the Wanderling

As far as my dad was concerned my older brother, my dad's first born, was like a prince. In my young mind as I saw things, or how I felt it in my bones, my dad lavished, if not all, an inordinate amount of his time, affections and care towards him, leaving me feeling shortchanged in the bargain. In order to counteract that lavishness and have my dad aim some of that affection in my direction, I did everything I could to gain or establish an equal level of worthiness. The difference was that my older brother received his worthiness, at least as I saw it, with no effort on his part, but I had to continuously prop up mine diligently, making any outcome dubious or short term without my constant input. Thus entered into my young childhood me being a Junior Air Raid Warden.

During World War II, on our block and for several around, my dad was an air raid warden, a position he not only relished, but a fine one at that. My older brother didn't care about it one way or the other, but I saw it as a window of opportunity to upgrade my status in my father's eyes. If my solution did or didn't work relative to my dad is nothing I have any real recollection of, however I liked it. On my own initiative and a little help from my mother, I became a Junior Air Raid Warden primarily on the basis of responding to an ad similar to the one further down the page and reading comic book stories about Junior Air Raid Wardens such as found in Edison Bell. In the process of doing so, even though by age 10, I built and flew a Flying Machine, initially based on a Leonardo Da Vinci design, I was still trying to impress my dad for the same reason as being a Junior Air Raid Warden should have. I did however, in both cases, among my peers and other adults on the block, raise my importance and recognition beyond any simply just from my dad, making me understand for the first time, sadly enough, that there was a much wider world of significance out there.

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Although we had a few practice air raids and blackouts that my dad had participated in as an air raid warden they were all fairly orderly. The first real one however, was nothing but utter chaos. My family and I were living in a then small beach town along the southern California coastline named Redondo Beach, a suburb of and not far from the city of Los Angeles, when on the night of Wednesday, February 25, 1942, a huge, giant airborne object of an unknown nature cruised directly over the top of our house, an object that was easily the size of a Zeppelin. Before reaching Redondo, the giant object had overflown a good portion of the whole of Los Angeles causing nothing but area wide blackouts, anti-aircraft fire all over the city, reeking havoc all up and down the entire L.A. basin --- an object of which I along with my entire family were clearly able to see that night. Guns and sirens and searchlights were all over the place, and even though it was two or three in the morning almost the whole block got up and went outside to see it.

In our particular case however, that is me, my father, and our family, as well as the rest of the neighborhood no doubt, were woke up and warned of the pending possible air raid by a quick thinking old man that lived next door to my house. He ran outside with a hand crank air raid siren and got us all up and out on the street early to start whatever preparations would be necessary in case of an attack.

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Even with all that going on, from as soon as the night it happened to right up to this day, people are still questioning why no U.S. planes were ordered into the skies to apprehend the object on it's approach. In an article written by Paul T. Collins for FATE Magazine, Volume 40, Number 7, Issue 448, and published in July, 1987 titled World War II UFO Scare, the following by Collins is found:

"Planes of the Fourth Interceptor Command were, in fact, warming up on the runways waiting for orders to go up and interview the unknown intruders. Why, everybody was asking, were they not ordered to go into action during the 51-minute period between the first air-raid alert at 2:25 AM and the first artillery firing at 3:16?"


Anybody who is familiar with or has read any amount of my online works knows that as a kid I was big on box top and the like offers, especially so the radio premium offers such as Ovaltine's Captain Midnight's Radio Premiums, and more specifically in my case, the 1942-1945 Photo Matic Code-O-Graph version that figured so prominently throughout my childhood into adulthood. For our purposes here of course, at least as it relates to air raids and blackouts, wasn't a Code-O-Graph at all, but another Captain Midnight radio premium offer called Magic Blackout Lite-Ups. The offer was specifically designed for wartime blackouts, consisting of two sheets of paper impregnated with glow-in-the-dark luminous chemicals. The idea was to glue a small strip of the material at light switches, stair steps, flashlights, etc. so they would be more readily seen during blackouts.

