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Chrysler Air-Raid Siren

The Chrysler Air Raid Siren is an outdoor warning siren produced during the Cold War era that has an output of 138 dB(C) at 100 feet.

It was known as the Chrysler Bell Victory Siren during its first generation, which was between the end of World War II and the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is reputed to be the loudest air raid siren ever produced in the US.

Built during the Cold War era from 1952 to 1957 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).

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

In 1952, the cost of a Chrysler Air Raid Siren was $5,500 (equivalent to $65,076 as of May 2024). 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 Soviet Union 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.

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.

In Seattle's Phinney Ridge neighborhood, a decommissioned air-raid siren remains standing as a local landmark. Since 2014, the air raid tower is decorated as a Holiday GloCone annually from Thanksgiving to New Year's.

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