- 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....
- New 7-24-00 photo enhancements and anaylsis
- shows the huge craft caught in the converging
- 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!", 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
- 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.
- RESIDENTS AWAKENED
- 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 RIFE
- 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 to shelter.
- 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.
- WATCHERS SHIVER
- 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 Balloon
- 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
"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
- 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 miles long.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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 the ground.
- 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
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
- "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
- "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.)
- 60th Anniversary Of The Battle Of Los Angeles
- From Frank Altomonte
- Excerpt from 'UFOs and the National Security State'
By Richard M. Dolan Keyhole Publishing, 2000
- "At least a million residents awoke to air raid
sirens at 2:25am., and U.S. Army personnel fired 1,430 rounds of antiaircraft
shells to bring down what they assumed were Japanese planes. But these
were not Japanese planes. George Marshall wrote a memorandum to President
Roosevelt about the incident, which remained classified until 1974. Marshall
concluded that conventional aircraft were involved, probably "commercial
sources, operated by enemy agents for purposes of spreading alarm, disclosing
location of antiaircraft positions, and slowing production through blackout."
- Despite the barrage of American antiaircraft fire, none
of these "commercial" planes were brought down, although several
homes and buildings were destroyed, and six civilian deaths were attributed
to the barrage. Considering the carnage, the military's explanation was
meager. U.S. Navy Secretary Knox even denied that any aircraft had been
over the city; he called the incident a false alarm due to war nerves.
- The local press, needless to say, did not take this very
well. The Long Beach Independent noted that: "There is a mysterious
reticence about the whole affair and it appears some form of censorship
is trying to halt discussion of the matter." It is noteworthy that
for thirty years until the release of the Marshall memorandum, the Department
of Defense claimed to have no record of the event. Five years before Roswell,
them military was already learning to clamp down on UFOs."