Exhibitions > First Line of Defense: Catalina Island and World War II

December 7, 2012 - April 28, 2013

Few people realize the important role Catalina Island played in the defense of our nation during World War II

Following the attack at Pearl Harbor, life on Catalina Island changed drastically as it was transformed nearly overnight from one of the world`s most popular resort destinations into a strategically important Federal Military Zone.  First Line of Defense explores recently declassified top-secret operations on the island, the radical changes in the daily life of Avalon`s citizens, and the importance of Catalina Island to the defense of the United States during World War II.

At the center of the exhibition is a video documentary, created by the Catalina Island Museum, using previously unseen footage of the United States Maritime Service (USMS) and their strenuous regimen of military training in and around Avalon. This color footage shows trainees on Casino Point with large anti-aircraft guns lighting up the sky with thousands of rounds of ammunition, swimming through 20-foot walls of fire and jumping from enormous towers into the water to simulate abandoning ship. 

The documentary also shows the only known film footage of the Office of Strategic Services` (OSS) top-secret one-man submarine, known as "Sleeping Beauty" and the world`s first SCUBA device, called the "Lambertsen Lung," in action.

First Line of Defense also chronicles how the Maritime Unit of the OSS and their training operations on Catalina Island became the basis for today`s Navy Seals. 

Exhibition Sponsors

Steve and Ronna Schreiner
Grindstone Foundation
`Ohana Harbor Coffee
Steve`s Steakhouse
Jim and Joyce Brown
The Capital Companies Charitable Foundation
Nathan and Christy Lins
Catalina Island Museum Patrons Society
Santa Catalina Island Company