, and changes to the Southland from its burgeoning defense industry. Thanks to a generous grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the USC Libraries are digitizing 37,000 photographs of Los Angeles between the 1930s and 40s.

The project team recently began publishing the earliest photographs from the project in the USC Digital Library. The images predate the U.S. entry in WWII and reveal sights like an anti-aircraft battery conducting drills near UCLA in Westwood, day and night assembly line work at the Vultee Aircraft factory in Downey, the construction of a Northrop factory in Hawthorne, and U.S. Army tanks driving along the streets of downtown L.A. The Whittington photographers also offer glimpses of the global conflict’s effects on L.A. businesses and daily life.

Among the memorable images recently published in the USC Digital Library are photographs of the Nov. 11, 1940, observance of Armistice Day in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The event marked the end of World War I just a little more than twenty years earlier and honored the service and sacrifices of U.S. soldiers in the conflict. After the Second World War, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in honor of all U.S. soldiers.

Explore the photo gallery above to see more L.A. scenes just before the U.S. entry into World War II.