The "Invasion" of America Was A Sore Point!!
On 23 February 1942. the Imperial Japanese Navy's submarine I-17, under the command of Commander Nishino Kozo, surfaces and shells the oil refinery near Santa Barbara. Before the war, as skipper of an oil tanker, Nishino had refuelled there. The shelling does only minor damages to a pier and an oil well derrick, but creates "invasion" fears along the West Coast.
Newspaper accounts describe the attack as off the Ellwood oil fields 12 miles north of Santa Barbara, and report 16 shells fired which began at 1915hrs on 23 February 1942. 3 shells struck near the Bankline Company oil refinery, the apparent target of the shelling. Rigging and pumping equipment at a well about 1,000 yards inland were destroyed but otherwise no damage was caused. One shell overshot the target by three miles and landed on the nearby Tecolote ranch, where it exploded. Another landed on the nearby Staniff ranch, dug a hole five feet deep, but failed to explode. Eleven other shells fell short and dropped into the sea. Description of the attack and damage to the oil refinery was provided by the Refinery Superintendent Mr FW Borden. A Mrs. George Heaney of San Marcos Pass, who observed the submarine through binoculars and reported that it was about a mile offshore. Oil refinery worker Bob Miller also called in a report during the attack. According to the official report of the 11th Naval District, the I-17 surfaced at 1910hrs. The submarine then began firing from its deck gun at the oil refinery. It ceased firing at 1935 hrs and departed on the surface. It was observed still on the surface exiting the south end of the Santa Barbara Channel at 2030 hrs.
A 1982 issue of Parade magazine published a possible reason for the attack: