From the blitzkrieg attacks by Germany in France to the Japanese expansion campaign carried out in the jungles of South East Asia, the battlefields of the second World War seemed so far away from the United States, especially Long Beach.
Although not fully involved in the war, the U.S. had been resupplying England and the Soviet Union with resources as those nations faced off against Nazi Germany.
It wasn’t until the fateful morning of Dec. 7, 1941, that the United States truly found itself siding with the Allied forces and declaring war on the Empire of Japan. Three days later, Germany declared war on the U.S.
Pearl Harbor, the U.S. naval base on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, was swiftly struck by a Japanese surprise attack in an effort to cripple the American fighting capabilities in the Pacific Theater of the war.
To remember those who fought and died during the attack, the Historical Society of Long Beach (HSLB) is hosting a “Long Beach Remembers Pearl Harbor” exhibit on Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 6pm. The exhibit is located in the offices of the HSLB on 4260 Atlantic Ave. in Long Beach. The official opening of the exhibit will commence with a reception that includes the Los Angeles U.S. Navy Recruiting District honor guard and performances by the Nightengals singers. General admission for the reception costs $75 and $60 for veterans and active-duty military personnel in uniform.
After the first night, the free exhibition will be open five days a week and run for 15 months. Exhibition open hours are: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 1pm to 5pm; Thursday from 1pm to 7pm; and Saturday from 11pm to 5pm.
Julie Bartolotto, executive director of the HSLB, said the planning for the event has been going on for three years. She said this is the first time an event like this has been hosted that focuses on the battle of Pearl Harbor and how it affected the port area of Long Beach. In the past, the HSLB hosted an event about the U.S. Navy but not specifically about Pearl Harbor, Bartolotto added.
“We had a board meeting to plan out the exhibit,” she said. “We wanted to focus on Long Beach’s transportation and infrastructure related to World War II.”
Prior to the opening of the exhibit, the HSLB collected photographs, newspapers and other items from that era to commemorate the importance of the event that occurred 75 years ago. The community of Long Beach also got involved by donating family items from that time period to add to the exhibit.
Bartolotto said she believes this exhibit is a last chance to remember veterans and civilians that participated in the war.
“It’s one of the last opportunities to remember an event that changed history,” she said. “There are few veterans still alive, and there are new generations that have no memory of Pearl Harbor.”
Many of the ships that were attacked while parked in the naval base spent months in the port of Long Beach before moving to Oahu, Bartolotto said. Terminal Island was actively involved in ship building during early stages of the war.
Tim Friden, a board member with the HSLB and historian, said that U.S. generals began increasing military production levels in 1939. The city of Long Beach was expanded during the war as a result. As U.S. and Japanese relations reached a boiling point in 1940, Long Beach established civilian committees and was the first to institute “blackouts” to reduce the amount of damage done in the event of an air raid.
Cities such as San Pedro, Los Angeles and Long Beach essentially morphed together and were considered as one major port area during the war, as workers from Long Beach were sent up and down the port to work on ships, Friden said. Children in Long Beach also got involved by collecting metals, plastics and rubber materials to recycle for the war effort.
As HSLB collected memorabilia for the exhibit, David Iantorno donated images of his father, Anthony, during the war for the exhibit. Iantorno spoke with Friden and explained to him what the images were about.
Friden said that Iantorno’s father tried to make ends meet for his family by joining the Long Beach National Guard. As Long Beach became more involved in the war, Anthony’s unit was moved to Oahu as part of the 251st C.A. AA Regiment (coastal artillery) to defend the island. Anthony passed away in 2012.
Memories similar to the Iantorno family story are what the HSLB aims to remember on Dec. 7, a date president Franklin Roosevelt stated was “a date which will live in infamy.”