Movie actress Rochelle Hudson (1916-1972), a starlet at 13, was a longtime family friend of Edgar Rice Burroughs the author/creator of Tarzan The Ape Man. Reportedly snubbed by her schoolmates because of her rising fame as a movie star, she became close friends of the Burroughs family, often given rides to school by Burroughs' son Jack and going on vacations with them.
During a good part of World War II Hudson lived in Hawaii with her second husband, a naval officer stationed there. Edgar Rice Burroughs visited them in Hawaii several times during those years. Only 25 years old when the war broke out, Hudson had already worked many years in the film industry, appearing in a number of films ranging from Mr. Moto to Curly Top to Boston Blackie.
Because there occurred a marked slowdown to an almost complete halt in Hudson's film career in the years just prior to the war and into it's early years after having gone gangbusters for the whole decade before, people have long thought she had fallen into disfavor with the Hollywood powers that be or that her popularity had just waned to such a point she was simply just being passed over. However, on what some consider to be rather flimsy evidence, it has been reported, and what will be substantiated further down --- with only flimsy evidence found elsewhere notwithstanding --- that she had in fact been working as a spy during that period for the Naval Intelligence Service. She and her husband, posing as a civilian, were doing espionage work primarily in Mexico and together they posed as a vacationing couple to detect if there was any German or Japanese activity there.
The Germans and the Japanese had set into motion their plans for world domination around the globe both overtly and covertly sometime in the mid to late 1930s, and because of the nature of the duties of Rochelle Hudson's husband in the Navy she was drawn into the events ahead of the curve. For almost everybody else in the western hemisphere, except possibly the American pilots and ground crews that volunteered clear across the world in China for the Flying Tigers, it started in earnest on December 7, 1941, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Seven days after Pearl Harbor, on December 14, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy loaded nine of their largest most modern long range submarines, each airplane equipped and packed to the gills with extra munitions and explosive ordinance, and sent them clear across the Pacific, thousands and thousands of miles from their homeland, with orders to attack the U.S. mainland December 25th. Then the Japanese postponed the attack until the 27th. Then they canceled the 27th attacks. In the meantime, on Christmas Day, one of the nine submarines dispatched to the U.S west coast, the I-19, torpedoed and sank an unarmed American ship the SS Absaroka carrying nothing but lumber, in the Santa Catalina channel less than a mile off Point Fermin near Los Angeles in broad daylight. Why? A lot of it had to do with the sea facing radar and the coastal defenses. BUT, a lot of it had to do with how the Japanese were going to beat the system. After the I-19 attack all eyes were focused toward the ocean. However, other things were in the works, much bigger things. In Harbor Defenses of Los Angeles in World War II by John R. Monett, Lester Cole and Jack C. Cleland (1945) the following is found:
On December 31, 1941, the IV Interceptor Command reported that several enemy planes were believed to have landed and been hidden near the inland desert communities of Indio and Brawley in the Imperial Valley of California. They also reported that five messages in Japanese code were being sent daily between Brawley and Mexico City via short wave radio. At 12:32 PM in the afternoon of December 31, 1941, the Federal Bureau of Investigation relayed the following message:
"There is a plan for air and sea attack against San Diego, San Pedro and San Francisco, to take place about dawn either New Year’s Day or the following Sunday. It is possible the attack will be made against San Diego and San Pedro first. Expecting cooperation from aliens ashore. The air attack will be by German airmen from across the border where planes are now under cover, taking off before dawn and coming over flying high. If air forces are alert, this can be broken up before they reach their objectives. Am sending you this information for want of better channels to advise. Remember Pearl Harbor."(see)
It was not by coincidence that all the Japanese subs were positioned by the 27th off the coast of primary targets just before the last day of the year and the same day as the planned inland attack from "behind." Although it never came off, all units of the harbor defenses were put on alert and ready for action. And, attack or not, it did not end the potential of one materializing from the desert and Mexico as being real. Like many things in the war, especially things that came close to having the vulnerability of the U.S. homeland jeopardized, details have remaind scarce or never revealed.
A few years after the war, when I was around eleven or twelve years old, I spent two summers living lightly off the land on the east side of the Sierras under the auspices of my Uncle. During one of those summers, on return to our main camp after having being gone several days and driving up to Whitney Portal followed by a climb to the summit, my uncle and I stopped at the compound of a man of deep spiritual Attainment that he knew in some fashion by the name of Franklin Merrell-Wolff.(see)
My Stepmother, who was quite wealthy and who at the time, picked up the tab on most if not all of my adventures, also picked up the tab on any number of strays. During that summer of the Merrell-Wolff visit I was traveling with my uncle, my two brothers, a cousin, a boy around my age somehow related to my stepmother by the name of Richard, and a kid we called Bub President Hudson. The kid, and the reason I bring all of this stuff up in the first place, was the son of some movie actress my uncle knew that went on-and-on continuously all day and night telling us that his mom was a spy and that she went to school with Tarzan.
