Invasion at Bodega Bay?

Ernie Pyle didn’t’ think much of Bodega Bay.

In a January 17, 1942 column, Pyle wrote:

And speaking of the war, many of the military experts who have written treatises on a possible American-Japanese war have pointed out Bodega Bay as one of the likely landing places in case of a [Jap]anese attempt to invade our continent.

Note: Pyle is probably referring to the British writer, Hector Bywater, author of “The Great Pacific War” in the 1920’s.  Bywater’s book described some of the elements of the WWII war in the Pacific.

To me, the idea of invasion is fantastic. But anyhow, I took a drive over to Bodega Bay to see what our potential “Lingayan”[sic] looks like. Believe me, it looks bleak.

Note: In 1899, during the Spanish-American War, we landed in Philippines through the Lingayen Gulf. In December, 1941, the Japanese invaded the Philippines through the Lingayen Gulf. In 1945, we again used the Lingayen Gulf for an amphibious landing to retake the Philippines.

Bodega Bay is about 50 miles north of San Francisco, and 25 miles west of Santa Rosa. For miles inland the country is hilly, and there’s hardly a tree on it. Few people live in the district. You have a sense of being at the end of nowhere, amid an isolation that is desolate and sinister.

The bay itself was sort of disappointing. It isn’t especially pretty. A few small fishing boats were anchored a short way out. The water isn’t deep enough to take a large ship, so the [Japs]  Japanese would have to unload outside and come in on barges, if they came.

That would certainly take them several hours, and within two hours half of San Francisco could be up there on the shore with hatchets and razor blades.

No, if I were Tokio, I’d just cross Bodega Bay off the list and concentrate on Catalina Island, where they have a good hotel and a nice bar.

An undated report of a military reconnaissance of Bodega Bay, found in the National Archives and probably from sometime in the early 1900’s states:

Bodega Bay is about 40 miles north of San Francisco. It is an open bight of the sea, about six miles long, between Bodega Head and Tomales Point, affording shelter in westerly and northwesterly weather.

The six fathoms line is about a half mile from available landing places.

North of the Bay and separated from it by a narrow strip of sand beach is a shallow lagoon, named, Bodega Lagoon, connected with the bay by a narrow channel. The depth over the bar at the entrance to the channel is about seven feet at mean low water. There is a pier at the town of Bay at the north end of the lagoon where schooners are loaded. There are landing places at several places on the lagoon. The channel within the lagoon is torturous and hard to follow. Outside the lagoon landings can be made on the sandy beach.

North of Bodega Lagoon and south in Tomales Bay there are practicable landing places for a small force.

Landings would be made by small boats, rafts, and lighters, towed by steam launches. The rafts would be carried on the decks or lashed to the sides of the troop ships. Study of the numerous expeditionary forces for the last thirty years will probably show no better facilities for landing. A good road follows the coast line to the north, and there are several good roads branching from it to the interior. Two excellent county roads lead from the lagoon and join inland. Good roads lead from Tomales Bay.

The country next to the sea is hilly, rising to an altitude of 500 feet. It is rolling country permitting movement of troops off the roads, now used mostly for cattle and dairy farms. Further in the interior are the rich valleys of Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Sonoma.

Water for some thousands of cattle in this vicinity is furnished by wells. Salmon Creek and American River cannot be depended on in the dry season.

The advantage of Bodega Bay as a landing place consists chiefly in the suitability of the country for military operations after the landing has been affected.

One of these two accounts must be right.


Bodega Bay – Corps of Engineers Photograph

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