Photo of Naval Station at Montara Stirs Memories of WWII

Memorial Day is a time when Americans typically reflect on their history, and WWII has a special meaning for the Coastside.

A few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the military arrived in Half Moon Bay. Soldiers occupied public schools and privately owned hotels. There was genuine fear of another surprise attack right here on the Coastside.

Overnight Half Moon Bay was transformed into a wartime setting, where secrecy prevailed, perhaps more so than anywhere else in the nation. You couldn’t read about Coastside military activities in the Half Moon Bay Review; a search through old issues reveals nothing at all.

Yet during the day locals volunteered as “spotters” watching the sea for enemy submarines and hostile aircraft in the skies. At night all Coastside windows were darkened with black-out paper.

There were barracks at Princeton-by-the-Sea, near the airport; the military occupied the Palace Miramar Hotel, Half Moon Bay, and several places on the South Coast, where, it is said, deep tunnels were constructed to store weapons.

There was a naval station at Montara, across the highway from the Montara Water & Sanitary District building.


In this photo, you can see the water and sanitary district building still standing today, overlooking the Pacific. Their website confirms the building was constructed by the navy in 1944.

If you look for remnants of the naval station today, you won’t find any. Highway 1, which was built in sections along the Coastside, mainly in the 1950s, has changed the surrounding terrain completely.

The land on which the naval station stood looks pretty level in the photo. Today a hedge-like dirt berm erases all memories of the naval station’s presence.

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About June Morrall

1947 - 2010
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