L.A.P.D. in War and Rumors of War
World War II
Hundreds of LAPD officers were drafted or enlisted in the armed forces as soon as word of Pearl Harbor reached the city. The shortage of regular officers caused the city to scramble to keep critical operations staffed. The LAPD Reserve Corps, which at the time was part of Metropolitan Division, put in thousands of hours of unpaid service during World War II, augmenting regular patrol personnel.
Then, as now, the vast majority of the Radiotelephone Operators were women, so Communications Division was not impacted as much as the uniformed divisions. Most of the sworn officers were reassigned from the complaint board to patrol duty, however, so the civilian employees got their first chance at answering emergency telephone lines.
ANGELES POLICE ASSOCIATIONS
There were a few occasions when the operators at MADISON 5211 were right behind the "front lines" in the defense of Southern California. Like all police and sheriff's departments, L.A.P.D. had local responsibility for organizing Air Raid Wardens to patrol the city in the event of enemy attack. There were nearly 12,000 of these volunteers in the Los Angeles area alone, whose primary responsibilities were to enforce "blackouts" when air raid sirens sounded, and to report any enemy activity they may spot.
In the early morning of February 25, 1942, sirens sounded for the "Great Los Angeles Air Raid." All 12,000 wardens donned their helmets and armbands and hit the streets to tell their neighbors to turn off their lights, pull their car to the curb and park, take shelter, and so on. Above West Los Angeles, a still-unexplained object was seen in the air, and coastal defense guns opened up on it, raining shrapnel and shell fragments over a wide area. Unable to reach their district "Civilian Defense" supervisors, many air raid wardens called the police complaint board to either report what they were seeing, or to inquire what was going on. The board lines were jammed from 2:25 a.m. until dawn. At 3:08 a.m., all radio stations were ordered off the air, including the police "KGPL" transmitter. Officers were dispatched by telephone and Gamewell to accidents caused by the black-out and to other emergencies. And they had to respond with sirens blaring but no lights at all. No enemy planes were shot down or even identified, and many have attributed the event to wartime "jitters."
President Truman established the CONELRAD [CONtrol of ELectronic RADiation] system in 1951, to provide emergency alert to the public. Under this first national alerting system, in the event of a Soviet attack on the United States, all commercial radio stations would cease normal operation, in order to prevent Soviet bombers from homing in on their targets by using specific radio commercial radio stations as navigation beacons. Instead, selected CONELRAD stations would broadcast on either 604kHz or 1240kHz to inform the public about emergency measures. As part of the system it was obligatory for all radios sold after 1953 to have the CONELRAD frequencies 640/1240 kHz marked with small triangles on the dial. The triangles were referred to as CD marks, for Civil Defense. The marks on the radio dial were to make finding the frequencies easy. This requirement was dropped when the CONELRAD system was replaced by the Emergency Broadcast System in 1963. By the early 1960's the development of Soviet missiles had made the CONELRAD system obsolete.
In the late 1950s, radio personality Dennis James recorded a public-service announcement about the CONELRAD system.
Click HERE to listen to the .mp3 version, or click HERE to download or listen to the 2.6MB .wav file.
How about the "Conelrad" Radio Stations - 640 and 1240 - in the event of war?