In a World War II event known as The Bombardment of Ellwood, a Japanese submarine snuck in close to the Santa Barbara coastline, just off Goleta, California on February 23 1942. The I-17 sub opened fire on targets in the area and even though damage was minimal, the event was key in triggering a West Coast invasion scare. Soon sirens blared and the area underwent a blackout to keep the sub from identifying more landmarks to attack. The event marked the first shelling of the North American mainland during the conflict.
Seven Japanese submarines patrolled the American West Coast after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The subs skirmished on occasion with U.S. Navy air or sea forces and even sunk a few merchant ships. Eventually the submarines returned to Kwajalein to resupply and then returned to patrol American waters along the West Coast. Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-17 was one of these vessels and carried 101 officers and crew under Commander Kozo Nishino.