Blackout! In the week after Pearl Harbor, Santa Rosa was hit with “future shock” as the war descended upon us. The blackouts drew everyone’s fevered attention; they made it apparent our lives had changed for the worse – and would likely stay unsettled for a long, long time.

Later they discovered there never were enemy bombers – the reports were all false alarms issued by the Army or hysteric rumors, such as the story of a dogfight with a dive bomber over San Francisco Bay.1 Yet at the time the fear was real and personal; it was the enemy reaching into your home, threatening the very lives of you and yours.

Problem was, there was no “How to Blackout” manual – so when the first two air raid alerts happened on the night of Dec. 8-9, no one knew what to do. There were no blackouts anywhere in the county for the first alert although during the later one Santa Rosa and Petaluma managed to at least turn out streetlights. (Full story found in the previous article.)

blackouttomales(RIGHT: Handheld traffic sign. Image courtesy Tomales Regional History Center)

Directions from the Office of Civilian Defense appeared in newspapers nationwide on December 9th but were less than helpful: “Put out lights. Stay away from windows.”

Considering the urgency of the matter – had there really been bombers, that is – you’d expect authorities and/or the press would have offered detailed guidance on how to stay safe besides sitting in a pitch-black hallway or windowless room for hours (just imagine what hell that would be for families with little kids).

By the end of the week commercial options were available. The paint store began selling “heavy blackout paper” at 6¢ a sq. yard and lumber dealers were suggesting plywood (“after the emergency is over, panels can be salvaged and used for cutouts, furniture. built-ins, even wall-coverings”). Pedersen’s Furniture would install blackout window shades and the linoleum store on A street advertised blinds made out of linoleum. Civil defense insisted neither blinds or shades were adequate – windows had to be covered with dark cloth or all lights must be doused. The City Council backed that up by passing an ordinance making light leaks punishable by a fine up to $250 or 90 days. Police were also allowed to walk into any building to click off a light.

All well and good, but there was one other teensy problem that first week of the war: Santa Rosa had no air raid signal.

That Santa Rosa didn’t have a plan to alert citizens during an emergency must have stunned old-timers; thirty-ish years earlier, Santa Rosa was the City of Loud and Shrill Noises. Besides the steam whistle at the Grace Brothers’ brewery reliably blasting off at noon and five there were other industrial whistles and bells; when there was a fire or need to send the public a prearranged signal, the designated noisemaker would toot, scream or ring out a code.2

The day after Pearl Harbor it was announced the old bell at the former Fifth street firehouse would be used as the alarm, clanging three long rings and 10 short ones. “The huge bell, in disuse for several years, can be heard for several miles,” the PD said.

That plan lasted for a single day. The next idea was to park a firetruck by the courthouse and use its siren, at least until a large one with a range of seven miles arrived and could be mounted on the roof of the sheriff’s office. Now the signal would be one long blast “to be given intermittently within the discretion of the officer in charge” and two short ones meant it was all clear.

That night (Dec. 9) the firetruck siren was sounded at 11:05 due to the Fort Bragg false alarm described earlier, although many didn’t hear it or recognize it was supposed to be the new air raid signal. Police Chief Melvin “Dutch” Flohr said people should assume there was a blackout if city streetlights were off, but even that failed as a backup plan because not everyone had a lamp pole within easy eyeshot.


It was unworkable to allow every little town and hamlet to come up with its own unique air raid signal, so on the 11th the civil defense council for the Bay Area ordered a uniform signal for every county within a 50 mile radius. The alert would be a siren wailing up and down and the all clear would be a steady tone, both two minutes long – once Santa Rosa finally got its siren, that is.

Equally important was a new telephone system to network communities together. A special operations room would be built at the sheriff’s office staffed with women volunteers working in four shifts. Besides controlling the local siren, they were to be in charge of a switchboard that relayed the blackout orders to other towns in the county.

All this muddy confusion about window coverings and air raid alerts started during those chaotic three days after Pearl Harbor, when the wildest rumors were flying because the Army commander in San Francisco kept crying wolf. And while they surely meant well, it was not soothing to learn the local chapter of the State Embalmers’ Association was ready to ID and remove “fatally injured victims of possible bombing or sabotage.” As the week progressed Santa Rosa’s nerves became a little less frazzled but people were far from adjusting to their new normal.

