Five years before Roswell, five years before pilot
Kenneth Arnold's landmark sightings of "flying saucers" in the Pacific
Northwest, 3 years before the Battle of the Bulge, two years before D-Day,
and years before the so-called "modern UFO era" had officially begun, there
was the Battle of Los Angeles, arguably the most sensational, dramatic
UFO mass encounter on record.
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 georgeous color!",
"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:
Chilly Throng Watches
Shells Bursting In Sky
By Marvin Miles
Explosions stabbing the darkness like tiny bursting
stars... Searchlight beams poking long crisscross fingers across the night
sky...Yells of wardens and the whistles of police and deputy sheriffs...The
brief on-and-off flick of lights, telephone calls, snatches of conversation:
'Get the dirty...' That was Los Angeles under the rumble of gunfire yesterday.
Sleepy householders awoke to the dull thud of explosions...
"Thunder? Can't be!" Then: "Air Raid! Come here quick! Look over there...those
searchlights. They've got something...they are blasting in with anti-aircraft!"
Father, mother, children all gathered on the front porch, congregated in
small clusters in the blacked out streets -- against orders. Babies cried,
dogs barked, doors slammed. But the object in the sky slowly moved on,
caught in the center of the lights like the hub of a bicycle wheel surrounded
by gleaming spokes.
Speculation fell like rain. "It's a whole squadron."
"No, it's a blimp. It must be because it's moving so slowly." "I hear planes."
"No you don't. That's a truck up the street." "Where are the planes then?"
"Dunno. They must be up there though." "Wonder why they picked such a clear
night for a raid?" "They're probably from a carrier." "Naw, I'll bet they
are from a secret air base down south somewhere." Still the firing continued.
Like lethal firecrackers, the anti-aircraft rounds blasted above, below,
seemingly right on the target fixed in the tenacious beams. Other shots
fell short, exploding halfway up the long climb. Tracers sparked upward
like roman candles. Metal fell. It fell in chunks, large and small; not
enemy metal, but the whistling fragments of bursting ack-ack shells. The
menacing thud and clank on streets and roof tops drove many spectators
WARDENS DO GOOD JOB
Wardens were on the job, doing a good job of it.
"Turn off your lights, please. Pull over to the curb and stop. Don't use
your telephone. Take shelter. Take shelter." On every street brief glares
of hooded flashlights cut the darkness, warning creeping drivers to stop.
Police watched at main intersections. Sirens wailed enroute to and from
blackout accidents. There came lulls in the firing. The search lights went
out. (To allow the fighter planes to attack?). Angelinos breathed deeply
and said, "I guess it's all over." But before they could tell their neighbors
good night, the guns were blasting again, sighting up the long blue beams
of the lights.
The fire seemed to burst in rings all around the
target. But the eager watchers, shivering in the early morning cold, weren't
rewarded by the sight of a falling plane. Nor were there any bombs dropped.
"Maybe it's just a test," someone remarked. "Test, hell!" was the answer.
"You don't throw that much metal in the air unless you're fixing on knocking
something down." Still the firing continued, muttering angrily off toward
the west like a distant thunderstorm. The targeted object inched along
high, flanked by the cherry red explosions. And the householders shivered
in their robes, their faces set, watching the awesome scene.
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:
Army Says Alarm Real
Roaring Guns Mark Blackout
Identity of Aircraft Veiled in Mystery; No
Bombs Dropped and No Enemy Craft Hit; Civilians Reports Seeing Planes and
Overshadowing a nation-wide maelstrom of rumors and
conflicting reports, the Army's Western Defense Command insisted that Los
Angeles' early morning blackout and anti-aircraft action were the result
of unidentified aircraft sighted over the beach area. In two official statements,
issued while Secretary of the Navy Knox in Washington was attributing the
activity to a false alarm and "jittery nerves," the command in San Francisco
confirmed and reconfirmed the presence over the Southland of unidentified
planes. Relayed by the Southern California sector office in Pasadena, the
second statement read: "The aircraft which caused the blackout in the Los
Angeles area for several hours this a.m. have not been identified." Insistence
from official quarters that the alarm was real came as hundreds of thousands
of citizens who heard and saw the activity spread countless varying stories
of the episode. The spectacular anti-aircraft barrage came after the 14th
Interceptor Command ordered the blackout when strange craft were reported
over the coastline. Powerful searchlights from countless stations stabbed
the sky with brilliant probing fingers while anti-aircraft batteries dotted
the heavens with beautiful, if sinister, orange bursts of shrapnel.
