WW II air raid siren: ‘The plan is to get it to work’
This World War II air raid siren sat atop the Yorktowne Hotel in York for years. York County Heritage Trust preservationists will soon begin work to restore it to working order. Background posts: Air raid siren discovered atop Yorktowne Hotel, York County stood firmly behind Allies on all fronts in World War II and Unusual valve gave steam whistle prominence in World War II.
Preservationists eyeing the rusty air raid siren that sat atop the Yorktowne Hotel for 65 years believe the air raid siren was never fired up for the real deal.
Indeed, no account exist of enemy flyovers above York County… .
In case that would happen, thousands of York countians watched skies in the first two years of World War II. If the Japanese could bomb Pearl Harbor, the Axis could attack defense plants in York County and other cities along the Eastern Seaboard, or so the thinking went.
So Civilian Defense officials in towns across York County found high points, constructed shelters and deployed volunteer sky watchers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Even students got involved. Students at Edgar Fahs Smith school, perched on the hill in northwest York, took turns watching the skies. When sirens went off for practice, people pulled down their dark window shades, doused lights and waited for the all-clear signal. If lights were visible, they faced charges at the district justices.
But as Allied forces increasingly occupied the enemy far from home, the chances of an attack became remote. In the fall of 1943, the federal government halted sky watching in York County. Those occupied in this labor-intensive duties could better be used in factories and orchards.
A York Daily Record/Sunday New story (7/15/08) tells about plans to rehab the old Yorktowne siren:
The skies above York never became airspace for enemy bombers during World War II, but an air raid siren atop the Yorktowne Hotel stood ready to wail just in case.
Civilian defense officials were being cautious when they placed the siren on the roof about 1942.
Because York never suffered a bombing run, it stayed there largely unnoticed until recently, when Yorktowne officials were on the roof to put up a new flag and found the large siren.
Mark Clossey, the hotel’s general manager, said he had first thought it was a tornado warning horn, but after further investigation realized it was a World War II-era air raid siren. He then notified the York County Heritage Trust of its existence.
“We thought it would be of great value to the community,” Clossey said.
Jenn Hall, the director of exhibitions and collections, said the World War II-era siren is on display at the Agricultural and Industrial Museum but will be restored to its original state.
“The plan is to get it to work,” Hall said.
Pete Adonis, who has restored other items in the past for the museum, will take on the project later this year.
Adonis said the device, a Mobil Directo Siren built by the Biersach and Niedermeyer Company, is particularly unusual because it spins 360 degrees when sounded.
According to American Signal Corporation’s Web site, the successor of Biersach and Niedermeyer, the company produced more than 2,000 sirens under a 1942 contract with the Department of the Army.
Adonis said he knows of one other siren that is similar to the Mobil Directo that’s in working order, and he is hoping to have the York siren up and running about March 2009.
“It’s going to be a winter project for us,” Adonis said. A group of people he knows is expected to lend a hand with the project.
Hall said she’s heard stories from people who had heard the siren being tested during the war, but it was never called to action for the real deal.
“It probably would have saved a lot of lives if it was used in a real situation,” Hall said.