The third night with a blackout – yet another false alarm – was December 12, which began with several accidents; some were trying to drive without headlights, leading to five hurt in a head-on crash on Chanate Road. A woman attending a Santa Rosa Grange meeting when the lights went out fell down a full flight of stairs, while an infant was burned after a parent spilled a cup of hot coffee (the PD item stated this was “another” incident, so apparently there had been one or more scalded baby already).

Press Democrat headline, Dec. 13, 1941
Press Democrat headline, Dec. 13, 1941

Police were called when Fred Hubner and Oscar Larsen of Healdsburg refused to switch off their lights, telling a civil defense volunteer they would “turn ’em out when we get damn good and ready.” They were jailed for thirty days each. And in Santa Rosa this happened:

One overenthusiastic Santa Rosan was brought to police headquarters because he carried a rifle when he gruffly ordered several housewives to extinguish lights. He was brought to the police station by a civilian defense officer. Chief Flohr determined that the weapon was unloaded and warned the volunteer to refrain from further “raid warnings” until assigned to volunteer duty by officials.

The PD also reported kids ran amok through downtown during that blackout:

Drastic action was planned against youthful vandals who damaged window signs and ran up and down sidewalks, bumping into pedestrians on the darkened streets. Parents are asked to keep all youths off the streets at night, police Chief Flohr said. Youths smashed a pane of glass to reach in and turn off a light in the Pioneer Laundry, officers said.

There was also a situation because the blackout clogged Santa Rosa’s streets, as the new stop-traffic ordinance required autos to immediately shut off even if the car was in the street or an intersection. As bad as it was, the situation was far worse in San Francisco where some streetcars were sliding down hills.

movieblackoutDespite those problems, the blackout of December 12th was the first in Santa Rosa deemed a success. It lasted between 7:30-10:00 in the evening, just when stores were crowded with Friday night Christmas shoppers. Unable to buy presents or even drive home in the darkness, some sought the company of John Barleycorn: “Bars and cafes were filled with patrons when the lights were doused. Many remained in the taverns, drinking by candlelight to drive off worries of air raids.” The movie theaters probably also had packed houses, as their ads vowed they would remain open during blackouts although their marquee lights would be dark. The Tower theater went as far as blurbing, “remember you are 99% safer inside.”

The traffic jam might have been a nightmare if it were not for all the soldiers on hand directing drivers to pull over as much as possible, even if meant double parking.

A few days earlier, on Dec. 9, some 1,200 members of the 17th infantry (7th division) had arrived in town on chartered Greyhound buses and trucks from Fort Ord in Monterey. Their mission was to guard the North Coast from the Golden Gate to Eureka, and the Sonoma County Fairgrounds would be their regimental HQ.

Their deployment was “one of the finest things that ever happened to Santa Rosa,” gushed Chamber of Commerce Secretary Dunwoody, and vowed the Chamber would “do all in their power to make their stay in Santa Rosa a happy one.” Dunwoody put out a call for magazines, books, cards and board games; three days later, there were enough donations to fill two army trucks.

The community embraced “our soldiers” enthusiastically. Normally closed for winter, Santa Rosa’s open-air swimming pool (AKA “The Plunge” AKA “Municipal Baths” at 436 King st.) was made available with the water heated. The Ice Arena (next to the Grace Brothers brewery, at Second and Wilson) welcomed soldier skaters and all movie theaters charged them only children’s admission prices, as seen in the ad to the right.

Looking a little farther past the first week of war, on Dec. 15 the Santa Rosa Moose Lodge called for 1,000 cakes to be baked for the fairgrounds soldiers on Christmas. They ended up with over 1,500. “The sidewalk in front of the Moose hall for several hours looked like Santa Claus had raided a bake shop,” quipped the Press Democrat.

Then nine days past Pearl Harbor, a family on Lincoln street received the telegram no one wanted to read: Their son had been killed in the attack. Billy Montgomery was the first war casualty from Sonoma county.

At home in Santa Rosa a month before leaving for Hawaii and service on the USS California, his mother wanted to take a picture of her 20 year-old son in uniform. “…He told me ‘People know what I look like, Mom, so why should I put this face on paper?’ He was just an average boy who loved life,” she said in 1958.

Montgomery Drive was named after him in 1943, as was Montgomery Village (1949) and Montgomery High School (1958).