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Another box top offer that was really huge for me, and probably the most infamous in the history of box top offers, was Quaker's deed to one inch square of Yukon land offered through the Klondike Big Inch Land Company. I still have my original deed from the Big Inch Land Company. The third box-top offer that was also big in my life was also a Quaker cereal promotion called Capt. Sparks Airplane Pilot Training Cockpit. It was from my early childhood during the war years like the Code-O-Graphs but unlike the other offers I didn't actually have one myself, the girl next door who babysat my brothers and me had one and I use to go over there and play with it for hours.[1]

"With so much of my life in flux month to month, year to year, the regular listening to Captain Midnight on the radio and decoding secret messages, provided me with a strong, solid continuance and lifeline in an otherwise tumultuous world. People and families seemed to come and go, Captain Midnight seemed to stay."


The Junior Air Raid Warden Kit I sent for, although not a box top offer per se' did fall into a similar or like category, that is, getting it in the first place through a comic book ad. What was different with the Junior Air Raid Warden Kit was that it's application of use was raised to a higher level. Captain Midnight was a fictional character. True he had all kinds of adventures but they were all make believe. Now, while it is true the air raid kit I sent for was a "toy," air raids themselves were REAL. The chance of attacks were not fictional, but an actuality. Living on the coast we were constant hostage to the possibility of attack. Christmas day, December 25, 1941, practically within eyesight of my home in the California beach community where I lived, a Japanese submarine, the I-19, took up a position in the narrow channel between Santa Catalina Island and the mainland just off Point Fermin near San Pedro where my dad worked in the shipyards. Laying in wait at periscope depth in sight of the fully operational military installation of Fort MacArthur, without warning, the I-19 torpedoed the unarmed U.S. freighter SS Absaroka followed then by a nearly clean escape. A clean escape that encompassed going right past by my place just off the coast before turning west to dive into the deep marine channel not far off the Redondo Beach pier. All those Japanese submarines that plied their way up and down the California coast, and there were a bunch of them, were aircraft equipped, capable of launching airplanes on a moments notice, so we had to remain vigilant, not just play.[2] [3]

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Truth be told, the attack on the S.S. Absaroka along with the flyover of of the huge object of unknown origin that went right over the top of my house and the shelling of the oil fields north of Santa Barbara by a Japanese submarine had all happened and been long done and over by the time I received my air raid warden kit. The thing is, the manufacture's and marketer's of such items were all totally caught off guard. Just one month before the first Junior Air Raid Warden Kit advertisements started showing up in the various publications and comic books those same publications and comic books were publishing advertisements from the same companies hawking 33 power telescopes to look at the moon and stars. The quote below, from the source so cited, sort of puts a stamp on the timing of it all:

"The first part of 1943 can be fairly well substantiated as well. My dad was an air raid warden on our block and for several blocks around and did a lot of what I thought was really neat air raid warden stuff. Wanting to be like my dad I mimicked him in a proud sort of way by answering an ad in a comic book for a Junior Air Raid Warden Kit, thus becoming, at least as I viewed it, an air raid warden myself. I know the advertisement began appearing as early as February 1943, meaning most likely, by taking into consideration the cover date lead time, the ad was showing up on the magazine stands by sometime in mid-late December 1942 or at least by January 1943. Knowing me and how I responded to other like offers plus how important being an air raid warden meant to me personally I was most likely chaffing at the bit to get one as soon as I could, so I'm sure by early February 1943 I had one."


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While people like Claire Chennault and his men were waging real life battles against the Japanese in their far-flung air war over China and Burma, facing nothing but superior odds with their P-40 Flying Tigers, and "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell was doing the best he could in the malaria ridden jungles of Southeast Asia with his outnumbered and ill-equipped ground troops against the more powerfully equipped Japanese forces, others back at home in the United States in a groundswell of patriotism, were urging them ever onward with what little they had. Meanwhile America's war machine was ever increasingly gearing-up, expanding with bottom-line assurances of being delivered expediently and in full strength.

