Thursday, July 24, 2014

Santa Monica supports the War (WW II)

During World War II, Santa Monica hunkered down to defend its coastline from invasion on the Pacific front. Reminders and some relics exist today.

A forgotten bunker was discovered under the Santa Monica Pier in 1982 and removed subsequently in 2003. The concrete bunker measured 6 feet by 6 feet and 8 feet in height. Narrow windows 2 feet wide by 3 feet tall faced north and west for sentries to look out in the Santa Monica Bay for attacks by enemies.(Santa Monica Evening Outlook, November 12-18, 2003, microfilm collection Santa Monica Public Library)

Heiress Winona Stephens purchased 50 acres from Will Rogers that she named Murphy Ranch as a place to provide refuge to Nazi sympathizers in 1933, in Rustic Canyon, a part of Topanga State Park. The primary structure built before the FBI raided the compound after the attack on Pearl Harbor, was a concrete bunker. Although derelict, the structure still stands covered in graffiti along a popular hiking route.

Image from 35 in 52 blog

Long gone is the amazing camouflage that covered Douglas Aircraft Factory in Clover Field during the war years. The United States declared war on December 8, 1941, making Douglas Aircraft factory and airport a significant military location. Colonel John Ohmer was in charge of operations in the Los Angeles area and a part of his assignment included the camouflage operation that covered Douglas Aircraft and other aircraft factories in the vicinity. Edward Huntsman-Trout, noted landscape designer, was called upon to design and engineer a complete false neighborhood made of wood and burlap on top of the factory. Hollywood studios sent volunteers to help build and decorate the cover. Fake homes sprung up with fake laundry hanging from fake trees. A diversionary airplane factory was set up next door.


Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives
Close view of the camouflage designed by landscape architect Edward Huntsman-Trout during World War II to cover the Douglas Aircraft Company in Santa Monica

During the War, Santa Monica hosted thousands of military personnel on leave to recover from military combat on R & R. Many of the City's hotels and beach clubs were used for this purpose. Casa del Mar club hosted off-duty aerial combat veterans. Douglas factory workers and military men and women went to amusement parks on Ocean Park's piers and danced the night away in the Aragon Ballroom on Lick Pier. (Santa Monica: A History on the Edge by Paul Scott, p. 123)
Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives
Case del Mar, 1910 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, Calif.
The Santa Monica Public Library played a roll on the homefront too. The Fairview Branch Library Manager Nellie Dolly Sullivan began story times for preschoolers, probably one of the first of its kind on the west coast. The basement of the Ocean Park Branch Library was turned into a Young People's room where teens could meet to study and play records and games. Librarians at the Main Library would contribute to buy cartons of cigarettes for the service men and women in Santa Monica on leave. Reference librarians provided documents, maps, and updates on war campaigns to keep an anxious public informed and also provided information to military installations in the area.