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Santa Barbara - South County

Tuesday marks 79th Anniversary of Japanese sub attack on Ellwood Oil Fields

(Neal Graffy)
(Neal Graffy)

GOLETA, Calif. - February 23 is a date that likely stays in the minds of old-timers in our area.

The date marks the 79th Anniversary of the Bombardment of Ellwood, the attack on the Ellwood Oil Facilities by a Japanese submarine known as the I-17. The I-17 was under the command of Commander Kozo Noshino.

Ellwood Oil Field (Neal Graffy)

Santa Barbara historian Neal Graffy told NewsChannel that the incident happened around 7:30 p.m. that night, while President Franklin Roosevelt was holding his evening "Fireside Chat."

The I-17 surfaced off Ellwood and fired about 25 shells; most of them were duds. However, Graffy said one of the shells overshot and landed in Winchester Canyon.

(Neal Graffy/Santa Barbara Historian)

The total cost of the damage was about $500 at the time, or about $8,000 in 2021.

Graffy said he wrote about the "attack" as a small part of the history he wrote on the Timbers Restaurant: "They Came. They Saw, They Served."

"Then I got interested in finding out the true story versus The Legend which became a section unto its own "They Came, They Saw, They Shelled." 

Graffy said he researched the full history of the I-17, all the schematics and technical data.

(Santa Barbara Historical Museum)

"And more importantly, why it was off the coast of California, what it did while here and it's later history. Then of course I had to do a bit on why there were oil fields at Ellwood "They Came, They Saw, They Drilled."

The attack was the first shelling of the North American mainland during WWII and is considered a prelude to the internment of Japanese Americans in the United States.


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Beth Farnsworth

Beth Farnsworth is the evening anchor for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about Beth, click here

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