Mount Diablo Beacon Shines One Night a Year
The iconic peak's summit beacon will light up Wednesday, December 7th. as it has annually since 1964, in remembrance of the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
Mount Diablo has attracted visitors for centuries.
Wednesday, the beacon on the peak visible across the Tri-Valley, Central Valley and out at sea will light up in remembrance of the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
The spot, at an elevation of 3,849 feet, has been used since the 1850s as a survey point and tourist destination. It also served as an observatory.
The survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor have gathered each Dec. 7 since 1964 at the mountain's summit. They honor the history-altering event that President Franklin D. Roosevelt described as a "day that will live in infamy."
Survivors will gather at 3:45 p.m. for the lighting of the beacon, which will shine until dawn.
The beacon was built as an aviation marker in 1928 by Standard Oil of California, a precursor of Chevron. The point of reference for pilots was lit by legendary aviator Charles Lindbergh by remote control from Denver. The Mount Diablo beacon was especially helpful for incoming “China Clipper” aircraft as the last visible signal when arriving from Hawai’i.
The beacon was one of 20 along the West Coast to assist in navigation and promote Standard Oil. It became known as the "Eye of Diablo" and was moved later to the top of the summit building.
The beacon was turned off after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack for fear that it would guide possible Japanese aircraft to attack the U.S. mainland after the United States officially entered World War II.
It remained off until Dec. 7 1964, when the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association restored the beacon and lit it to commemorate the attack. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief of Pacific Forces during World War II, relit the beacon in 1964 for the first time and suggested it be lit every December 7th to honor those who served and sacrificed. The lighting continues as an annual event.
The public is welcome and visitors on this day should enter the park before 4:00 PM. General parking will be at the lower lot on these days, with a short uphill walk by trail or road to the summit. Visitors may leave later than usual — this is one of the few opportunities to view the sunset from the peak, weather permitting, without an overnight stay.
Under cloudless conditions, more interesting than the sunset itself is the view of the progression of the mountain's shadow across the California Central Valley to the distant Sierra Nevada, finally appearing for a few moments above the horizon as a shadow in the post-sunset sky glow.
One year, the mountain was covered in 18 inches of snow and the event was canceled. Instead, the ceremony was held at the base of the mountain for the first time in its 46-year history.
Because of the snow, Burt Bogardus, a retired Mount Diablo park ranger who worked there from 1975 to 1993, reportedly drove up as far as he could, and hiked the remaining distance through the snow to light the beacon, according to Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 1525 in Walnut Creek.
When you turn your eyes to the peak's beacon on December 7th, remember the lives of everyone, worldwide, that were changed by the attack on Pearl Harbor.