1 Although there was no aerial bombing in California, eight U.S. merchant ships were attacked by submarines off the California coast in Dec. 1941, and a sub fired at a Navy storage yard near Santa Barbara on Feb. 23, 1942, doing little damage. In 1945 balloon bombs landed in Sonoma county but caused no harm; see “WHEN JAPAN BOMBED SONOMA COUNTY
2 The Grace Brothers’ whistle was also used for civic purposes. A few years after the 1906 earthquake it was used to toot a code alerting our volunteer firemen to drop whatever they were doing and pedal their bicycles like mad to a specific neighborhood. During some drought years it also signaled when you could water your lawn and garden (more in “HEAR THAT PAVLOVIAN WHISTLE BLOW“). Also in those earlier days another steam whistle over at the power company was used to summon the on-call lineman, and before radio was available the Santa Rosa papers arranged for it to sound a code indicating the winner of a presidential election. And then there was Fred Wiseman’s 1911 airplane flight to Santa Rosa, when all factories in town were to blow their screaming steam whistles as the fire bell would clang and there would be “a succession of bomb explosions.”
It took the federal Office of Civilian Defense ten days to offer meaningful guidance on what to do during an air raid. Portion of illustration from the Dec. 18, 1941 Press Democrat
It took the federal Office of Civilian Defense ten days to offer meaningful guidance on what to do during an air raid. Portion of illustration from the Dec. 18, 1941 Press Democrat

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Sonoma County was at war, and it came as quite a surprise. Not the part about fighting between the U.S. and Japan; anyone who made a passing glance at a newspaper front page in early December 1941 knew the odds of war were almost certain. What shocked us here was to suddenly discover we were probably on the front lines. War was something that happens far away in another country – never in the street in front of your home.

In the first hours after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor our Sonoma County nerves were frayed. Was Japan about to likewise target the West Coast? Civil defense plans were hurried into action with calming remarks from authorities that the situation was in hand. Less reassuring was discovering their top priority concerned getting ready for mass casualties. (For more on Dec. 7 1941 see the previous article, “EYEWITNESS TO INFAMY.”)

The next day (December 8) saw frantic mobilization. Hundreds volunteered to guard public utilities from sabotage, direct traffic during an emergency or serve on rescue squads, while 96 men were sworn in as members of the armed Home Guard. Volunteer firemen were ordered to stay on 24 hour alert. In Santa Rosa it was a day like we had never seen before or since: Downtown must have resembled a hive of bees, with all those men rushing in and out of the courthouse, housewives with shopping lists to prepare for wartime food shortages and everyone on the street sharing their worries and any news about relatives/friends in Hawaii.

And then come nightfall, the Army made everything worse.

In that era radios were usually playing music in the background with some timeslots tending to niche programming. Between 5 and 6PM was mostly the children’s hour, with Captain Midnight, Tom Mix and other popular 15 minute adventure serials (KSRO was airing The Cinnamon Bear, a perennial Christmas series). After that came the news and sports half-hour from 6 to 6:30, although stations usually padded it out with music – at 6:15 KSRO normally switched over to playing records in a segment imaginatively named, “Music to Eat by.”

But the broadcast schedule that Monday was anything but usual. At 9:30 in the morning listeners to KSRO or any of the major San Francisco stations heard live President Roosevelt’s “day of infamy” speech to Congress, followed later by Winston Churchill’s address to Parliament. War bulletins read by local announcers peppered the airwaves at least every 15 minutes. So when it was time for the regular 6 o’clock news programs, you can bet every Sonoma County radio dial was tuned in to hear the latest war news.

Then KSRO and all other Bay Area radio stations suddenly went off the air.

None of the surviving newspapers from that day mention whether or not the stations had a chance to explain why they were going silent, but apparently nearly everyone presumed we were under attack.

An editorial in the Santa Rosa Republican the next day gave a sample of the hysteria that swept the town:

Voices on the telephone today insisted that San Francisco had been bombed and was in flaming ruins. A story was that enemy bombers were diving over Santa Rosa – the Golden Gate bridge had been blasted down – Vallejo was attacked by air — Japanese submarines were passing through the Golden Gate — these and other wild tales kept this newspaper’s switchboard operators on the jump — excited evidence of the state of uncontrolled nerves among the people.

There was certainly chaos in San Francisco after the air raid sirens wailed. Unsure about blackout orders, some people and businesses killed their lights, others didn’t or turned off just a few. Many drivers tried negotiating the city’s hilly streets without headlights, but far from all. A young woman named Marie Sayre was paralyzed after a rookie member of the State Guard shot at their car after her husband failed to pull over on the Bay Bridge onramp; the private was told to stop “anything strange” he saw.

There were no blackouts in the county, but when the alarms sounded the newly-sworn volunteers jumped into action, with 40 men reporting to the Santa Rosa police station within five minutes. Firemen and forest rangers prepared to fight conflagrations, and ambulances stood ready to rush the injured to the nearest hospital, each with a full medical staff waiting in readiness.

