Coastside WWII: All the way south to Davenport

Special thanks to John Vonderlin ([email protected]) for the following post.

From: Coast Dairies Property: A Land Use History, click here

“The Davenport cement plant (it became Pacific Cement and Aggregates in 1956, Lonestar Cement Corporation in 1965 and RMC Pacific Materials in 1988), brought immediate military attention to the North Coast following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Believing that Japan might attack the U.S. mainland, the military quickly posted guards and lookouts around Davenport and imposed stringent blackout requirements on its residents.

“Later in December, when the ship Agiworld was attacked by a Japanese submarine off Cypress Point south of Monterey, security along the coast was heightened. A Japanese submarine was also sighted off the coast a few miles north of Davenport, resulting in a brief skirmish between the submarine and a single plane from the Army Air Corps.

“Eventually a segment of the all-black 54th Coast Artillery was stationed at Davenport and regular night canine patrols were instituted at all the area beaches. In addition, four shore mounted guns were placed strategically around the Cement Plant. Two 75mm guns were mounted overlooking the pier and two 155mm Howitzers were mounted just to the east of Newtown. Many of the young people living in the area at the time became airplane spotters, spending long hours in the lookout stations posted along the coastal hills.”

Coastside WWII: South Coast Tunnels

Bobbi Ballard Pimentel remembers:

My Dad, Robert (Bob) Ballard was born in Pescadero along with 11 other brothers and sisters….he took me to the tunnels on several occasions and told me that they were used to store guns and ammunition during the war. He helped ‘build’ them. I do not recall where the others were although I do remember that they were mostly on the water’s edge, but there were tunnels and observations points high above Gazos Creek…there was a military facility there too. That, my husband and I discovered in the early ’60’s that there is (or was ) a missile base in the Santa Cruz Mountains…we found it by accident while on a Sunday drive with our first child…Dad had a lot of memorabilia that he received from the military personnel stationed in the Pescadero area…When the troops left the area (I was very young at the time..(born 6/6/42)…they left a Springer Spaniel dog behind…he became my pet…Billy.

————–

Peering into a South Coast tunnel, photo by John Vonderlin

Coastside WWII: Camp Miramar

When I first landed on the Coastside, and became intrigued with local history, I met with Louie Miguel, whose father, Joseph, was one of the masterminds behind the spectacular Palace Miramar Hotel. Louie offered good background info and also talked about the US military taking over his father’s buildings during WWII.

[The military moved into many of the Coastside’s public buildings, and most certainly, those located on the beach side of the highway, as the Palace was.]

Below: To visit the “California State Military�? website, click here

Camp Miramar

Story by Command Sergeant Major (CA) Dan Sebby

The former Camp Miramar was established on 21 April 1943 when the U.S. Army entered into leases with several land owners in order to provide for a camp to house infantry units assigned to the Western Defense Command. The 1 June 1943 edition of the Station List of the Army of the United States, issued by the Adjutant General of the U.S. Army, stated that a single rifle company, Company G of the 125th Infantry Regiment, was present at Camp Miramar.

At the time of acquisition, there were two major buildings that the U.S. Army took control of. The first was the Miramar School, a small elementary school that served the local faming community and located on the eastern parcel, between State Highway 1 and Valencia Street. The other major building was the Palace Miramar Hotel and Resort, a large redwood-shingled building located on the beach in the western parcel of the Site.

To these substantial buildings, the U.S. Army added several temporary barracks, mess halls and support buildings. These were of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) design developed by the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps in the late 1930’s. These prefabricated, wood framed buildings could be assembled in as little as three hours by joining components with lag screws. Creosote soaked posts served as the foundation for these buildings. With the CCC buildings included, the post had a capacity to house 495 soldiers.
Palace Miramar Hotel and Beach Resort in the 1920’s (www.halfmoonbaymemories.com).

