World War II was a global event that impacted the Central Coast in myriad ways – from the influx of soldiers who trained at Camp San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay, to the expulsion of residents of Japanese descent from their coastal homes, to the gripping fear of a potential attack on the coast that initiated coastal “black outs.” The new museum exhibition created by State Parks staff, titled “WWII and the Central Coast,” explores this history through exhibit panels, audio recordings, and tactile displays that engage visitors in the experience of WWII along the Central Coast, and especially within our local State Parks. Montaña de Oro State Park, Morro Bay State Park, and Morro Strand State Beach all served as training grounds for soldiers who practiced amphibious landings before going on to fight in Europe and Japan.
The 54th Regiment, an all-Black Coast Artillery Regiment, was headquartered at Morro Bay State Park, where they guarded the coastline from potential attack while facing discrimination in a segregated military. Residents of Japanese descent who farmed the coastal terraces of present-day Montaña de Oro State Park were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to internment camps following Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s issuing of Executive Order No. 9066. The crew of the torpedoed SS Montebello escaped the sinking ship by coming ashore near present-day Estero Bluffs and Harmony Headlands State Parks. Through examining the events of WWII that took place at our local State Parks, this exhibition endeavors to broaden historical perspectives and bring to light some of the lesser-known stories of this period of local and international turmoil.