It was in the early hours of February 23rd, 1942, that a Japanese submarine opened fire on the west coast of the United States. It’s target, the Ellwood Oil Field near Santa Barbara. The submarine launched multiple short range explosives towards the coastline, striking fuel tanks along the shoreline. A late night crew, heard the explosions and believed it to be an inner explosion, until they noticed the lights of the submarine in the distance. It continued to barrage the coastline, damaging more buildings, but never claiming someone’s life. Soon, the submarine slipped back into the cover of the sea, and returned to Japan.
The goal of the attack was not to cause damage, and kill hundreds, potentially thousands of people. Instead, it was to create panic in people living on the west coast of America. And it did just that. People who lived along the coast of California fled inland, fearing that this small bombardment was the precursor to a series of more attacks; attacks that could level cities. Yet fortunately, no such attacks occurred. This was simply a tactic used to strike fear. That tactic worked so well, that the very next day, searchlights and anti-aircraft technology was deployed over Los Angeles, California, in response to a rumored attack on the city. This would later be known as the Great Air Raid of Los Angeles.
So how did the United States react to this attack? Not long after, President Franklin Roosevelt issued a command that to this day, sparks controversy. This was the attack that prompted the interment camps for Japanese-Americans. Within a week, thousands of Japanese-Americans were rounded up and placed in internment camps along the west coast, in fear that some of them were spies for Japan.
The controversy of the internment camps is still alive today, and questions arise as to whether or not their use was justifiable. The series of attacks on the United States sent the country into a fear, and they believed that interment was the best way to quell the fear of the millions of people who call America home. Regardless of the debates, the most important thing for America is to not forget our nation’s history. For when we forget where we came from, we forget who we are.
By Stephen Truxal