California State Military Department
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Preserving California's Military Heritage
California and the Second World War
Los Angeles Metropolitan Area during World War II

During World War II Los Angeles was the boom town of boom towns. The Los Angeles metropolitan area grew faster than any other major metropolitan area in the U.S. and experienced more of the traumas of war while doing so. By 1943 the population of metropolitan L.A. was larger than 37 states, and was home to one in every 40 U.S. citizens. By the end of the war, the L.A. area had produced 17% of all of America's war production.

Of the 120,000 ethnic Japanese eventually evacuated to the relocation camps, 80,000 came from the L.A. area.

The evacuation of the ethnic Japanese was just getting under way when, on Feb. 23, 1942 a Japanese submarine shelled an oil facility near Santa Barbara, just 80 miles up the coast form Los Angeles. Many saw this as a prelude of to a greater attack and tensions rose rapidly in L.A. Rumors started and spread. The next night, around midnight, a false report was sent out to anti-aircraft gunners on the heights over looking L.A. that enemy planes had been spot ted over Los Angeles. That was the spark that ignited "The Battle of Los Angeles". The gun ners in one section of town opened fire on the unseen airplanes and their search lights scanned the sky. The frenzy spread and other gunners opened up. Some civilians rushed for shelter, while others rushed outside to see what was happening. Some thought they saw the planes, while others thought they saw para chutes and bombs falling. Spent anti-aircraft shells rained down on roof tops and cars. Santa Monica and Long Beach were hardest hit. Air raid wardens dashed about ordering people to extinguish lights and take cover. Rumors spread that section of the city were on fire and that a plane had crashed at 185th and Vermont Ave. There was a rash of auto accidents as driv ers tried to maneuver in darkened streets with their headlight off, and several people had heart attacks.

The "battle" went on for over two hours before the guns fell silent. The next morning headlines of the Los Angeles Times screamed "L.A. AREA RAIDED". It was not true, but the newspaper editors had succumbed to the rumors as had most other people.

The truth eventually became known that the city had not been bombed and life went on at its hectic pace for better or for worse. Experiencing an "air raid" was beneficial, in a way, for the people of Los Angeles because they gained experience in case the real thing ever came. And, the Japanese had plans to provide the real thing by bombing the city with giant seaplanes if and when conditions were favorable. Those raids never came about, but the Japanese had the planes and wherewithal to accomplish such a raid throughout the war.

The growth of L.A. didn't stop with the war. It went on at a healthy pace in the postwar years and lasted for decades.

Contibutions to the War Effort by Other Communities in the Los Angeles Area

Burbank: Located north of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley, was home to the Lockheed Aircraft Company, one of the primary aircraft builders of the war. Vega Aircraft Company was also in Burbank.

Chino: Location of Cal Aero Academy, a private flying academy contracted to provide pilots for the Army Air Forces.

Costa Mesa: Located 13 miles southeast of Long Beach, Costa Mesa didn't exist during World War II. The city incorporated in 1953 and in 1955 annexed the former Santa Ana Army Air Base, which now comprises a major part of the town.

Downey: Located 7 miles southeast of Los Angeles, Downey had a large Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft plant at Vultee Airport 1.5 miles southeast of downtown. Consolidated-Vultee built primary trainer aircraft. Vultee Airport no longer exists.

El Segundo: Located five miles south of Los Angeles on the coast, El Segundo had a large North American Aviation plant that built P-51 fighters, A-36 bombers and B-25 Bombers. There was also a Douglas Aircraft plant in El Segundo that made air frames and SBD-5 dive bombers for the Navy.

Fontana: Located west of and adjancent to San Bernadino, it was the site of the Kaiser Steel Co., financed and built by the wartime government agency known as the Defense Plant Corporation (DPC). It was run by Henry Kaiser and his industrial empire and sold most of its steel to the west coast shipbuilders. The building of steel plants west of the Mississippi had long been a pet project of President Roosevelt who wanted the American steel industry to diversify across the country. Roosevelt took advantage of the war to see that two new plants were built in the west, this one and another in Provo, Utah.

Glendale: Location of the Grand Central Air Terminal where pilots were trained and a squadron of P-38s were stationed.

Hawthorne: Located five miles south of Los Angeles, Hawthorne was the home of the Northrop Aircraft Co, a large manufacturing complex at Northrop Field, which was originally the company's airfield. The plant built B-17 bombers. Also at the airport was a company school contracted to the Army Air Forces' Western Technical Training Command. The airport later be came Hawthorne Municipal Airport.

Huntington Beach: This coastal community located seven miles southeast of Long Beach had many active oil wells close to the shore. At the corner of Bolsa Chica and Warner Avenues is the remains of a gigantic concrete pad which was one of the coastal defenses for the Los Angeles area. The beach area was heavily patrolled by Coast Guardsmen on horses

Inglewood: Located south of, and adjacent to Los Angeles, Inglewood had a large North American Aviation plant that made air frames.

