Posted on December 7, 2011

On Pearl Harbor Day, A Look Back at PG&E’s Efforts at the Start of WWII

In honor of the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day, Currents reprints a story from the December 1942 edition of PG&E Progress, a monthly newsletter that was distributed to customers and employees. From 1942 to 1945, the publication was full of stories on PG&E’s war efforts, blackouts, rationing, military heroes and casualties. By the end of World War II, 60 PG&E workers had died in military service – each “a gold star added to the PG&E service flag,” as the Progress noted.

The headline on the front page of the December 1942 issue was “More and More Work for Victory.”

Here is that story:

“A year of war – a year since the Japanese made their treacherous attack upon Pearl Harbor!

“For everyone in the PG&E, it has been a year of intensive and extensive participation in the war effort – participation that multiplied month by month and will continue to increase steadily and substantially during 1943.

USS Arizona Memorial

The USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (Photo courtesy of

“More than 1,700 PG&E men have joined the armed forces and the total mounts daily. Their fellow employees are backing them up in every possible way. They are pitching in for all they’re worth on the important job of providing ample electricity and gas for the production of war essentials. They are investing $125,000 a month in War Bonds and, in addition to their regular work, 5,325 are regularly engaged in special services on the home front. There are 2,187 in the Civilian Defense unit, 1,905 in the American Red Cross, 411 in the Ground Observations Corps of the Fourth Fighter Command, 244 in the American Women’s Voluntary Services, 141 in the USO and 437 in other groups. Some serve in two or three organizations.

“During the 11 months ending Nov. 30, PG&E furnished to new war industries and military establishments in Northern and Central California about 516 million kilowatt hours of electricity. This was in addition to power supplied to many regular customers whose plants now are almost wholly devoted to the war effort. With December’s usage by the new operations estimated at 84 million kilowatt hours, the year’s total for new war purposes will approximate 600 million kilowatt hours. That’s almost as much as the usage of the entire city and county of San Francisco for a year. Deliveries of natural gas for war purposes this year also have been tremendous.

“The 1942 total of 600 million kilowatt hours of electricity for the war effort is almost six times as great as the 1941 figure of 102 million kilowatt hours for the National Defense program. Monthly consumption has jumped from 27.5 million kilowatt hours last January to 84 million this month. And there also has been an amazing increase in the use of gas.

“In 47 of the 58 counties in California PG&E electricity runs an amazing number and variety of machines in several hundred factories that manufacture arms, ammunition, bombs, torpedoes, chemicals and kindred tools of war, as well as food, clothing and other essentials. In most of these factories gas speeds and facilitates all processes requiring heat. Thus both commodities multiply manpower and make greater production possible.

“Electricity and gas do likewise in six shipyards that are building and repairing warships and in 20 constructing merchant vessels to carry munitions and supplies to the far-flung forces of the United Nations.

“At more than 60 army posts, naval stations and flying fields throughout the vast area served by the company both electricity and gas are on duty every hour of every day. Electricity does a great many mechanical tasks besides lighting the buildings and providing metropolitan conveniences and comforts. Gas cooks the meals, assures abundant supplies of hot water and heats the buildings.

“From the beginning of the crisis there never has been a power shortage or even a remote threat of one. PG&E has been able to take in stride all the extra demand made upon it in connection with the war effort. This is because it long has followed a policy of keeping its facilities well ahead of immediate needs and thus being always prepared to take care of emergencies.

“For example, at the beginning of this year the company had 60 electric generating plants – 49 hydro and 11 steam-operated. On January 15 it added to its network a new 67,000-horsepower steam power house, a duplicate of two others completed in December, 1940, and June, 1941. Within a month it will open two new hydro plants with capacities of 37,000 and 14,700 horsepower. So in January, 1943, it will have 63 generating plans with a total capacity of 2,011,549 horsepower.

“Still more construction is under way. A new 200,000-horsepower hydro generating plant – a $25 million project – is 65 percent completed and is scheduled to be ready for operation before the end of next year. Also, the capacity of the newest steam-operated power house is being doubled by the addition of a second 67,000-horsepower unit, which will be finished next summer.

“More and more power to make more and more tools of war!”

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