Japanese Sub attacks Oilfield ~ Oil History
Soon after the start of World War II
A Japanese submarine attacked a refinery and oilfield near Los Angeles. The shelling caused little damage – but led to the largest mass sighting of UFOs in American history. It also was the first attack of the war on the continental United States.
At sunset on February 23, 1942, Commander Kozo Nishino of the Imperial Japanese Navy and his I-17 submarine lurked 1,000 yards off the California coast. It was less than three months since the attack on Pearl Harbor. Los Angeles residents were tense.
Soon after dark, the I-17 surfaced and began firing armor-piercing shells at the Bankline Oil Company refinery in Ellwood, a small oilfield community 12 miles north of Santa Barbara.
The Ellwood oilfield, about five miles long and up to a mile wide, was discovered in 1928. Commander Nishino targeted oil storage tanks, piers and other facilities he had toured before the start of World War II. Several of shells struck while others passed over Wheeler’s Inn, whose owner reported the attack.
“We heard a whistling noise and a thump as a projectile hit near the house,” recalled another witness. “I thought something was going wrong with the refiners.”
The shelling continued for 20 minutes before I-17 escaped into the darkness. It was the first Axis attack on the continental United States of the war. “Shell California! Enemy U-boat sends many shots into oilfields near Santa Barbara, entire area is blacked out,” declared the February 24 front page of the Chicago Tribune.