Part of that groundswell of patriotism was being driven at the bottom by other than battlefield combatants, regular people, as well as movie, radio, and comic book heroes all trying to shine a light of hope during an otherwise dismal time. I've cited many examples in my works of the era, and although totally minor in the overall scheme of things, added together they breathed hope with small drip-by-drips into the hearts and minds and souls of many of those at home and abroad. The illustrated contents of this page done in comic book style you are reading right now is just one example of those attempts by people on the home front trying to buoy the spirits of an America caught in tough times. There were of course, many hundreds that could be cited, but two of which I've chosen to exemplify find the heroes, both females, switched from their usual habitat in Europe fighting Germans to fighting Japanese in Asia, more specifically connecting up with the Flying Tigers in the air war over Burma and China. They would be the red haired firebrand and spy Jane Martin, War Nurse and the somewhat more demure, albeit female Army airborne commando, Pat Parker, War Nurse.







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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.

Footnote [1]

Because I enjoyed the Capt. Sparks Airplane Pilot Cockpit toy so much, and played with it so often Mary Lou decided to downsize it from our or her use to my use exclusively. She did so by upgrading to a different much more sophisticated model. Where the Capt. Sparks Pilot Cockpit was a cereal box top offer, and a good one at that, the new one was a big bucks go to the store and buy it model called an Einson-Freeman Pre-Flight Trainer. She didn't actually give me the old Capt. Sparks one per se' after she got the new one, but for all practical purposes it became mine --- although she never allowed me to take it home. I remember specifically the new one because it didn't have a square joystick like the one I played with, but a circular steering wheel. I also remember she didn't allow me to use it much, leaving me relegated to the use of the old one, which I recall was fine by me.

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Although I didn't actually own the Capt. Sparks Airplane Pilot Training Cockpit, the one I write about all the time, Mary Lou's, which was practically mine, did however, play a major role in my later adult life because it justly confirmed what I could or could not remember from my early childhood. Why what I could or could not remember even comes up is because what I have presented in the previously linked BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES: 1942 UFO.

One of the major historians of the battle C. Scott Littleton, even though he cites what I have to say extensively throughout his works (usually uncredited) he usually adds that his source (me) as being too young to remember what I reported. To counteract his thoughts on the subject I have presented throughout what I have written a whole series of things I remember from the era, of which one is the following:

"I remember a lot of things, up to and well before that period of time in my life. For example, my mother nursing my brother who was three years younger than me. Seeing barrage balloons floating in the sky tethered to the ground over the shipyards in Terminal Island where my father worked. Because metal was not available for toys during wartime, the lifesize cardboard toy fighter plane-type cockpit --- colored on one side with dials and printed only in black and white on the backside --- with a movable square cardboard joystick that the girl next door owned."

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Please notice it you have clicked the above image the newspaper advertisement that shows up promoting the Capt. Sparks Airplane Pilot Training Cockpit is in a newspaper dated November 6, 1941 almost one month to the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that ushered the U.S. officially into World War II. Notice as well, even though I stress cardboard vs. the lack of metal toys because of the war, that the pilot training cockpit, albeit cardboard, was already anticipating the oncoming war and lack of metal. Most of the above information, graphics etc., by the way, are thanks to the following:




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Footnote [2]


A half a world away on that exact same Christmas day in 1941 that the Japanese Imperial Submarine I-19 was busy unleashing torpedoes against the unarmed McCormick Steamship Company's 5,695-ton American lumber carrier SS Absaroka in the channel between Catalina Island and the mainland off Point Fermin and practically within sight of the Redondo Beach pier if not in sight, the Japanese launched a massive air attack against the Flying Tigers.

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Their early warning system allowed the Tigers just enough of a chance to scramble 18 P-40 Tomahawks of the Third Pursuit Group's Hell's Angels, then, after reaching altitude, in a lightning fast attack, they came screaming out of the sun catching the unsuspecting Japanese pilots and crews almost totally off guard, or at least until it was to late. The following paragraph by Russell Whelan in his book The Flying Tigers, Viking Press (1942), sums up the results:

Final accounts of the victories varied widely. Officially credited to the A.V.G. were thirteen Japanese bombers and ten fighters, a total of twenty-three planes. Leland Stowe, the American war correspondent who flew to Rangoon immediately after news of the astounding Japanese defeat reached the outside world, reported that the Flying Tigers had brought down at least twenty-eight planes. They estimated six additional victories over the Gulf of Martaban, where the Japanese aircraft had sunk without evidence. In any case, it was established beyond doubt that of the one hundred and eight Japanese planes participating in the two Christmas Day raids, the Flying Tigers had knocked out at least thirty-six. In addition, the Japanese had lost not less than ninety-two pilots and bomber crewmen, as compared with none for the A.V.G.


