Sixteen days after Pearl Harbor, on December 23, 1941 a Japanese submarine attacked and sank the Union Oil tanker Montebello.This incident was at 6 AM. At four o'clock that same morning, many of us remember our shoreline being rocked by an errant torpedo that hit the rocks near Cayucos. Eldon Black and his family lived near the entrance to Atascadero Beach and he stated they were literally knocked out of bed by the explosion.
Note: the Montebello lies a few miles offshore in about 200 ft of water just about straight out from Leffingwell's Landing. It is laden with oil, but despite a few earthquakes and one tidal wave, the leaks appear to be few.
The above is what I remembered from that time but the information is incorrect. Author Stuart McDowell has written a fascinating book on the subject and it is available on Amazon (of course). The title is The Sinking of the SS Montebello. It's a wonderful account of the people and the ship on that early December 1941 morning.
The clippings presented here are from The Cambrian dated December 28, 1972 and has the full story of the closeness of war to our local shores. The Ray Shamel photographs and the original articles appeared briefly in the San Francisco Call-Bulletin.
Return to Homepage