Catalina Island News

Catalina Island Museum Uncovers Catalina Islandís Role in World War II

2012-12-30
Catalina Island Museum

Few people realize the important role Catalina Island played in the defense of our nation during World War II. First Line of Defense: Catalina Island and World War II will explore how Catalina Island was transformed from a carefree paradise into a Federal Military Zone used for training, coastal defense and covert operations.

Derived from the Catalina Island Museum’s own extensive archive, the exhibition will feature letters, photographs, rare film footage of training exercises, top-secret weapons and recently declassified military documents.

“The activities that took place on Catalina Island during World War II helped turn the tide against the Axis powers. The OSS training which took place at Toyon Bay and Howland’s Landing paved the way for what we know today as the CIA and America’s Special Forces,” said John Boraggina, the Catalina Island Museum’s curator. “This exhibition will bring to life the struggles and sacrifices of citizens and servicemen as they prepared for war on the ‘magic isle.’”

On December 7, 1941 the most devastating attack in United States history occurred at Pearl Harbor. Instantly the country was thrust into the Second World War. Catalina Island was at the height of its golden age, bursting at the seams with premier entertainment and a wealth of activities that attracted visitors from around the globe.

The effects of the day that would “live in infamy” quickly rippled across the Pacific to the sun-kissed beaches of Catalina Island, destroying its carefree innocence. Citizens and the military feared that if Catalina Island were captured, the west coast of the United States would be in peril.

Tourist travel to the island was almost immediately halted. Within two weeks, the United States Coast Guard ordered regularly scheduled steamship passenger service to cease. The U.S. government declared Catalina Island a Federal Military Zone and designated the San Pedro Channel a controlled area for vessels.

During the war years, the island provided isolated locations for a top-secret radar facility that defended Southern California and a training ground for the world’s most covert organization, the Office of Strategic Services.

First Line of Defense will run from December 7, 2012 through April 28, 2013 and can only be viewed at the Catalina Island Museum.

The Catalina Island Museum is Avalon’s sole institution devoted to art, culture and history. The museum, its digital theater and store are located on the ground floor of Avalon’s historic Casino and are open 7 days a week, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information, the museum may be reached by phone at 310-510-2414 or at its website.