World War II on the West Coast
Hoping to bring the conflict home, the Japanese carried out a series of attacks on the West Coast during World War II. The first assault took place on February 23, 1942, when just north of Santa Barbara, California, a Japanese submarine torpedoed the Ellwood Oil Field, virtually missing the target. That summer, the Japanese regrouped, launching a ground invasion of the Aleutian Islands in the Alaskan Territory on June 3. The diversionary offensive designed to lure U.S. troops away from the Battle at Midway, failed to prevent an American victory in the Pacific, but because of the harsh terrain, it took U.S. Forces almost a year to recapture the islands. Until the war’s end, assaults from the seas and skies continued—fighter jets dropped bombs over Oregon and launched 10,000 fire balloons toward North America. Surprisingly, the attacks caused minimal damage and received little coverage in the press, but became an influential justification for the internment of Japanese Americans.