When World War II broke out, New York was a cosmopolitan, heavily immigrant city, whose people had real stakes in the war and strongly held opinions. WWII & NYC will explore the impact of the war on the metropolis, which played a critical role in the national war effort, and how the city was forever changed.
The presence of troops, the inflow of refugees, the wartime industries, the dispatch of fleets, and the dissemination of news and propaganda from media outlets, changed New York, giving its customary commercial and creative bustle a military flavor. Likewise, the landscape of the city acquired a martial air, as defenses in the harbor were bolstered, old forts were updated, and the docks became high security zones. This grand consideration of the wartime metropolis will feature the compelling stories of those who experienced the war in a New York City context.
The exhibition will range from the mobilization of workers to the frenzy of shipbuilding, from the home front arts and entertainment industry to the dispatch of troops to the European theater, from the struggles over Civil Rights and segregation to the Times Square celebration of V-J Day. These were the times that saw raucous men in uniform celebrating their last stateside moments, tearful families embracing their sons, women with lunch pails off to work, celebrity-studded bond rallies and calls for justice at home and abroad from African-American patriots.
Installed throughout all floors of the New-York Historical Society, the exhibition will feature more than 300 objects, including artifacts, paintings, maps, photographs, posters, film footage, music, radio broadcasts, and newly recorded eyewitness accounts that document the most widespread, destructive, and consequential conflict in history. Highlighted features include:
- “Documents Pertaining to the Japanese Surrender September 2, 1945.” September 21–October 21, 2012. (Manila: Bureau of Printing, for the United States Army, September 1945). Broadsheets, five leaves with twelve mounted photographic facsimiles of documents and translations of the documents. On September 2, 1945, the war in the Pacific officially ended. In an internationally broadcast ceremony lasting twenty-three minutes aboard the U.S. battleship Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay, representatives from the Emperor of Japan as well as the nine Allied nations signed the Instrument of Surrender. While the United States and Japan each retained one of two original copies of the document, the State Department immediately directed Douglas MacArthur to print facsimile versions for the nine signatories from the U.S., China, the United Kingdom, the U.S.S.R., Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. The general requested eleven more copies for members of his staff, including his chief engineer, Brooklyn-born Major General Hugh J. Casey, to whom this document belonged.
The exhibition will draw upon extensive collections at New-York Historical and on important loans from the US Navy, the Smithsonian Institution, the Mariners’ Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among other institutions.