In 2012 the Society hosted “Avenge Ellwood!” The Japanese Attack on California, a special exhibition commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Ellwood Shelling in Goleta. The landmark exhibit featured a piece of a shell that was fired in the attack, period clothing and uniforms, newspaper clippings, film coverage and more. In addition to commemorating the attack with a new historical marker at the site, the Society hosted a series of complimentary lectures and events throughout the year.
On February 23, 1942, a large Japanese submarine identified as the I-17 surfaced at sundown off of Ellwood Mesa and fired its deck cannon at the tidelands oil-production facilities clustered along the shore. Under the command of Captain Kozo Nishino, the Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-17 began firing at the coast at 7:15 pm. Goleta locals reported between 16 and 29 shells fired with at least 3 shells striking near the Bankline Company’s oil refinery. Rigging and pumping equipment at a well about 1,000 yards inland were destroyed, but no other damage was caused.
One shell overshot its target by three miles and landed on the Tecolote Ranch, where it exploded. Another landed on the nearby Staniff Ranch, failing to explode but leaving a crater five-feet deep. Numerous other shells fell short of their targets, dropping into the sea, on the beach, and into nearby cliffs. The submarine ceased firing around 7:35 pm and departed on the surface; it was observed exiting the south end of the Santa Barbara Channel at 8:30 pm. Though the shelling caused only minor damage, it sparked fears of invasion and internal subversion along the West Coast. The shelling was the first Axis attack on the continental United States in World War II and came only two-and-a-half months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, which plunged the United States into the war.