City Blacked Out For Hours
The city was blacked out from 2:25 to 7:21 am after
an earlier yellow alert at 7:18 pm was called off at 10:23 pm. The blackout
was in effect from here to the Mexican border and inland to the San Joaquin
Valley. No bombs were dropped and no airplanes shot down and, miraculously
in terms of the tons of missiles hurled aloft, only two persons were reported
wounded by falling shell fragments. Countless thousands of Southland residents,
many of whom were late to work because of the traffic tie-up during the
blackout, rubbed their eyes sleepily yesterday and agreed that regardless
of the question of how "real" the air raid alarm may have been, it was
"a great show" and "well worth losing a few hours' sleep." The blackout
was not without its casualties, however. A State Guardsman died of a heart
attack while driving an ammunition truck, heart failure also accounted
for the death of an air raid warden on duty, a woman was killed in a car-truck
collision in Arcadia, and a Long Beach policeman was killed in a traffic
crash enroute to duty. Much of the firing appeared to come from the vicinity
of aircraft plants along the coastal area of Santa Monica, Inglewood, Southwest
Los Angeles, and Long Beach.
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."
"According to the Associated Press, Secretary
Knox intimated that reports of enemy air activity in the Pacific Coastal
Region might be due largely to 'jittery nerves.' Whose nerves, Mr. Knox?
The public's or the Army's?"
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.
WORLD WAR II UFO SCARE
By Paul T. Collins
Fate Magazine July, 1987
On Wednesday, February 25, 1942, as war raged in
Europe and Asia, at least a million Southern Californians awoke to the
scream of air-raid sirens as Los Angeles County cities blacked out at 2:25
AM. Many dozed off again while 12,000 air raid wardens reported faithfully
to their posts, most of them expecting nothing more than a dress rehearsal
for a possible future event - an invasion of the United States by Japan.
At 3:36, however, they were shocked and their slumbering families rudely
roused again, this time by sounds unfamiliar to most Americans outside
the military services.
The roar of the 37th Coast Artillery Brigade's antiaircraft
batteries jolted them out of bed and before they could get to the windows
the flashing 12.8 pound shells were detonating with a heavy, ominous boomp
- boomp - boomp and the steel was already raining down. All radio stations
had been ordered off the air at 3:08. But the news was being written with
fingers of light three miles high on a clear star-studded blackboard 30
The firing continued intermittently until 4:14.
Unexploded shells destroyed pavement, homes and public
buildings, three persons were killed and three died of heart attacks directly
attributable to the one hour barrage. Several persons were injured by shrapnel.
A dairy herd was hit but only a few cows were casualties.
The blackout was lifted and sirens screamed all clear
at 7:21. The shooting stopped but the shouting had hardly begun. Military
men who never flinched at the roar of rifles now shook at the prospect
of facing the press. While they probably could not be blamed for what had
happened, they did have some reason for distress. The thing they had been
shooting at could not be identified.
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
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
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
Santa Barbara's Ellwood
Oil Field Submarine Attack
Just a few days before the "Battle of LA" a Japanese
submarine had surfaced at night and fired its deck gun into the Ellwood
oil field located 12 miles northwest of Santa Barbara. The LA Times:
"From Santa Barbara, area of the submarine attack
Monday night, District Attorney Percy Heckendorf said he would appeal to
Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt, commanding officer of the Western Defense Command,
to make Santa Barbara County a restricted area for enemy nationals and
American-born Japanese as well. "There is convincing proof," Heckendorf
asserted, "that there were shore signals flashed to the enemy." Heckendorf
said the people will hold Gen. DeWitt responsible if he failed to act.
Army ordinance officers, meanwhile, were studying more than 200 pounds
of shell fragments from missiles fired by the submarine, which caused only
$500 damage in the Ellwood oil field near Santa Barbara."
It is said by some locals that the skipper or one
of the officers on the Japanese sub had worked in the Ellwood oil field
some years prior to the outbreak of the war. The story claims that the
man had been mistreated by some of his co-workers during that time, had
returned to Japan before the war began, and had then subsequently helped
lead the submarine back to the area to make it's attack.
Army Gunners Fire
At UFOs Over Los Angeles
Courtesy UFO ROUNDUP
Volume 3, Number 8
February 22, 1998
Editor Joseph Trainor
On Wednesday, February 25, 1942, at precisely
2 a.m., diners at the trendy Trocadero club in Hollywood were startled
when the lights winked out and air raid sirens began to sound throughout
greater Los Angeles.
"Searchlights scanned the skies and anti-aircraft
guns protecting the vital aircraft and ship-building factories went into
action. In the next few hours they would fire over 1,400 shells at an unidentified,
slow- moving object in the sky over Los Angeles that looked like a blimp,
or a balloon."
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.)