Now, while it is true my uncle knew an actress with the same last name as the boy who was a long time friend of the family of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author of Tarzan, and who, during World War II, WAS a spy, the whole scenario as claimed by Bub President Hudson being an offspring namesake of hers begins to break down because the actress in question was not known to have had any children. The thing is, Bub President Hudson was a very young boy, the youngest in our group. How he could have come up with such a story about his mom being a spy and her going to school with Tarzan by just making it up out of the blue, as well as having the last name Hudson, is beyond comprehension. Couple all that with the fact that the actress Bub claimed to be his mom and the actress that my uncle knew, had just such a background and last name.
That actress was Rochelle Hudson. She and my uncle met in 1942 when both just happened to be traveling on the same train together through Mexico. My uncle was on the way to see the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera who he had worked with as an artist during the depression for the WPA. She and her husband appeared for all practical purposes to be a vacationing couple. In reality, as mentioned in the opening paragraphs above, her husband was actually a Naval officer passing himself off as a civilian and both he and she were working for the Naval Intelligence Service. During this particular trip they were in the process of following a few leads to determine if there was any truth to certain German activity that had been reported in southern Mexico. At the same time on the same train my uncle also met a young man, age 17, by the name of Clement Meighan who was in line to be drafted the next year when he turned 18. He was simply out traveling on his own hoping to see part of the world as a civilian before the military took him.
In those days the trains were pulled by steam locomotives, which meant they needed to stop and take on water at regular intervals. Those stops were usually fairly long, allowing time to disembark, stretch legs, haggle with the vendors and go to the bathroom. On one of those stops my uncle was approached by Rochelle's husband who had seen him speaking spanish with a local and liked his more down to earth approach. He asked my uncle if he might help he and his wife, even though both spoke fluent Spanish, in negotiating a price with one of the merchants. Apparently pleased with the results of my uncle's negotiating skills he asked my uncle and Meighan to join he and his wife in their 1st class compartment. Which they did.
My uncle had noticed Hudson, an exceptionally striking woman, prior to ever boarding the train, but not exclusively because she was striking. It was just as much because of a man she was talking to, and highly chummy so it seemed, that my uncle recognized as a Texas Ranger --- or at least he had been at one time.
Back in the mid 1920s or so my uncle was traveling by train with a friend of his, the soon to become famous western author Louis L'Amour, to New Mexico from New Orleans after having been there for the Mardi Gras. When the train stopped in Sanderson, Texas, a half a dozen heavily armed Texas Rangers along with two U.S. Marshals got on board and started going through each of the passenger cars looking for someone. They made six men, all with beards, of which my uncle was one, get off the train. They took all six into the station and questioned them one by one. Apparently not finding who they were looking for they told everybody they were free to go. All well and good except that in the meantime the train left, stranding him and the other five men in the middle of nowhere. Not only that, the Rangers had made them get off the train without allowing them to take anything with them including their luggage --- and it was the dead of winter and freezing outside. He followed the Rangers out just as they were getting into a couple of cars and asked what were they supposed to do now. One of the Rangers stuck a rifle in his face and told him it was not their problem unless he wanted to make it their problem. My uncle just backed away and the cars drove off. The man with the rifle was the same man Hudson had been talking to.
When my uncle was on the train with Hudson he asked why she would be having a conversation with a Texas Ranger. She denied having any contact with such a person, Ranger or otherwise. However, years later she admitted she was talking to and sharing information with a fellow espionage agent and former Texas Ranger by the name of Rufus Van Zandt.
When the trip ended in Mexico City everyone went their separate way. My uncle never saw Meighan again that he could recall. He never caught up with Rivera that trip either as Rivera was not where he said he was going to be and nobody my uncle talked with seemed to know his whereabouts. However, just as the group was departing the train station and saying their goodbyes the Naval officer told Meighan that if he was drafted or joined, if he was ever in Hawaii, regardless of rank, look him up. We know Rochelle's husband eventually showed up in Hawaii, or at least the South Pacific for sure because of the following from Edgar Rice Burroughs:
"Carrying on with his activities as the Pacific's oldest war correspondent, Edgar Rice Burroughs returned to Noumea, New Caledonia from Sydney, Australia, on January 10, 1943. He checked into the Grand Hotel du Pacifique where he was glad to see old friend, navy Lt. Hal Thompson, husband of family friend Rochelle Hudson."(source)
As expected, at age 18, Meighan was drafted. Then, in July 1944, during the battle for Saipan he was wounded by machine gun fire and evacuated. From the evacuation point he ended up in Hawaii. While recuperating the naval officer husband of Rochelle Hudson he met while traveling by train in Mexico came by to see him. I know all of the above regarding Meighan, Hudson and her husband because years later in conversation with my uncle it came up. Shortly after the war, in 1947 or 1948 Rochelle divorced her husband, and somewhere in there she and my uncle crossed paths. Now, I never met her or talked to her, but it was around that time that Bub President Hudson showed up.
