World War II Blackout in Gallatin

In December, 1942, while World War II was being fought, Gallatin was literally in the dark. For 20 minutes there wasn’t a light to be seen. There were no car lights and cars were parked along the roadside because the drivers couldn’t see to drive. There weren’t any lights in nine states. No store had lights. In short, Gallatin was involved in a nine state area in an experiment at the request of the Seventh Army Corps in Omaha.

In December, 1942, while World War II was being fought, Gallatin was literally in the dark. For 20 minutes there wasn’t a light to be seen. There were no car lights and cars were parked along the roadside because the drivers couldn’t see to drive. There weren’t any lights in nine states. No store had lights. In short, Gallatin was involved in a nine state area in an experiment at the request of the Seventh Army Corps in Omaha.

This was a planned event to get people to understand what they should do if an attack would take place in our country. Another objective was to detect any flaws or weaknesses so they could be corrected. If drivers were to keep driving and not take part in the experiment, they were to only use their park lights on. Still, this was very dangerous because there wasn’t much vision in the dark and other drivers coming towards them might be doing the same. There were also a few cautions even for those who parked their cars. They were asked not to park near a fire hydrant or near an intersection. All the people inside who had no important business to tend to were to remain inside and keep off the streets. Air raid wardens, police and other special services were on duty to watch and see that people were cooperating.

The Gallatin air raid warning signal consisted of three blasts of the fire siren. At the end of the 20 minute period, the fire siren would be used to issue an all clear sign.

There were 16 things the people were to do or not do:

1. Don’t hurry, push or crowd.

2. Be calm and cool.

3. Be quiet – don’t scream.

4. Don’t run – walk.

5. Be orderly.

6. Do not cross the street.

7. At the warning signal of the siren all traffic must cease. Park your car parallel to the curb and extinguish all lights at once. Remain nearby. You may be seated, but do not smoke, light matches, or use any lights whatever. You may double park when so directed by the police.

8. No smoking, lighting of matches or flashlights.

9. At the all clear signal of the siren you may resume your activities, but please do not hurry.

10. All lights in homes, stores, public buildings, apartments, etc. must be extinguished at the warning signal of the siren and remain extinguished until the all clear signal of the siren.

11. In the event of a fire alarm, the fire department will proceed as usual and street lights may be turned on during their run to such a fire.

12. Merchants should have a member of their organization at their place of business no later than 9:30 p.m. to extinguish all lights and to guard such establishments. All signs and window lights must be extinguished.

13. Sky lights must be effectively covered and all lights extinguished.

!4. Do not use the telephone during the period of the black out or for 15 minutes thereafter except for vital necessities such as calling the fire department, doctors, etc.

15. Follow the instructions given you by the air raid wardens, police, auxiliary police, firemen and auxiliary firemen, and all civil defense officers.

16. We wish you to learn what to do, what not to do, and how to act under a real raid.

When all was said and done the test was a success and it was the biggest one that the nation had done at that time. Most towns reported nearly 100% cooperation.

— researched and written by Wilbur Bush, Gallatin