A short hike North of Los Angeles’ famed Sunset Boulevard in Will Rogers State Park will lead you to a seemingly out-of-place, abandoned WWII-era complex fit for a king. But this ranch wasn’t built for a king; it was built for a Führer.
What is today condemned and covered with graffiti was built by American Nazi sympathizers to be a world-class command center for Adolf Hitler’s “Thousand-Year Reich,” Left Coast Edition. Built with the intention of winning the hearts of the Hollywood Elite, the bunker was also supposed to regale Hitler with the luxury and symbolic power of wealth that only a bunker in LA could provide.
We tend to forget the world of the 1920’s and 1930’s wasn’t so cut and dry as we like to imagine. While Fascism wasn’t as popular as other social movements, it hadn’t entirely slid off its rocker into the genocidal megalomania we associate it with today. That is to say a lot of people though Fascism was a good idea, including a number of Americans.
One such American was Jessie M. Murphy, a widower who purchased a 50-acre tract of land North of Los Angeles, the namesake of the Murphy Ranch. The only problem is Jessie Murphy never existed. Jessie Murphy was really a pseudonym created by Winona and Norman Stephens, who fancied themselves “Silvershirts.”
Silvershirts were members of the Silver Legion of America, an organization of Nazi sympathizers founded by a North Carolinian named William Pelley. The Silvershirts were a white supremacist, anti-Semitic group who wore campaign hats and blue trousers to go with their silver shirts, sort of like glittery drill sergeants with a red “L” over their hearts.
Pelley even ran for President in 1936, but was trounced with everyone else who thought running against President Franklin Roosevelt was a good idea. Once elected, Pelley hoped to create a “Silver Revolution” and turn the U.S. into a Fascist state.
The Stephens built the Los Angeles compound sometime in the 1930s at the behest of a Nazi agent known only as “Herr Schmidt.” It was designed to be a long-term, self-sufficient base for Nazi activities in the United States. Complete with water storage tanks and a bomb shelter, it cost the Stephens the equivalent of $66 million in today’s U.S. dollars.
The Silvershirts there were rounded up the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Three days later, Hitler declared a state of war between Nazi Germany and the United States. The complex fell into a state of disrepair and is now property of Los Angeles County.
If the Axis powers had won World War II, it seems LA might have been the capital of the Western Reich.