At Home & Abroad: South Dakota in World War II, a traveling exhibit from the South Dakota State Historical Society, is currently on display at the McGovern Library on the campus of Dakota Wesleyan University. The exhibit is free and open to the public. All visitors are asked to follow CDC COVID-19 protocols including masks and social distancing.
In conjunction with the exhibit, DWU professor of history Sean Flynn will give a presentation entitled “Homefront: South Dakota During World War II.” Flynn will speak at the Tiger Café, located in the McGovern Library at 12:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 24. The lecture will be livestreamed free at www.dwu.edu/live.
Flynn describes his presentation as “principally concerned with the South Dakota homefront; with the unified sense of purpose displayed by everyday South Dakotans and their efforts and sacrifices as they contributed to the war effort by producing food and manufactured products, rationing, buying war bonds, and providing support for servicemen and servicewomen, among other things.”
Flynn believes the war was a “revolutionary moment” in the state’s history. “South Dakotans were unified during World War II for they had to be to defeat the enemy. Personal sacrifices had to be made. Individualistic impulses had to be restrained. In small, relatively innocuous ways, personal freedoms had to be temporarily forfeited in pursuit of a greater good.”
Flynn referenced his personal connection to the war by relating that his father served as a Marine Corps aviator who flew 20 combat missions and his mother served as a secretary for the Naval Department in Washington D.C.
Flynn encourages people to come out and see the exhibit. “The Mitchell community will be very impressed with the thoroughness and educational value of the state’s traveling exhibit and with the exhibit put together by [McGovern Library circulation and acquisitions supervisor] Judy Lehi and her staff.”
The exhibit consists of eighteen text panels in six pop-up kiosks using historic photographs, documents, and object photos to tell the story of South Dakota’s involvement in World War II, both overseas and at home. At Home & Abroad covers joining the military, military units serving overseas, Battleship South Dakota, Sioux Code Talkers, and Doolittle’s 1942 Raid on Tokyo. On the home front, the exhibit discusses farm labor shortages, industries gearing up for military production, rationing, scrap drives, and victory gardens. Post-war South Dakota with its thousands of returning veterans, the GI Bill and its impact on the state’s colleges, and the beginnings of the Cold War with its missile defenses are also part of the exhibit.
“Every South Dakotan was touched by World War II,” said Jay Vogt, South Dakota State Historical Society director. “Many of the state’s residents served in the military, and everyone at home pitched in by working on the farm or in the factories, dealing with rationed food, gas, and tires, or planting victory gardens. Everyone had a stake in the war.”
The exhibit is funded by the South Dakota Heritage Fund and the State of South Dakota. It will be on display through May 14, 2021.