Sins of Omission

Bombing the West Coast

The “Battle of Los Angeles,” or the Great Los Angeles Air Raid, occurred during the early morning hours of February 25, 1942.  It has been portrayed in Steven Spielberg’s 1979 slapstick comedy 1941, starring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.  The farcical movie is about all younger generations today know of the Battle of Los Angeles and conditions prevailing along the West Coast following Japan’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.  The film leaves the impression that Japan, except for one nutty submarine commander and his crew of harmless sailors, never waged war on America’s West Coast, and that fear of such attacks was nothing more than wartime hysteria.  This is exactly the tack taken by those today who dismiss the evacuation of Japanese from the West Coast as a racist and hysterical overreaction to the threat of attack—forgetting, of course, that German and Italian aliens, including Joe DiMaggio’s mother, were also evacuated, and that the MAGIC intercepts revealed there were resident Japanese supplying Japan with intelligence.

In reality, the Battle of Los Angeles was preceded by ten Japanese submarine attacks on American ships off the California coast and one attack on an oil field.  The attacks left the coastal population apprehensive, if not unnerved.  Few people today can appreciate how vulnerable America’s West Coast was during the first year of the war.  In December...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here