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Chollas Heights, The History Between the Community and the Battle of Pearl Harbor


Throughout the 100+ year history of Chollas Heights, no event was more important than that which transpired on December 7, 1941. On this day 82 years ago, just before 8 am, over 350 Japanese aircraft, including fighter planes, bombers, and torpedo planes, launched a surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaii. The crossfire lasted just two hours but was devastating. The first communication regarding the attack was sent to Chollas Heights NRTF transmitter towers, now the location of Liberty Military Housing’s Chollas Heights community in San Diego, CA.

The Chollas Heights Naval Radio Transmitting Facility (NRTF) was one of the first of its kind. Established as early as 1906, the site was designed to be a transmitting facility, processing communication from ship-to-shore sites. The location was chosen for its expansive rural area, ideal for site expansion, and the nearby natural waters that provided security. The site housed one of the most powerful transmitters in the region; it is estimated that by 1917, when the first transmitter was completed, it had a range of 12,000 miles.

On December 7, 1941, when, coincidentally, the transmitters at Pearl Harbor were down for routine maintenance, Chollas Heights played a pivotal role in communicating the transmissions of those events as they unfolded on that unfortunate day. The Chollas Heights NRTF became the first to broadcast the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Transmitting this critical news undoubtedly played a role in our nation’s quick response to the attacks and in informing the world of the tragic news.

In November 1995, the three transmitter towers were demolished to make space for six rooms for Navy Housing, now known as Chollas Heights. Although these towers are gone, they have been remembered with the creation of the Naval Radio Tower Museum. Driving through the community, you will see pieces of the 600-foot-tall tower. The top of one of the transmitters, over 100 feet long, sits on the corner of College Grove Way and Transmitter Road. Throughout the community, you will find markers that recount the rich history of the Chollas Heights Transmitting Facility.

When new team members begin their journey with Liberty Military Housing in San Diego, they tour the Naval Radio Tower Museum to help them understand our connection to history, the significance of whom we serve, and our shared mission. “All team members are taken aback that we have such a history on our property. It hits home and shows that we are more than just a housing company renting homes to our service members. I know it is an honor for my staff at Chollas Heights and myself to oversee and be the curator of the Naval Radio Tower museum and site that has been a part of San Diego for over 100 years,” says Dan Murphy, the Regional Property Manager at Liberty.


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