Lieutenant General John L. De Witt was the head of Western Defense Command and was given orders to put in place ‘passive defense measures’ within all installations that are vital which are based along the Pacific coast. Colonel John F. Ohmer was in charge of executing the order. He was stationed 60 miles east of Los Angeles downtown, at March Field. This was the beginning of Operation California. Camouflaged areas were tested, using aircraft which flew over these sites, and the outcome was positive – the pilots were not able to identify the areas that were camouflaged (factories, bases, and plants). Orders soon flew in from other places in the United States. Seattle was one; they ordered the camouflage of their Boeing Aircraft complex (a whopping 26-acre site). They covered the entire area, including schools, parks, homes and municipal buildings.

Looks pretty convincing to me!

Life under the nets must have been surreal

Note the chimneys sticking through the camouflage

Burbank Aerial – A bombardier’s-eye view. At first glance, it is hard to spot which areas of this aerial photograph of the Lockheed camouflage project in Burbank are real and which are fake.

Boeing Plant -Boeing workers inspect one of the rooftop bungalows above part of the plant in Seattle. Such elaborate deception may seem today like an unnecessary waste of time and resources, but it calmed the fears of those who worked there.

Douglas Plant – The camouflage netting at Douglas in Santa Monica stretched seamlessly from building to open areas, obscuring the edges of the buildings. Note the “woody” ambulance in the background.

Boeing Employees – Boeing employees walk up a “hill” on a wooden walkway. Note the “cars” on the street.

Burbank Parking – Parked automobiles were moved to indicate drivers were using their cars daily and returning home from work.

Boeing Plant 2 – In Seattle, Boeing Aircraft covered nearly 26 acres.

Boeing Employees adding leaves to the trees.

Boeing Plant before the camouflage covering.

Douglas Factory – Overview of the camouflaged Douglas factory in Santa Monica shows how detailed and realistic the false rooftop neighborhoods were. In addition to tree-lined streets and buildings of varying shapes and sizes, there were sidewalks, detached garages, and empty lots. Note the sizable, but unplanned, “potholes”—actually rips in the camouflage netting, in the center.

Lockheed Aircraft Company Ad

Installation of fiberglass trees.

The Lockheed-Vega plant, in Burbank, was hidden completely below a complete blanket of cover. It gave the appearance of a suburban area, rubber vehicles and quaint, peaceful neighborhoods were painted on canvas. Hundreds of fake shrubs and trees were placed around the area to make the area look more three-dimensional.

Lockheed Vega Ad.

Boeing employees.

There’s a Boeing Plant under that field of grass camouflage.