A Snapshot of San Antonio During World War II.
Introduction & Initial Blackout Plans

Even prior to its official entry into WWII, the United States began defensive preparations to meet the threat posed by the Axis powers, particularly Germany and Japan. By 1940, factories in many U.S. cities produced planes, equipment, and supplies being used by France and Britain in their year-old war against Hitler's forces. War simulations and mock air raids staged across the U.S. gave our military an opportunity to test equipment and maneuvers under controlled conditions. These drills also sought to measure civilian readiness and reduce accidents should a real blackout or air raid occur. Boy Scouts playing the role of saboteurs in Santa Fe, even "kidnapped" the governor of New Mexico as part of a statewide blackout exercise in September of 1941.

Following the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Mayor C.K. Quin lost no time in scheduling the city's first blackout test for December 17th.1 With the threat of air raids now a possibility, Quin felt that the public would be more accepting of the test's restrictions. Officials scrambled to make the necessary plans in the seven days prior to the test. Since the city lacked air raid sirens, the mayor suggested that railroad yards and factories blow their whistles to simulate the alarm. Most businesses would take individual responsibility for cutting electrical power to plunge their buildings into total darkness, but places like hospitals, where the power needed to stay on, could employ other solutions. The Robert B. Green Hospital and the Bexar County Jail, for example, both agreed to paint their windows black.2

About this Image:
1) An early aerial view of downtown San Antonio, looking southeast. Three military planes are visible in silhouette just below the center. The Municipal Auditorium is visible in the lower left corner. It lies north of Commerce Street, which runs east to west from the bottom of the photo to the top, just right of center.

2) Front (west) façade of the old Bexar County Jail, facing onto Camaron Street. The renovated jail, which had its windows painted black during the blackout, now serves as a hotel. Photographer: Gustave Heye, AIA.

To Learn More:
Courtesy of San Antonio Conservation Society Foundation.
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2) Pre-19622) Pre-1962