by Richard Senate
On December 7, 1941 Ventura learned on the radio that the Japanese Empire had attacked our naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. We were in peace talks at the time with Japan and everything looked to be going smoothly. The war was raging in Europe but America was not directly involved. Many believed it was only a question of time before America would be pulled into the war, a draft was set up and the military expanded.
Still, after the horrors of World War I, no American wanted to get involved in the fighting in Europe. When the attack came, it was a complete surprise. It caught America flat footed. Following Pearl Harbor, came Japanese victories in the Philippines and Dutch East Indies. Fear gripped the West Coast and the newspapers said air attacks were impending. Japanese submarines began to sink coastal steamers and even attacking an oil facility in Santa Barbara. In response the 2nd Battalion of the 144st Artillery of the California National Guard set up a “masked battery” of two 105 MM on mounts at what was called “Hobo Jungle,” renamed “Camp Seaward.”
The battery had an underground bunker for shells, a small railroad track to carry the shells to the guns, barracks, a mess hall, firing range and a parade grounds. Spotters were set up at the cross above the city and at the Rincon Bluff connected by telephone lines. The cannons were to defend the city and her strategic oil reserves from Japanese raiders or possible Japanese suicide squads landed by submarines to blow up oil wells and facilities. The guns were tested and rattled windows in the city, breaking a few. The war progressed, but the expected enemy never came. As the Japanese Navy was not seen as a local threat in 1944, the base was dismantled and the gunners sent to the fighting in the Philippine Islands. Now all that is left are the two concrete round gun mounts at the beach as Seaside Park. In a disturbing note, the mounts are round, so that they could be turned on the city if it should fall to the Japanese!