While there were no serious injuries from the shootout, it was reported that at least five people had died as a result of heart attacks and car accidents that occurred during the extended blackout. Stimson later backpedaled his claims, but there was still the matter of the thousands of military personnel and civilians who claimed to have seen aircraft in the skies over L.A. [20] They assert that the photo clearly shows searchlights focused on an alien spaceship; however, the photo was heavily modified by photo retouching prior to publication, a routine practice in graphic arts of the time intended to improve contrast in black and white photos. The surprise Japanese attack and the possibility that the west coast of the United States was going to be next had many people worried. For about twenty minutes the submarine kept a position 2,500 yards offshore to deliver the shots from its 5½-inch guns. This is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. Initially, the target of the aerial barrage was thought to be an attacking force from Japan, but speaking at a press conference shortly afterward, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox called the purported attack a "false alarm". Newspapers of the time published a number of reports and speculations of a cover-up. It was just after 3 a.m. when the shooting started. It would later become known as the Battle of Los Angeles. It appeared that Los Angeles was under attack, yet many of those who looked skyward saw nothing but smoke and the glare of ack-ack fire. The Great Los Angeles Air Raid: What Actually Happened, According to Witnesses Micah Hanks July 18, 2017 In the early morning hours of February 25, 1942, all hell was breaking loose in Los Angeles, California. Do you think the answer will ever be known? Radars picked up an unidentified target 120 miles west of Los Angeles. All remained calm for the next few hours, but shortly after 2 a.m. on February 25, military radar picked up what appeared to be an enemy contact some 120 miles west of Los Angeles. Named Foo-Fighters by the highly-trained American air crews whose very survival counted on knowing what was what in those embattled skies. Some articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. Nice write, Dean. Thomas strained to see the enemy aircraft, but failed to spot them or hear their distinctive engines. While jittery nerves can explain the action of the gun crews of the Army’s 37th Coast Artillery Brigade that night, it doesn’t shed much light on what exactly was up there during that fateful night in February. Rumors ran rampant about secret Japanese airbases in Mexico and the presence of Japanese submarines capable of launching planes (this particular technology was, in fact, being developed by the Japanese Navy during World War II). At 0306 a balloon carrying a red flare was seen over Santa Monica and four batteries of anti-aircraft artillery opened fire, whereupon "the air over Los Angeles erupted like a volcano." The Japanese military later claimed it had never flown aircraft over the city during World War II, providing fuel for a host of bizarre theories involving government conspiracies and visits by flying saucers and extraterrestrials. Members of an organization called the Office of Air Force History, released a study entitled, "The Army Air Forces in World War II: Defense of the Western Hemisphere" had a section on the "Battle of Los Angeles." Instead, it waited a day, until after a thorough examination of witnesses had been finished. Tensions were high, and they only grew after U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson warned that American cities should be prepared to accept “occasional blows” from enemy forces. At a time when he and his family were in bed, the night sky exploded in a brilliance of searchlight beams and anti-aircraft shell bursts. Thereafter the information center was flooded with reports of "enemy planes, " even though the mysterious object tracked in from sea seems to have vanished. And through it all, the shrapnel started to fall. It is very rare that among the annals of Ufology there should appear a UFO case which involved military, yet is accompanied by actual photographic proof. This is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. The editorial suggested that the Army’s theory that commercial planes might have caused the alert "explains everything except where the planes came from, whither they were going, and why no American planes were sent in pursuit of them." The area newspapers reported conflicting accounts from the government officials, as well their own opinions. [6] Rumors that a Japanese aircraft carrier was cruising off the coast of the San Francisco Bay Area resulted in the city of Oakland closing its schools and issuing a blackout; civil defense sirens provided by Oakland Police Department cars blared through the city, and radio silence was ordered. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized. From his account, one would think he was in the middle of London during the Nazi Blitzkrieg. Anti-aircraft shrapnel rained down across the city, shattering windows and ripping through buildings. How many anti-aircraft shells were fired at the oval object? Renewed activity began early in the morning of 25 February. A strong editorial in the Washington Post on 27 February called the handling of the Los Angeles episode a "recipe for jitters," and censured the military authorities for what it called "stubborn silence" in the face of widespread uncertainty. That's kookiest theory of them all. All Rights Reserved. and no doubt records are closely guarded if there are even any. [14], Several buildings and vehicles were damaged by shell fragments, and five civilians died as an indirect result of the anti-aircraft fire: three were killed in car accidents in the ensuing chaos and two of heart attacks attributed to the stress of the hour-long action. (Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images), paratroopers. I know there were alarms further north, in the Pacific Northwest, but was unaware that LA had its own scare. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites. Contributing to the paranoia was the fact that many American merchant ships were indeed attacked by Japanese submarines in waters off the West Coast, especially from the last half of December 1941 through February 1942: SS Agwiworld (escaped), SS Emidio (sank), SS Samoa (escaped), SS Larry Doheny (sank), SS Dorothy Phillips (damaged), SS H.M. Storey (escaped, sank later), SS Camden (sank), SS Absaroka (damaged), SS Montebello (sank), SS Barbara Olson (escaped), SS Connecticut (damaged), and SS Idaho (minor damage). Naval Intelligence issued a warning that an attack on mainland California could be expected within the next ten hours. Weather Balloon would be the best guess. ), National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena (1956-1980), Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (2007–2012), Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force (current), https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Battle_of_Los_Angeles&oldid=984106414, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, 5 (3 in car accidents, 2 of heart attacks), This page was last edited on 18 October 2020, at 06:31. “They came down like rain.”. “Powerful searchlights from countless stations stabbed the sky with brilliant probing fingers,” the Los Angeles Times wrote, “while anti-aircraft batteries dotted the heavens with beautiful, if sinister, orange bursts of shrapnel.”. Such is the case of an event which took place over the Los Angeles area on February 25, 1942. The New York Times on 28 February expressed a belief that the more the incident was studied, the more incredible it became: "If the batteries were firing on nothing at all, as Secretary Knox implies, it is a sign of expensive incompetence and jitters. Their lights and silver color could have been what first triggered the alerts. [1] The incident was front-page news along the U.S. Pacific coast and across the nation. Also, the report stated that much of the confusion during that particular night was caused from a combination of AAF bursts, searchlights, smoke from the guns and shells, and the darkness of a blacked-out city. more images from Los Angeles Times, Feb.26 ,1942 edition. Yet the attack which was supposed to carry the enemy's defiance, and which did succeed in stealing headlines from the President's address, was a feeble gesture rather than a damaging blow. In 1983, the U.S. Office of Air Force History concluded that an analysis of the evidence points to meteorological balloons as the cause of the initial alarm: Surely somehow knows (or knew)---there may be no one living now who could tell us for certain. This is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Harnisch commented, "if the publicity campaign wanted to establish UFO research as nothing but lies and fakery, it couldn't have done a better job. Radars tracked the approaching target to within a few miles of the coast, and at 0221 the regional controller ordered a blackout. The dawn, which ended the shooting and the fantasy, also proved that the only damage which resulted to the city was such as had been caused by the excitement (there was at least one death from heart failure), by traffic accidents in the blacked-out streets, or by shell fragments from the artillery barrage. He kept them as a memento of his first experience of war. “I could see six planes, and shells were bursting all around them. "[19], After the war ended in 1945, the Japanese government declared that they had flown no airplanes over Los Angeles during the war. A photo published in the Los Angeles Times on 26 February 1942, has featured in UFO conspiracy theories as evidence of an extraterrestrial visitation. An alert called at 1918 [7:18 pm, Pacific time] was lifted at 2223, and the tension temporarily relaxed. That evening many flares and blinking lights were reported from the vicinity of defense plants. No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Knox explained that the stress caused by the early days of the war and the mounting fear of a west coast invasion by Japan had many soldiers in the coastal brigades edgy and nervous. This theory is supported by the fact that anti-aircraft artillery units were officially criticized for having wasted ammunition on targets which moved too slowly to have been airplanes. The event Thomas witnessed as a child was dubbed the Great Los Angeles Air Raid. I live in the dorms here at the University of California (UCLA), and I didn't know this. The next morning, after 7:21 AM when the “all-clear” sirens blared and the guns fell silent, Thomas ventured outside and retrieved the shrapnel.

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