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Footnote [3]


Every now and then I get an email from someone who tells me, after having visited the Redondo Beach Historical Museum and carrying on a casual conversation with museum staff mentioning something they recalled from material of mine regarding some aspect of Redondo Beach they came across, it is not always received with full 100% substantiating results --- in other words, it gets pooh-poohed. See:




As a kid it seems like a large portion of almost everything I learned came from reading comic books. Over and over, even today in the stuff I write I often refer back to something I read at one time or the other in a comic book, that is, except maybe for one major time when there was not just comic books involved, but the coming together of BOTH comic books AND Saturday afternoon matinee movies of the day. In that particular incident I designed, built, and flew a Da Vinci-like flying machine at a height well over two-stories above street level --- before crashing --- as described in Tarzan and the Huntress.

"Halfway across busy Arlington Street the craft began slowing and losing forward momentum. It began dropping altitude rapidly, eventually crashing into the porch and partway through the front windows of the house across the way."



Besides comic books I was also big on box top and the like offers. As I viewed it, comic book ads were a quick jump from box top offers, falling into a similar or like category. After I answered the comic book ad to become a Junior Air Raid Warden, and at the time I don't think I was even in kindergarten yet, the rest was easy.

Somewhere along the way I received an email in regards to being a Junior Air Raid Warden, mentioning that the comic book advertisement I cited said something like "Just What Every American Boy Needs" and other boy's only type references, thus somehow by inference and/or actually excluding girls. Maybe now as adults in our era looking back such would seem the case. However, the young boy that I was at the time, I just wasn't thinking that way. One of the reasons, at least for me was, for example, such cartoon panels as above from comic books of the era plus the fact that a girl down the street already had a Junior Air Raid Warden Set well before I ever got mine. After seeing hers and how cool it was, and with my dad being an Air Raid Warden and all, I had to have one of my own. At the time it never dawned on me a girl couldn't be an air raid warden or anything else she wanted. The kit she owned was another brand as pictured below and the first one I had ever seen. I do know most of the comic books in my era were aimed at boys or servicemen so there could have been a supposition on the part of the advertisers to aim their ads in that direction. Interestingly enough, the Junior Air Raid Warden kit the girl had was NOT mail order like mine. How or why she ever got it I never found out.


After the war my uncle would take me to a giant army surplus store called Palley's. Every time we would go I always returned with a bunch of World War II army surplus stuff like canteens, pistol belts, parkas, infantry backpacks and Army M43 folding shovels. Not only that, in later years, albeit still a kid, I put them to work as found in the following:

"Traveling in the desert I carried a World War II pistol belt with a G.I. canteen always filled with water, and along with the canteen, a pouch hooked to the pistol belt. I had a couple of those 'Carlisle' first aid pouches and I used to carry all kinds of stuff in them. Stainless steel pocket knife with a fold-out fork and spoon. Compass. Waterproof matches. Always in the pouch as well was one of my most prized possessions, a pocket-sized sun dial gizmo called a Little Orphan Annie Miracle Compass Sun-Watch, a one-time radio-premium offer given me by the grandfather of the girl who used to babysit me when I was even a littler kid."

The Roswell Ray Gun

When my uncle returned to Santa Fe and I started living with a foster couple, mail order took up the slack. The graphic that follows of a backpack, pistol belt, canteen, a shovel, etc., is just like all the stuff I would order from Army surplus ads that used to show up, like the one below, in comic books of the era. Since I was just a kid with no mother and father and living with a foster couple at that, the question always comes up, "Where did I get the money?" Not being totally truthful about my age, through the influence of my stepmother, I got a job at a place called The Normandie Club.

