Thursday, February 23, 2012

February 23 1942

Japanese shell the US mainland

"On 23 February 1942, I-17 achieved some notability as the first Axis ship to shell the United States mainland. A few minutes after 7 pm, she surfaced a few hundred yards off a beach 10 miles (16 km) west of Santa Barbara, California, within the Ellwood Oil Field. Over 20 minutes, she fired 17 shells from her 140 mm gun at the giant Richfield aviation fuel storage tanks on the blufftop behind the beach. The shots were mostly wild, one landing more than a mile inland. The closest shell exploded in a field 30 yards (27 m) from one of the tanks. The shelling did only minor damage to a pier and a pumphouse, but news of the shelling triggered an "invasion" scare along the West Coast."

"It was not clear why this target was chosen until much later, when it was found that the commander of this particular submarine had visited the site in the 1930's and stumbled into a field of prickly pear cactus. Captain Nishino never forgave the ridicule he received from his American hosts that day."

The following night, the anti-aircraft defences in Los Angeles exploded into action in response to an imagined invasion (later to be known as the Battle of Los Angeles, against a supposed UFO). During a 30 minute fusillade, guns hurled 1,440 rounds of 3-inch (76 mm) and 37 mm ammunition into the night sky, and about ten tons of shrapnel and unexploded ammunition fell back on the city."


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