Camouflaging of the West Coast
Mere days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor the Army contacted Col. John F. Ohmer stationed at March Field, 70 miles away, while at the same time company officials at Lockheed's Burbank plant worked on developing ways to ramp up production for the newly declared war the country found itself in. The Army began setting up barricades around the facility and urgently sought ways to protect this and all of the other facilities up and down the Pacific Seaboard. Ohmer had seen how well Britain had protected its manufacturing facilities through camouflage and disguise and he intended to do the same for facilities on the West Coast.
Parking lots were painted green and large canopies were erected over the plant and the runways and then they were disguised to look like farm fields and quiet suburbs with small houses built on top of the canopies so that they would cast shadows as the sun passed over. So realistic was the effect that Ohmer even flew over the plant with some other military officers and asked them to point out the facilities. They couldn't do it!
Camouflage over the Lockheed Aircraft plant in Burbank, CA during World War II disguised it as a sparsely populated rural area
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army assigned Col. John F. Ohmer the task of disguising the Lockheed Vega aircraft plant (now known as Bob Hope Airport) to resemble an ordinary California suburb, making it one of the most strategically important military facilities in the United States.
Inspired by the successful camouflage efforts of the British during the Battle of Britain in 1940, Ohmer, a long-time advocate of camouflage, began assembling a team to execute his plan. He recruited artists, set designers, and painters from nearby movie studios such as Disney, Paramount, and 20th Century Fox.
At the plant, Ohmer set his grand illusion into motion. Airfields and parking lots were painted green and adorned with plants to create the illusion of alfalfa fields. The main factory was covered with a canopy made of chicken wire, netting, and painted canvas to blend in with the surrounding grass. Fake trees, constructed with spray-painted chicken feathers for leaves, were erected-some painted green to represent new growth, while others were brown to simulate decaying patches.
To facilitate movement across the plant, an intricate system of underground walkways was constructed. Additionally, air ducts were installed to ensure proper ventilation.
Once the camouflage was complete, Ohmer decided to test its effectiveness. He took a War Department general on a reconnaissance flight at an altitude of 5,000 feet and asked the general to identify the plant. The general, however, could only see an endless expanse of California suburbs, completely unaware of the strategic military facility concealed beneath the camouflage.