MS 264 Otay Flood Relief Expedition Records

Summary Information

San Diego History Center Document Collection
United States. Navy.
Otay Flood Relief Expedition Records
MS 264
Date [inclusive]
0.25 Linear feet (1 box)
This collection consists of records pertaining to a flood relief expedition led by US Navy Lt. Willis W. Bradley Jr. after the 1916 Lower Otay Dam failure.

Preferred Citation

Otay Flood Relief Expedition Records, MS 264, San Diego History Center Document Collection, San Diego, CA.

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Biographical / Historical Notes

In January 1916, severe storms hit San Diego, California, lasting several days. The Lower Otay Dam lacked an adequate spillway for excessive overfilling, and on January 27, the dam collapsed. Billions of gallons of water swept through Otay Valley, leaving at least 20 dead and much of the rest of the population homeless.

Admiral William F. Fullam, commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet, immediately sent in a flood relief expedition under Lt. Willis W. Bradley, Jr., then commanding officer of the USS Lawrence. This party consisted of eight officers and 85 enlisted men from the Navy and Marine Corps. For two weeks they provided all police and medical attention for the flooded district, which included Otay, Palm City, Nestor, San Ysidro, and the Tijuana border area. They initially distributed food and clothing to about 500 people, decreasing to about 200 people at the end, at which point the operation was turned over to local authorities.

Lt. Willis W. Bradley, Jr. was born June 28, 1884 in Ransomville, New York. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1906 and served until his retirement in 1946. During that time he served in World War I and World War II, and acted as Governor of Guam from 1929-1931. In 1946 he was elected to Congress as a representative of L.A. County districts 69, 70, and 71. He died August 7, 1954.

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Scope and Content

This collection consists of records pertaining to a flood relief expedition led by US Navy Lt. Willis W. Bradley Jr. after the 1916 Lower Otay Dam failure. Correspondence includes orders establishing the expedition, daily reports made throughout the expedition, and orders withdrawing the Navy’s forces. Other records include itemized bills for supplies, correspondence surrounding the investigation of several civilian complaints, and letters of commendation. Additionally, there are biographical excerpts about Lt. Bradley as well as a photograph of him.

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Items in the collection are arranged by subject.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

San Diego History Center Document Collection April 4, 2012

1649 El Prado, Suite 3
San Diego, CA, 92101

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The San Diego History Center (SDHC) holds the copyright to any unpublished materials. SDHC Library regulations do apply.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number 890722.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Samantha Mills on April 4, 2012.

Collection processed as part of grant project supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) with generous funding from The Andrew Mellon Foundation.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Bradley (Ship).
  • Lawrence (Ship).
  • Milwaukee (Ship).
  • Oregon (Battleship).
  • Reserve Torpedo Division.
  • South Dakota (Ship).

Geographic Name(s)

  • Lower Otay Lake (Calif.)
  • Nestor (Calif.)
  • Otay Mesa (San Diego, Calif.)
  • Palm City (Calif.)
  • San Diego (Calif.)
  • San Ysidro (San Diego, Calif.)
  • Tijuana (Baja California, Mexico)

Personal Name(s)

  • Bradley, Willis W.
  • Fullam, William F. (William Freeland), 1855-1926


  • Dam failures
  • Flood damage
  • Floods — California
  • Military orders

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Collection Inventory

Correspondence: establishment of expedition, 1916 January 28-January 30 1:1
Correspondence: duration of expedition, 1916 January 29-February 7 and undated 1:2
Correspondence and reports: expedition withdrawal, 1916 February 4–February 25 and undated


Final reports written up by several members of the expedition

Bills and equipment, 1916 February 1–April 7


Correspondence about particular bills and missing equipment, as well as itemized supply lists

Complaints and investigations, 1916 February 2–April 25 and undated


Search warrant for the premises of “John Doe, Richard Doe, and Jack Doe”

Commendations and official thanks, 1916 January 31–April 7 1:6
Willis W. Bradley Jr., 1948 May 19–1988 September 29 and undated


Several biographies of Lt. Bradley

Pamphlet from decommissioning ceremony of the USS Bradley

Photograph of Lt. Bradley

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