It was during those much later years talks with my uncle (i.e., circa 1968-plus) that the connection with Bub and Rochelle's background, that she was a spy, etc., was clarified. Her travels in Mexico and Latin America with her husband and doing undercover duty for for the Naval Intelligence Service was all true. During that era the Germans and Japanese were doing all kinds of nefarious things south of the border that required inconspicuous surveillance and investigation. In the article "Dark Migration" by Scott Corrales, an article that explores how and where top German officers and Nazi officials potentially could have and/or did escape to in South and Latin America following the war, Corrales uses sources for his research that presents within it's contents the following:
"As the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor approached, the Nazis arranged to pave the way for Japanese-orchestrated operations against the United States on its southern flank, from Mexico. Although the Japanese were not able to carry out their plans in Mexico in full after the U.S. victory at Midway Island on June 4-7, 1942, their plans included the establishment of a naval base in Baja California and an invasion of the United States from Mexico.
"Japan had a skeleton army in Mexico, called the Mexico Military Service Men's Association, which was directly under the command of Premier Hideki Tojo. It also had an intelligence division, which operated under the name of the Japanese Association of Lower California, with addresses in Mexicali, Mexico and in Calexico, California in the United States."(see)
According to my uncle, Rochelle and her husband's trip to Mexico City was to confirm rumors that the Germans were operating clandestine wireless radio stations in Ixtapalapa and possibly the mountains of Chiapas. They worked their way from Mexico City to Acacoyagua in Chiapas state possibly by train or other methods. There they noticed an unusual number of Japanese in and about town. Using all their couple on vacation skills they went into the small village of Acapetahua six kilometers away, then, with the help of a sleeper agent long passing as a local, slipped out into estuaries leading toward the Pacific. Part way down they came upon what they had been told existed, a rudimentary yet seemingly effective Japanese operated facility used as submarine base, hidden and hewed out of the side of the jungle apparently designed as a resupply and refuelling depot. They secretly observed the facility, which in those days had no name but has since come to be known more commonly as the La Palma Secret Base, from the opposite side of the estuary for about a week and, even though it was clear there were drums possibly for diesel fuel and activity both day and night with generators and lights, no submarines arrived or departed during the time of their surveillance.
By the time my uncle and Hudson caught up with each other not long after the end of the war he didn't need any convincing about her role in things espionage or the U.S. need for it. In 1943 he personally learned the hard way that Axis powers were acting in highly nefarious ways in Mexico and the desert southwest and shot in the back only to be left bleeding out on the desert floor because of it. It was just through a remarkable series of happenstances that he survived. In 1970 he told what happened and how he was able to make it:
In 1943, only a few months into the war, my uncle, for sure a non-combatant --- actually falling more into a role of a conscientious objector type than anything else --- was a fairly well established artist as well as what I call a biosearcher. Prior to his death in 1989 he had, as a biosearcher, more than a half dozen plant species named after him following years of trekking, searching, and discovering previously unknown and unnamed plants all over mostly remote and hidden areas and sections of the desert southwest. In 1943 he was biosearching alone in the then largely uninhabited mountainous and desert-like terrain in the central section of New Mexico between the New Mexico and Arizona border on the west and the north-to-south flowing Rio Grande on the east.
In the process of his biosearching he came across two men, and unusually so, both Asian. One of men was flat on his back all but unconscious and visibly quite ill after apparently having been bitten by a rattlesnake with the bite being left untreated. My uncle, after using the healing properties of indigenous plants he gathered up, soon found the man up and around. One of the men who had a rudimentary use of English told my uncle they were Japanese, were testing soil samples for radioactivity, and had been left off in Mexico by a submarine. By then my uncle was wanting to beat a hasty retreat but before he could one of the men shot him in the back. They took his truck and although they left him to bleed out he survived. In 1985, a full 15 years after I became privy to the information imparted to me by my uncle regarding the two Japanese operatives taking soil samples as stated above, a book titled The Japanese Secret War authored by Robert K. Wilcox was published. In the book Wilcox writes about two Japanese men who could have been none other than the two my uncle encountered as well as the U-boat they arrived in, of which I turn around and write about as found in the sourced link below the quote so cited:
"Wilcox's book that, for the first time brought to the public's attention Japanese agents having been in the desert southwest during World War II specifically tasked with testing soil samples for radiation, was published in 1985. It was in 1970, fifteen years before Wilcox's book was published that my uncle told me about his 1943 encounter with Japanese spies soil testing deep into state of New Mexico and the fact that according to their own testimony, they had initially been brought to Mexico via German U-boat from Europe. "
THE JAPANESE SECRET WAR
Toward the top of the page I write that according to the IVth Interceptor Command, through research by authors John R. Monett, Lester Cole and Jack C. Cleland in their book Harbor Defenses of Los Angeles in World War II, reported that in December 1941 several enemy planes were believed to be hidden near the desert communities of Indio and Brawley in the Imperial Valley of California and that an air attack by German airmen from across the border where additional planes were under cover, was emmanent. I also wrote that the attack, which everybody must know never came off, even though all units of the harbor defenses were put on alert and ready for action.
