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Mount Diablo's Guiding Light

The Mount Diablo beacon burns bright to commemorate National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.


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Photo by Scott Hein

For the past 53 years, the beacon atop Mount Diablo has shone from dusk to dawn on December 7, as tribute to those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor.

Also known as the Eye of Diablo, the beacon dates back to April 15, 1928, when pilot Charles Lindbergh gave the order to light the 10-million-candlepower beam built by the Standard Oil Company. It was one of several new aviation beacons constructed throughout California.

“You could see it from 100 miles away. It was the most visible of the series along the West Coast,” says Ken Lavin of the Mount Diablo Interpretive Association.

The beacon was mounted on a 75-foot steel tower and served as a guidepost for night-flying aviators for years—even surviving a 1931 brush fire—until it was shut down just after the Pearl Harbor attack. “The park warden raced up and turned off the light,” says Lavin. “People were afraid it would guide Japanese aircraft to the Golden Gate Bridge.”

The advent of radar eliminated the need for such beacons after World War II, and the light remained dark until 1964, when Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz suggested it be lit annually on December 7, in honor of those who served.

Cosponsored by Save Mount Diablo and the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors, the lighting ceremony will take place at California State University, East Bay’s Concord campus at 5 p.m. According to Dan Stefanisko, supervising ranger at Mt. Diablo State Park, the location is more comfortable for the hundreds of veterans and their family members who attend the event every year. “The ceremony is a reminder to never forget what happened,” says Stefanisko. savemountdiablo.org.

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