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Bombardment of US West Coast

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Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, there was rampant fear of a Japanese invasion of the mainland United States, à la the 1979 Spielberg comedy 1941. On 23 February 1942, however, that fear was made all the more real when a Japanese submarine, I-17, succeeded in bombing the Ellwood Oil Fields near Santa Barbara. The I-17 was in the largest class of submarine that served during the Second World War; the B1 class measured more than 350 feet in length, longer by 70 feet than the largest German U-boat.

Despite the fact that the damage was minuscule, the event reinforced any fear of the possibility of the Japanese reaching our coast and highlighted American’s unpreparedness in coastal defenses. In reality, however, the Japanese never intended to invade the mainland United States as there was no strategic value in doing so.

This post by Curator Meg Roussel

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