Take a close look at the full color Army surplus ad below the two smaller jeep ads. Back in those days a kid, like I was in those days, could order knives, machetes, and axes if they were so predisposed. My dad actually bought a brand new, or at least never used, World War II jeep right off the docks in San Francisco by responding to a similar ad. The jeep, along with hundreds of others, were piled up on the docks just about to be shipped off to the South Pacific when the war ended. The government was selling them off as fast as they could, first come first served for $225.00 bucks.(see)

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"The ad offered surplus jeeps for $278.00. There were literally hundreds of scams around right after the war saying you could buy surplus jeeps from $50.00 and up and that's what most of them were, scams. After looking into it my dad discovered he could actually purchase a brand new, or at least never used, World War II Jeep for $225.00 cash right off the docks in San Francisco, which in reality turned out to be not docks in San Francisco, but across the bay in the naval ship yards at Vallejo or Alameda."

Even before I reached ten years of age my Stepmother, much to my dad's chagrin, bought a ranch in the Mojave Desert. The property was a whole section of land in size, that is, one square mile, with ten or twenty acres set aside on one corner for the ranch house, barn, and horse corrals. No sooner had she bought the ranch than my brothers and I moved there, doing all kinds of ranch stuff like ride horses and shoot guns, of which the ranch house had a number of them --- some on the wall and above the doors such as a lever action 30-30 Winchester, a shotgun or two, a couple of .22 rifles, and a very rare antique 1847 black powder percussion revolver called a Colt Walker which was usually kept in a case. Every once in a while I would take the 4.5 pound Colt out of the case and run around playing cowboys with it, sometimes even mixing genres by wielding the colt in one hand and a Buck Rogers Disintegrator in the other. In that the Colt was a black powder revolver and since nobody knew how to load it and everybody was afraid to, it was never loaded. In my later teenage years the Colt was sent to a gunsmith for some reason or the other and while there the gunsmith let me fire three rounds through it.

Almost as quick as we moved onto the ranch than my dad, who along with my stepmother remained living in the city, started to look around at tractors and all kinds of other big time ranch-like stuff. Instead he decided on a four wheel drive World War II jeep to tool around in. Even though none of us kids were old enough to drive legitimately on any of the paved roads around or near the ranch, on the dirt roads and the scrub brush desert lands surrounding the ranch, as well as on the ranch itself, we drove all over the place.

My dad actually bought the Jeep after answering an ad similar to the one below. The ad offered surplus Jeeps for $278.00. After looking into it he discovered he could actually purchase a brand new, or at least never used, World War II Jeep for $225.00 cash right off the docks in San Francisco, which in reality turned out to be not docks in San Francisco, but across the bay in the naval ship yards at Vallejo or Alameda.

I still remember as a boy showing up with my dad and brothers. The whole place turned out to be a huge labyrinth of buildings, cranes, railroad tracks, and narrow between the structures roadways. On the docks were literally hundreds and hundreds of jeeps lined up row after row along with all kinds of other military hardware and equipment. The jeeps themselves had been taken right off the factory assembly line to the docks months before for transshipment to the South Pacific just as the war ended and when I was there with my dad as a kid, all of them were still just sitting there gathering dust and getting flat tires.

Other than learning a new word and having it added to my vocabulary, i.e., cosmoline, except for one thing, I don't recall anything specifically about the logistics of how or what my dad had to do to get the jeep, how long it took, how much paperwork he had to shuffle, or how the jeep was prepared so we could drive it home, only that it was and we did --- drive it home, that is. The one thing I remember is that the man who sold my dad the jeep told him he couldn't pick it up until the next day because of some longshoreman rule. The thing is, my dad brought two longshoremen with him and the man who sold my dad the jeep gave it to him. The two longshoremen were provided by a longtime old friend of my stepmother named Johnny Roselli.