Irvine: This planned community 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles that didn't exist during the war. When the town came into being after the war it became the post town for El Toro Marine Corps Air Station that had been built in the area during World War II.

Lomita: This small community just west of Long Beach was the home of Lomita Field. This was a small air field one mile west of Lomita that was used as a sub base to Long Beach Army Air Field. It was operated by the Air Transport Command. After the war the air field blossomed into a first class airport called Torrence Municipal Airport.

Long Beach and San Pedro: This is the Los Angeles Harbor area and was the center of military activity in the area. All along the coast there were various naval facilities, shipbuilding and repair facilities, docks, wharves, Coast Guard facilities, supply depots and, in places, working oil fields. Many people believed that if the Japanese ever bombed or attacked the west coast this would be a primary target area.

Ontario: Just east of Pomona, Ontario was the home of Ontario Army Air Field, 1.5 miles east of downtown, It was used by the 4th Air Force as a training field for fighter pilots. In the postwar years the airport became Ontario International Airport

Pasadena: Located five miles northeast of Los Angeles, is the home of the famous Rose Bowl which was used in early 1942 as a temporary assembly point for the ethnic Japanese before they were moved on to the regular assembly centers and then on to the relocation camps. For a time, some 500 people were housed here. Pasadena also had a large military hospital during the war, McCormack General Hospital.

Pomona: This was the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds on the north edge of Pomona. It processed ethnic Japanese from May 7 to August 24, 1942. During that time its population reached a maximum of 5,434. Nearly everyone processed here was sent to Heart Mountain, Wyoming. On September 4, 1942 the center was turned over to the Army's Ordnance Motor Transport Agency and became known as the Pomona Ordnance Depot. The depot stocked a wide variety of ordnance materials and for much of the war serviced the California/ Arizona Maneuver Area (CAMA) (Desert Training Center), just east of Pomona. The depot had a prisoner of war camp holding about 1,150 POWs who worked at the depot

Riverside: Located five miles south of San Bernardino, Riverside was the home of two major Army installations, March Field and Camp Haan.

San Bernardino: Located 50 miles east of Los Angeles. During the war the city had two defense plants, the Morrow Aircraft Corp. which built training aircraft and the Western Stove Co. which made incendiary bombs. The Army's Mira Loma Quartermaster Depot was also in San Bernardino as well as San Bernardino Army Air Field.

Santa Monica: Located directly west of Los Angeles, was the home of one of the world's leading aircraft manufacturers, the Douglas Aircraft Company.

Southgate: Located five miles southeast of Los Angeles, it was the location of a General Motors plant that built M-5 Light Tanks at the rate of 500 per month.

Terminal Island: This strategically located island in Los Angeles Harbor was one of the few places in the continental U.S. were martial law was declared during World War II. It was declared in December 8,1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor because U.S. military authorities thought they had a very explosive situation on their hands. The island was shared by a major U.S. Naval base, major oil installations and a sizeable community of ethnic Japanese fishermen. It was believed that the potential for sabotage by the ethnic Japanese was so great that the military had to intervene. Under martial law the activities of the ethnic Japanese were closely watched and their persons, homes and boats were liable to search at any time. No concrete evidence was ever obtained that the Japanese residents of Terminal Island were disloyal but, still, their presence was intolerable to the U.S. military. On February 1, 1942, government authorities conducted a surprise raid on the island and rounded up all ethnic Japanese males. They were taken into custody and shipped off to the enemy alien internment camp at Ft. Lincoln, Nebraska because the relocation camps, planned for the ethnic Japanese, were not yet ready.When the relocation camps were completed the women and children were evacuated from Terminal Island and sent to relocation camps and their menfolk soon followed. Following the removal of the ethnic Japanese, two cannery buildings previously used by the ethnic Japanese were taken over and used by the Navy.

Tustin: Just east of Santa Ana, Tustin was the home of Naval Air Station, Santa Ana

Van Nuys: Located in the San Fernando Valley, this section of Los Angeles was home to Birmingham General Hospital and Van Nuys Army Air Field

 

Topics

The Battle of Los Angeles
Birmingham General Hospital
Camp Haan
Camp Ross
Chino Airport
Clover Field
Fort MacArthur
Grand Central Air Terminal
Harbor Defenses of Los Angeles
Los Angeles Municipal Airport (Mines Field)
Lockheed Air Terminal
Lomita Flight Strip
Long Beach Army Air Field
March Field
Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro
McCormack General Hospital
Naval Air Station, Terminal Island
Naval Station, Long Beach
Naval Air Station, Los Alamitos
Naval Air Station, Santa Ana
Ontario Army Air Field
Pomona Ordnance Depot
San Bernadino Army Air Field
Santa Ana Army Air Base
Van Nuys Army Air Field

Source: World War II Sites in the United States: A Tour Guide and Directory by Richard E. Osbourne


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