Volker Janssen is a professor of California State University Fullerton who specializes in the social, economic, and institutional history of California.
Articles From This Author
When Polio Triggered Fear and Panic Among Parents in the 1950s
In the 1950s, the polio virus terrified American families. Parents tried “social distancing”—ineffectively and out of fear. Polio was not part the life they had signed up for. In the otherwise comfortable World War II era, the spread of polio showed that middle-class families ...read more
Why Was Dresden So Heavily Bombed?
They had heard the “whump a whump” of distant aerial bombings many times before. But on February 13, 1945, the American prisoners of war heard Dresden’s fire sirens howl right above their heads. German guards moved them two stories down into a meat locker. When they came back to ...read more
How the 'Little Green Men' Phenomenon Began on a Kentucky Farm
Why are aliens so often depicted as “little green men” with bulbous heads and oversized eyes? The mythology began, in part, on the night of August 21, 1955, when a large extended farm family called the Suttons arrived breathlessly at the Hopkinsville police station in ...read more
California Wildfires Have Been Fought by Prisoners Since World War II
When it comes to California’s natural disasters—fires, earthquakes, floods—a surprising cohort of first responders have served on the front lines since World War II: prison inmates. While the idea of using prisoners for back-breaking, low-cost labor on road crews harks back to ...read more
The Surprising Interrogations That Led to Saddam Hussein’s Capture
After coalition forces invaded Iraq in March 2003 and toppled its government, the U.S. military launched an intensive manhunt. The target? The nation’s deposed dictator, Saddam Hussein, who escaped Baghdad when the capital fell. Nine months later, in an operation code-named ...read more
The Most Harrowing Battle of the Korean War
For Robert Whited and Jean White, there was never a question that they would serve in the military. And they never doubted the merit of the war they were sent to fight in Korea. It was this unbending faith in their service as U.S. Marines that carried both men through America’s ...read more
Two Japanese American Veterans on Fighting the Nazis—and Discrimination at Home
Like most Americans, Don Seki and Frank Mitoshi Wada remember the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii as a dark day. For these two “Nisei” (American-born children of Japanese immigrants), December 7th, 1941 was darker than for most, since it led to their ...read more