During the heat of the summer my dad didn't want to drive down California's central valley on Highway 99 or cross over the Sierras to use the 395, although once to either highway it would have been the most direct to the ranch. Instead he chose to drive down the California coastline on Highway 1 --- and what a trip it was no matter what highway we would have used. A jeep, no top, my dad and three kids, no real back seats and all before seat belt days. At first the jeep wouldn't go over 45 miles an hour. When we stopped for gas for the first time and with my dad complaining, the attendant, who had been in the Army and knew about jeeps said it was because of a "governor," a device or some such thing the Army put on vehicles to ensure they weren't driven too fast. The attendant took a screwdriver, fiddled with a few things, and the next thing we knew the jeep could do over 60! A couple of days later after camping along the way we were back at the ranch.

Living on the ranch in the high desert of the Mojave in those days were heady times. With the war finally over almost everything was doing nothing but going upward. All kinds of things were happening, especially in the aircraft and automotive fields and happening in the desert besides. The ranch was located not far from Muroc Dry Lake the same place Edwards Air Force Base was located. So too, the ranch wasn't far from Mirage Dry Lake either. On the ground at Mirage were nothing but numberless hot rods and belly tank lakesters. My uncle would take us out there to watch some of the hopped-up Ford flatheads hitting 150 mph. In the air, flying right over the ranch, were B-36s and flying wings. Higher up they were testing the Bell X-1 and breaking the sound barrier.

For us, we went from a bunch of kids tooling around the ranch to chasing locomotives out across the raw desert land at 90 miles per hour all the while watching B-36s and flying wings and hearing and sometimes feeling the sonic booms from the X-1.


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During the same period of time the ads for the Junior Air Raid Warden kits were showing up regularly around in comic books and I was in the process of ordering and getting one of my own, there was a girl who lived next door that my mother would hire to babysit my brothers and me. While it is true I'm not totally sure as to her age, that is, if she was into her teens or not, she was, at least in my mother's view, old enough to babysit us. She lived with her parents along with her curmudgeon old grandfather. The grandfather was a kind of a cross between Back to the Future's Doc Brown and Scrooge McDuck's Gyro Gearloose, inventor-type characters who seemed like they could fix, do, or build anything. The grandfather, who leaned much more toward Doc Brown in looks, had a junk filled workshop in the detached dirt floor single-car garage on the back of their property, collecting, working on, and making all kinds of stuff he said was to thwart the "impending invasion." The impending invasion meaning of course, the Japanese.


The grandfather was big on Japanese invasion stuff, even to the point of monitoring shortwave radio stations all night long to having his own hand-cranked air raid siren. My dad was the air raid warden for our block while right along with him I was, albeit self ordained, a Junior Air Raid Warden, and even though I never quite got it, my dad and the old man didn't always see eye-to-eye regarding his constant false air raid warnings. However, on the night of February 25, 1942 we had a real honest to goodness air raid. On that night a huge airborne object larger than a Zeppelin over flew most of the Los Angeles basin, taking over 1400 anti-aircraft rounds without making a dent, bringing down, or stopping the object, the object and the incident coming to be called:


Since that night there has been nothing but inconsistencies regarding sirens going off or not going off in the Redondo Beach when the object flew diagonally over the city. A number of people have said they lived in Redondo Beach at the time of the alleged incident and apparently, if it happened they say, slept right through it. They were sure they would have woke up if air raid sirens had gone off --- hence in their esteemed opinions, no sirens went off and thus then, inturn, my father could not have been woken up by sirens, meaning I guess, the whole thing is hot air.

Hot air or not, my dad and I, the old man, and everybody else that got up saw it. On the night the giant object flew over the old man was awake during the early morning hours working in the garage while at the same time monitoring emergency-band radio frequencies like he often did when he became aware something big was going on. After hearing gunshots in the distance he grabbed his air raid siren and went out on the street. It was his siren that awoke my father and it was he that gave an early warning to the rest of my family and the residents on our street.

The old man's concerns with an impending invasion, by the Japanese of course, was based on facts the way he had it figured. He had a huge full page article from the Los Angeles Examiner on the wall dated November 7, 1937, four years before Pearl Harbor that had a full page full color map, linked below, showing everything. According to the old man the article outlined exactly how the Japanese would invade the U.S. Anybody who came into his shop that he could corner for any length of time he would talk to for hours going over every minute detail. The headlines on the newspaper article read:





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