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Chronology of 1940-1941 San Francisco War Events

January 26, 1940
Fundraiser for victims of the German war against Poland and Finland held in the Roseroom Bowl of the Palace Hotel.

May 4, 1940
Harold Lamb, author of "March of the Barbarians," discusses "1240 and 1940 ; The Mongol Invasion and the Situation in Eastern Europe," at the Paul Elder Gallery.

May 9, 1940
Frederick Vincent Williams, international correspondent, author and traveler, speaks at the Women's City Club about "Observations of a Newspaper Man in the Orient."

May 21, 1940
Chronicle Foreign Editor Albion Ross addresses the Western Women's Club about "Patriotism Commits Suicide."

May 29, 1940
James Baker Bassett, at the Jewish Community Center, talks about "Trends in American Foreign Policy."

July 27, 1940
“Enlist For Defense Week” in San Francisco.

August 2, 1940
“Red Cross Day” celebrated at the Treasure Island World’s Fair.

September 20, 1940
Benefit for British War Relief at Treasure Island.

January 12, 1941
Benefit Dance and Show, Greek War Relief, at the Scottish Rite Auditorium. Native type entertainment sponsored by the Philoptohos Greek Ladies Society.

January 14, 1941
Gracie Fields at the Opera House with a one-night stand offering "A Night in an English Music Hall." All proceeds to bombed children of the British Isles. Sponsored by the English Speaking Union, British Relief Benefit.

January 26, 1941
British War Relief benefit at the Scottish Rite Auditorium.

February 12, 1941
Pierre Van Paassen, famed author and foreign correspondent, and author of "Days of Our Years," addresses "The Crisis in Western Civilization," at the Veterans Auditorium.

February 14, 1941
John H. Tobin, newsreel editor and commentator for the Telenews Theatre, speaks in the Emporium Auditorium about "Propaganda in the War News."

March 3, 1941
Quentin Reynolds speaks at the Opera House on the subject "My Friends in London – They Can Take it."

March 4, 1941
Upton Close, former U.S. intelligence officer, world traveler, reporter, lecturer, novelist, and authority on the Far East, speaks about "Our Job in the Pacific," at the Curran Theatre.

March 7, 1941
H.V. Kaltenborn, American radio commentator, discusses "Looking at the War in 1941," at the Opera House.

March 11, 1941
Hadassah sponsored a British Relief benefit at the Temple Emanu-El.

March 11, 1941
Dr. Jean Pajus, author of "The Real Japanese of California," speaks at the Down Town Forum about "Under What Conditions Will Enduring Peace be Possible after the War?" Dr. Pajus is a UC professor of political science.

Maurice Hindus, considered America's best-informed citizen on the Soviet Union, speaks on "When Russia Fights Germany." Lecture at the Curran Theatre, with lunch following at the Clift Hotel Roof Lounge.

March 16, 1941
British War Relief Concert at the home of Miss Marian Huntington, 33 Maple St., featuring Henri Temianka and Merrill Remington, who donated their services.

March 21, 1941
Liberty Badge Campaign begun as part of the drive to aid Greece.

March 24, 1941
British War Relief Benefit starring Gracie Fields at the Oakland Auditorium arena.

March 26, 1941
Dorothy Thompson, America's First Lady of Journalism in a revealing talk on the international situation. At the War Memorial Opera House as part of the Town Hall Forum series.

March 29, 1941
“America First” rally at Civic Auditorium.

April 1, 1941
Navy took over Treasure Island for use as a military base.

May 4, 1941
German band played for Deutsches Kriegshilfswerk [German warworkers] at California Hall.

May 10, 1941
All-soldier Benefit musical show at the War Memorial Opera House to raise funds for military morale and recreation activities.

May 14, 1941
Gracie Fields appeared at the War Memorial Opera House to benefit British Relief.

May 27, 1941
President Roosevelt issues proclamation of unlimited national emergency because of the European war.

Test firing of the 12-inch coastal defense guns at Fort Barry lit up the evening sky.

June 7, 1941
Benefit for widows and orphans of British firefighters killed in the Blitz.

July 18, 1941
Justice Department given the responsibility for controlling enemy aliens in the continental U.S. in the event of war.

July 24, 1941
National Unity Mass Meeting held in the Civic Auditorium, sponsored by Americans United of Northern California. Wendell L. Willkie, Douglas Miller, speakers.

August 9, 1941
Civic Center Hospitality House for military personnel opened with big celebration at Civic Auditorum by Mayor Rossi, who greeted stars Eddie Cantor, Anne Rutherford, Linda Darnell and Edward Arnold.

August 10, 1941
San Francisco radio, night club and stage stars at Fort Ord today to entertain 30,000 troops who leave for maneuvers in the north.

September 5, 1941
Coastal defense guns fired for practice.

September 15, 1941
War Department authorized construction of a submarine net across the Golden Gate.

September 24, 1941
Joaquin Garay, owner of the new Copacabana nightclub, entertained soldiers at Hospitality House in Civic Center.

October 4, 1941
Football game at Kezar Stadium between Naval Air Station, Moffett Field and St. Mary’s.

October 4, 1941
Street dance at the Civic Auditorium and surrounding area. Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra appeared. Chinese Six Companies organized festivities for servicemen in Chinatown.

October 5, 1941
United German Societies annual celebration and ball at California Hall.

October 20, 1941
War games and exercises at the Presidio.

November 8, 1941
Benefit at the Scottish Rite Hall for Russian soldiers and sailors.

November 14, 1941
“Fight For Freedom” rally at the Tivoli Theatre.

November 27, 1941
Navy Day patriotic show at the Olympic Club broadcast over radio station KQW.

