Camouflaged Douglas Aircraft Company

The above photo, taken in 1944, appears to be an aerial view of a residential neighborhood, but it is actually a life-sized replica of a neighborhood, built upon millions of square feet of chicken wire, mounted atop tall poles and covering the entire Douglas Aircraft Company site at Santa Monica, California -- a suburb of Los Angeles. Following is an excerpt from a Los Angeles Times news article dated August 4, 2002:

"With World War II raging in Europe, [Donald] Douglas realized well before Pearl Harbor that his plant was a sitting duck for an air attack. He didn't wait for the government to protect him; he took the controls. Douglas asked his chief engineer and test pilot, Frank Collbohm, and a renowned architect, H. Roy Kelley, to devise a way to camouflage the plant. (Later Collbohm would found Rand Corp. and Kelley would design its headquarters.)

Together with Warner Bros. [motion picture] studio set designers, they made the plant and airstrip disappear -- at least from the air.

Almost 5 million square feet of chicken wire, stretched across 400 tall poles, canopied the terminal, hangers, assorted buildings and parking lots. Atop the mesh stood lightweight, wood-frame houses with attached garages, fences, clotheslines, even 'trees' made of twisted wire and chicken feathers spray-painted to look like leaves.

Tanker trucks spewed green paint on the runway [of the aircraft plant] to simulate a field of grass. Streets and sidewalks were painted on the covering to blend into the adjacent Sunset Park neighborhood of modest homes that housed the Douglas employees.

The tallest hanger was made to look like a gently sloping hillside neighborhood. Designers even matched up the painted streets with the real ones.

When they were done, the area was so well disguised that pilots had a hard time finding [nearby] Clover Field. Some of them landed at nearby airstrips instead, protesting that someone had moved the field.

Douglas adapted. When planes were due, he stationed men at each end of the runway to wave red flags like matadors. Eventually, signalmen were replaced with white markers painted on the hillsides.

The facade was such a success that Warner Bros. replicated it, fearing that its motion picture studio looked like an aircraft plant from the air.

The simulated neighborhood became such a part of the community that, when Douglas Aircraft shed its disguise in July 1945, it was as if a landmark had been destroyed."

About 3,000 of the 12,731 B-17 bombers that were made were manufactured by the Douglas Aircraft Company.