Coastside WWII: Lifting the Veil of Military Secrecy/The End of Hostilities

From the Half Moon Bay Review, 1945, an article celebrating the end of hostilities.

“Japanese capitulation, ending World War II, has lifted the wall of military secrecy on San Mateo County’s magnificent contribution to the fighting machine of America and her allies in mankind’s greatest conflict of arms.

“It was no small part that we of the Peninsula played in winning the victory over Nazi Germany and a Japan bent on world conquest. And it was no small peril in which the the county, as key to the defense of San Francisco and the metropolitan bay area, found itself when the foe threatened invasion of our shores in the dark years of 1941-42.

“Ships launched in South San Francisco helped beat the submarine menace in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

“Parts turned out in small factories in San Bruno, South San Francisco and San Carlos and other parts assembled in San Mateo, helped produce the miracle of radar that enabled our fighting ships to detect enemy aircraft and send up planes to intercept the foe approaching shores of our allies.

“Millions of gallons of aviation gasoline and tons of ammunition were funneled through Port Redwood City to power our Pacific aircraft and provide the shells that pounded the enemy into submission.

“A thousand other vital instruments making up the mightiest war machine in history were made here.

“Lastly, parts used in the manufacture of the most terrible weapon ever devised by man–the atomic bomb which brought on Japan’s surrender, were turned out in a San Carlos laboratory.

“Now can be revealed, too, the dire peril to our shores in the critical months after Pearl Harbor, when the U.S. military fully expected an invasion attempt in this sector.”

“Let us turn back to December, 1941, and the early months of 1942 when, we, as the gateway to San Francisco, faced danger. This was the picture in those critical days:

“Uncle Sam rushed all available trained troops to the defense of the west coast. Thousands of soldiers were deployed along the San Mateo County coastside, from Sharp Park to Pigeon Point. An estimated 5000 men did day and night patrol along the fog-shrouded beaches. They were backed up by 50,000 soldiers strategically placed in Northern California, ready to be rushed here to repel an invasion attempt.

“Artillery emplacements and ack-ack guns honeycombed the coastal hills north of Half Moon Bay. Based on scientific calculation, these guns were so emplaced as to criss-cross the beaches with a deadly hail of fire in the event the Japs tried a landing.

The 17th infantry regiment was the first to guard our coastal shores followed by the 125th infantry, originally a Michigan national guard outfit. The 17th was afterwards assigned to an group which saw action in Saipan and Okinawa. The 125th lost a third of its original strength in subsequent action in Italy and Europe.

“There were foxholes on the beaches and antiaircraft posts in the foothill range.

“That the enemy was in sight of San Mateo County at least once in the period when the foe was on the offensive, can be disclosed. It was one rainy morning before dawn in the winter of 1942 that the light of the moon revealed the outline of a hostile submarine standing offshore opposite Mackey radio station, south of Half Moon Bay. Two aircraft spotters, Joseph Centoni, now a PFC in the army, and Fred Cunha saw it. Later that day they were told the craft was sunk by depth charges off Pillar Point.

“Half Moon Bay headquarters of the aircraft spotter service state they received army congratulations for reporting the sub.

“The county’s citizenry was quick to spring to home defense upon the momentary threat of invasion and bombing by Jap planes. In the months that followed Pearl Harbor some 18,000 men and women volunteered for duty as air raid wardens auxiliary firemen and policemen, messengers, aircraft spotters, etc. Many hundreds –thousands — of hours were spent at lonely lookout stations, ready to relay the message of hostile aircraft. Their ranks were swelled to the 40,000 mark in the county by those who give of their time to war services–paper and tin collection drives, blood bank service and numerous other activities.

“Permanent or semi-permanent military installations were established in our midst after the first fretful months of the war.”

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About June Morrall

1947 - 2010
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