Then, by spring of 1942, General George S. Patton Jr. had moved into the Indio and Brawley area and put into place a desert training center for his tanks and armored equipment hindering any further small scale attacks from the desert or Mexico. Near the end of April or early May of 1942, U.S. Military Intelligence learned the Japanese had put to sea the small but fast Japanese 5th Fleet, commanded by Vice Admiral Hosagaya Boshiro and consisting of two light carriers and a seaplane carrier at its core, along with support ships; two strike forces, and his flagship group, comprising a heavy cruiser and two destroyers, protecting supply ships --- configured in what appeared to be a potential invasion force. By June 3, 1942 Patton was convinced the fleet's final destination was to invade Mexico by landing on the beaches of Baja California, then move north into California. Patton positioned almost his full compliment of officers and men, albeit not yet anywhere near fully trained, within striking distance right on top of the border to move south within minutes to meet any invading Japanese force. The suspected Japanese invasion fleet eventually landed on Kiska Island in the Aleutian Chain on June 6, 1942.(see)
GRAPHIC COURTESY SCOTT MANNING
However, the reason why that initial aerial attack by German pilots from across the border never came off at the scheduled time, or not at all, was because of Rochelle Hudson --- and the reason why she is famous in the espionage world as a success. Hudson, along with her Naval officer husband, on one of their vacations uncovered a supply of high octane aviation fuel stashed by German agents in Baja California. After the discovery the stash was dealt with appropriately and without the necessary fuel to implement the planned attack, it was scrapped.
In August of 1942 Patton and his armored command was sent to North Africa and the Desert Training Center was renamed the California-Arizona Maneuver Area (CAMA). After the Allied victory in North Africa under the banner of Operation Torch the need for desert-trained units declined and in May 1944, CAMA was closed leaving the whole of the desert area to the Colorado River and beyond basically empty of troops.
With a military vacuum in the area, the Germans, who as early as August 1942 secretly had a physical presence of at least two submarines in the Sea of Cortez, returned late in the year of 1944 after the pull-out of the troops associated with the CAMA because of an avid interest in Hoover Dam. Matter of fact it seems at least one U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat was dispatched from the Imperial Beach NAS south of San Diego to intercept one of the Axis subs in the Sea of Cortez as the remains of an apparent shot down Hellcat are still visible in the surf of Sonora, Mexico at extreme low tide. See:
F6F NAVY HELLCAT, NAZI SUBS, AND THE BAJA MEXICO CRASH SITE
THE GERMAN SUBMARINE ATTACK ON HOOVER DAM
SPIRITUAL ELDER AND THE SANTA FE CHIEF
THE WANDERLING AND HIS UNCLE
Their Life and Times Together
JAPANESE MIDGET SUBMARINES
A-BOMBS, MIDGET SUBS, AND THE CALIFORNIA CHANNEL ISLANDS
THE BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES: THE RADAR DILEMMA
THE BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES: 1942 UFO
WORLD WAR II COMES TO REDONDO
TARZAN AND THE HUNTRESS
ON THE RAZOR'S
As to the subject of donations, for those who may be so interested as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
Apparently there is some controversy in some quarters regarding the depth of Rochelle Hudson's involvement as a spy, or any at all, in investigating potential Japanese or German espionage activity in Mexico during World War II. Discounting what I present in the main text above that she was in fact a spy, and of which I garnered through personal conversations with my uncle who knew her, most criticism points to the fact that prior to a 1998 article by one Barrie Roberts titled ROCHELLE HUDSON: Square Peg In a Round Hole that appeared in the February 1998 issue of Classic Images, little or nothing shows up regarding that portion of her life. Those same critics point out that what does show up since then is bascially rehashed over and over from Robert's article --- which has taken on a life of its own. The standard complaint is capulized in the following quote as found on the net:
"Rochelle Hudson had married Harold Thompson in 1939 and was at his side to one degree or another as he gathered information for the American government during World War Two. Barrie gives a good amount of detail, but as I wasn't able to source it anywhere else I don't want to go there. I don't know if the repeated strains of Rochelle Hudson's spy activity across the internet is just this same information being parroted over and over again or if there is either more or less to it than Barrie claims."(source)
I don't know how far up on anybody's radar Rochelle Hudson has been when it comes to researching or knowing about her background in any definitive fashion, so any in-depth information may be scarce just generally, let alone anything that may have involved secert government spy activites.
