The Military in Our Backyard

Dr. Brian Casserly, history professor at Bellevue College and lecturer at the “Storytelling with Historians: Explorations in History” lecture series, shared the finding of his research at the Nov. 14 talk titled “The Military in Our Backyard.” Casserly’s lecture explored the ways in which the military developed within the Puget Sound area and explained the impacts it had on the developing local communities. He presented his research on the military’s historical influence on the political culture, economic structure and social hierarchy of the region.

The Pacific Northwest has been an optimal location for military implementations. It offers deep waters, sheltered harbors and the opportunity to build upon a land still so new to the developed Western culture of the east, and before the twentieth century was still relatively uninhabited. As federal military implementations were spurred in the Northwest by community support as well as the support of local political leaders who had great influence at the federal level, the Pacific Northwest began to grow and expand its military presence and the economy growing around it. The role of the military and its relations to community members expanded and evolved as World War II ensued in the 1940s.

The Pacific Northwest was an ideal location for multiple military applications, including but not limited to the Coast Guard and Navy. Additionally, the Boeing company began to flourish around the time of WWII. Thousands upon thousands of people were employed annually by the Boeing company alone. Boeing offered jobs to a diverse group of individuals, which was nearly unheard of in the region previously. People of different ethnic backgrounds and women were employed to work with Boeing and other companies as the previously dominant workforce—white men—were sent off to train with the military.

Many who benefitted from the military presence in the Pacific Northwest praised the economic stimulation brought forth by the federal support of the military in the Pacific Northwest, but there was also opposition by progressive people who were concerned about the rapid exploitation of natural resources and the effects it had and will continue to have on the environment.

The concepts, records and research information Casserly shared through his lecture presentation can be applied to the modern day world we live in today when we question the impact of powerful industries in our region as well as nationally and internationally.