Chrysler Air-raid Siren

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Siren at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum in 2011

The Chrysler Air Raid Siren (second generation), or known as the Chrysler Bell Victory Siren (first generation) was an outdoor warning siren produced during the Cold War era that had an output of 138 dBC at 100 feet (30 m).


Built during the Cold War era from 1952 to 1957 (second generation) by Chrysler, its power plant contained a newly designed FirePower Hemi V8 engine with a displacement of 331 cubic inches (5.42 l) and producing 180 horsepower (130 kW).[1]

They were 12 feet (3.7 m) long, built atop a quarter section of a Dodge truck chassis rail, and weighed an estimated 3 short tons (2.7 t). Its six horns were each 3 feet (91 cm) long. The siren had an output of 138 dBC (30,000 watts), and could be heard as far as 25 miles (40 km) away.

In 1952, the cost of a Chrysler Air-raid Siren was $5,500[1] (equivalent to $50,685 in 2017). The United States government helped buy sirens for selected state and county law enforcement agencies. In Los Angeles County, six were placed around key locations of populated areas, and another ten were sold to other government agencies in the state of California. These "Big Red Whistles" (as they were nicknamed) only saw testing use. Some were located so remotely that they deteriorated due to lack of maintenance.

The main purpose of the siren was to warn the public in the event of a nuclear attack by the Soviets during the Cold War. The operator's job was to start the engine and bring it up to operating speed, then to pull and release the transmission handle to start the wailing signal generation. The Chrysler air raid siren produced the loudest sound ever achieved by an air raid siren.[1]


Some sirens are still located above buildings and watchtowers. Many are rusted, and in some cases, the salvage value is less than the cost to remove them. A majority have been moved to museums, and some have been restored to fully functioning condition.[citation needed]

Cities with Chrysler Sirens[edit]

City, State Number of sirens, Status
Chicago, Illinois 5, removed
Miami, Florida 10, removed
Detroit, Michigan 20, removed
Greenville, South Carolina 1 still in place, no longer operational
Los Angeles County, California 24, most removed, a few still in place and non-operational
Kansas City, Missouri 1 non-operating siren still standing out of a former set of 3
Horsham, Pennsylvania 1, removed
Rochester, New York 2, 1 still standing, other one's status is unknown
Newark, Delaware 1, removed
Oakland, California 5, removed
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 10;[2][3] 2[4][5] removed and in private possession
Rockford, Illinois 3, removed, one in private possession
San Francisco, California 1, removed
Seattle, Washington 6, most removed, a 2 still in place and both are non-operational
Spokane, Washington 2, status is unknown
Trenton, Michigan 3, removed
Grand Rapids, Michigan 4, status is unknown
Jackson, Michigan 1, removed and replaced with a Thunderbolt in 1982
Portland, Oregon 7,[6] removed
Salt Lake City, Utah 3, removed