Like many U.S. citizens, the residents of North Beach during W.W.II feared the worst after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. The enemy had deployed their secret weapons (submarine aircraft carriers) along the West Coast to instill the perception that their Imperial Navy would continue the onslaught. The Western Command on December 8 received reports of enemy ships near the Farallon Islands. General William Ord Ryan of the Fourth Interceptor Command said a large number of unidentified aircraft were turned back at the Golden Gate. On Christmas Eve rumors spread that Japanese submarines were to surface and shell San Francisco with their 5.5-inch deck cannons. Less than twenty-four hours later, the headline of the Chronicle read “The Victim of a Jap Sub”. The American freighter Absaroka had been badly damaged with the lone fatality being a sixty-seven-year-old from North Beach, San Francisco.
North Beach during the War:
Earlier that same morning on Christmas day, a convoy of camouflaged ships steamed under the Golden Gate carrying wounded evacuees from Pearl. Late weekday mornings in North Beach during the War, you could see a line of black hearses in front of St. Peter and Paul’s on Washington Square as bells tolled. Mourners would gather after the services at Original Joe’s to honor those that had served their country. Mayor Angelo Rossi declared a state of emergency. Civil Defense made blackout shades mandatory. Pete Curreri told the story of Block Wardens breaking down his father’s door on Green Street to enforce the regulation. Sandbags covered storefronts.