In a letter to the Adjutant General, U.S. Army; dated 23 January 1944, the Western Defense Command identified the Site as vacant and excess to its needs. On 11 May 1944, Office of the Chief of Engineers at the War Department approved a request from the Bureau of Yards and Docks of the Navy Department for the six of the barracks and one on the latrine buildings. This transfer of the buildings to the Point Montera Anti-Aircraft Training Center was made without the U.S. Navy becoming responsible for restoration the land on which the buildings were situated.

From September until December 1944, the U.S. Army terminated its leases for the Site. A 1946 aerial photograph does not show any of the CCC buildings remaining. On 6 May 1952, the U.S. Army terminated its permits for water and sewer lines that ran along State Highway 1.

Building Schedule
Facility Name or Function Quantity Building Type Size
Mess Hall 2 CCC design 20′x130′
Barracks 3 CCC design 20′x130′
Barracks 2 CCC design 20′x120′
Barracks 3 CCC design 20′x100′
Officers Quarters 1 CCC design 20′x70′
Storage 1 CCC design 20′x40′
Storage 1 CCC design 20′x30′
Latrine 1 CCC design 20′x45′
Latrine 1 CCC design 20′x55′
Miramar School 1 Unlnown 3,500 square feet
Palace Miramar 1 Wood Frame

Sources: NARA Records, College Park, Maryland

Coastside WWII: WASP Searches For Summer of 1944

(Photo at right: Shirley Thackara in the PQ14 at the Moss Beach military airstrip)

Former Air Force Service Pilot Shirley Thackara returned to the Coastside in 1993 to reclaim WWII memories of flying PQ14s, tiny planes, so tiny only one person could fit inside.

She flew the PQ14 out of a military airstrip in Moss Beach. Her scarey assignment three years after Pearl Harbor, she told me, “was supposed to be very hush-hush�?. What she did was tow targets behind the plane and military gunners on the ground practiced shooting at them— pretty dangerous if they missed as stray bullets could do damage to both civilians and Shirley herself– which was why the training occurred on the remote Coastside.

But when Shirley came back to Moss Beach almost 50 years later she said she couldn’t find anything she recognized.

The memories hid from her because the Coastside had grown up ,and the reminders swept away since the summer of 1944—when Shirley, a 5’11�? former Pan American Airways secretary– decided to turn in her manual typewriter and learn how to fly during WWII.

She trained at Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts and after 200 hours of flight time she made the grade, became a member of the coveted Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPS) and was assigned to Moss Beach where she bunked at the edge of the flight strip with fellow WASPS Mary Lee Leatherbee and Mildred Toner. Women flying military planes was groundbreaking.

Moss Beach was in the countryside but even more remote than Shirley Thackara expected. When she saw her new home, an abandoned farmhouse with curtainless windows, her response was “….it was so awful, it was funny. Everything in dark wood, showing signs of once having been a bird house, three rooms, kitchen with nothing but a sink—and absolutely no furniture except three Army cots.�?

Parked outside what she dubbed “the fishing shack�? was Shirley’s 1941 Mercury convertible. She recalled driving along the cliffs to Half Moon Bay, but she couldn’t find the road in 1993. The “fishing shack�? was gone, the military strip wasn’t where she remembered it and even the road she had traveled had disappeared.

They flew the PQ14s at Moss Beach during WWII: L-R: WASPS Mildred Toner, Mary Lee Leatherbee, Shirley Thackara–with Army Air Force Lt. Nash.

(all photos Shirley Thackara–and thanks to the Spanishtown Historical Society for the introduction to Shirley)

Coastside WWII: “We did see lots of convoys, army trucks,” says Elaine Martini Teixeira,

a child at the time. Elaine lived with her family in Moss Beach near Sunshine Valley Road (the lovely “connector” road between Montara and Moss Beach.) Dad owned a bar frequented by the sailors at the nearby naval station. Mom took care of her children and helped her husband.

