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The Battle of Los Angeles

Article #220 • Written by Jason Bellows

▼ Scroll to Continue ▼

In early 1942 the United States was still reeling from the Attack on Pearl Harbor. They'd declared war upon the Empire of Japan, but had thus far fought unsuccessfully in every engagement. The West Coast was wary, and prepared for a seemingly inevitable invasion. Cities from Seattle to San Diego had invasion plans including things from air-raid sirens to blackout procedures. Nerves were drawn taut, and there was no shortage of false alarms.

On the night of 24 February 1942 the Air Raid sirens sounded, and the Coast Guard Anti-aircraft guns were ordered to "green alert," putting them in readiness to fire. From the time the battle began until it ended in the early hours of the morning, thousands of people had witnessed the search lights around Los Angeles fix on a target hovering above the city, and anti-aircraft rounds detonate in the sky. Reputable news agencies reported the attack, complete with eye-witness accounts. But the Japanese claim that they never attacked, and there was no wreckage to indicate that anyone actually did. These conflicting accounts cast uncertainty on the nature of the unidentified aircraft that caused the Battle of Los Angeles.

The first sightings of the incoming aircraft came from the Coast Guard shortly after 11:00 PM. Because commercial and private aircraft were fairly common, the Civil Defense Service reacted cautiously to the initial sighting. As reports of the incoming plane--or sometimes fleet--continued and progressed nearer to land, artillery posts were put on alert. By the time they started getting reports of an overhead object from people inland, things were put into action, and the Air Raid Wardens were called in to put the city into blackout. Thousands of volunteer Air Raid Wardens began calling the homes of people in their areas, and ordering them to douse the lights; in so doing they incited people to go out and seek the object that was crawling slowly through the sky.

Some witness accounts describe the interloper above the city as a tremendous single object, while others stated that it was a dispersed group of smaller objects. Many people reported to the papers that they were certain they'd seen US planes approach the object before the shelling began, however the army reported that 4th Interceptor Command was only on alert, and no planes were ever launched. Spotlights lit the skies and illuminated an object moving slowly--sometimes hovering.

At 3:16 AM the 37th Coast Guard Artillery Brigade opened fire while the target was over Culver City. With the city lights all snuffed for the blackout, the barrage of AA shells was the center of attention. The firing continued intermittently through the night until the blackout lifted at 7:21 AM.

The morning papers were filled with details of the incident. Some reported that two Japanese airplanes had been shot down, but such wreckage was never found. Some buildings had been damaged by shells, and there were six casualties-- all of them were on the ground. There were three killed by friendly fire and three more of stress induced by the attack. The Los Angeles Times ran a front page picture depicting the object caught in the search lights; it is uncertain if this picture is an actual photograph or an artist's depiction because of the lack of clarity, i.e. the fact the search lights terminate on the object rather than cast streams past.

The Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, immediately denounced accounts of the affair, calling it a false alarm brought about by "war nerves". Since the battle many have proposed that the mysterious object that was seen moving over Santa Monica to Long Beach was a weather balloon, or perhaps an early Japanese Fire Balloon. However to suggest that the Coast Guard commenced firing at a balloon for over an hour implies a degree of incompetence, to say the least.

There are others who have a less pedestrian explanation for that night: that it was a mass Close Encounter of the First Kind. Some stories have circulated that two downed aircraft were found: one in the sea, and one in the San Bernardino mountains, and that they were of obvious extra-terrestrial origin.

The variation in personal accounts contribute little to the solving of this mystery. Some saw one large object in the sky, some saw many smaller objects. Reports on the object's altitude ranged significantly. However, it seems certain that there was something in the sky that night because despite the disparity in the reports, the fact that there were tens of thousands of witnesses make the existence of the object over LA that night impossible to dismiss.

Article written by Jason Bellows, published on 24 September 2006. Jason is a contributing editor for DamnInteresting.com.

Article design and artwork by Alan Bellows. Edited by Alan Bellows.
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37 Comments
Metryq
Posted 24 September 2006 at 03:42 am

And thousands panicked over a Halloween radio broadcast only a few years earlier. Many even reported seeing the Martians. Extraterrestrials are often invoked when there is no evidence, and proponents often claim that critics are not open-minded enough. I think it was Mark Twain who said "keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out."


