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In Inglewood, antiaircraft guns next to a drive-in theater

Aug. 17, 1955: Antiaircraft guns of the 77th AAA Gun Battalion in Inglewood lie in the shadow of a drive-in movie theater and Hollywood racetrack, left.
Aug. 17, 1955: Antiaircraft guns of the 77th AAA Gun Battalion in Inglewood lie in the shadow of a drive-in movie theater and Hollywood racetrack, left.
(Los Angeles Times)

During the Cold War, the military protected Southern California with antiaircraft defenses. One gun battery occupied land near the intersection of South Prairie Avenue and West Century Boulevard. This image looks east. The Century Drive-In Theater was located at 3560 W. Century Blvd.

This image appeared in the Sept. 18, 1955, Los Angeles Times as part of a story of Southern California Air Defenses in the early nuclear age. Most of the article described the Army 751st Aircraft and Control Warning Squadron based on Mt. Laguna, located in San Diego County.

Staff writer Ray Hebert’s article ended with this Inglewood connection:

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There, unobtrusively planted in a quiet Inglewood neighborhood, is Battery D of the 77th AAA Gun Battalion, one of four radar-gun units that form sort of an inner circle of detection and defense for the immediate Los Angeles area. All operate under the Army’s 47th AAA Brigade with headquarters at Ft. MacArthur.

Scenery wise, Mt. Laguna has a big edge. The best Battery D has to offer is the rear of a row of apartments, an elementary school across the street, a drive-in movie theater and, across Century Boulevard, the Hollywood Park racetrack.

“This is really fine duty, though,” say the battery commander, Lt. Louis Levinson, 29, who lives with his wife and children just a few blocks from the base. “The people of Inglewood have been wonderful to us. The drive-in — we can watch the show from our gun placements — has offered to wire us for sound.

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“Hollywood Park gives us passes to the races. And the city even sends out a power mower once a week to cut our grass.”

Lt. Levinson has 101 men and three officers to man the battery’s three radars and four 90-mm guns, which, with the barracks and administration buildings, are spread out over a six-acre site.

“Our primary mission, as the Army sees it, is to protect International Airport.” Lt. Levinson explained. “Even so, it’s hard to convince people just what we are here for. Even our own men, since we just sit here day after day.

“But it’s like this. Even with the new guided missiles, we do have a stopgap job to do. A job the Army figures is important enough to invest $1,000,000 in — just for the equipment we have here.”

Inglewood, meanwhile, has accepted the battery and its men as a welcome addition to the community.

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“No disputes — we get along with everyone,” Lt. Levinson added. “Why, once one of our radars went through the drive-in movie’s amplifier system. Threw the sound off completely. There were no complaints, though. We just shifted the radar’s angle and everything was all right.”

::

According to the Cinema Treasures website, the Century Drive-In Theater opened on July 2, 1949. In 1984, the theater was demolished and replaced by a Costco and Home Depot.

Hollywood Park has been torn down. Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park, future home of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers, is under construction at the site.

This post originally was published on Aug. 31, 2016.


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