The Catalina Island Museumís
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
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
of Defense - Tonight
The Catalina Island Museum
invites you to the opening reception for
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
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.