Metryq
Posted 24 September 2006 at 03:45 am

Sorry, that was Feynman. Although Twain may have said something similar... not that he was completely innocent of his own loopy ideas.


1c3d0g
Posted 24 September 2006 at 06:31 am

Still, the possibility that there *might* be some form of alien life in the whole wide Universe is HUGE. We've barely even looked thorougly into our own "back yard". :-/


Furnace
Posted 24 September 2006 at 06:35 am

I’m willing to bet a military plane caused a false alarm and got everyone riled up, but once the truth was realized, it was too late. Stopping to tell the public, “Sorry, it was one of our guys and we didn’t have a clue what was going on. Oh… and we’re the ones protecting you.”, would have been a disaster. …so they launch some weather balloons and shoot at them.

In the end, the public is happy the military fought off a threat and their confidence swells, and the military wipes sweat off it’s forehead thinking, “I can’t believe we got away with that!”


middlenamefrank
Posted 24 September 2006 at 09:14 am

I agree with you, Furnace. Their own stupidity isn't something the military bigwigs like to brag about. But on the other hand, I have to wonder about the same thing I wondered about the O.J. Simpson 'police conspiracy' defense....could they really have pulled that off? No way the military could have conned that many people successfully about sending up a balloon to deflect criticism of their own stupidity, without anybody EVER making a drunken barroom confession about it. I'm sure they just found something (weather balloon, etc.) to spontaneously swiss-cheese.


Misanthrope
Posted 24 September 2006 at 01:39 pm

Vague articles about vague eye-witness accounts of UFOs from 60+ years ago counts as DI now? No offence, but it's not on the same level as the articles we've been spoiled by up until now...


Furnace
Posted 24 September 2006 at 02:10 pm

middlenamefrank said: "No way the military could have conned that many people successfully about sending up a balloon to deflect criticism of their own stupidity, without anybody EVER making a drunken barroom confession about it. "

Normally, I would agree with this statement, but this story took place in the 1940's and during a world war. The whole, "Loose lips sink ships.", mentality within the military, along with a dozen other options available to keep the secret would probably keep the situation contained.

Plus... this is the first I've personally ever heard of this event, so it's not like the Roswell crash, Philadelphia Experiment, or anything else with a conspiracy surrounding it, so I'm betting even if someone did step forward with an accurate account of what happened, would anyone really care?


camilos
Posted 24 September 2006 at 08:13 pm

Misanthrope said: "Vague articles about vague eye-witness accounts of UFOs from 60+ years ago counts as DI now? No offence, but it's not on the same level as the articles we've been spoiled by up until now…"

I disagree with you, I think its a great article. I love to read about these events that are lost in history. Who would have ever thought that this ever happened in L.A? That's what DI is all about, makes us say "Well that's damn interesting!"


Drakvil
Posted 24 September 2006 at 09:44 pm

Camilos: I agree with you wholeheartedly.

How many people do you know that would have known there was a night at the start of WWII where they were firing AA guns over L.A.? This article (good job, btw Jason) is just as DI as the others, it just appeals more to different people.


joshuats
Posted 24 September 2006 at 09:58 pm

For a video about the Battle of L.A. go to

Googal Video, Search [ Trailer 3: UFO The Greatest Story Ever Denied ] 9 min
skip forward to 4min50sec judge for yourself


Marius
Posted 25 September 2006 at 02:09 am

I also, respectfully, disagree with Misanthrope. So what if this was just one night long ago when something gave Los Angelinos itchy trigger fingers, it's still an intriguing story. Personally I find stories like this help immensely in putting the whole UFO thing in perspective. I have no doubt that there is other intelligent life in the universe, but I have extreme doubts that any of it has come here, and the fact that thousands of people, stressed to the breaking point, can imagine that whatever it was they were shooting at was an alien spacecraft speaks volumes to me about the veracity of eyewitness accounts. DI indeed. Kudos.


etonalife
Posted 25 September 2006 at 03:10 am

I'm not one to partake in the whole E.T. coming to earth here, but wouldn't that be ironic if they were just a few traveling aliens looking for a place to refuel, and then we open fire on them! It's a wonder they never came back...

