Jan. 30, 1945
Three people were killed in a spectacular airplane crash in the heart of downtown Santa Maria. A P-38 aircraft on a training mission from the Santa Maria air base hit the Rusconi cafe and exploded into flames, killing the pilot, Mrs. Phil Rusconi, 55, and John Dolph, a cook. All electric power was cut off in town for over an hour, and a truck driver, Art Beal, was injured in the alley.
Pvt. James H. Baure, 19, was reported killed in action in Belgium on Jan. 15. He was serving in the 87th Infantry division, a part of Patton's Third Army.
Six of eight divisions stationed at Camp San Luis Obispo since 1940 were now on active duty, four in the Pacific and one in the European theater. The 40th division recently made headlines on Luzon capturing Clark field from the Japanese. The 35th was in Europe. The 7th division had invaded the Aleutians, Marshall Islands and Leyte. The 96th had also invaded Leyte. The 6th was mentioned on Luzon and the 81st also known as the Wildcat division was at the invasion of Palau Islands.
Maurice Righetti was home on leave before being sent to Greensborough, N.C. Friends were invited to visit.
President Franklin Roosevelt celebrated his 63rd birthday, though news reports were unsure of his location. Stories hinted that a meeting of the big three Allied leaders — Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin — was imminent. In fact, the president celebrated his birthday the day before the conference opened in a Russian resort town in the Crimea, Yalta. British advisers to Churchill were shocked to see how the president's health had deteriorated, but none of this was included in news reports of the time.
The Soviet Army launched an assault along a 42-mile front in an attempt to take Berlin. No doubt Stalin wanted to make the strongest play he could at the negotiating table, and troops were roughly 100 miles from Berlin. Americans were attempting to breach the fortifications of the Siegfried line in snow that was knee to waist deep.
American troops in the Philippines were 23 miles from Manila and were fending off Japanese counterattacks.
Military demands took another bite out of civilian tire allocations. The supply had fallen from 2 million in December to 1.6 million in February including motorcycle tires.
Jan. 31, 1945
American forces crossed into Germany in two places. The First and Third armies were fighting through the Westwall and were advancing toward the Cologne plain. Soviet forces were 58 miles from Berlin.
A new landing on Luzon Island in the Philippines came ashore without a shot.
Top American officials were seen somewhere near Rome, but the specific site and date of the Big Three meeting remained unclear.
Clem Lessi, who had been employed by the Telegram-Tribune for many years, was with the U.S. Navy at a training center in Shoemaker, Calif., awaiting assignment.
Pvt. Donald Condon was reported taken prisoner of war in Germany Jan. 6, 1945.
Lt. Ralph Winslow was reported interned in a German POW camp as of October 1944.
Lt. C.R. Maino was home on 15-day leave after two years of service in the South Pacific.
Sgt. Don E. Hall was reported as wounded in action in the South West Pacific.
Abraham Van Horn, 26, machinists mate of Paso Robles was reported missing in action in Leyte.
The name of the pilot killed in the Santa Maria P-38 crash was released. Flight officer Elmer Steffey, Jr., 21 was killed along with two in the restaurant. His wife lived in Pismo Beach. A second P-38 crashed into a field near town shortly after, killing another pilot.
After a dry month, rain was falling in San Luis Obispo, to the delight of ranchers.