Southern Pacific train car shelled, wounding two; World War II week by week

Posted by David Middlecamp on May 28, 2014 

A wire service photo from San Francisco was published May 15, 1944 showing the damage to a Southern Pacific Dining Car. Two women working in the car were seriously wounded.

TELEGRAM-TRIBUNE

A Telegram-Tribune article from May 13, 1944, says something about racial attitudes of the era. When rare stories about people of color appeared, racial labels were included as part of the narrative.

The article also speaks to the wartime dangers that could strike someone engaged in a civilian job.

(And, yes, alert copy editors, the headline was misspelled. It should have been "Diner")

Shell Strikes Train Dinner; 2 Women in S.L.O. Hospital

Miss Vertie B. Logan and Mrs. Alice Jones, Negro dishwashers who were injured Friday noon when fragments of a shell tore 33 holes in the diner and kitchen car of the Southern Pacific's streamlined passenger train, the "Daylight Limited," near Camp Cooke, were reported in "satisfactory" condition today at the San Luis Sanitarium.

Miss Logan, whose right arm was amputated at the shoulder, will recover barring unexpected complications, Dr. F.R. Mugler said today. She had a good night, and was improved this morning, he said.

Mrs. Jones suffered arm and facial injuries which were not serious and probably will be released from the hospital within a week.

None of the passengers who crowded the adjoining diner during the lunch hour when the shell exploded were injured.

The shell, still unidentified, exploded about 20 feet from the train as it sped along the ocean front past Camp Cooke, about 55 miles north of Santa Barbara and south of San Luis Obispo.

Most of the shell fragments, which made holes up to two inches in diameter, crashed into the kitchen compartment.

C.H. Mosiman of San Francisco, who was sitting in the diner at the time of the explosion, said the train was opposite the large Camp Cooke reservation when "an explosion nearly knocked the diner over."

"I saw puffs of smoke which seemed to come from anti-aircraft guns which we had seen in position along he track," he said.

Robert Fish, Rockford, Ill., also reported the train had just passed a gunnery range. The shell apparently had been launched toward the beach, passing over the tracks, since all the holes in the cars were on the ocean side of the train.

Passengers said there was no panic or excitement. Military personnel held the train at San Luis Obispo briefly, and the injured women were removed to the San Luis Sanitarium after being treated by the train physician.

It was Miss Logan's first trip as an employee of the line. Several employes and passengers reported narrow escapes from injury. One of them, Harry L. Young, Negro cook, said he was cutting meat with a cleaver when fragments whistled by him, a few inches from his hips.

"Something hit my cleaver and tore a piece out of the blade," he said. Army officials, headed by Capt. Charles Farrington, began an immediate investigation when the crowded train arrived in San Francisco on its run from Los Angeles. They later announced that they were sending their findings to the Ninth Service Command, Fort Douglas, Utah, for analysis.

May 15, 1944

Investigation revealed that the train shelling was due to a 55-mm howitzer. A wire service photo showing the holes in the dining car was published on the front page of this edition.

May 25, 1944

Cal Poly graduated 10 students, three in absentia who were now attending midshipman school. Commencement was brief and simple. The incoming class in 1940 had 350 men enrolled, but the war had scattered them to other places.

The county of San Luis Obispo was considering the purchase of Estrada Gardens for a park. The land consisted of 40 to 50 acres off of Highway 101 northeast of town on San Luis Creek.

Fifth Army columns from the Anzio beachhead joined forces with the main front to the southeast setting the stage for an assault on Rome.

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