The all-clear siren announced the air raid was over about 9PM. Afterwards the War Dept. in Washington declared it all was just a readiness drill, but the Fourth Army commander insisted it was absolutely the real thing and there were “sixty unidentified planes” that came as close as 20 miles from Point Reyes. The radio stations had been ordered off the air so broadcasts couldn’t be used as “guiding beams” for approaching enemy aircraft.

Then a few hours later, at 2:30 on Tuesday morning the alarms again sounded and brought out the weary volunteers. This time Santa Rosa and Petaluma were prepared enough to turn out streetlights. The county hospital covered windows with blankets while nurses at the Petaluma hospital worked in the dark using flashlights. It was another false alarm and lasted until about 4AM.

During the early morning alarm authorities received several calls from people claiming to hear the heavy throbbing of big airplane engines overhead. Residents of Bennett Valley, Graton and the transmitter operator at KSRO all said they heard them, but could see nothing because of the thick fog.

The next day (Dec. 9) a communication mixup led to a shutdown of the Bay Bridge at evening rush hour, resulting in a backup of an estimated 20,000 vehicles. There was also an hour-long alert which ended at midnight after a low-flying plane was spotted near Bloomfield and Jenner which was later identified as a Navy patrol.

The latter incident was also the start of a new wave of rumors that mysterious flares were being dropped from planes. Callers from Fort Bragg said 10-15 were seen close to the shore, and in following days there were claims of flares being dropped around San Francisco. These stories were likely seeded by front page news of Japan’s attack on the Philippines, where flares really were being used to guide bombing raids.

Also on the 9th there was a quite unusual press event after the War Dept. in Washington said there was “no means of verifying the report” of hostile planes approaching anywhere on the coast. Instead of admitting mistakes could have been made, Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt, commander of the Fourth army and top ranking Army officer on the West Coast, dug in his heels like a petulant four year-old.

In an address to civil defense workers, a peevish and angry DeWitt said it would have served San Francisco right if the city had been bombed:

Those planes were over our community for a definite length of time. They were enemy planes, and I mean Japanese planes. They were detected and followed to sea. I was bothered by newspapermen who wanted to know if it was a hoax why they did not drop their bombs. I hate to say this, but it might have been a good thing if bombs had been dropped to wake up this community. I am very much in earnest. Frankly, it was damn nonsense for sensible people to assume I would practice an alert on this population and lead them into foolish judgment and action. We will not have such a practice alert…

After a lengthy tirade about civilians failing to obey his orders for a total blackout, he turned to threats: “If I can’t knock these facts into your heads with words, I will have to turn you over to the police to let them knock them into you with clubs.”

DeWitt wrapped up by making it clear he would not tolerate being questioned or criticized by the press or public:

I could have expressed myself so clearly last night, to those men who called me up why didn’t I start to shoot, why didn’t they drop bombs. It is none of their damn business. San Francisco woke up this morning without a death from bombing. Suppose we had started to shoot. If an enemy had not dropped his bombs and there had been a signal for aircraft fire don’t forget that what goes up has to come down, and when you shoot guns you shoot them at something in the air. Stop these damn fool telephone messages. When it is all over, and when it has happened, and God willing, it won’t, the proper releases will be given. But put out your lights and take it. You have got to take it. If you can’t take it, get out of San Francisco now.

There’s more to the story the military’s December 8-9 false alarm SNAFU and others share blame with DeWitt, but this local history journal ain’t the place to dig into all of it.1 (Spoiler alert: The mistakes mostly came down to miscommunication along the chain of command, technicians having problems calibrating their newfangled radar gear and poorly trained radar operators.)

Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt Dec. 9, 1941 angrily denying West Coast air raid alerts were false alarms while berating San Francisco for not obeying his blackout orders. Also seen here is Admiral Greenslade (center) and SF Mayor Rossi
Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt Dec. 9, 1941 angrily denying West Coast air raid alerts were false alarms while berating San Francisco for not obeying his blackout orders. Also seen here is Admiral Greenslade (center) and SF Mayor Rossi

During those same days the government started arresting unnaturalized Japanese residents in Sonoma County. Although Santa Rosa Mayor Robert Madison said on Dec. 7 that citizens of Japanese descent “have no cause for alarm,” eight Japanese men were taken away as “suspicious aliens” by the FBI the next day.

