WWII Exhibit 2020

This Exhibit starts February 1, 2020
Please check back as the presentation schedule unfolds
(last updated 09/22/19)

The Donora Historical Society and Donora Public Library, in partnership with the Senator John Heinz History Center of Pittsburgh, will once again be hosting a traveling exhibit -- We Can Do It!  WWII.  Starting on Saturday, February 1, 2020 and running for nine and a half weeks thru Tuesday, April 7, 2020, the exhibit will be available to the general public, school groups, and social clubs.  This 500 square foot traveling exhibit started its journey in Pittsburgh during a preview at the Heinz History Center in April 2017, will travel throughout Western Pennsylvania including a stop in the West Virginia panhandle, and will finish with us in April 2020. 

As a Heinz History Center Affiliate, the Donora Historical Society was one of only fifteen organizations selected to host the exhibit over a three year period out of 125 possible affiliates.  Donora was selected as the only Washington County representative, and is one of only two historical societies.  All other sites are either county-wide historical societies or regional libraries.  To view the full schedule of other stops on the tour, look at the end of this page for a complete list.

Due to its size and just like we did with the travelling Civil War exhibit in 2015, the exhibit will be on display in the lower level Community Room at the Donora Public Library.  To give it some Mid-Mon Valley flavor, the exhibit will be supplemented with Donora-related artifacts and presentations, as well as artifacts and presentations from other historical societies from neighboring towns.  During this time, special events, presentations, and living history demonstrations will be scheduled.  An overflow exhibit of Donora-related military artifacts will also be on display at the Smog Museum.  We expect to have a few WWII presentations at the Smog Museum as well.

Numerous men from Donora enlisted out of high school, college and the steel mill to fight in WWII, so many that women were employed to help fill their positions in the mill. A lot of these men returned after the war to resume their schooling or jobs in the mill, raise a family and spend the rest of their lives in Donora, while others did not. An example is Walter Glod who was born in Donora in 1919 and graduated from Donora High School in 1937.

In December 2018, as part of a California University of Pennsylvania English Honors class titled "Digital Storytelling" that was also sponsored by the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, three students (Maria Dovshek, Destiny Ortiz and Emily Sloan) created this video about Walter Glod as remembered by his younger sister Charlotte Glod Simmons. Click on their YouTube video titled "A Small Town Hero - Walter Glod" to view and to get a sense of the sacrifices these men and their families from Donora made during WWII.

A Small Town Hero - Walter Glod

We Can Do It!  WWII
The We Can Do It!  WWII traveling exhibit explores Western Pennsylvania's incredible impact on the home, industrial, and battle fronts during World War II.

Visitors to the exhibit will learn about the development of the jeep, a uniquely American invention produced by the American Bantam Car Company in Butler, Pa., and hear stories behind Rosie the Riveter and the local Tuskegee Airmen whose contributions helped to turn the tide of the war.

In 1942, Westinghouse artist J. Howard Miller created a poster depicting a Westinghouse Electric worker rolling up her sleeve to lend muscle to the Allied war effort during World War II.  This image has come to symbolize the hard work and resolve of all Western Pennsylvanians, women and men, who contributed to our national defense both at home and on the battlefield.

She was not originally called "Rosie the Riveter."  Real Westinghouse women were more likely to be welders or munitions inspectors.  But over time, Miller's figure captured Rosie's "can do" appeal.  His poster (see above) and the name became linked in public imagination.  Today for most people, they are the same thing.

We Can Do It!  WWII is dedicated to all who answered their country's call and devoted their time, their money, and their lives to the cause of freedom.


The one thing that makes the We Can Do It!  WWII exhibit different than the Civil War exhibit is the addition of audio and video recordings that run as part of the exhibit. 
The exhibit will showcase four lifelike museum figures of local WW II heroes:


The U.S. military expanded greatly in preparation for World War II.  Pennsylvanians willingly stepped up to serve.  From 1941 to 1945, more than 1.25 million state residents marched off to war, including 22,000 women.  Most were drafted, but many volunteered, especially after Pearl Harbor.  Uniontown's General George C. Marshall engineered the military's most dramatic transformation.  Marshall became U.S. Army Chief of Staff on September 1, 1939 -- the day Hitler invaded Poland.  He inherited an army of about 200,000 men that was far from battle-ready.  Marshall modernized and expanded the U.S. Army into a global fighting force of 9 million by 1945.  General Marshall held the position of Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army under both Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman.  In 1944, he became the first American Army general promoted to the five-star rank.  Today Marshall is also remembered for his statesmanship in connection with the post-war Marshall Plan, an economic initiative to rebuild Western Europe after World War II.


