West Hollywood, California (Monday, May 5, 2008)
You have probably seen them countless times and never noticed them. Or you’ve seen them and wondered what they were.
There aren’t too many of them even still standing but the ones still there are either surrounded by trees or blocked from general view because of trees or buildings.
Years of neglect and non use have made them rusty, useless and an eye sore. It’s been over 60 years since they were needed and all of them were turned off by the city in 1985 and forgotten.
What am I talking about? Air Raid Towers.
During World War II over 200 of these structures were put up in strategic places all over the greater Los Angeles area. After December 7, 1941, the threat of an attack by Japan on the western coast of the United States was very real, and Japan knew too well that the film capital of the world was based in the Los Angeles area.
What a better way to cripple our economy and crush our spirit than to bomb Los Angeles or hit the many movie studios dotting the LA landscape?
These imposing Air Raid Towers look like antenna’s or oil wells, only they have a huge woorn at the top that would scream the loudest siren you have ever heard.
There are 2 of them that I know of in the West Hollywood area – one near Wilshire and Fairfax and the other directly across the street from the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department, at the edge of the baseball field in West Hollywood Park.
This one is surrounded by tall trees and barely noticeable. Years ago when you drove down Sunset Blvd into Beverly Hills there was one right in the middle of the median strip just past the border.
There were four types of these towers constructed in the early 1940’s: Federal model 500 T, nicknamed “Rotating,” Federal model 5, nicknamed “Bird House,” Federal model type SD-10, nicknamed “Wire Spool” and an unknown model type nicknamed “Flattened Bird House.”
For some odd reason the one in West Hollywood Park is named “Chrysler.”
They look out of place now, but back then they were vital to the residents because they told of the possibility of an air raid.
There were frequent air raid drills that took place during those years. Blackouts were common and lights had to be out after dark all over Los Angeles in the event of an air raid.
Unfortunately there were many false alarms and the towers would go off because of malfunctioning wiring and scare residents all over Los Angeles out of their wits.
Once, a Japanese submarine was spotted off the coast of Santa Barbara and the sub fired on the coast, then fled. Other strange things took place, but the feared air raid never happened and this country never knew what it would feel like to get bombed by an enemy on our mainland soil.
Our luck still holds out to this day.
After the war the structures were still useful in the event of an emergency but after 1985 they were turned off and are basically forgotten.