Most coastal North County residents probably don’t know a piece of World War II history rests on a hilltop in Leucadia. But the residents of the Skyloft condominiums, east of I-5, do.
A question to a resident gave me a quick response as to the location of an obscure in-ground plaque dedicated to the memory of volunteers looking out for Japanese planes and submarines. The site once had a 90-degree view of the coastline from La Jolla to Dana Point and an unobstructed view overlooking Ponto Beach and the Batiquitos Lagoon.
Leucadia’s lookout, “Station White,” was established in 1942 after the February 23rd Japanese sub attack on a Richfield oil facility in Ellwood, CA, near Santa Barbara — the first of five documented attacks on the U.S. mainland during the war.
When Leucadia’s 1600 block of Gascony Road was developed, the City of Encinitas required the panoramic view to be maintained by the homeowner. A plaque was placed at the lookout site in 2003, honoring sheriff "Mac" McDermott and his colleagues; “Members of the Civilian Corp. who volunteered to protect San Diego County against enemy aircraft and submarines.”
The site recently appeared on the city’s code-enforcement radar when it was noticed the homeowner had allowed foliage to partially block the view. Once contacted, reportedly the homeowner quickly lowered the landscaping.
A visit on December 23 found potted poinsettias and an American flag next to the plaque, and ocean views all the way to out to San Clemente and Catalina Islands.
Historical footnote: The Japanese sub attack of the Ellwood oil field caused invasion hysteria in Los Angeles the following night. Anti-aircraft guns blazed for hours into the night sky, mistakenly thinking that L.A. was under a Pearl Harbor–style attack. Historically known as the “Invasion of Los Angeles,” Steven Spielberg comedically portrayed the incident in his 1979 film 1941, starring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.
The Ellwood incident quickly established similar citizen and military-manned lookouts up and down the Southern California coastline, including posts in Carlsbad, Encinitas, and Solana Beach. It also sped up enforcement of Executive Order 9066 — the providing for, among other war-related measures, internment of Japanese Americans, which president Franklin D. Roosevelt signed just seven days prior.