Two each were from Santa Rosa and Petaluma, three from Sebastopol and one was from Forestville. Except for well-known Santa Rosa grocer Yoshio Nagase, all were apparently farmers. “Local authorities said the men had been under surveillance for several weeks as suspects in activities of subversive nature,” the Press Democrat reported. Overall that day 91 Japanese men were arrested in California, along with sixty Germans and 16 Italians.

That was just the prelude. Ten days after his fit over blackouts, DeWitt called for the Army to “collect all alien subjects fourteen years of age and over” and relocate them away from the West Coast. Over the following weeks his views of people with Japanese ancestry continued to harden and after President Roosevelt signed the infamous Executive Order 9066 (on DeWitt’s urging) in February 1942, DeWitt commanded the internment of 110,000 Japanese Americans.2

In those days after Pearl Harbor no one could foresee that such an extreme and unAmerican action would be launched in just a few months, but a hundred members of the Japanese American Citizens’ League of Sonoma County still met in Petaluma to condemn the attack by imperial Japan and vowed to watch for saboteurs and anti-government activities.

Also fearful was Santa Rosa’s Chinese-American community, led by Earl Jann, manager of the National Dollar Store on Fourth street.3 He appealed to the Chamber of Commerce for help and they rushed into production white silk ribbons with an American flag at the top and text reading “I Am Chinese.” The 2×6 inch ribbon also included an ID number and that it was officially “issued by the Chinese committee of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce.”

By itself that was not unusual; in December the Chinese consulates in San Francisco and elsewhere issued ID cards (the consul in Seattle said it was done “to avoid an unpleasantness”). In some places lapel buttons were made with the same message or displaying China’s flag.

But it was noteworthy the Santa Rosa ID ribbons were printed so expeditiously, just three days after Pearl Harbor. That may have been because both Santa Rosa newspapers implied there had been assaults: “Reports of attacks on several Chinese by excited persons, who apparently mistook them for Japanese, and took unauthorized mob action, occasioned the chamber’s move,” the Press Democrat said.



1 For more on the Dec. 1941 false alarms see “When Imperial Japan ‘attacked’ the city,” a well-balanced article from World War II magazine describing some of DeWitt’s other screwups and coverage of West Coast blackouts at the Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco.
2 Beginning in early 1942, DeWitt’s anti-Japanese racism grew more strident after he was promoted to lead the Western Defense Command. Although there were no acts of sabotage on the West Coast, he insisted that the lack of evidence was an “ominous” sign and proved something big was being planned. He expanded internment orders to include U.S.-born citizens and blocked them from returning to their homes, even though German and Italian aliens were released from the camps in 1943. During his April, 1943 testimony before the House Naval Affairs subcommittee he stated no person of Japanese heritage could be trusted and diverged from his prepared remarks to say, “a Jap’s a Jap. It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen or not.” Afterwards he received a wrist slap from military brass who called his remarks “unfortunate,” but he was never demoted or even censured. He defied orders from a federal judge who ruled martial law must be declared before citizens could be imprisoned for suspicion of disloyalty and in other court cases, falsified documents to justify the imprisonment of Americans in his concentration camps.
3 There were other “dollar stores” in Santa Rosa during the early 20th century but the National Dollar Store was a West Coast chain owned and operated by Chinese-Americans. Although ads show many items cost less than a buck the stores required all transactions total at least $1.00. The Santa Rosa store opened in 1930 and was at 619-621 Fourth street, next to the present location of Mary’s Pizza.

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The story of Santa Rosa during the opening days of WWII begins with Roy Vitousek – the first American eyewitness to the start of the war. He was from Santa Rosa and Healdsburg; just more proof a local Believe-it-or-Not! footnote will turn up for nearly any chapter of our nation’s history. Sonoma County: Come for the wine and the redwoods, stick around for our mile-high stack of intriguing backstories.

It was not long after sunrise when Roy took to the air in his private plane. Taking a quick spin was a Sunday morning ritual for him and his teenage son; there was no reason to believe December 7, 1941 would be any different than all the times before.

After flying for about an hour they headed back to their home base, the John Rodgers Airport (now the Kalaeloa Airport) a few miles southwest of Pearl Harbor. Another small plane was also preparing to land, so they looped around to make another approach. Roy’s son, 17 year-old Martin described what happened next:

We zoomed up again and circled around the entrance to Pearl Harbor before making another landing attempt. Suddenly we were in the thick of it. The enemy pilots machine-gunned our plane and I could see their heads in the cockpit and the Rising Sun insignia on their wings very plainly. I guess you’ll have to say I was scared and mad as hell.

