Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

U.S. Army gun position at undisclosed California location. This image was not published in the Jan. 1942 three part series.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

A U.S. Army gun emplacement on undisclosed beach with gun crew wearing gas masks. The emulsion on this negative — at the horizon — is missing. This was most likely done at the request of military censors. This image was not published in the three part series.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times

Original caption published on Jan. 15, 1942 stated: "Extent of installations in underground quarters in California area is indicated by this underground dayroom. These quarters sleep 50 men and the boys already have equipped them with pictures and furniture."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times

Entrance to underground bunker leading up to gun position. Image published Jan. 15, 1942 as part of Southern California Defenses series.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Soldiers making repairs to sand bag wall of U.S. Army position. This image published Jan. 15, 1942 as part of Southern California defenses series.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times

U.S. Army position with "aircraft detection" equipment. This photo was published on Jan. 15, 1942.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Anti-aircraft gun in raised position. This image was not published in the from three part series.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

U.S. Army cavalry patrol training for combat against enemy aircraft. This Image was published Jan. 16, 1942 as part of Southern California Defenses series.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times

Image, not published in series, of U.S. Army blacksmith working on a horseshoe. While the military would not allow units or locations to be identified, this image has a unit pennant on right side indicating 11th Cavalry.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

U.S. Army officer gives tank crews instructions for tactical exercise. Image published Jan. 16, 1942 as part of Southern California Defenses series.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times

U.S. Army armored car in undisclosed California desert location. This photo was not published in the three part series.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times

Machine gun mounted on U.S. Army armored car. This image was not published in the Los Angeles Times Southern California defenses series of Jan. 1942.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

U.S. Army light tanks in training exercise on "nondescript California terrain" — the only location information the military would release. Photo published Jan. 16, 1942.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times

Original caption: "This is a welcoming party for any stray Japanese landing force that might endeavor to come to California's shores." Photo published Jan. 17, 1942.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times

U.S. Army soldier and barbed wire on undisclosed California beach location. This photo was published on Jan. 17, 1942.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

U.S. Army anti-aircraft gun live fire exercise at undisclosed California beach location. This photo was not published in the Jan. 1942, Los Angeles Times series on Southern California defenses, but also did not have the emulsion removed at the horizon by U.S. Army censors. This saved the image.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times

U.S. Army soldier operates a searchlight battery control. The original caption stated "He peers through binoculars and operates pair of controls with his hands that keeps light on the target." The image on the left was published Jan. 17, 1942. The image on the right was not published in series.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times

Original caption stated: " Here is a crew operating the intricate mechanism that through a combination of sights and sound detectors can tell height, speed of the plane and direct aim of the gun." This photo was published on Jan. 17, 1942.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times

Time exposure of Army antiaircraft unit using searchlight. An image from the same shoot, with one beam, was published on Jan. 17, 1942.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

U.S. Army anti-aircraft gun at an undisclosed location. Image published Jan. 17, 1942 as part of Southern California Defenses series.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

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Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the United States military increased defense preparations at all West Coast cities and ports. Los Angeles, with its major industry and aircraft manufacturing plants, was especially important to protect.

Los Angeles Times photographer Paul Calvert and writer John Cornell documented the U.S. Army fortifications and training around Southern California. Working with military censors, they were able to gain access to various Army units, but with major restrictions. The actual units and locations of bases could not be revealed.

Their work resulted in a three part series that was published in the Times on Jan. 15 – 17, 1942.

In part one, on Army underground preparations, John Cornell wrote about the Army restrictions:

All is calm in California, but beneath that calmness there is the sane, methodical doing of the things that must be done in an area designated by the Army as a theater of operations.

Californians have been made mildly aware of defense preparations by troop movements in their midst. Here is a page of pictures indicting the thoroughness with which this defense action is being carried out.

This is no “scare” story.

Far from it.

By no means does it offer either of the two taboos, aid or comfort, to the enemy. The adjacent photographs include no landmarks or insignias which might identify military units or positions, you’ll notice. They were made with Army sanction….

Although given all possible Army co-operation during our visits to the combat posts, we — The Times staff photographer, our officer-guide and myself — came close to ball ammunition and bayonet steel more than once.

“Evan a uniform and bars on your shoulders don’t mean you can walk into military areas now,” explained our officer after showing endless credentials the 10th time.

These are wartimes.

In part two, Cornell and Calvert covered an Army in transition, reporting on horseback cavalry and armored tank units. Within months, remaining cavalry units were disbanded.

The old and the new …

Cavalry troopers mounted on sleek horses; armored force fighters aboard roaring, clanking war tanks….

