Japanese Attack of Santa Barbara Beach Marker and Photos


Santa Barbara, Calif. -- On the luxurious and serene beach next to  Bacara Beach Resort in Santa Barabara, there's an interesting history and story about the shores of this oasis. Once an oil field, the location was the only spot in the U.S. since the War of 1812 to be attacked by an enemy when a Japanese submarine shelled the Richfield Oil Field Facility on Feb. 23, 1942.

Some call it the Ellwood Oil Field shelling. It damaged a pumphouse and catwalk at one oil well but no major destruction occurred other than to put the United States on alert. The Submarine I-17 radioed Tokyo that he had left Santa Barbara in flames..  Captain Nishino Kozo was reported to have made that radio call. Nearby Santa Barbara Airport was built and living quarters established for the Marine Corps on the site of what is now University of California, Santa Barbara campus.

As you drive up and down the coast of California, the signs of a war are still evident, and stories abound for those of us who weren't around during that time. The United States was entering a second World War and Japan was one of the enemies. Piers such as Huntington Beach Pier were taken over by our military forces as lookout posts for enemy attack; Long Beach, California has several canons that sit on banks near the harbor (one is on a hill at Bluff Park, and another in a flower bed next to Parker's Light House restaurant); and MacArthur Military Museum in San Pedro (complete with bunkers) is open for the public to see.

It is hard to imagine or remember all the military lands and facilities that lined the California coast. Most have been decommissioned, dismantled, deeded, or sold. Today's wars are fought in the skies first, and the thought of a take-over of the U.S. could come in the form of a financial acquisition rather than with shells and guns drawn.

But during the era of WWII, California and the West Coast was considered one of the entry points for an attack. In addition to the shelling of this Goleta/ Santa Barbara County location, several other efforts were cited in history. One was a launch by the Japanese of fire balloons that were supposed to come ashore and cause great fires and destruction. Over 9,000 of them were launched, with only around 300 reaching the West Coast. They did not create the damage that was hoped for.

UFO historians point to 1942 Battle of Los Angeles as one of the great mysteries never solved. In this incident the U.S. Army fired several thousand anti-aircraft shells into the air over Los Angeles on February 24-25, 1942. What was unusual and frightful about the incident was the two stationary Unidentified Flying Objects. No damage to the objects occurred, and claims that they were lost weather balloons simply don't fly with the facts, say researchers who have sought evidence to prove this claim. No matter what they were, the incident happened just one day after the shelling at Goleta when public concern was heightened and the military was clearly in defense mode along the California coast.

On May 31, 1942, USS Colorado and USS Maryland left San Francisco to form a line of defense against any Japanese attack mounted on San Francisco. Additional attempts by Japanese forces to penetrate the West Coast were in Oregon, Washington, and Vancouver, B.C., Canada.


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