It's amazing how reactionary humans get whenever the stress goes up. I suppose it certainly beats out complacency for survival. Trigger-happy people suck, but I guess the slow ones get shot. DI Jason.


vallynmar
Posted 25 September 2006 at 06:11 am

This makes me wonder if the movie "1942" might have been based on this incident.

They were just shooting at Jim Belushi :)


another viewpoint
Posted 25 September 2006 at 06:13 am

...oh come on people...we're talking here about Los Angeles...where there ARE more aliens walking around than any other place on God's green planet. Some of them might even carry green cards!


Dave Group
Posted 25 September 2006 at 06:17 am

Misanthrope said: "Vague articles about vague eye-witness accounts of UFOs from 60+ years ago counts as DI now? No offence, but it's not on the same level as the articles we've been spoiled by up until now…"

I also disagree with Misanthrope. The truth behind this incident, whether otherwordly or earthbound, has GOT to be interesting. For instance, read Nick Redfern's Body Snatchers in the Desert if you want to know the real story about Roswell.


Catkilller7
Posted 25 September 2006 at 06:50 am

This reminds me.... in one of JKCinema's (google it) Urban Legends files, the UFO one, it has video footage from a sattelite of a black object hovering around Earth, and then it zips away, with a streak of light going right past where it was. It had an odd shape of a missle, althought it was horrible quality (of course).

Anyone ever think that we're in a huge war and don't know it?

Anyways, Great article, DI.


r.cechvala
Posted 25 September 2006 at 07:24 am

I agree entirely with Marius. I firmly believe in the existence of extra-terrestrial life, how ever, I believe thier visitation to our humble little home to be remote in the extreme.

I would like to point out that UFO's are real, while on night exercises in the military, a friend pointed out a UFO. I pointed out the ISS. Let's not confuse the two. UFO's are just that, Unidentified, an extra-terestrial space ship is another thing all together.


sulkykid
Posted 25 September 2006 at 10:34 am

vallynmar said: "This makes me wonder if the movie "1942" might have been based on this incident.


They were just shooting at Jim Belushi :)"

"1941", John Belushi.


Griffin
Posted 25 September 2006 at 10:56 am

I was wondering why there was not more photographic evidence of this event. With so many eyewitness accounts, why didn't a few thousand break out their camera's and try snapping pictures? I did enjoy the google video of that event. It has better clarity of the search lights. What I find damn interesting is that this even preceeds Rosewell by 5 years. Makes one wonder about the scope of the coverup. Hmmmmm...


Misanthrope
Posted 25 September 2006 at 03:43 pm

Fair enough all who responded. Like I said, no offence intended - I just glaze over at the mention of UFOs, conspiracies etc., as none of it ever seems to be new. Too much time spent arguing the skeptic's point of view with croppies I guess :)


vallynmar
Posted 26 September 2006 at 06:54 am

Oops. Having a blond day. Thanks Sulkykid.


sulkykid
Posted 26 September 2006 at 07:44 am

vallynmar said: "Oops. Having a blond day. Thanks Sulkykid."

I really like that movie, although it has many flaws. I think Steven Spielberg was not the right director for that material. I cannot think of another comedy that he ever directed.


Misfit
Posted 26 September 2006 at 08:37 am

HEY FEB 24th, THAT"S MY BIRTHDAY!! WOOOOOOOOOO!

But seriously, this whole thing is absolutely fascinating to me.

How is it possible that any object could have stayed there while it was shot for four hours and five minutes? Sounds like strange stuff to me.


Dave Group
Posted 26 September 2006 at 11:08 am

Griffin said: "I was wondering why there was not more photographic evidence of this event. With so many eyewitness accounts, why didn't a few thousand break out their camera's and try snapping pictures?