Lieutenant Carl Woods of Mars and Homewood, made history as one of nearly 100 men and woman from Western Pennsylvania who served with the U.S. Army Air Corps' legendary all-Black Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.  Along with the other pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group, Carl Woods flew a P-51 Mustang with a distinctively painted red tail assembly.  This marking gave the Tuskegee pilots another name: "the Redtails."  B-24 bomber pilots learned to watch for these guardians of the sky.  Woods graduated from flight training at the Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama in April 1944 and headed to Italy.  There he piloted a P-51 Mustang over the Adriatic Sea with the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group.  Woods flew dangerous missions escorting bombers and paid the ultimate price.  He was shot down over the Adriatic in October 1944 while on a run to Austria.  Only 19 years old, Woods became one of three Tuskegee Airmen from Western Pennsylvania to die overseas during the war.


No image symbolized Americans in combat more than the photograph of flag raisers during the battle of Iwo Jima.  Sergeant Michael Strank, Company E, 28th Division, 5th Marines, who grew up near Johnstown, is in the famous photograph although barely visible.  But as the squad leader of Company E, he held his men together until he was killed just six days after the image was taken.  Strank's presence in this iconic photograph represents the sacrifices of many men who gave their lives to secure victory in World War II.


The character of "Rosie the Riveter" originated in early 1943 in a popular American song by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb.  In May 1943, Norman Rockwell depicted his version of Rosie on her lunch break for a cover of the Saturday Evening Post.  Thousands of real-life "Rosies" filled a critical role in Pittsburgh during World War II.  As the war progressed, Pittsburgh industries desperately needed workers.  Carnegie-Illinois Steel alone lost 32,000 employees to the military in May 1943.  Women answered the call.  They inspected shell casings, welded ship hulls, operated machines, conducted scientific tests, and worked as airplane mechanics.  By September 1943, more than 30,000 women worked in U. S. Steel's mills.  Thousands more did crucial war work at companies such as Dravo, Westinghouse, and Curtiss-Wright.


The exhibit's modular displays will cover a variety of topics, all told from the Western Pennsylvania perspective, including:

World in Turmoil
  World War II ignited out of a tinderbox of rising tensions in the 1930's.  Around the globe, nations seemed to be coming apart.  In Europe, anger smoldered in the aftermath of World War I.  In the United States, the stock market crash of 1929 triggered the Great Depression.  As the economic crisis spread to other countries, social unrest and ethnic violence worsened.  Nations such as Germany, Italy, and Japan sought to expand their territory.  Politicians saw opportunity in fear and chaos.  The world felt like a bomb waiting to explode.  Then Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.  World War II had officially begun.  (Newsreel video footage from the 1930's is included.)

Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1941  This is a floor model radio with an audio recording of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's message to Congress requesting a declaration of war on the December 8, 1941.  Two days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.

Arsenal of America  (see photo to the right.)  From Somerset to Erie, Western Pennsylvania communities watched as war dawned in Europe and Asia.  Local industries started making war materials by 1940, at lease a year before Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.  For five year, Pennsylvania factories worked nearly non-stop.  Dravo in Pittsburgh engineered an assembly line for building ships.  Curtiss-Wright built a huge new airplane propeller factory in Beaver County.  Westinghouse made everything from helmet liners to electric torpedoes.  General Electric in Erie made howitzers.  Butler's American Bantam Car Company created the iconic Jeep.  U. S. Steel, operating plants from McKeesport to Oil City, smashed production records while the region's mills poured 95 million tons of steel into the war effort.  By 1945, Pennsylvania produced as much steel as all the Axis powers combined.

