Los Angeles, CA
February 25, 1942
Have you ever heard of the Battle of Los Angeles? Few have. Imagine a visiting spacecraft from another world, or dimension, hovering over a panicked and blacked-out LA in the middle of the night just weeks after Pearl Harbor at the height of WWII fear and paranoia. Imagine how this huge ship, assumed to be some unknown Japanese aircraft, was then attacked as it hung, nearly stationary, over Culver City and Santa Monica by dozens of Army anti-aircraft batteries firing nearly 2,000 rounds of 12 pound, high explosive shells in full view of hundreds of thousands of residents. Imagine all of that and you have an idea of what was the Battle of Los Angeles.
The sudden appearance of the enormous round object triggered all of LA and most of Southern California into an immediate wartime blackout with thousands of Air Raid Wardens scurrying all over the darkened city while the drama unfolded in the skies above... a drama which would result in the deaths of six people and the raining of shell fragments on homes, streets, and buildings for miles around.
Dozens of gun crews and searchlights of the Army's 37th Coast Artillery Brigade easily targeted the huge ship which hung like a surreal magic lantern in the clear, dark winter sky over the City of the Angels. Few in the city were left asleep after the Coastal Defense gunners commenced firing hundreds and hundreds of rounds up toward the glowing ship which was apparently first sighted as it hovered above such west side landmarks as the MGM studios in Culver City. The thump of the batteries and the ignition of the aerial shells reverberated from one end of LA to the other as the gun crews easily landed scores of what many termed "direct hits"....all to no avail. Here now, is what the night skies of LA looked like at the height of the firing....
Pay close attention to the convergence of the searchlights and you will clearly see the shape of the visitor within the illuminated target area. It's a BIG item and seemed completely oblivious to the hundreds of AA shells bursting on and adjacent to it which caused it no evident dismay. There were casualties, however...on the ground. At least 6 people died as a direct result of the Army's attack on the UFO which slowly and leisurely made its way down to and then over Long Beach before finally moving off and disappearing.
In February, 1942, Katie was a young, beautiful, and highly-successful interior decorator and artist who worked with many of Hollywood's most glamorous celebrities and film industry luminaries. She lived on the west side of Los Angeles, not far from Santa Monica. With the outbreak of the war with Japan and the rising fear of a Japanese air attack, or even invasion of the West Coast, thousands of residents volunteered for wartime duties on the home front. Katie volunteered to become an Air Raid Warden as did 12,000 other residents in the sprawling city of Los Angeles and surrounding communities.
In the early morning hours of February 25th, Katie's phone rang. It was the Air Raid supervisor in her district notifying her of an alert and asking if she had seen the object in the sky very close to her home. She immediately walked to a window and looked up. "It was huge! It was just enormous! And it was practically right over my house. I had never seen anything like it in my life!" she said. "It was just hovering there in the sky and hardly moving at all." With the city blacked out, Katie, and hundreds of thousands of others, were able to see the eerie visitor with spectacular clarity. "It was a lovely pale orange and about the most beautiful thing you've ever seen. I could see it perfectly because it was very close. It was big!"
The U.S. Army anti-aircraft searchlights by this time had the object completely covered. "They sent fighter planes up (the Army denied any of its fighters were in action) and I watched them in groups approach it and then turn away. There were shooting at it but it didn't seem to matter." Katie is insistent about the use of planes in the attack on the object. The planes were apparently called off after several minutes and then the ground cannon opened up. "It was like the Fourth of July but much louder. They were firing like crazy but they couldn't touch it." The attack on the object lasted over half an hour before the visitor eventually disappeared from sight. Many eyewitnesses talked of numerous "direct hits" on the big craft but no damage was seen done to it. "I'll never forget what a magnificent sight it was. Just marvelous. And what a gorgeous color!", said Katie.
"The object...caught in the center of the lights like the hub of a bicycle wheel surrounded by gleaming spokes. The fire seemed to burst in rings all around the object."