I have not read Robert's article, which is said to be available online through the 'past issue' facilities of Classic Images. There is even a URL that shows up over and over in searches:
although any attempts on my part to access the URL through search engines or archived pages has returned no positive results. Whatever Roberts said, and apparently he must have said Hudson did in fact engage in espionage or spy activies during World War II, I would have to go along with because of the experiences that my uncle related to me and as I present in the main text above and elsewhere. Where Robert obtained his information is not known.
While there are probably any number of books and sources one could quote, there is a book written in 2004, six years after Robert's article --- but not published until 2009 --- titled BORN TO BE HURT: The Untold Story of 'Imitation of Life' by the typically considered reputable film historian Sam Staggs. In the book Staggs has devoted pages 369-371 to comments on Hudson and among those pages he devotes close to a half of page recounting Hudson's spy actvities. If what Staggs recounts are simply no more than a rehash from Robert's work is not clear because if you go to the pages that lists sources, although page after page are listed as to their sources, when it comes to the pages on Hudson they are conspicuously absent.
It may not mollify everyone, but I did come into contact with a secondary source regarding confirmation of my uncle's interaction with Hudson and what she had to say, that being Clement Meighan, the boy my uncle met on the train in Mexico. I interviewed Professor Meighan in the early 1990s as found in the following quote from the source so cited:
"Enter Clement Meighan. Meighan retired in 1991. I caught up with him shortly thereafter. In my initial contact I didn't mention a thing about Castaneda. I told him I was the nephew of the man he traveled by train with in Mexico as a teenager, that my uncle had died a few years before and that I would like to talk with him about their time together. I also told him that Rochelle Hudson had told my uncle about his (i.e., Meighan's) hospital stay in Hawaii and how his near death experience paralleled my own. Meighan's response was most positive. After some minor logistics were worked out the rest was easy."(source)
In the Great Depression of the 1930s my uncle had been working as a artist creating a number of murals, paintings, and watercolors for the art portion of the Works Progress Administration, better known as the WPA.
During that period of his life he met and worked with various artists also doing WPA works such as Jackson Pollock and Diego Rivera. In 1940-1941 Rivera had created and completed a series of murals in San Francisco. My uncle had received a personal invite from Rivera to attend the public unveiling, but, with money tight, although he had all honorable intentions, he was unable to make the opening. Shortly thereafter, yet still sometime in 1941, not wanting to slight the great muralist, my uncle caught up with Rivera while he was staying and working at the studio of an American sculptor by the name of Frances Rich in Santa Barbara, California. Rivera invited my uncle to visit him in Mexico the following year, setting a date, place and time.
The following year, 1942, even though Pearl Harbor had just been bombed a few months before and war had broken out all across the Pacific and in Europe, my uncle honored his invite by Rivera. In those days my uncle lived hand-to-mouth, project to project, one painting to the next. So said, on his trip to Mexico he went by train traveling 4th class. Fourth class was usually filled with the indiginous poor, baggage, and sometimes even animals. My uncle had traveled in Mexico several times by train but very seldom did he ever see other white Americans traveling less than 2nd class. However, on this trip and highly unusual, there was a young boy, quite clearly an American and appearing to be in his mid-teens or so, traveling in 4th class unaccompanied by any adults or family. Although the boy projected a certain strength in confidence he seemed somewhat uncomfortable in what was most likely unfamiliar surroundings. Inturn, my uncle started up a conversation with him. The boy turned out to be a young Clement Meighan, recently graduated from high school (early), age 17 and traveling in Mexico on his own just to learn and for the experience before what he saw as the impending draft into the military the next year when he turned 18
Years later, although done so independently of each other and without knowledge of each others endeavors, both my uncle and Meighan were prime movers in helping to formulate the grounding foundations for the early works of Carlos Castaneda. Castaneda even opened his first book, THE TEACHINGS OF DON JUAN: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, University of California Press (1968), with acknowledgement to Meighan with the following sentence:
"I wish to express profound gratitude to Professor Clement Meighan, who started and set the course of my anthropological fieldwork."