“I guess the military men came down from SF, on their way to Fort Ord in Monterey. Sometimes only a few drove by, but often, there was a very long convoy, and they had the right of way,” explained Elaine.

“You did not get in between the vehicles. So, if we were coming on to the main road, Highway 1, from a side street, such as we did from our garage on Sunshine Valley Road, we had to wait for the convoy to finish, and it could be a long wait, maybe as long as 15-20 minutes. If you saw them coming, the best thing to do was to get out on the road, ahead of them.”

“There were mainly trucks,” remembered Elaine, “covered with canvas tops, with soldiers in the back, and an occasional jeep, in between. Some vehicles were around because they were stationed at local military installations, such as the airfield and Coast Guard in Princeton.

“On the coast road, at Devil Slide, there was a small army post up on a mountain top. You could see it from the highway. It was rather small; I believe it was there to track airplanes. There was a long narrow stairway leading from the road to the building. I have no idea how the men walked up and down that steep stairway without falling into the ocean, especially if they had been out celebrating!

It was there for several years after the war, and you can still the foundation of the structure. My then future sister-in-law, Hazel Dooley, married one of the fellows who was stationed there, O. B. Dooley.”

Top Photo: (At far right Elaine Martini Teixeria with sister Loretta.)

WWII WASP Searches for Summer of 1944

(Photo at right: Shirley Thackara in the PQ14 at the Moss Beach military airstrip)

Former Air Force Service Pilot Shirley Thackara returned to the Coastside in 1993 to reclaim WWII memories of flying PQ14s, tiny planes, so tiny only one person could fit inside.

She flew the PQ14 out of a military airstrip in Moss Beach. Her scarey assignment three years after Pearl Harbor, she told me, “was supposed to be very hush-hush”. What she did was tow targets behind the plane and military gunners on the ground practiced shooting at them— pretty dangerous if they missed as stray bullets could do damage to both civilians and Shirley herself– which was why the training occurred on the remote Coastside.

But when Shirley came back to Moss Beach almost 50 years later she said she couldn’t find anything she recognized.

The memories hid from her because the Coastside had grown up ,and the reminders swept away since the summer of 1944—when Shirley, a 5’11” former Pan American Airways secretary– decided to turn in her manual typewriter and learn how to fly during WWII.

She trained at Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts and after 200 hours of flight time she made the grade, became a member of the coveted Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPS) and was assigned to Moss Beach where she bunked at the edge of the flight strip with fellow WASPS Mary Lee Leatherbee and Mildred Toner. Women flying military planes was groundbreaking.

Moss Beach was in the countryside but even more remote than Shirley Thackara expected. When she saw her new home, an abandoned farmhouse with curtainless windows, her response was “….it was so awful, it was funny. Everything in dark wood, showing signs of once having been a bird house, three rooms, kitchen with nothing but a sink—and absolutely no furniture except three Army cots.”

Parked outside what she dubbed “the fishing shack” was Shirley’s 1941 Mercury convertible. She recalled driving along the cliffs to Half Moon Bay, but she couldn’t find the road in 1993. The “fishing shack” was gone, the military strip wasn’t where she remembered it and even the road she had traveled had disappeared.

They flew the PQ14s at Moss Beach during WWII: L-R: WASPS Mildred Toner, Mary Lee Leatherbee, Shirley Thackara–with Army Air Force Lt. Nash.

(all photos Shirley Thackara–and thanks to the Spanishtown Historical Society for the introduction to Shirley)

It Wasn’t Easy Being An Italian on the Coastside During WWII

In an earlier post, Ernie Alves (“Our Cows are Outstanding in Their Field”) hinted at the devastating effect of WWII on Coastsiders–especially Germans and Italians without citizenship papers–who were prohibited after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor from living or working on the west side of Main Street, the Highway 1 of that era.

What was on the west side of Main Street? The beaches, the stores, the school and the restaurant, the economic and social life’s blood of the town. Fear of another attack by the Japanese was so great that the military patrolled the beaches, built bunkers and placed gun emplacements on the hillsides.