Possibly because the cameras of the time were rather primitive compared to what we have today. Even movies cameras needed plenty of light to capture all the details. I assume there may be other factors as well: 1) Not many people had cameras back then (good cameras were expensive and bulky, and there were probably a lot of starving actors in LA, even then) 2) People probably weren't as media-savvy as they are now, and 3) With a battle going on overhead, I'm sure not many people were willing to stand unprotected under the open skies.


Captain Blowhard
Posted 26 September 2006 at 03:54 pm

Ok , I have been hoping I would keep quite. But I cant …
As far as UFO's or flying saucers are concerned. I cant bear for people to de-bunk the possibility in such an off-hand way . Yeah , Yeah , give me the "There's no evidence" nonsense.
Simply put , if you really think that then you are meatheads.
There is MASSES of evidence. Pictures , film footage and eyewitness accounts.
And you can say that they are hoaxers , loonies or seeking attention.

However , I have never seen a dolphin before in my life, Should I then discount peoples stories of swimming with them. Or poo-poo the films of them as fakes ?
Should I never believe they exist until I have a chunk of Dolphin meat in my hands ?
Is that what it will take to convince you ?
I hope for all your sakes (The Cynics) you dont ever see one or more with your own eyes.
Its not pleasant for everything that you believe is truth or reality to come crashing down in an instant .

But maybe then you might start to question what the truth is , rather than wearing blinkers.
Lets face it , If you have lived in a big city all your life and you work all the time . Your chances of EVER seeing something in the skies you cant explain are virtually nil.

WOW, My rant is over. Back to the subject !

Great story ! I have never heard of this and I enjoyed it . I love reading the comments too , they make up 50% of the site in my opinion .
There is nothing like a good debate especially when there are clearly some very intelligent individuals taking part !
Keep up the good work guys !


sulkykid
Posted 27 September 2006 at 07:45 am

Captain Blowhard: The word is "skeptic", not "cynic". Extraordinary claims need extraordinary proof. (Even I am getting sick of that old saw!) Eyewitness and anecdotal evidence are the weakest evidence of all. In the case of aliens/UFOs, I would even consider them "anti-evidence", considering the sources. All of the photos and video that I have seen are of doubtful quality and questionable provenance. I will need to hold a chunk of alien meat, hot from the wreckage, in my hands, before I will believe.

Yes, the possibilities are endless, but reality is not.


Byrden
Posted 27 September 2006 at 10:15 am

People are always talking about Unidentified Flying Objects, but they never mention UGOs (Unidentified Ground Objects). There's a little silvery thing on the ground outside my window. It could be a beer can, or it could be alien technology. Nobody knows. But do the media want to report it? Oh no!


Gizmo The Cat?
Posted 28 September 2006 at 02:27 am

Byrden said: "People are always talking about Unidentified Flying Objects, but they never mention UGOs (Unidentified Ground Objects). There's a little silvery thing on the ground outside my window. It could be a beer can, or it could be alien technology. Nobody knows. But do the media want to report it? Oh no!"

Because little green men don't live in UGOs! :p

As for this topic, I must say, Damn Interesting. I'm just shock that good old Art Bell hasn't talk about this yet.


revhouse1
Posted 01 October 2006 at 08:34 pm

Of course an alien wouldn't live in a (y)ugo. First of all they're cramped and second of all the heater didn't work well, not to mention the difficulty of getting spare parts.

Seriously, I have no problem believing in UFO's -- but as others have mentioned that's a big difference from E.T. life (which is at least statistically possible) however, I'll believe it when I see it.


lemon
Posted 02 October 2006 at 03:53 pm

it seems that many people here do actually believe in the possibility of the existence of extraterrestrial life - so why oh why do you not believe that we have been visited by it? perhaps because of the huge distances that would be involved and the lack of belief that technology would need to exist in order to traverse these distances.

it is known that our sun is a relatively new star when compared to other stars so therefore our solar system is relatively new and therefore life on our planet has not been going on for so long.

if you consider how much technological progress mankind has made in the last 150 years or so and then consider that life on other worlds may have been present for MILLIONS or even BILLIONS of years longer than on our own then it does not seem so far-fetched that other civilizations may well possess the technology to travel between stars - well does it?


