Catalina Island News

Catalina Island and World War II

Catalina Island Museum

The Catalina Island Museum is planning a special exhibit this summer to explore the Island's role in World War II history.  The enchanting resort community of Avalon was experiencing it's hey day prior to the breakout of World War II, but in the days that followed the bombing of Pearl Harbor several actions were taken that threatened the Island's usual tourist activities.  The initial effects were seen in transportation, which was and still is the Island's lifeblood.  Regularly scheduled steamship and air passenger service was ceased, Catalina Island was declared a Federal Military Zone and the San Pedro Channel was designated a controlled area for vessels.  The cessation of passenger service to the Island meant no tourists and as the summer season approached it became clear that the Island's resort activities would be shut down.

By the end of 1942, the Island was so deserted that the Santa Catalina Island Company began looking for ways to sustain their investment and actively pursued various branches of the military to encourage use of the Island for the war effort.  The Island Company's efforts were quite successful and by the end of 1943 the United States Maritime Service, United States Coast Guard, the United States Army Signal Corps, and the Office of Strategic Services (now known as the CIA),  had all set up camps on the Island.  Thousands of men received their basic training on Catalina Island before being shipped out on assignment. The Army Signal Corps set up a sophisticated radar station in the Island's interior and built strategic bunkers on the Island's windward side that were used to watch for enemy activity.  The Coast Guard occupied the Isthmus-area of the Island while the OSS leased the facilities at Toyon Bay.  The Maritime Service virtually took over the City of Avalon.  Servicemen and military families soon occupied every available room in town.  All of this activity quickly changed the Island from a resort community to a military station.

Join us as we explore Catalina's unique role in this world event.  The exhibition will open on July 4, 2008.  For more information, call (310) 510-2414 or visit our website.