LST 750 Model  (see LST Model in photo above right) Made in Dravo shipyards, Neville Island in 1944.  Also called the "Pride of Pittsburgh," LST 750 was funded with war bonds raised by the citizens of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

Fighting On Two Fronts  The "Double V" Campaign played off the "V for Victory" symbol to call for two victories:  one over the Axis powers overseas and another prejudice and discrimination at home.  Even as African American military personnel battled for freedom around the world, they still faced inequality when they came home.  But wartime service raised expectations for equal treatment that helped fuel the Civil Rights movement.

Home Front - Everyone's War  (see exhibit photo to the right.)  Even after the school bell rang or the factory whistle blew, war work was never done.  Children collected scrap metal and rubber.  Mothers saved fat and grease.  Fathers volunteered as Air Raid Wardens.  Everyone mastered the use of ration books and tokens.  Victory gardens sprang up in every available space across Western Pennsylvania.  Schools sold defense stamps while stores, businesses, and civic groups organized war bond drives.  (see poster below right.)

The Jewish Dilemma  As Hitler rose to power, many Jews tried to leave Germany.  Others waited, unwilling to abandon their homes.  The Nazis boycotted Jewish children's school attendance, and made Jewish citizens wear badges.  Hitler established concentration camps by March 1933.

World at War  More than an previous war, World War II scattered young men and women around the globe.  Families tracked war news on the radio or in newspapers.  The wondered where their loved ones were serving.  Many studied maps provided by newspapers or local businesses.

War's End  World War II ended in phases.  Germany's unconditional surrender in May 1945 prompted global celebrations for "Victory in Europe" or "V-E Day."  Reality tempered elation:  the war was not over.  But the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima an then Nagasaki prompted Japan to surrender.  The war was now over.

In Their Own Words  Oral History audio recordings from seven Western Pennsylvania military veterans.

Mitchell Paige  Many other Western Pennsylvania men also distinguished themselves on the battlefield.  U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Mitchell Paige of Charleroi became a Medal of Honor recipient for his actions holding off an entire Japanese regiment with machine guns at Guadalcanal.  In addition to receiving the Medal of Honor, he also had a G.I. Joe action figure designed in his likeness.

LOGISTICS:  (as of 05/20/2018 - subject to change by 02/01/2020)

DATES:               Saturday, February 1, 2020 thru Tuesday, April 7, 2020
TIME:                   Sunday        - CLOSED
                             Monday       - 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.     Library 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
                             Tuesday      - 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.       Library 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
                             Wednesday - 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.     Library 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
                             Thursday     - 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.       Library 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
                             Friday           - 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.    Library 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
                             Saturday      - 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.     Library 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
                                  plus additional evening hours for special events - see the schedule below.
                             Or by appointment for groups - please schedule ahead
                             NOTE:  The Library's hours are also listed.  If you check with them at their front desk,
                                           they could let you in as well.
                              NOTE:  School groups will be given priority over the general public during the morning or
                                            early afternoon.  Please consult the Black Out Days and Times in the table below
                                            for those days the we are expecting school groups.
VENUE:                Donora Public Library - Community Room - lower level
                             510 Meldon Avenue
                             Donora, PA 15033
ADMISSION:       Suggested donation -
                                Adults over 16 years old - $3.00
                                Children and Teens from 6 to 16 years old - $2.00
                                Children 5 years old and under - FREE
                                School groups and Teachers - FREE
                                Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troops - FREE
                             All donations benefit the Donora Historical Society and the Donora Public Library
                             NOTE:  Specific events and presentations carry a different suggested donation of $5.00
SPONSORSHIP: All sponsorship proceeds benefit the Donora Historical Society and the Donora Public Library
PARKING:           Parking is free on Meldon and McKean Avenue - handicapped parking is available in the
                             library parking lot.
QUESTIONS:      Please email or call with any additional questions or to schedule your group.
CONTACTS:       Email: donorahistoricalsociety@gmail.com
                             Phone and Message Center: 724 - 823 - 0364 - Donora Historical Society

                             Email: donorapubliclibrary@comcast.net
                             Phone and Message Center: 724 - 379 - 7940 - Donora Public Library

The Schedule of Events is a work in progress and is evolving.
Not all the dates and times are set.