The ONLY description in the LA Times of the UFO, and a sense of the energy and emotion of that night, was found in this small sidebar article written by Times staff writer the day after the event:
The following are excerpts from the primary front page story of the LA Times on February 26th. Note that there is not a SINGLE description of the object even though is was clearly locked in the focus of dozens of searchlights for well over half an hour and seen by hundreds of thousands of people:
In its front page editorial, the Times said: "In view of the considerable public excitement and confusion caused by yesterday morning's supposed enemy air raid over this area and its spectacular official accompaniments, it seems to The Times that more specific public information should be forthcoming from government sources on the subject, if only to clarify their own conflicting statements about it."
The following is an excerpt of an article appearing in Fate Magazine. Our special thanks to Bill Oliver of UFO*BC for transcribing and bringing it to our attention.
Caught by the searchlights and captured in photographs, was an object big enough to dwarf an apartment house. Experienced lighter-than-air (dirigible) specialists doubted it could be a Japanese blimp because the Japanese had no known source of helium, and hydrogen was much too dangerous to use under combat conditions.
Whatever it was, it was a sitting duck for the guns of the 37th. Photographs showed shells bursting all around it. A Los Angeles Herald Express staffer said he was sure many shells hit it directly. He was amazed it had not been shot down.
The object that triggered the air raid alarm had drawn 1430 rounds of ammunition from the coast artillery, to no effect. When it moved at all, the object had proceeded at a leisurely pace over the coastal cities between Santa Monica and Long Beach, taking about 30 minutes of actual flight time to move 20 miles; then it disappeared from view.
You can well imagine with what chagrin public information officers answered press queries. The Pasadena Office of the Southern California Sector of the Army Western Defense Command simply announced that no enemy aircraft had been identified; no craft was shot down; no bombs were dropped; none of our interceptors left the ground to pursue the intruder.
Soon thereafter US Navy Secretary Frank Knox announced that no planes had been sighted. The coastal firing had been triggered, he said, by a false alarm and jittery nerves. He also suggested that some war industries along the coast might have to be moved inland to points invulnerable to attacks from enemy submarines and carrier-based planes.
The press responded with scathing editorials, many on page one, calling attention to the loss of life and denouncing the use of the coast artillery to fire at phantoms. The Los Angeles Times demanded a full explanation from Washington. The Long Beach Telegram complained that government officials who all along had wanted to move the industries were manipulating the affair for propaganda purposes. And the Long Beach Independent charged: "There is a mysterious reticence about the whole affair and it appears some form of censorship is trying to halt discussion of the matter. Although it was red-hot news not one national radio commentator gave it more than passing mention. This is the kind of reticence that is making the American people gravely suspect the motives and the competence of those whom they have charged with the conduct of the war."
The Independent had good reason to question the competence of some of the personnel responsible for our coastal defense operations as well as the integrity and motives of our highest government officials. Only 36 hours before the Long Beach air raid, a gigantic Japanese submarine had surfaced close to shore 12 miles north of Santa Barbara and in 25 minutes of unchallenged firing lobbed 25 five-inch shells at the petroleum refinery in the Ellwood oil field. The Fourth Interceptor Command, although aware of the sub's attack, ordered a blackout from Ventura to Goleta but sent no planes out to sink it. Not one shot was fired at the sub.
After the Ellwood incident had alerted all the West Coast defense posts to possible repeat attacks, these units were sensitive to anticipated invasion attempts. By Wednesday morning in the Los Angeles area they were ready to open fire on a boy's kite if it in any way resembled a plane or a balloon. Secretary of War Henry Stimson praised the 37th Cost Artillery for this attitude. It is better to be a little too alert than not alert enough, he said. At the same time he delicately suggested that it might have been a good idea to send some of our planes up to identify the invading aircraft before shooting at them.
Planes of the Fourth Interceptor Command were, in fact, warming up on the runways waiting for orders to go up and interview the unknown intruders. Why, everybody was asking, were they not ordered to go into action during the 51-minute period between the first air-raid alert at 2:25 AM and the first artillery firing at 3:16?
