Photos from the Vault

Iwo Jima invasion, Chrome Mines - World War II Week by Week

The Telegram-Tribune of Feb. 26, 1945 carried the photo taken a few days before on the island of Iwo Jima by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.
The Telegram-Tribune of Feb. 26, 1945 carried the photo taken a few days before on the island of Iwo Jima by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.

Feb. 16, 1945

Local restaurant owners and operators were urged to establish two meatless days a week. Two-pound steaks were recommended to be cut into three portions in order to make rationing goals.

Paso Robles voters were slated to vote in four days on establishing a community hospital district. The previous hospital closed on Nov. 11, 1944.

The Castro mine on the hills behind Camp San Luis Obispo had produced more than $1,000,000 in chromite in the past three years. It was one of the two largest and most consistently producing mines in the nation during the war. The competing Gray Eagle mine in Glenn County had ceased production and it was thought that the Castro might become the leader. About 120 tons of material were milled each day at a concentrator erected at the Goldtree station (near today’s California Men's Colony on the then-Southern Pacific railroad line). The process brought the ore up from 20 to 25 percent purity to 38 to 42 percent. The product was used in steel mills and had gone to a company in Tacoma, Wash., via 548 rail cars since the operation started in 1942. An average of 35 men worked in mining and milling, although the mine recently had closed down due to a surplus of product. San Luis Obispo County was said to be the oldest chromite district on the Pacific coast. World War I had been a boom in the industry until the end of the war and foreign competition bankrupted the market.

The Japanese defense line on Bataan was broken. American troops were in a house-to-house battle in southern Manila.

A nine-hour bombing campaign was carried out over the Japanese capital of Tokyo. The firebombing of the capital, an attack pressed by 1,200 aircraft, resulted in a 7,000 foot pillar of smoke.

Feb. 19, 1945

Invasion of another Pacific island, Iwo Jima, was front page news. Resistance to the invasion force of 30,000 U.S. marines was said to be fierce. The island was filled with hidden gun emplacements and the volcanic island had little vegetative cover.

Another bitter fight was being waged to clear the Japanese from tadpole shaped Corregidor Island in Manilla Bay.

In San Luis Obispo, the Souza chrome mine planned to expand production to 100 tons of ore a day. The mine was one of the oldest in the county, first worked in 1876 and again during World War I. It was located 5 miles west of San Luis Obispo above Osos Lake.

Feb. 24, 1945

Fighting was bitter on Iwo Jima as the battle for control of the island continued. The island was half-way from Saipan to Japan and was seen as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier,” a refuge for damaged bombers returning from attacks on Japan.

In Germany, American troops were advancing in the Rhineland. General Dwight D. Eisenhower said his plan was to meet the Red Army in central Germany. Losses were said to be less than expected as resistance in parts of the front crumbled.

Gerald Raymer Proctor, 19, a San Luis Obispo schools graduate and former Telegram-Tribune carrier, was reported missing in action. The seaman was aboard a ship lost as the result of enemy action.

Feb. 26, 1945

The famed photo by Joe Rosenthal from Iwo Jima was published on the front page of the Telegram-Tribune. It was not the first American flag raised atop Mout Suribachi. Each time a larger flag and pole had been brought to the top of the volcanic peak, Rosenthal’s photo captured the spirit and sacrifice of Marines teamwork and effort. The iconic photo would win the Pulitzer Prize and become the inspiration for the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, the statue at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. Only three of the six flag raisers would survive the battle. The survivors would be brought home to assist in the Seventh War Bond drive.

Much of Tokyo was burning after a series of bombing attacks. The firebombing of the Japanese capital would prove more deadly than the nuclear attacks on other cities that would follow; achieving that destruction required many more bombers.

Mrs. Ollie Jane Atkins, 26, and three children were killed when their ranch house burned down. They were living at the Van Dolen ranch in a small house eight miles east of San Miguel. The cause was thought to be a coal oil lamp left burning to reassure one of the children frightened of the dark. Husband and father Wilbert Atkins was working the night shift when the fire broke out. The wood frame house, papered with newspapers, burned so quickly no escape was possible.

A family from Paso Robles was liberated by the American invasion of the Philippines. Rev. Albert L. Jantzen, his wife and two children were rescued from Santo Thomas prison. They had been missionaries in China and the Philippines.

Staff Sgt. LeRoy J. Le Brun of Santa Margarita was reported wounded in action in France. Another family member, Pvt. Edmund A. Le Brun, was seriously wounded in November 1944 while serving near Germany.

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