05/22/11 154 W, 1 I - + 8 - 8 The Origins of Raleigh's Air Raid Sirens

Blogger Frank Blazich passes along this nifty posting of his about the history of Raleigh's air raid sirens. His blog is about the history of the North Carolina Civil Defense Agency. His research has found that the city approved the purchase of nine 2.5 horsepower sirens in September 1942. They were remote controlled and replaced some type of "home-made" siren atop the Capitol Building. They were installed in October 1942, and intended to use them after the war in the fire alarm system. To the best of my knowledge and research, any use for fire alarms did not happen. Below is a picture that appears in the book North Carolina's Role in World War II, photo credit not indicated. Next question, what happened to those nine original sirens? Which ones were replaced with newer models? How many are still left today?

That is the same model of siren that was mounted at the Yrac fire station (smaller of the two). There was also one of these at Brogden, and at one time, Pittsboro.
DJ - 05/22/11 - 19:08

Correction, it is similar. Same horsepower as the Yrac and Brogden sirens, but I am pretty sure those were ‘Sireno’ brand. The Raleigh sirens were Sterlings, with a lower tone.
DJ - 05/22/11 - 19:08

The picture is found on page 31 of the fourth edition of Sarah McCulloh Lemmon’s book “North Carolina’s Role in World War II.” The original is in the possession of the North Carolina Archives. The January 19, 1942 edition of the “News and Observer” featured this image with the following caption: “Will Wynne, pioneer Raleigh electrician and radio expert, conceived the idea of a revolving siren. He presented his idea to John Bray, chief air- raid warden for Raleigh’s Civilian Defense Volunteer Forces. The new siren was set up and built by members of Bray’s staff: H. I. West, engineer of buildings and grounds; H. L. Rivenbark, supervisor of the buildings maintenance force, and Neil Spence, member of the maintenance staff. Rivenbark and West are shown checking the siren. It is powered by electricity.” I just found this information and thus my interpretation of the photograph is incorrect. Thus, I have no real idea what type of siren the city purchased but apparently this is the “home-made” siren referred to in the Office of Civilian Defense newsletter blips.
Frank Blazich (Web Site) - 05/23/11 - 16:52

Frank, I believe the siren is very likely a Sireno brand, as Dale notes above. What’s been added is a homemade mechanism for revolving the siren.
Legeros - 05/23/11 - 18:53

That is a Sterling air raid siren…
Joe Brady (Email) (Web Site) - 05/23/11 - 20:08

The revolving aspect makes sense, being there is a manufacturer’s tag on the siren body. Well, this appears to be Raleigh’s first siren then. I’ll see if I can find out any information on what the nine purchased sirens were. This summer I’ll be back in the archives and have an idea on where to look.
Frank Blazich (Web Site) - 05/24/11 - 08:23

Hopefully I’ll be receiving a 1950s vintage Thunderbolt siren this fall that was promised to me to bring back to Raleigh and restore for display.
Frank Blazich (Web Site) - 05/24/11 - 10:55

OK, I stand corrected. The Yrac siren could have been a Sterling. This sounds just like it-

DJ - 05/24/11 - 16:37

And if you want to hear what the later Civil Defense sirens in Raleigh sounded like, emitting the “the world is coming to an end” sound, go here-


These units were Federal 100T Thunderbolts, similar to what used to be located around the Harris Nuclear Plant. The HNP units were single tone, while the Civil Defense units were dual tone. They used to test them every couple of months or so, and it always seemed on Wednesdays around 11:30. It is a sound that would send chills up your spine. The description of the video suggests looking up ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ By all means. I remember my Dad had built a bomb shelter in our back yard as a result.
DJ - 05/24/11 - 16:50

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