Their little high-wing Aeronca was now smack in the middle of the initial assault wave on Pearl Harbor. He saw two enemy planes shot down above them and thought another hit the water, although Martin said it might have been dive bombing. “All in all, we were in the air for ten minutes throughout the first attack before we were able to land.”

Once on the ground, they were amazed to find their airplane was undamaged – there was not a “pin-prick in the ship,” Martin said. They were also lucky to not have landed in their first attempt; the airfield had been strafed with the manager of the flight school killed. A Hawaiian Airlines DC-3 preparing to takeoff was pockmarked by bullets but no passengers were injured.

Roy A. Vitousek, whose small plane was caught in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Photo from 1935 via
Roy A. Vitousek, whose small plane was caught in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Photo from 1935 via

This amazing tale was almost lost in the avalanche of other news about Pearl Harbor, getting its modicum coverage in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Press Democrat only because of who was flying the plane. Roy Vitousek was a prominent Hawaiian lawyer and legislator, elected several times as speaker of their Territorial House of Representatives. A native of Healdsburg, Roy attended Santa Rosa High, practiced law in Santa Rosa and was city clerk 1913-1917 before moving to Honolulu in 1919. He remained well known here, having returned for a visit just a few months earlier. (Roy was 51 and his parents still lived in Healdsburg.)

News of the Pearl Harbor attack reached the Mainland just before noon Pacific time (Hawaii being three hours behind the West Coast) and KSRO announcer Gordon Roth read the first bulletin on its 12:15 Sunday news program. The station would remain on the air past its usual 10PM signoff until after midnight, updating listeners every fifteen minutes.

But you can bet few were relying just on KSRO; the big San Francisco stations, with their live broadcasts from the East Coast, were interrupting programs with the latest info as it arrived (listen to a short compilation).

San Francisco was in a panic – as was pretty much every other community on the West Coast – expecting sabotage or an invasion or Pearl Harbor-like attack was imminent. (Japan did launch balloon bombs against the U.S. but not until 1945; see “WHEN JAPAN BOMBED SONOMA COUNTY.”) The SF mayor declared a state of emergency and tripled the number of guards on the city’s water supply system. Employees of the central switchboard handling police and fire calls were issued guns. Unions were ordered to drop labor disputes. Japantown in the Western Addition had a policeman on every block. A false report of an enemy plane sighting caused an hour-long blackout of the Golden Gate Bridge; the last car to cross was driven by Judge Hilliard Comstock, returning with Helen from a weekend stay with their friends in San Jose.

In Santa Rosa, an emergency meeting was held by the Civil Defense Council.* Per their prepared guidelines, they ordered patrols around water supplies all over the county plus guards on strategic bridges and the KSRO transmitter. All hospitals were to have a doctor, nurse and two first-aid providers available around the clock. No sales of guns, ammo or explosives were to be made without written consent of the local chief of police.

The county health officer announced his laboratory would be testing water samples for “contagious diseases that might arise as result of the emergency” and the coroner said he was training deputies on how to identify “possible victims of sabotage activities.” Those with longer memories might have recalled the Council earlier sought out warehouses that could be used for temporary morgues. That all plans centered around contingencies for mass casualties made no one uneasy, I’m sure.

The local captain of the Highway Patrol said he would appeal for 75 men who had a car or motorcycle (plus a firearm) to serve as reserve traffic officers, but people were already coming to the the sheriff’s office to signup for civil defense duty. “A crew of volunteer girls and women is at work in the district attorney’s office sorting questionnaires in order to select personnel required for auxiliary police and fire departments needed in event of emergency,” the Press Democrat reported.

Also: All non-military aircraft was ordered grounded nationwide. The 22 Bodega Bay fishing boats were tied up at the dock under Navy orders. The phone company asked that no one make long-distance calls in order to keep the lines clear.

Santa Rosa Mayor Robert Madison urged residents to “go on about your daily life as usual, and continue with plans for your Christmas shopping.” The PD noted he told Japanese-Americans here to “continue business as usual” because “they have no cause for alarm.”

Despite those calming words, those who managed to sleep that night likely had the worst nightmares of their lives.


* The “Sonoma County Council for Civilian Defense” was formed here in Feb. 1941 as part of a statewide program to create regional councils for the “protection of persons and property in the event of any major disaster.” During an emergency the Council chairman (the District Attorney) would direct law enforcement activity and coordinate actions with other Councils and the state.

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