Castaneda's references to datura's four heads, their different purposes, the significance of the roots, the cooking process and the ritual of preparation, etc., that Castandea attributed to Don Juan in his books, bore my uncle's own signature. Re the following:
"In later years (because of) my uncle's knowledge of sacred datura and peyote, as well as other halluciogens, he was interviewed by Carlos Castaneda, apparently on a road trip in the process of gathering information for future use in his series of books on the powerful shaman-sorcerer he eventually apprenticed under, Don Juan Matus. In 1960 or so Castaneda was an anthropology student at UCLA collecting information and specimens of medicinal type plants used by the Indians in the desert southwest when he and my uncle crossed paths. My uncle had field searched thousands and thousands of plants, herbs, and mushrooms, even to having had several previously undiscovered species named after him."(source)
CASTANEDA'S 1960s PAPER ON DATURA
MARGARET RUNYAN CASTANEDA
As found in Footnote  of La Palma Secret Base I tell how I personally visited the remains of what was left of the one time World War II clandestine Japanese submarine base in 2003, two years before the remnants of Hurricane Stan completely destroyed and flushed them out to sea. When I was first told by my uncle circa 1968 or so of Rochelle Hudson's involvement in things espionage I was not aware it was not common knowledge, especially so regarding the alleged Japanese submarine base in Chiapas.
If it was common knowledge there sure is not much formal accessible evidence about it. In that hard information regarding the base was rare, before I visited the site I contacted three very good friends of mine that have traveled in Chiapas for a number of reasons. Two have even flown over the estuaries in question at a very low level by helicopter. The third, who I do not think would ever get in a helicopter, has accessed the estuaries by local small boats many times. She is a former Peace Corps volunteer who served in the Caribbean that I have known for years who has extensive experience living and being in Chiapas and maintains very close ties to the people. She related to me that there are still firm rumors and stories amongst the locals of Japanese submarines having been seen in the estuaries during the war, and, despite weathering, flooding, and excessive jungle-like plant overgrowth, there were some remains of the base today that can still be seen. However, remaining eyewitnesses to actual events are few if at all.
As it was related to my uncle by Hudson circa 1948 or so, in the early 1940s when she went into the estuaries with the sleeper agent the agent told her that he had observed submarines close-up on at least two occasions being attended to at the base, most likely taking on fuel, water and provisions.(see) He said diesel fuel was obtained in small quanities, from roughly 200 to 500 gallon increments over a long period of time from all over the general area by a number of people so as to not raise suspicion, then stored in steel drums at the base. The dock was recent in construction built specifically to handle the submarines and done so mainly by hand without any heavy machinery. A good part of the docking area was made from cement mixed with sand and shells with wood portions obtained from nearby indigenous materials. Initially the pier structure and ramps were questionable and unable to hold more than a few barrels of fuel at a time because of the 400-plus pound weight of the drums when full. Since the subs held six or seven hundred barrels of fuel the whole refueling process from gathering to distribution was a slow and tedious process and highly labor intensive, taking days to refuel by hand. Later the dock was strengthened to hold more barrels and refueling went from hand pumps to electricity and gravity feed. After the submarines entered the estuary they were guided by manned dugouts tethered on both sides of the bow, sometimes following in the wake of a possible ruse de guerre that appeared to be a fairly large fishing boat. For departure the subs slowly backed down the estuary with manned dugouts tied to both sides of the stern to a point in the channel where it got wide enough to turn around and head out to sea. Although not documented or confirmed through the regular loop of informants, the 'fairly large fishing boat', a trawler of sorts, had also been reported to have been seen on at least one occasion to have, and transferred, to the base dock what was referred to as a 'whole deck full of oil drums,' apparently loaded on board the trawler off the coast from an unidentified sea going ship.
Since my visit it has been brought to my attention there is what is considered a very good book on the subject, published in 2001, actually titled LA PALMA: Secret Base, by one Arthur Gehrke, that gets into the nitty gritty and nuts and bolts of the supposed goings on there during the war.
The two submarines were probably the I-9 and I-10. The I-10 was sent to the U.S. Pacific west coast by the Imperial Japanese Navy on December 14, 1941 and assigned to patrol off San Diego, California, an operational area that was the farthest south of all the submarines dispatched by the IJN. It returned to Kwajalein five days later on December 19, 1941 for unknown reasons.
The I-9 arrived off the Oregon coast December 19, 1941 only to be ordered to Panama the next day. On route it was held up just off Mexico to join three other subs for a potential attack on a trio of U.S. battleships reported to be steaming up the west coast toward San Pedro and due to arrive there on December 25, 1941. The report proved false and the I-9 continued on, officially recorded as being at least as far south as Guadalupe Island located 150 miles off the coast of Baja California and 220 miles south of San Diego, sometime around December 22nd.