HunterKiller_
Posted 15 October 2006 at 01:23 am

Hmmm... this is definitely interesting. Just as I had dismissed the idea of E.Ts, my curiousity has been ignited once again.

*que X-files music*


King Randall
Posted 31 December 2006 at 05:08 am

Would it help anyone if I cleared all this up and proved, 100%, once and for all what exactly it was that happened that fateful February night? No? Fine then!


Jatta Pake
Posted 04 January 2007 at 09:27 pm

Not to be such a doubting Thomas, but are there any credible print resources I research to find information about this incident. I'm going to try to dig up a copy of the LA Times article from archives.

I've never heard of this incident and I'm skeptical of Wiki as a primary resource. I can't find much else about it except on wacko UFO sites.


Radiatidon
Posted 05 January 2007 at 10:20 am

Jatta Pake said: "Not to be such a doubting Thomas, but are there any credible print resources I research to find information about this incident. I'm going to try to dig up a copy of the LA Times article from archives.


I've never heard of this incident and I'm skeptical of Wiki as a primary resource. I can't find much else about it except on wacko UFO sites."

Jatta Pake try these links.

This one is the web site of the 225th AAA Searchlight Battalion. Good information on the event without UFO or other such shineola. http://www.skylighters.org/4thaac/battleoflosangeles.html

This has some possible video of the night. It is the usual UFO stuff associated with it, but worth the visit for the video. http://www.surfingtheapocalypse.net/cgi-bin/archive.cgi?read=152191
You do need to forward to 4:50 for the footage. Otherwise you get a good dose of UFO, hidden critters, and such.

Enjoy.


Radiatidon
Posted 05 January 2007 at 10:43 am

Radiatidon said: "Jatta Pake try these links.


This one is the web site of the 225th AAA Searchlight Battalion. Good information on the event without UFO or other such shineola. http://www.skylighters.org/4thaac/battleoflosangeles.html

This has some possible video of the night. It is the usual UFO stuff associated with it, but worth the visit for the video. http://www.surfingtheapocalypse.net/cgi-bin/archive.cgi?read=152191
You do need to forward to 4:50 for the footage. Otherwise you get a good dose of UFO, hidden critters, and such.

Enjoy."

Crud – I posted these way too soon. Here are some additional links.

http://www.militarymuseum.org/BattleofLA.html

http://ftmac.org/LA_AirRaid.htm

http://www.sfmuseum.net/hist9/aaf2.html

http://www.usaaf.net/chron/42/feb42.htm


a1c
Posted 08 August 2008 at 09:40 pm

No longer just a Rage Against the Machine album.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Battle_of_Los_Angeles_(album)


UFOMAN
Posted 24 February 2011 at 01:38 pm

MY LATE FATHER EDWARD CARL JOHNSON WAS AN BLOCK AIR RAID WARDEN LOS ANAGLES SUBURB OF GLASSELL PARK CALIFORNIA (AVE 34) SAW THE UFO THAT CAUSDE THE AIR RAID!(A COUPLE IN A FORD COUPE "NECLIKING" CAME TO OUR DFOOR TOLD OF THE BRIGHT WHITE LIGHT IN THE SKY THEN THE ANTI AIRCRAFT GUS WENT OFF! A NEIGHBOR LOS ANAGHLES POLICE OFFICER IAN ANDERSON WAS ENT TO THE VERMONT AVE. AREA OF HOLLYWOOD CALIFORNIA WHERE A PICE OF THIS "CRAFT" WAS SHOT DOWN FOUND IN A VACANT LOT! HE TRADE A SMALL PIECE OF THE UFO (?) DEBRIES WITH MY FATHER (WHO WAS A AUTO SUPPLY DEALER HAD AUTO SPPULIES IN OUR GARAAGE SPARK PLUS FAN BELTS A CARBURATOR FOR THIS UFO PIECE! SENT TO UFO MAGAZINE 2/24 11! UFO MOVIE BASED ON THIS TO BE RELEASED MARCH 11 BATTLE FOR LOS ANAGLES! DR. EDSON ANDRE' JOHNSON D.D.ULC HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIFORNIA USA


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