I’d heard Germans and Italians were not permitted to cross the freshly painted white line down the center of Main Street, yet I didn’t meet anyone who would provide details until a couple of years ago when, through a phone tip, I interviewed Josephine Revheim. A Pacifica resident, Josephine had clearly suffered as a young woman but she had grown into a confident, articulate person who had done very well with her life.

At 15, Jo was the only daughter of Half Moon Bay farmer Antonio Giurliani and his wife, Marianna. The close-knit family resided in a little house next door to the old Catholic Church that stood west of Half Moon Bay’s Main Street. On the land adjacent to their home they grew sprouts and chokes.

The Giurliani’s came from Lucca, Italy, Jo’s father’s home, but her mom was actually born in Marseille, France. Still, everybody in Half Moon Bay considered them all Italian.

Soon after Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 army trucks rolled into Half Moon Bay, and, Jo told me, her father, who didn’t have citizenship papers, received an official letter from the US government ordering the family to move to the east side of Main Street. They had two weeks to comply.

Jo recalled seeing the printed notices on telephone poles throughout the town ordering all “aliens, Germans, Italians and Japanese” to relocate. The Japanese were rounded up and detained at Tanforan Racetrack. That history is well documented but in Half Moon Bay there was no central location for Germans and Italians. After registering as aliens in San Mateo they had to leave their homes on the west side.

(Technically, Josephine and her mom could have stayed on the farm but she asks: “How could we maintain a large farm without dad’s help?” The family decided to stick it out together.)

There were plenty of homes on the east side but unless you had a relative to help you were out of luck. That was the situation Jo and her family found themselves in–no place to move to and time was running out fast.

“Luckily,” Josephine said, “dad had a friend with a ranch in Higgins Canyon, south of town. He not only hired dad, he gave our family a place to live in the Johnston House. In those days it wasn’t called the Johnston House–we called it ‘the old house on the hill'”.

(Built in the 1850s by pioneer James Johnston, the fully restored Johnston House has become a famous landmark that stands on a hill at the south end of Main Street).

Josephine still recalls the morning her family moved into “the old house on the hill”. She says, “It hit us, what we were in for. The rat-infested house had no windows and vagrants had slept there, leaving behind garbage. Straw covered the dirt floors, the outhouse was halfway up the hill in the back, and when it rained it was like a waterfall, but there was plenty of room, and thank God there was cold running water to drink.”

Most important, the house was located on the east side of Main Street. But the school and the stores were on the west side. If they crossed the white line, they would be breaking the law. To check on their farm they’d have to do it secretly, because, if caught, it was likely someone would inform on them.

The most humiliating part of the whole experience for then 15-year-old Josephine were the stares and unfriendliness she and her familly encountered. One of the worst recollections was of her mother fighting off an assualt by some angry, unthinking local. It’s not hard to understand that many of her remembrances are so unpleasant that she remains uncomfortable talking about them today.

After about five months the Giurlani’s nightmare ended.

“We came home,” Jo says, “and at least the house and barn were still there. Everything else was gone, the crops were gone, and even our wild pigeons that had nested in the barn were gone.”

Not long after they settled back in their home the family received a letter from the US government advising them to become citizens or face deportation. They all got their citizenship papers.

Shortly after my interview with Josephine Revheim, we took a ride to Half Moon Bay to see the house she had lived in as a 15-year-old before her family was ordered to move out of it. Surprisingly the house was still standing, but it was vacant and uncared for, with broken glass on the floor, grafitti on the walls, empty paper coffee cups, somebody’s crashpad, and, right there, in the middle of town.

Why was this house still standing? Some connection to the story I’ve told?

Of course, I haven’t been back and don’t know if the house still stands but here are the photos I took a couple of years ago. That’s Josephine Revheim in all the pictures.

We see the house

inside, what a mess!
A last look.