From the Executive Director features news and reflections on the work of PHMC by its chief administrator.

Wars should never be celebrated, but they must be remembered and commemorated. December 7, 2016, marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the event that brought the United States into World War II, and in April 2017 the centennial of America’s entry into the Great War, later to be known as World War I, begins. With this issue of Pennsylvania Heritage, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) initiates Pennsylvania at War, a multiyear effort to commemorate the Keystone State’s contribution to America’s role in these two great world conflicts of the 20th century.

In both wars thousands of young Pennsylvanians served their county and fought in critical battles. Many did not return. But the saga of Pennsylvania at War is much broader than the events that took place on the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific. Pennsylvania steel, coal, agriculture and manufacturing were critical to achieving victory and peace. The home-front effort touched the lives of all Pennsylvanians in ways that are very hard for us to imagine today. Gas rationing, victory gardens, scrap and paper drives, and civil defense measures dramatically changed the routines of daily life and immersed all Pennsylvanians in these wars. As Pennsylvania helped shape the wars, the wars also shaped Pennsylvania.

The long-term social and economic fabric of the commonwealth was also changed. Because of these wars many Pennsylvanians traveled to other countries for the first time and brought back new perspectives. The postwar experience and the Great Depression that followed World War I led to new programs for the veterans of the next war. The GI Bill dramatically expanded opportunities for higher education and home ownership, and it ultimately produced the middle class lifestyle that reshaped Pennsylvania after World War II.

In addition to featuring related articles in Pennsylvania Heritage, PHMC will be recognizing the anniversaries of both of these wars with a forthcoming Pennsylvania at War blog and a variety of programs, exhibitions and activities at The State Museum of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania State Archives, the Pennsylvania Military Museum, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and other historic sites on the Pennsylvania Trails of History.

I invite you to join us over the next few years in this commemorative exploration.

James M. Vaughan
Executive Director, PHMC