The 82nd Anniversary of the Bombardment of Ellwood Beach

In local history, the Ellwood Oil Field was fired on by a Japanese submarine on February 23, 1942, during World War II.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, seven Japanese submarines were seen patrolling the west coast where they sank two merchant ships and damaged six more.

President Roosevelt had scheduled a radio speech on February 23, 1942, which concerned the Japanese government who ordered a submarine to shell the California coast on that same day.

Around 7:00 pm an Imperial Japanese Navy submarine came to a stop opposite the Ellwood field and aimed at a Richfield aviation fuel tank just beyond the beach. The Japanese opened fire about 15 minutes later, the first rounds landing near a storage facility. The majority of the workers were gone for the day but a few on-site spotted a ship in the distance and called the police.

The Japanese shells destroyed a derrick and a pump house, while the Ellwood Pier and a catwalk suffered minor damage. After 20 minutes, the gunners ceased fire and the submarine sailed away. Estimates of the number of explosive shells fired ranged from a minimum of 12 to as many as 25.

The attack caused widespread panic. On February 25, military troops fired 1,400 rounds of antiaircraft ammunition at a meteorological balloon near Los Angeles thinking it was Japanese attackers.

On March 2, 1942, General John DeWitt put Executive Order 9066 into effect. About 125,000 children, women, and men of Japanese ancestry had their land taken, were forced out of their homes, and imprisoned in internment camps around the country. Two thirds of those incarcerated were U.S. citizens.

For a more comprehensive report on this attack, read Tom Modugno’s Goleta History article.

Detail map of Ellwood and Ellwood Offshore Oil Field, showing location of Luton-Bell Well No. 17, damaged by Japanese shelling Feb 23, 1942 (source: wikipedia)

Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

What do you think?


0 Comments deleted by Administrator

Leave a Review or Comment


  1. More violent history:

    “Feb. 21, 2024, is the 200th anniversary of perhaps the biggest and deadliest battle in Santa Barbara County history, and by far the biggest rebellion that occurred throughout the 60 years of California’s mission system.

    The 1824 Chumash Revolt rocked our region like nothing before and like nothing since.

    On this day in 1824, the Chumash began a major uprising, burning most of one local mission, and completely taking over another mission for an entire month.”

Portion of West Mountain Drive Closed Due to Damaged Roadway

California Voters Will Decide on Newsom’s Mental Health Overhaul. How Did We Get Here?