Saturday February 1 1:00 p.m.

First Day of Exhibit - normal hours

"The Home Front" - Dr. David Lonich - Donora Historical Society



February 7

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

7:00 p.m.

normal exhibit hours 11:00 am to 5:00 pm

GRAND OPENING reception:

Featuring:  traditional WWII era swing music    




February 8

1:00 p.m.

"The German Soldier in WWII - Truth or Myth" - Stuart Boyd - Rostraver Historical Society

SaturdayFebruary 15 


SaturdayFebruary 22 



February 29



March 7




March 14

1:00 p.m.

"WWII Fashions on the Home Front and Frontlines" - Debbie Popp Gilbert - Elizabeth Historical Society

Tea Social - joint effort by Donora and Elizabeth Historical Societies - RSVPs - admission


March 21

11:00 a.m.



March 28

9:00 a.m.

allow 2-3 hours

12:00 p.m.

Veterans Breakfast Club - Todd DePastino - breakfast for veterans and collecting oral histories - RSVPs - free for veterans

"A Donora Mill Machinist Family's WWII Experience" - Dorothy Frye Walker - Starkweather Circle Ladies G.A.R.



April 4


April 7


7:00 p.m.

Last Day of Exhibit - normal hours

"Portraits For the Home Front" - David Solomon - WQED Executive Producer

 TBD  Judah Samet - Holocaust Survivor
 TBD  "WWII Light Infantry Weapons" - Ron Maxon - veteran and WWII collector
NOTE:  In general, Saturday presentations will occur from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, and then again from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.  The noon hour will be available to get lunch.  Two merchants are within walking distance:
    Anthony's Italiano - around the block on McKean Avenue between 5th and 6th Streets
                                   - pizza and sandwiches
    Station - 1.5 blocks away on Meldon Avenue between 7th and 8th Streets
                 - breakfast and coffee, soups and sandwiches, drinks and convenience

Below is a schedule of when larger groups have reserved the exhibit for their own special events, meaning these times will be unavailable (BLACKED OUT) to the general public:


Feb ?

11 am to 1 pm


MondayFeb ? 9:00 to 11am

12 to 1:30 pm




March 13

9:30 to 11:30 a.m.


NOTE:  If you would like to hold your own special event or tour for a larger group, please RSVP your date and time ASAP.

The following businesses and individuals helped fund the exhibit, additional presentations and events:
  AAAA (Steel level donor - business) - Donora, PA
  BBBB (Silver level donor - individual) - Donora, PA 
  CCCC (Gold level donor - individual) - Donora, PA
  DDDD (Bronze level donor - business) - Donora, PA
  NOTE:  All sponsorship proceeds benefit the Donora Historical Society and the Donora Public Library for expenses and stipends incurred while holding this exhibit.


This is where the Heinz History Center traveling exhibit has been and where it's going:
  • Beaver Area Heritage Museum, - April 22 - June 11, 2017
  • Butler County Historical Society - June 17 - August 8, 2017
  • Erie County Historical Society - August 12 - November 28, 2017
  • Heinz History Center (idle) - December 1 - January 23, 2018 
  • McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center - January 27 - March 20, 2018
  • Fayette County Historical Society - March 24 - May 2, 2018
  • Heinz History Center (idle) - May 6 - May 22, 2018 
  • Ohio County Public Library (Wheeling, WV) - May 26 - July 24, 2018
  • Jefferson County Historical Center - July 28 - October 2, 2018
  • Bedford County Historical Society - October 6 - November 27, 2018
  • The Historical Society of Mount Lebanon - December 1 - January 29, 2019
  • West Overton Village - February 2 - March 26, 2019
  • Lawrence County Historical Society - March 30 - May 21, 2019
  • Blair County Historical Society - May 25 - July 16, 2019
  • Somerset Historical Center - July 20 - September 17, 2019
  • Carnegie Free Library of Beaver Falls - September 21 - November 19, 2019
  • Heinz History Center (idle) - November 23 - January 27, 2019 
  • Donora Historical Society & Smog Museum - February 1 - April 7, 2020
  • WW II traveling exhibit closes and returns to the Heinz History Center