A Snapshot of San Antonio During World War II.
Air Raid Sirens

From the outset of the war, Mayor Quin felt that acquiring an Air Alarm System ranked highest among the city's civil defense needs.11 The results of the blackout test confirmed that the civilian whistles and sirens were insufficient. People had difficulty hearing the improvised alarm while inside buildings or distant from downtown.

Officials debated where and how to place air raid sirens while forming the plans for the blackout test. Ideas varied from putting one on top of the Tower Life Building, under the assumption that the sound could reach outlying areas, to placing multiple units in key locations throughout the city.12 The task of evaluating different types of sirens and conducting tests, fell to Commissioner P. L. Anderson's department.

By spring of 1942, the city's preliminary alarm plans called for 20 sirens to be placed at local fire stations: five of the five-horsepower type and fifteen two-horsepower type.13 The city spent $520 to purchase two Federal Signal sirens, which were installed on the roof of the detective headquarters building on Main Plaza and tested on May 9th. To get citywide feedback, officials asked people to send a postcard to P. L. Anderson if they heard the siren, noting their location, the time, and how well they could hear it.14

About this Image:
1) Some citizens felt that the city's civil defense plans were moving too slowly prior to the spring of 1942. The Elysian Club, headed by Mrs. Lula Lucchese, proclaimed that, "If the city fathers won't do something about the air raid siren situation... a women's club will." 15 The photo was taken at the re-opening of the Teatro Nacional. Left to Right: Rafael Falcon & Maruja Gomez, noted Mexican movie stars; Lula & Gaetano Lucchese. Credit: Ignacio Torres.

2) View of the front (west) and north facades of the former (Police) Detectives Building. The Tower Life Building is visible in the background. The Detectives Building was built ca. 1927, facing the Bexar County Courthouse, and altered by Leo Dielmann in 1943 when the river channel was widened behind it. Anderson placed the test sirens atop this building.

3) An aerial photo, looking northeast. The arrow points to the location of the Detectives Building, hidden by the Courthouse. A worker from the manufacturer, Federal Signal, argued against placing the siren in this location because the taller buildings might (and did) baffle the sound.

To Learn More:
Courtesy of San Antonio Conservation Society Foundation
Click to Enlarge
2)  c.19822) c.1982
3) N.d.3) N.d.