There’s a lot of weird history from World War II. One strange chapter relates to the Air Warning Service (AWS). It was staffed by civilians, most of them female, who observed the skies of our country and warned of any approaching enemy aircraft. Of which there were none. No, the 48 contiguous states were never invaded by air, land, or sea, during World War II. At least not that I’m aware of.
About 750,000 strong searched our skies from 1942 to 1944. They were stationed along our west and east coasts. Each member of the AWS received about six weeks of training in aircraft recognition, so that they could detect the difference between friendly planes and enemy planes.
Their training proved very popular, and became a fad among those who were not in the AWS. Clubs sprang up all over the country, where members dedicated themselves to learning how to recognize aircraft. Well, they didn’t have TV in those days, so they had to do something for entertainment.
Supposedly, Crown Prince Lookout, in what was then Joshua Tree National Monument (now a National Park), was one of the many aircraft observation posts of the AWS. I say supposedly, because the information on this is sketchy.
I’ve hiked to Crown Prince Lookout several times, to search for any evidence of this post. The trail is unmarked and unmaintained, but with a little diligence, and guidance from a book, the site can be located.
It’s a hill full of piled up granite boulders. The only way up is through a chimney-like acclivity, requiring a little bit of cragsmanship to negotiate. Atop Crown Prince Lookout is a square, cement foundation about 4 feet by 4 feet, that appears to be the remnant of a communication tower. Surrounding this foundation are a number of small, cement footings level to the ground, that appear to be the attachment points for stabilizing guy wires that kept the tower from being blown over.
Transporting the material to build this tower, up the treacherous route to the summit of Crown Prince Lookout, must have required some ingenuity and perseverance. And then manning (or womanning, as was more likely the case) this point, with binoculars scanning the sky, looking for Zeros and bombers that never materialized, must have required tremendous patience.
Or maybe it was fun. For those who love to haunt high, lonely places, the solitude offered by Crown Prince Lookout may have been spiritually transformative. I can only imagine how peaceful it felt in that isolated location, in the time of the world’s largest war. It’s a great place to meditate.