December 5, 1941
Harbor defenses on full war alert. Troops were each issued 40 rounds of small-arms ammunition.

December 6, 1941
Fourth Air Force participated in air defense exercise in San Francisco. Exercise to continue until Dec. 11.

December 7, 1941
Japan attacked U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. As word spread in San Francisco, thousands gathered at the Ocean Beach to gaze into the Pacific in disbelief. Minelaying in the Bay began at 11 a.m., less than one hour after the attack.

NBC-KPO listeners heard a dramatic live NBC broadcast from atop the Honolulu Advertiser building describing the bomb damage. The broadcast was suddenly and mysteriously cut off.

All members of the Armed Forces in San Francisco were recalled to duty to take up battle stations. All maritime operations in the Bay were brought to a halt. Police were ordered to stop all soldiers and sailors on Downtown streets and send them to their duty stations.

Military guards took up posts on the Golden Gate Bridge at 4 p.m. and searched vehicles of any Japanese for explosives. Western Defense Command also received an erroneous report of Japanese ships 30 miles off the coast.

Presidential Secretary Stephen T. Early announced that an Army cargo vessel 700 miles off the San Francisco coast had radioed a distress signal after it was believed torpedoed.

President Roosevelt orders the Army to cooperate with the FBI in rounding up individual enemy aliens considered dangerous.

December 8, 1941
President Roosevelts’ war message to the Joint Session of Congress was heard at 9:30 a.m. on KPO, KFRC, KSFO and KGO.

Mayor Angelo Rossi issued this proclamation today: “To the people of San Francisco. I have declared an emergency in San Francisco. Under the powers conferred on me in this circumstance, I have coördinated all the proper departments of the City and County of San Francisco with the program of the Civilian Defense Council.”

San Francisco experienced its first air raid and blackout at 6:15 p.m. Some people reported hearing aircraft during the blackout. Master power switch at the Presidio accidentally shut off and the harbor defenses were plunged into darkness.

December 9, 1941
The troop ships Etolin, Bliss, President Johnson and President Garfield turned back to San Francisco because of the Japanese attack in Hawaii.

Japanese warplanes flew over San Francisco last night. Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt, Fourth Army commander at the Presidio, told Mayor Rossi: “You people do not seem to realize we are at war. So get this: last night there were planes over this community! They were enemy planes! I mean Japanese planes!”

December 9, 1941
Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia of New York, national director of Civilian Defense, and Eleanor Roosevelt met with Gov. Culbert Olson in Los Angeles.

December 10, 1941
Pan American Airways Clipper plane landed at the Treasure Island seaplane harbor with bullet holes from a strafing at Wake Island on Dec. 7.

Colin P. Kelly, Jr., U.S. Army Air Force captain, was killed in action while attacking Japanese invaders in the Philippines; in his memory Board of Supervisors changed Japan Street to Colin P. Kelly, Jr. Street.

U.S. Treasury agent reports to Army authorities in San Francisco that “an estimated 20,000 Japanese in the San Francisco metropolitan area were ready for organized action.” Army staff immediately began planning for mass evacuation of West Coast Japanese.

Mayor La Guardia arrived by train to urge Bay Area police and fire chiefs to begin air raid drills for wardens and auxiliary fire fighters.

December 11, 1941
San Francisco and the West Coast declared a wartime “Western Theatre of Operations” by the Western Defense Command. No private vessels were allowed to sail at night in the Bay. Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt is placed in command.

Germany declared war on the United States.

December 13, 1941
So far the Dept. of Justice has rounded up 831 enemy aliens in the Pacific states, including 585 Japanese and 187 Germans.

December 14, 1941
Japanese submarine I-15 was placed on standby by the Imperial Navy west of the Farallones to shell San Francisco.

December 16, 1941
President Roosevelt signed an Executive Order to establish Defensive Sea areas off the San Francisco coast.

December 17, 1941
Submarine I-15 surfaced to charge batteries near the Farallones. Seeing the lights of the City, Capt. Hiroshi Imazato joked to the crew that it was a good time to visit the famous city of San Francisco.

December 19, 1941
Gen. DeWitt recommended to the War Dept. to round up “all alien subjects 14 years of age or over, of enemy nations and remove them to the Zone of the Interior,” because the West Coast had become a wartime Theater of Operations. DeWitt also wrote, “...that there are approximately 40-thousand of such enemy aliens and it is believed that they constitute an immediate and potential menace to vital measures of defense.”

December 20, 1941
Oakland garbage scow Tahoe rammed a Japanese submarine nine miles southwest of the Farallones. Capt. William Vartnaw saw the periscope and part of the conning tower as his vessel passed over the submarine. A tanker was also torpedoed off Santa Cruz today.

December 21, 1941
S.S. Emidio, torpedoed by the Japanese, sank off the Mendocino coast.

December 23, 1941
Gov. Culbert Olson, at the request of Gen. DeWitt, banned sale of liquor to persons in uniform, except between 6 and 10 p.m.

December 24, 1941
Tokio canceled the shelling of San Francisco by the submarine I-15 and ordered the vessel to return to its base at Kwajalein.

December 26, 1941
Gen. DeWitt telephoned the Provost General in Washington to say the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce was demanding the internment of all Japanese, citizens or not, in the Southern California area. DeWitt felt such a move would likely alienate loyal Japanese.

PG&E distributed blackout pointers for your home as recommended by the Blackout Precautions Advisory Committee of the San Francisco Civilian Defense Council.

December 30, 1941
FBI agents given the authority to search the homes of enemy aliens if there were reason to suspect there was contraband on the premises.

Go to 1942 Exhibit.

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