Today in History, April 14, 1939:
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is first published and would become iconic, capturing the hearts of those that had lived through the Great Depression in the preceding years.
The novel told the story of the Joads, one of many Oklahoma families driven off of their farms by the Dust Bowl and bankers who evicted them when they couldn’t raise crops to pay mortgages. Like so many others, the family was forced to leave Oklahoma for California, where they were derisively called “Okies”, to seek work as laborers in order to survive.
My father (who lived through it) used to counter that the migration of the “Okies” from Oklahoma to California had greatly increased the intelligence level of both states.
Today in History, February 23, 1942:
A little over two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese Imperial Navy submarine I-17 surfaces 1500 yards off the California coast, near Santa Barbara. Five crewmen scrambled out onto the deck and manned the boat’s deck gun.
Workers and residents on shore were confused and surprised when they figured out the booms and explosions they were hearing at an oil field in Ellwood were tied to the flashes they were seeing out at sea.
After 20 minutes the Captain ordered a hault to the assault, having missed the oil tanks and damaged a catwalk.
The relatively minor attack was the first time the Continental US had been bombarded since the War of 1812.
It dis have an effect on a populace already on edge. On the 25th, “enemy aircraft” would be sighted near LA, resulting in lengthy anti-aircraft fire which would be dubbed the “Battle of Los Angeles”.
It would also help speed the incarceration of Japanese-Americans, since many believed the assault had been assisted from shore by Japanese operatives.
It also would not be the last time the mainland was bombarded by the Japanese..more submarine attacks, an aircraft launched from a submarine and “balloon bombs” would be in the offing…all relatively unsuccessful.
Today in History, February 2: 1812 –
The Russian government establishes Fort Ross…just north of San Francisco on the California coast. The Russians had been in western America since 1741 (Alaska) and needed Ft. Ross as a base and farming area to supply their sea otter operations farther north.
The farming in the area proved poor, the competition with Mexican nationals and Americans moving west proved too much. In 1841 Russia sold the fort to American John Sutter for $30,000 which he reportedly never paid. He used the supplies at the fort for his Sacremento Valley settlement where gold would be discovered 7 years later.