The Panama Canal was a vital asset during World War II (1939-1945) that needed protection. As conflict escalated in

Asia and Europe, those at the Canal thought, are we next?

Living in the Canal Zone and surrounding area was a unique experience as the threat of war increased. The U.S. took significant measures to prevent an attack and to ensure that Canal operations continued uninterrupted. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the war saturated everyday life. Many were surprised that Pearl Harbor was attacked before the Canal, yet it made potential threats even more a reality. Fear shaped expectations of what it meant to be a patriot; be it a soldier, a civilian, a person of color, or a gendered ideal. The realities, however, are not as apparent in the press and popular media. In a time of what-ifs, everyone found ways to cope.

This online exhibition is based on the exhibition of the same name that was presented at the University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries, March 7, 2020 - February 26, 2021.

Curated by Elizabeth A. Bouton with assistance from Elizabeth Bemis | Online design by Elizabeth A. Bouton

Student assistant curators: Summer Bias, Coral Dixon, Sean O’Dwyer, and Anna L. Weissman | Title design and other materials by Olivia Bowman


This exhibit was developed spring 2019 as part of the graduate Exhibitions Seminar in Museum Studies taught by Lourdes Santamaría-Wheeler. It was driven by student inquiry and has been an experiment in collaborative exhibition development processes.


Unless otherwise noted, all items are from the Panama Canal Museum Collection, Special & Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida.