The fifth column was waiting

By Michael Collins

Los Angeles magazine – December 1996

In 1942, a Japanese submarine fired sixteen poorly aimed shells at the coastline north of Santa Barbara — the first foreign assault on the continental United States since 1812.

Property values plunged up and down the beach. Santa Monica homes sold for pennies on the dollar. Panicky home sellers didn’t know that the Axis had long been working from within at a scenic installation in nearby Rustic Canyon.

In the 1930s, a Nazi clique purchases a 50-acre canyon parcel called Murphy Ranch. They created a compound with a 395,000-gallon water tank, a 20,000-gallon diesel-fuel supply and an electric-power depot.

Complete with terraces of automatically watered fruit and nut trees, the utopia was designed to be self-sufficient. The compound was surrounded by an electrified fence topped with barbed wire and patrolled by armed guards.

A mysterious Herr Schmidt had convinced wealthy American landlords to spend more than $4 million to create this National Socialist haven. The idea was to wait out Germany’s inevitable triumph over the United States and then assert Nazi control over Southern California.

The scheme crumbled the day after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Murphy Ranch was raided, and a clandestine shortwave set capable of sending messages to the Fatherland was discovered.

Schmidt was arrested as one of Hitler’s spies. He died in prison before trial.

Rumors of undiscovered arms caches in subterranean catacombs continue to swirl around the enclave, as do stories about skinhead gatherings there.

One remaining structure, spared by the 1978 Mandeville Canyon fire, is covered with anti-Nazi graffiti. LOVE RULES is one such message scrawled by “angry kids of the globe.”