Without any battleships to engage the four heavily armed Japanese submarines basically went their separate ways, with the exception of one, the I-19, with the following results:
"On Christmas day, December 25th, one of the four submarines, the I-19, taking up a position in the narrow channel between Santa Catalina Island and the mainland just off Point Fermin near San Pedro, and possibly leaning rogue or breaking rank, torpedoed and damaged the unarmed U.S. freighter theSS Absaroka. Although the Absaroka settled up to her main deck within minutes and abandoned, the crew reboarded her and a Navy tug towed her to a strip of sand below Fort MacArthur and beached. Such a blatant attack a mile off Point Fermin within eyesight of the Naval shipyards on Terminal Island and on Christmas day besides, set off a whole slew of concerns and heightened alerts by the Americans and possibly undermined the potential outcome of an attack by the Japanese on the 27th." (source)
The I-25, another huge trans-oceanic submarine similar to the I-9 and I-10 was operating off the coast of Oregon nearly a year after the departure of the I-9 and I-10, at least into early October of 1942 before she left the Pacific west coast altogether, arriving in Yokosuka, Japan October 24, 1942. In the meantime, on the 9th of September she was involved in an aircraft bombing attack on the U.S. mainland in Oregon along with a second one on September 29th. Sometime during the 20-day span between the two aerial attacks by the I-25 she must have embarked on an extremely top secret mission that involved putting a two-man midget submarine into the waters around the Channel Islands off southern California, a midget sub that, according to World War II Comes To Redondo, ended up being bombed and riding up into the surf off Redondo Beach, California during the early weeks of October. It is thought the I-25 continued south to the secret base before returning north to Oregon.
TWO-MAN JAPANESE- MIDGET SUBMARINE MOUNTED
ADJACENT TO THE MOTHER SHIP'S CONNING TOWER
(please click image)
On March 20, 1942, during a routine patrol a pilot for the Mexican Air Force, Lieutenant Leopoldo Meza, flying under the banner of the First Regiment, came across a submarine just along the surface 30 miles east off the coast of Sinaloa, Mexico. Meza strafed the submarine with nearly a full belt of machine gun fire. However, circling back around for a second pass, the sub, apparently remaining operable enough within reason, was somehow able to escape, disappearing underwater without a trace.
All the reports on the attack always list it as happening 30 miles off the coast of Sinaloa, then follow that up with brackets saying (Pacific Ocean). Meza's plane was said to be operating out of Baja California, most likely the southern portion somewhere north or inland from La Paz. Sinaloa is a Mexican state on the mainland of Mexico of which the northern half faces the Baja Peninsula and the Sea of Cortez while the southern half faces directly into the Pacific Ocean. What I take from Meza's report is that the sub he attacked was still in Pacific waters having not yet entered the Sea of Cortez. I only speculate that the sub was either coming or going to or from the Sea of Cortez because the distance between Baja and the mainland state of Sinaloa is at a minimum of 130 miles wide. Thirty miles off the coast of Sinaloa doesn't give you very many places to go or come from if the gulf wasn't part of it OR the Secret Base.
In conjunction with reports of Meza's attack it is often stated by others, that is, other than Meza and who themselves weren't there, that the possibility exists what he strafed that day in the water off Sinaloa was not a submarine, but was in fact instead a whale. Blue whales found in the Baja and Pacific waters seldom if ever reach 100 feet in length while whale sharks, inhabiting the same general area, are stretching it at 40 feet. Except for the 110 foot special mission sub in 1944 that was towed from the La Palma secret base to Isla Ángel de la Guarda, also called Archangel Island, off Bahia de los Angeles in the Sea of Cortez, most German U-boats of the era ranged between 200 to 250 feet in length. The Japanese I-Type submarines deployed up and down the U.S. and Mexican Pacific west coast during the same period were 340 to nearly 380 feet long. Hard to believe, considering the typical U-boat was at least twice the size of the largest whale and the I-Type Japanese submarine was three times plus the length, that either could be misconstrued to be a whale.
The next confirmed report of activity at he secret base was on or about September 15, 1943, when the infamous German surface raider Michel, reputed to be Germany’s last operational warship on the high seas, suddenly appeared anchored directly off the coast of the Chiapas estuary inlet that led to the submarine base. Her LS-4 speedboat was put into the water heading into the estuary, picking up a guide from one of the sandbars, eventually docking at the base. Throughout the night the speedboat along with a number of other small boats available at their disposal ferried fresh food, stores, water, and equipment back and forth between the ship and the submarine base, as well as no doubt replenishing the base supply with a few extra torpedoes.
On the morning of October 17, 1943, after having departed the secret base weeks before and transiting clear across the Pacific, the Michel was hit with at least three torpedoes from the submarine USS Tarpon 100 miles off Japan's main island Honshu. The captain and a good portion of crewmen went down with the ship. Despite pleas from Berlin, the Japanese authority was either unwilling or unable to search vigorously for survivors. About 110 of the crew made it to land, but another 100 or so who made it off the ship perished when the Japanese were unable to locate them.
The infamous long-range and long thought to be sunk (several times) Japanese Ghost Submarine I-12 showed up at the La Palma Secret Base sometime around mid-December, 1944 followed within days by the equally infamous if not more so German submarine, the U-196. The U-196 was most likely the last submarine to visit the base.