Against this background of embarrassing indecision and confusion, Army Western Defense Command obviously had to say something fast. Spokesmen told reporters that from one to 50 planes had been sighted, thus giving themselves ample latitude in which to adjust future stories to fit whatever propaganda requirements might arise in the next few days.
When eyewitness reports from thousands searching the skies with binoculars under the bright lights of the coast artillery verified the presence of one enormous, unidentifiable, indestructible object - but not the presence of large numbers of planes - the press releases were gradually scaled downward. A week later Gen. Mark Clark acknowledged that army listening posts had detected what they thought were five light planes approaching the coast on the night of the air raid. No interceptors, he said, had been sent out to engage them because there had been no mass attack.
Believing an aerial bombardment was in progress, some people thought they saw formations of warplanes, dogfights between enemy craft and our fighter planes and other things that they assumed were evidence of such an attack. Obviously there were no dogfights because none of our interceptors were in the air. Tracer bullets were fired from military ground stations and some people mistook the fire pattern made by these projectiles for aerial combat. Other observers reported lighted objects which were variously described as red-and-white flares in groups of three red and three white, fired alternately, or chainlike strings of red lights looking something like an illuminated kite.
People suggested that some of these lights were caused by Japanese-Americans signaling approaching Japanese aircraft with flares to guide them to selected targets, but because no bombs were dropped, the theory was quickly abandoned. In any case, such charges fitted in perfectly with a hysterical press campaign to round up all citizens of Japanese descent and put them in concentration camps.
During the week of the Japanese submarine attack on the Ellwood oil field and the air raid on Los Angeles County, the press took full advantage of the made-to-order situation. Arrests of suspects were quickly made and the FBI was called in, but the Long Beach Press Telegram stated all investigations indicated nobody was signaling the enemy from the ground.
Oil Field Submarine Attack
Author Ralph Blum, who was a nine-year-old boy at the time, wrote that he thought "the Japanese were bombing Beverly Hills."
"There were sirens, searchlights, even antiaircraft guns blamming away into the skies over Los Angeles. My father had been a balloon observation man (in the AEF) in World War One, and he knew big guns when he heard them. He ordered my mother to take my baby sisters to the underground projection room--our house was heavily supplied with Hollywood paraphernalia--while he and I went out onto the upstairs balcony."
"What a scene! It was after three in the morning. Searchlights probed the western sky. Tracers streamed upward. The racket was terrific." Shooting at the aerial intruders were gunners of the 65th Coast Artillery (Anti-Aircraft) Regiment in Inglewood and the 205th Anti-Aircraft Regiment based in Santa Monica. The "white cigar-shaped object" took several direct hits but continued on its eastward flight.
Up to 25 silvery UFOs were also seen by observers on the ground.
Editor Peter Jenkins of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner reported, "I could clearly see the V formation of about 25 silvery planes overhead moving slowly across the sky toward Long Beach." Long Beach Police Chief J.H. McClelland said, "I watched what was described as the second wave of planes from atop the seven-story Long Beach City Hall. I did not see any planes but the younger men with me said they could. An experienced Navy observer with powerful Carl Zeiss binoculars said he counted nine planes in the cone of the searchlight. He said they were silver in color. The (UFO) group passed along from one battery of searchlights to another, and under fire from the anti-aircraft guns, flew from the direction of Redondo Beach and Inglewood on the land side of Fort MacArthur, and continued toward Santa Ana and Huntington Beach. Anti-aircraft fire was so heavy we could not hear the motors of the planes."
Reporter Bill Henry of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "I was far enough away to see an object without being able to identify it...I would be willing to bet what shekels I have that there were a number of direct hits scored on the object."
At 2:21 a.m., Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt issued the cease-fire order, and the twenty-minute "battle of Los Angeles" was over. (See BEYOND EARTH: MAN'S CONTACT WITH UFOs by Ralph Blum, Bantam Books, New York, April 1974, page 68. See also the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and the Long Beach Press-Telegram for February 25, 1942. All newspaper quotes taken from "The Battle of Los Angeles, 1942" by Terrenz Sword, which appeared in Unsolved UFO Sightings, Spring 1996 issue, pages 57 through 62.)
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