Free Zoom Webinar: “They Came, They Saw, They Shelled”

Organizer: Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

On February 23, 1942, at 7:15 pm, a submarine sitting off the coast shelled the Ellwood Oil Field near Goleta. In commemoration of that event, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (SBMM) will present “They Came, They Saw, They Shelled,” a Zoom webinar with Neal Graffy, Santa Barbara’s unofficial historian, on Thursday, February 17, 2022, at 7pm PT. The webinar is free, but registration is required, and donations are welcome. Register at: https://sbmm.org/santa-barbara-event/

Just two months and sixteen days after the attack at Pearl Harbor – and during one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fireside chats – the I-17, a Japanese submarine, surfaced in the Santa Barbara Channel and shelled the oil facilities at Ellwood. Although there was little damage – only about $500 worth – the bombardment is significant because it was the first time since the War of 1812 that the US mainland was attacked by a foreign power. Another interesting fact is that among the few things that were damaged was a pump house, whose door is now on display in the Ellwood exhibit on the second floor of the Museum.


It may have fired only 25 shells and caused minimal damage, but it set off widespread panic up and down the California coast. Neal Graffy’s presentation, “They Came, They Saw, They Shelled,” will mark the 80th anniversary of that incident and reveal the rich history of Ellwood, the mission of the I-17, and the legend of an act of revenge by the sub’s commander over an incident with a cactus.

In addition, Graffy’s talk will cover the post-war untold history of the Timbers Restaurant, which has a surprising connection to the Ellwood shelling. You have to wonder, what was “Tex” Blankenship thinking in 1953 when he built a 9,600 square foot restaurant on 21 acres, 8 miles from Santa Barbara, virtually in the middle of nowhere? The answer surprisingly came in a clue from several old-timers:  “…find a red-haired waitress named Red.” The discovery of “Red” and interviews with the Blankenship family and several of the men who built The Timbers provide a delightful conclusion to the Ellwood story.


About Neal Graffy

Since giving his first slide-show talk on local history in 1989, Graffy has given well over 400 presentations on 22 different topics! Further, his expertise has been sought out by local, state, and national radio and TV. He has authored numerous monographs for historical organizations, as well as articles in regional and national publications, three local history books, and co-authored a series of historical fiction novels taking place in the early 1900s. He has also been featured in several documentaries including the Emmy Award winning Impressions in Time, appeared on Huell Howser’s California Gold, KCET TV’s Life and Times and on This Old House. “Delightfully unfettered by convention” pretty much sums up Neal Graffy’s approach to history. Whether it be in print, radio, television, documentary or live, his audiences always find his presentations to be entertaining, fun, and still educational.” (www.elbarbareno.com)

Graffy has served on the boards of the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, and the Mission Canyon Association, has been a member and chairman of the Santa Barbara County Landmarks Commission, Registrar of Marks and Brands, and Sheriff of the Santa Barbara Corral of Westerners. He is also a founding member of de la Guerra y Pacheco Chapter One point Five of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus. For fun, he collects Santa Barbara memorabilia, postcards, and photographs, plays and collects guitars, and enjoys cruising around town in an unrestored 1941 Packard 180 limousine, while continuing the never-ending search for the perfect bacon burger.

This event is generously sponsored by Marie L. Morrisroe.

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