I’m writing this on Veteran’s Day. This is a very significant day of remembrance and has quite a history. But, by the time you read this, Veteran’s Day will have passed. However, there is another day special to veterans that will be coming up soon. That’s December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day. Now, Pearl Harbor Day is not an official holiday like Veteran’s Day but it is still important to veterans and has a very special significance in Contra Costa County and many people who have lived in this area for decades have no knowledge of it. Here’s the story:
At the top of Mount Diablo, there is a beacon that when lit and when the weather is right, can be seen from a tremendous distance in all directions. The beacon was lit in a ceremony in 1928 by Charles Lindberg as one of the four guiding beacons for aircraft along the west coast put in place by Standard Oil Company. This was before the days of radar and pilots needed a means of visible guidance in the dark.
The beacon shined every night from that day until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The next day, December 8th, the beacon was not lit again due to concern it could aid a possible Japanese attack here.
After the war, the beacon was not used anymore. By then there was radar and other means of aircraft navigation at night and the beacon was no longer necessary. There were for years, however, gatherings of veterans on Mount Diablo on December 7th to commemorate the attack. On December 7, 1964, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, who was commander of Pacific Forces during World War II attended one of these gatherings. There at the top of Mount Diablo, Admiral Nimitz looked at the unused beacon and suggested that it be lit every December 7th to honor those who had served and sacrificed. Since that day the beacon has been lit on the evening of December 7th and burns all through the night.
Over the years it became a very difficult task to get the old beacon lit and turning. It was by then in great disrepair. People were very concerned that the tradition would not be able to continue much longer. Eventually, enough money was raised and volunteers stepped forward and after much effort, the beacon was removed, transported off Mount Diablo to the location where it could be worked on. There the beacon was re-built and upgraded and finally restored to the top of Mount Diablo.
This is the only surviving guiding beacon along the west coast and its lighting every December 7th makes this an event that only happens in Contra Costa County.
The Eye of Diablo Beacon Lighting December 7, 2016
Some hours before the lighting there is a gathering of veterans, families, and anyone else who wants to come. Some of the veterans at that gathering are Pearl Harbor veterans. There are fewer and fewer each year. Those that are left and able will be there this coming Pearl Harbor Day. These veterans will share stories of their experiences of the attack on Pearl Harbor and answer questions from the other attendees. Those who have attended this event have commented on how powerful it was for them to be there.
At the end of the events of the gathering, the beacon will be lit and will burn all night.
Wouldn’t it be great to experience this truly unique event? You can! There is no cost and you are welcome! Click here for details.
If you can’t be there you can still watch the beacon. Anyplace with a clear view of the top of Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County and well beyond can see the beacon shining and turning in the night. Of course, this also depends on the weather. Hopefully, it will be a clear night this year. The beacon is scheduled to be lit at 5 pm this year. Remember to watch for it and when you see it, think about what it represents.
Here is more information on the beacon, its history, restoration, and the memorial event:
Beacon Lighting Ceremony – Lighting the Eye of Diablo
Documentary: There for the Future
The Shell Martinez Refinery and Save Mount Diablo collaborated on a documentary about the joint volunteer project in 2013 to restore the historic beacon on top of Mount Diablo.