Synthetic Street USA wasn’t a real street. No-one lived in the houses on it. It was a fake, part of the camoflage that covered the B17 Bomber factory in Seattle Washington in 1941. Beneath the trees, picnicing couples, gardens and gates, 7,000 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses were being produced for World War 2.
During the afternoon of December 7, 1941, as word of the attack on Pearl Harbor reached California, some 53,000 Lockheed employees, spread across 150 Southern California communities, stepped outside their homes to watch as countless P-38 fighters and Hudson bombers streak across the sky.
In the wake of the attack, orders had been given to get every aircraft that could fly into the air. Some flew west to protect the nation against a potential Japanese attack on the coast. Others were guided inland to protect against feared strafing runs. And still others patrolled the skies to provide the nation a sense of security in a time of crisis.
Three days later, while company officials gathered at Lockheed’s Burbank plant to decide how best to ramp up production, the Army began setting up barricades around the facility and placed an urgent call to a Col. John F. Ohmer stationed at March Field, 70 miles away. Ohmer’s mission? Find a way to disguise Lockheed’s plant—now one of the most strategic military facilities in the United States—to look like an ordinary California suburb.
The new suburb of Boeing was splendid, a typical American town of parking lots painted green, chicken wire, painted canvas, rubber cars and fake trees with spray-painted chicken feathers for leaves.
Below the countryside idyll life existed a hive of heavy industry:
It was a smiliar scene on the Douglas Aircraft Company rooftop in Santa Barbara. Hollywood set designer John Stewart Detlie.