OGDEN — After a multi-year effort, Weber State University’s special collections department is ready to unveil a largely untold story of Northern Utah during World War II.
Stewart Library Special Collections at WSU spent the better part of two years gathering WWII photographs, diaries, letters and other personal items that will furnish a large-scale exhibit highlighting the impact of the war from Davis County to Box Elder County.
The exhibit, titled "All Out for Uncle Sam: WWII in Northern Utah," opens to the public on Saturday, March 17 at the Union Station, 2501 Wall Ave., Ogden.
The exhibit kicks off at noon with a lecture by award-winning documentary film director, producer and writer Tim Grey. According to the World War II Foundation, Grey has produced and directed 20 documentaries on the second world war, airing nationally on American Public Television stations.
In addition to gathering the artifacts, Special Collections Curator Sarah Singh said the project’s research team also spent time conducting local interviews for oral histories — family and community stories that have never before been shared for a broad audience.
Singh said her team did over 60 oral history interviews and collected thousands of photographs to accompany them. More than 500 photos will be displayed at the exhibit.
Harrowing stories from combat veterans will pique the interest of many, Singh said, but a large part of the exhibit will focus on the war’s profound impact back home, in the greater Ogden area. Observers will learn about the food rationing practices of the day, clothing and canning drives and mandatory American Red Cross certifications that were required of all high school students.
“People can expect to see not only the stories of Northern Utahns who served during the war on the different fronts,” she said. “But also stories of people from the home front and how the war impacted everyday life.”
To that end, the exhibit will dive into the work of men and women who were employed at local military installations like Hill Air Force Base, the Ogden Arsenal, Defense Depot Ogden and the Clearfield Naval Supply Depot.
According to the Utah Division of State History, Utah had 14 military installations open during the war, combining for nearly 40,000 jobs. More than half of that workforce was employed at Hill Field, as the base was called back then.
At its war peak, Hill employed 15,000 civilians, 6,000 military personnel and several thousand prisoners of war.
The exhibit will be up until June 2.