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Dimming out vehicle lights in World War II

Dimming out vehicle lights in World War II

August 1942: Traffic is stopped for an inspection of dimmed-out vehicle lights on Wilshire Boulevard.

Coastal dim-out programs in 1942 were introduced after German submarines easily sunk silhouetted Allied shipping along the Atlantic coast.

This image was published in the Aug. 11, 1942, Los Angeles Times. The accompanying caption reported:

‘DIM ‘EM, PLEASE’ – Establishment over the week-end of a blockade system on three major boulevards entering Santa Monica where motorists were warned to dim lights was so successful that it will be continued nightly, beach authorities said yesterday. Dimout traffic violations were materially decreased police said. Auxiliary police from Civilian Defense headquarters are shown as they aided police at blockade on Wilshire Blvd.

A June 4, 1942, Los Angeles Times article reported:

Dimout regulations are being strictly enforced in some coastal localities and within a short time other areas will be similarly affected, it was disclosed yesterday by police of Los Angeles and adjacent communities. …

“The basic speed law will be invoked to enforce slow driving in dimout areas,” said Sergt. M. F. Calfee, head of the West Los Angeles division traffic bureau. “No one should drive faster than 25 miles an hour and only dim lights or parking lights may be used. Even 25 miles is too fast under certain conditions.”

Dimout restrictions may be imposed on all traffic in Santa Monica, Sergt. L. P. Rober, head of that city’s police traffic bureau, declared following a conference with Mayor Leonard J. Murrary. Police Chief Clarence Webb and Sergt. Ed Cavaness of the police communications system.

“All motorists using streets running at right angles to the ocean,” Rober declared, “must dim their headlights whether they are moving toward the ocean or not. If only the drivers traveling toward the sea use dim lights, they will be blinded by the lights of cars passing them in the other direction.”

He added that in order to simplify the rules, all traffic in the city which is situated prominently on coastal mesas may have to be dimmed out.

On Nov. 1, 1943, at 12:01 a.m., World War II dim-out restrictions in Los Angeles were lifted, but residents were asked to continue to keep power usage down as replacement equipment, such as transformers, was virtually nonexistent.

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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