Both have their place in California’s present military preparation effort and the “on alert” status. And following the cavalry tradition, members of both arms evince the same dashing swashbuckling spirit.

As to the tanks?

No matter how dramatic they appear in photographs, you have to HEAR the monsters as they roar toward you to really appreciate how awesome they must be in actual combat.

This we saw can be described as “held in reserve somewhere in California.” We were permitted to photograph them because their training ground is unidentifiable. In fact, the Army’s official appellation for it is “a section of nondescript terrain”….

Through ditches and over sandbag barriers we saw the clattering giants roll. They did it with such ease — and with such speed — that as laymen we were lulled into thinking the terrain wasn’t so rough after all.

A friendly war tank helped pull our car out of the rough, fortunately. Three times.

The third and final section covered beach defenses and anti-aircraft units. Cornell wrote about those searchlight:

Probing searchlight beams swinging across the sky…

Because they’re right up there where you can see them, they doubtless arouse the interest of the California public more than any other single phase of actual military operations under current 24-hour alert conditions.

The beams are the cat eyes of our ack-ack marksmen, our anti-aircraft batteries. Photographs on this page will help explain their place in the defense picture….

Other pictures on this page show barbed wire entanglements and machine gun dugouts and trenches on a California beach.

The exist as evidence of the all-out precautions being taken by the Army against any action against strategic areas–even against the possibility of an attack or sabotage attempt from the sea.

The coast IS protected in every way possible. On the other hand — some published reports notwithstanding — there’s still plenty of beach open to sun-loving Southlanders.

A month after this series was published a Japanese submarine, on Feb. 23, 1942, shelled oil facilities near Santa Barbara. The next night, on Feb. 24-25, the Battle of L.A. occurred, in which 1,400 anti-aircraft shells were fired during what turned out to be a false alarm — there were no Japanese aircraft over Los Angeles.

Twenty-three photos by Times staff photographer Paul Calvert were published in the series. About fifty negatives from this series exist. They are split equally between the L.A. Times library and the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA.

The above photo gallery includes the best images from the series. The Army units and locations are unidentified because of Army censorship, but I suspect the cavalry unit was the 11th Cavalry that switched to motorized vehicles later in 1942.

Several of the 4×5 negatives had part of the emulsion removed – usually right at the horizon where known landmarks were probably visible. An example is in the above gallery. I suspect this was done at the request of military censors.

John Cornell was commissioned a lieutenant, junior grade in the U.S. Navy in December, 1942.

Times staff photographers Paul Calvert, Hugh Arnott, Gordon Wallace and Jack Herod, all lieutenants, entered the Army at the end of November, 1942.

Top photo: Army soldiers repair sandbag fortifications. Photo Paul Calvert/Los Angeles Times.

Middle photo: Light tank somewhere in the California desert. Photo: Paul Calvert/Los Angeles Times.

Bottom photo: Time exposure of anti-aircraft searchlight. Photo: Paul Calvert/Los Angeles Times.

[Updated in response to reader ck1's comment:

In response to a reader's comment, the print scanned for image 18 in the above gallery was inspected. After washing the print to remove the artists retouching, some of the "sound" equipment was found to be painted on.

There is no information available as to why this image was altered.

Because of poor newspaper reproduction, the Los Angeles Times employed artists to retouch prints to improve quality --  which was not done here.

The washed version of the image is reproduced below.]

4 Comments

  1. May 29, 2011, 2:10 pm

    I'd be interested to know the back story to why photo #18 was manipulated. You can quite clearly see that the funnel on top of the device as well as the box with two holes and the leg it stands on to the right of it have been "photoshopped" in with a really bad lighting job done on them. Was it simply a case of the device not being ready, so they staged a photo and filled it in with what was supposed to be there? It'd be interesting to know if you could dig up the real backstory to it.

    By: ck1
  2. June 1, 2011, 6:47 pm

    Thanks for pointing out this image. This post has been updated.

    By: Scott Harrison
  3. June 12, 2011, 3:13 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to look into it! Too bad there's no further information about why it was done since as you mention it wasn't a detail-enhancing manipulation. Interesting nonetheless. In fact, it would be very interesting if you could do a post some time detailing these kind of manipulation techniques from yesteryear. It's always fascinating to learn about how they used to bend the rules back in the day.

    By: ck1
  4. December 26, 2011, 10:31 am

    Looking at photo 18 as described above. What methods were used back then to edit photographs? Did they paint freehand directly on the negative? How large were the negatives and was there any form of digital editing back then?

    By: Whane

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