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ATLANTIC CITY’S CIVIL DEFENSE PREPARATIONS
Rumors of a war with Japan had circulated for months before December 7, 1941. The United States had been bracing for the inevitable conflict with Germany as well. One South Jersey community watched both sides of the world with anticipation of the worst. The following article is significant and is presented in its entirety. It was discovered among the collection of newspaper articles left by Mayor Taggart to the Atlantic City Library; from Atlantic City Press/Evening Union - no date was available:
WATER SUPPLY CONCERNS
No municipality in the United States is as aware of the vulnerability of its water supply as Atlantic City. And citizens have been warned against assuming a cocksure attitude. They have been cautioned that no seaboard city is certain of its safety in time of war.
This being the case, a special detail of police has been assigned to guarding the water supply 24 hours a day - prepared to apprehend any stranger who might venture within range of suspicion.
Atlantic City’s drinking water, which has won praise from
physicians and engineers, is carried through a huge pipeline from a
watershed 12 miles inland. A long stretch of meadowland lies along most of the route.
Atlantic City knows that failure of this water system would have disastrous effect, even without consideration of the war emergency.
Within two hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, city officials ordered a guard of 30 policemen on 24-hour duty at the reservoirs, the pumping station and the pipelines. But despite these precautions, Atlantic City is taking no chances. It has conjured beyond the possibility that the regular water supply could be sabotaged. And credit for cooperation in this respect must be given the beachfront hotels.
HOTEL MEN COOPERATE
The hotel owners, at their own expense, have made available to the city connections with their artesian wells directly to the street water mains, to serve as an auxiliary drinking water supply in case of damage to the main meadow pipelines. This, it has been estimated, is of sufficient volume to quench the whole city’s thirst should the crisis arrive.
As a second source of supply, these artesian wells, are equipped to pump seven and one-half million gallons of water daily into the street mains. Theater owners, whose playhouses are equipped with air-conditioning plants, also have been enlisted for this emergency. Connections have been made for these theater wells so that the fire department would be provided with a third source of supply to combat conflagrations, in case of impairment or destruction of the main supply system and the hotel well system.
SWIMMING POOLS FILLED
Indoor swimming pools throughout the city are kept filled 24 hours a day as another source of supply to firemen. They are equipped with a suction apparatus which can be utilized as a fourth source of water supply in case of emergency.
The Federal Government now has under consideration an application by Atlantic City for $155,000 worth of fire-fighting apparatus, which would be allocated under the Federal Allotment Plan for use by the resort’s auxiliary fire force, at no cost to the municipality.
Atlantic City officials recognized the potential threat from saboteurs after the outbreak of open hostilities between the United States and Japan and Germany. Particularly volunerable was the City’s access to fresh water for everyday needs, as well as for use in fighting fires. According to the Atlantic City Press/EveningUnion for Friday, May 1, 1942, the city engineer at that time, George H. Swinton, announced that the city’s fire department would be able to handle fires within the city by utilizing a huge storm drain which existed beneath the city streets. "The storm canal," Chief Leeds said, " is 12 by 16 feet and carries the water of the bay almost the length of the city." It is
important to understand that Atlantic City was attempting to protect itself in every way possible. An example of this determination to be self-reliant follows:
In addition to the use of the canal, Swinton said eight theaters had made available, at their own expense, the pumping systems of their air conditioning units. Expressing the city’s appreciation, he said that Frank Gravatt, president of the Steel Pier Corporation, had spent nearly a thousand dollars to make three such units available. Hotels had offered equal cooperation, he said, and revealed that the State Board of Health had granted permission to include the hotel’s artesian well system in the city’s water supply. (Atlantic City Press-Union, April 9, 1942)
Plans to link the resort’s water supply system with that of the private hotels have been approved by the Sate Department of Health, it was announced by city commissioner Joseph Altman yesterday.
Director Altman said that one of the conditions laid down by the State Health Department called for daily tests of the water supply to be made under the supervision of the city health department.
He added that this year’s budget contained an appropriation which he said he believed was sufficient to cover the costs of the hookup.
Through the cooperation of Atlantic City’s hotel owners, the mayor, his commissioners,
and the military, all steps necessary to assure that the city would not lose its fresh water supply were taken.
In order to prevent lights from the boardwalk providing a background for passing ships that would make them easy targets for U-boats, the United States Army ordered all lighting fixtures either turned off or altered in such a manner that their illumination would not be visible from the ocean. These measures were termed "dimouts" because the illuminating ability of the lights was altered to allow illumination only toward the boardwalk and at a reduced level of light.
The efforts of Atlantic City were noteworthy according to an article in the Atlantic City Press/EveningUnion for Friday, May 1, 1942:
Atlantic City’s dimout experiments and results have set the pace for illumination on virtually the entire Atlantic seaboard and, because of this, lighting of the world-famous Boardwalk will continue as at present and, further, representatives from other cities affected by rigid Army dimout orders are coming to Atlantic City to see how it is done.
This feat was accomplished in the following manner as described in the article mentioned above:
Percentage of glow removed from horizon view 60 percent all neon and other advertising signs, numbering 5,000 were blacked out. Twenty percent of street lights being painted black facing the ocean. Twenty percent lighted windows from hotels and homes facing ocean.
All Boardwalk lights have been painted black with only a special slit left open to allow the faintest glow toward the ‘walk. To prevent automobile lights from shinning seaward, "baffles" have been constructed
at the ends of streets to the ‘walk to screen their glow from being visible from a periscope off shore.
The color blue was instrumental in reducing amounts of glow from ‘walk front properties, by using blue light bulbs or by covering the light with blue screening.
After all these steps had been taken, the focus of the lighting problem shifted to communities behind Atlantic City, and the greatest problem of all, which could only be screened by heavy, grey clouds--the full moon. It was Major General Foulois who ordered all lights throughout Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties shaded or turned out.
The term "dimout" was used instead of "blackout" because not all lighting was turned out, just enough light was left so the city could function as a city must at night. This example proved very satisfactory and was considered to be the standard method used all along the East coast.
By September 3, 1942, any automobiles on city streets at night were limited to traveling twenty miles per hour and to using only parking lights. Stiff penalties were imposed including thirty-day revocations of drivers’ licenses for a second offence of this new law.