SECRET JAPANESE SUBMARINES BASES
ON THE PACIFIC WEST COAST
Operation Torch was the over-arcing name designation for the entire invasion campaign of Vichy French North Africa in November, 1942. Imbedded within the main operation were a number of smaller operations of which one, Operation Villain, I write about elsewhere, mainly in connection with a fully gassed and ready to go C-47 found in 1945 stashed away on a remote, abandoned airstrip out in the middle of the Nevada desert filled with flight instructions all written in German. The C-47 was one of 39 that was originally used in Operation Villain. How it ended up in Nevada, nobody seems to know.(see)
During the early months of World War II, before Operation Torch was even given the name Operation Torch, the highly secret plan to invade North Africa was slowly being rolled out and being put into place. How that invasion was going to be implemented had not been fully finalized. One school of thought felt that staging an invasion from the Azores and Canary Islands would be a good idea. The other school of thought felt a direct invasion would be the best as taking over both islands first then building up men and materials would be a dead giveaway of a potential North African invasion. The person I call My Merchant Marine Friend was a crew member on a convoy being put together that was to go to Puerto Rico doing top secret pre-staging staging of equipment, material, and ships for a quick jump either to the Azores and Canaries or directly to North Africa for the invasion. Before the convoy even finished forming up, just off the coast of Florida the ship he was on was hit by torpedoes from a German U-boat. He barely escaped with his life, having to jump overboard into a sea of burning naphtha and oil, searing his lungs and most of his body. Never fully recovering he died ten years later primarily as a result of his wounds.
Operation Torch, nearly a fiasco in the beginning, through hard work, dedication and pure perseverance, in less than six months in North Africa turned around, with the tide ending in the Allies favor and the Germans fully on the run. Re the following regarding 100 German troop transports loaded to the gills with armed battle-hardened German soldiers being secretly ferried out of Africa and caught by a group of P-40 Warhawks in what has become known as the "Goose Shoot":
"On Sunday, April 18, 1943 the U.S. Army Air Force's 57th Fighter Group stationed at El Djem, Tunisia in North Africa, on a routine mission over Cape Bon had 46 P-40 Warhawks in the air along with 18 British Spitfires flying top cover. Low on fuel and basically returning to base they came across a 100 plane flotilla of German JU-52 German troop transport planes flying just above sea level over the Mediterranean, escorted by 50 Messerschmitt fighters. Catching the Germans completely off guard, while the Spitfires drew off the Messerschmitts and kept them busy, the P-40s split into pairs diving on the enemy planes tearing the transports to shreds, with an overall kill count of 77 enemy aircraft destroyed."
P-40 GOOSE SHOOT
Below you will find a link called Curtiss P-40 that relates back specifically to the fact that the P-40, for the most part, was the major allied plane of choice in the comic strip series Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff. In the strip Caniff created a fighter pilot he called Flip Corkin. Corkin was based on a real life fighter pilot of then Major Philip G. Cochran. Most of the Corkin character's adventures in the strip circulated around the use of P-40s in the China-Burma-India theater during World War II with the planes so illustrated carrying all the markings of the Flying Tigers. The real life pilot, Philip G. Cochran, however, before any CBI affiliation, earned his reputation as the squadron commander of "J" Squadron flying P-40s in North Africa as part of the 33rd Fighter Group.
Hardly anyone ever puts P-40s and aircraft carriers together. However, Cochran's P-40 equipped "J" Squadron, arrived off the coast of North Africa with several others, flying from the deck of a flattop, with his squadron being the first to catapult P-40 Warhawks from the deck of a aircraft carrier and recover them in Casablanca. Re the following from the source so cited:
"While the idea of catapulting the P-40s may have been a cutting edge idea, the actual execution of the plan would prove to be less than simple. Although the ship was equipped to accommodate aircraft operations, the P-40s were not able to operate off a ship because they were too heavy. After stripping the Warhawks of ammunition, navigation equipment, and excess fuel, Major Cochran (squadron commander) and his deputy flight lead were catapulted from the ship, breaking both the catapults in the process, thus leaving 34 pilots to determine how they were going to launch. Throughout the remainder of the day, all but three aircraft were able to make it to Casablanca; two aircraft went down where the pilots were recovered and one went down without the pilot being recovered.
"The invasion was in its early stages, and organization systems were fragile if not nonexistent. Finding no assignments and no place to go, Cochran decided to keep the group together and headed off in the general direction of the war. By inquiring locally as they flew short hops, they eventually found an Army infantry unit at a flat spot in the desert who were more than happy to have their own air cover.
"Cochran immediately set up a training schedule for his recruits, commandeered infantry trucks to find supplies, fuel, and ammunition from wherever they could be borrowed or pilfered, and in a few weeks had a cohesive fighting squadron. Being formed outside of Air Force jurisdiction and having no official number, they dubbed themselves the 'Joker Squadron,' and adopted bright red scarves are their symbol."(source)
PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR