Dream Sheets, Hollywood, and Nuclear Weapons

So, saw this little funny at Facebook.

And of course, in my case, “Seattle” somehow got mistranslated to “Gary, IN.”

That and I was scouring YouTube last night trying to find obscure but entertaining and informative content for you, dear reader. And I got to thinking about some of the more obscure, interesting places the military might end up sending you to. Sure, there are recruiting stations in small towns and large cities. But there are also military bases tucked away in places you wouldn’t expect. For instance, the Navy has a substantial base in Crane, Indiana, of all places.  The Army has Fort DeRussy. Formerly a Coast Artillery installation, it is now a resort smack in the middle of Waikiki, Hawaii.

For twenty years, the Air Force operated a top secret base in the hills above Hollywood.

When the US began testing nuclear weapons after World War II, it soon decided it needed to document the testing. In addition to written reports, film reports were prepared, basically 30-60 minute long classified documentaries to brief senior leadership.  And while the filming was obviously done on location, the processing and editing were best accomplished at a centralized location. And where better to place such a facility than in Hollywood, home of the movie industry? The Air Force looked at the lists of government property in the area, and quickly realized that it already owned the perfect spot.

Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the then Army Air Forces had established air defense control stations at major metropolitan areas along the West Coast. In the Los Angeles area, they had built a radar and control site on Lookout Mountain, above Laurel Canyon. Abandoned after the war, in 1947, it was reactivated, but this time as a movie studio.

File:United States Air Force Lookout Mountain Laboratory from above in color.jpg

Staffed by a combination of Air Force personnel, personnel from the other services, and contracted support from industry experts, Air Force Station Lookout Mountain produced hundreds of films documenting the US nuclear testing program.  You’ve seen stock footage of houses blown away by nuclear blasts? That’s their handiwork. In fact, virtually all footage you’ve seen of nuclear explosions is their product.


With the end of above ground nuclear testing, much of the need for Lookout Mountain’s product went away. It was inactivated in 1968, and eventually sold and converted into a private residence. Actor Jared Leto reportedly bought the 100,000 square foot compound for around $5,000,000 earlier this year.

As an aside, the compound is less than half a mile from the site of the Wonderland Murders.

3 thoughts on “Dream Sheets, Hollywood, and Nuclear Weapons”

  1. USAF had a base on Crete (to me a great place), Navajo Army Depot just outside of Flagstaff, AZ where old stores of WWII ordinance was blown up on a five day a week schedule (gotta love ‘splodey)! Crete has nice weather, Greek food, bluer than blue water, and a rather sizable German Fallschirmjager Cemetary from WWII.

  2. Gary is just up the road from me. You don’t want to live there, but there are some decent places not too far .

    Look me up when you get into town and I’ll show you around. You have my email…

    1. I actually lived in Griffith, and worked Gary, Griffith, Highland, EC, Hammond, and Munster, as well as a lot of unincorporated Lake County south of there. I know the area all too well, having spent four years there with the Army, then four more working finance in the city. I left in 2002 and haven’t been back since. I met some great people there, but I also met a stunning number of assholes.

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