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First Line of Defense Exhibition Opens Tonight

THE CATALINA ISLANDER

Added Friday 07 December 2012 at 7.10 pm

The Catalina Island Museumís latest exhibition First Line of Defense: Catalina Island and World War II opens tonight with a reception at the museum from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

The transformation of Catalina Island from a carefree vacation paradise into a strategically important Federal Military Zone marks an interesting turning point in the islandís history.

Catalina Islandís golden age was in full swing prior to the devastating attacks on Pearl Harbor. Many celebrities traveled to the island for filming and to escape the attention of Hollywood, the nationís hottest big bands performed in the Casino Ballroom and the Chicago Cubs held their spring training on the island each year. 

Within weeks of the attack, all tourism to the island was suspended, cutting off the islandís main source of income. Communities throughout the United States experienced strict and harsh rationing of goods, from food to gas. But unlike other American cities that could rely on mining and manufacturing products for the war effort, island residents had few options for work.

Residents felt stranded and vulnerable with reports of Japanese submarines lurking in the waters surrounding Catalina Island. In a matter of months, Avalon was so deserted the Santa Catalina Island Company began attempting to lease the island to the United States military.

Realizing that Avalon Harbor and the islandís coastal regions were ideal for training and defense, the United States Maritime Service moved their entire training operation from Port Hueneme, CA to Avalon. The USMS leased the Hotel Atwater, Hotel St. Catherine, Island Villas, Chicago Cubs ballpark and clubhouse, the hospital, Catalina Island Yacht Club and the Casino building Ė effectively taking over the entire town. The United States Coast Guard chose the Isthmus as their training base.

In 1942 the Office of Strategic Services was established by President Roosevelt, who named William ďWild BillĒ Donovan as the director of this top-secret organization. Donovan saw Catalina Island as the ideal training location for OSS operatives who specialized in espionage, counter-intelligence, amphibious assault, explosives, disinformation and guerrilla warfare.

The presence of the servicemen provided residents of Avalon with a feeling of safety and security. Avalon citizens afforded the servicemen small-town America at its best. The contributions of both the military and civilian groups to the war effort created a rich experience that is unique in American history.

The Catalina Island that emerged at the end of the war had lost some of its innocence, glamour and isolated appeal. Big bands returned to the Casino Ballroom, celebrities once again traveled to the island to escape Hollywood and the Chicago Cubs continued their spring training on the island until 1951, but Catalina Island would never again reach the heights of its pre-war golden era.

First Line of Defense will run from December 7, 2012 through April 28, 2013 and can only be viewed at the Catalina Island Museum.

Opening Reception for First Line of Defense - Tonight

The Catalina Island Museum invites you to the opening reception for First Line of Defense: Catalina Island and World War II 00 on Friday, December 7 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Tickets are free for members of the museum and $10.00 for the general public. The reception will feature catering by Steveís Steakhouse. 

The Catalina Island Museum is Avalon`s sole institution devoted to art, culture and history. The museum, its digital theater and store are located on the ground floor of Avalon`s historic Casino and are open 7 days a week, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information, the museum may be reached by phone at 310-510-2414 or at its website: CatalinaMuseum.org.