On the night of February 24th and 25th, 1942, several unidentified flying objects were spotted in the skies above southern California, prompting an artillery assault from the US armed forces. Many explanations were put forth regarding the event, both from civilians and the military, and the ‘Battle’ has gained much attention in the circles of Ufologists. For no object was hit by the barrage of artillery and many reported that objects simply disappeared after the event – clear indication to some that the objects seen on that night were nothing short of alien craft.
On the 24th, naval intelligence warned that an attack on US soil could be expected within hours. Around ten o’clock that night, the warning was lifted, but in the early hours of the 25th, radar picked up an unidentified ‘target’ approximately 120 miles west of Los Angeles. Anti-aircraft batteries were alerted and the unidentified craft was tracked to within a few miles of the coast where it subsequently vanished. Nearing 3am on February 25th, a coast artillery colonel spotted “about 25 planes at 12,000 feet” over Los Angeles. Four anti-aircraft batteries opened fire and the airspace above Los Angeles “erupted like a volcano”.
From here, reports of the incident vary widely. Great numbers of planes in the air were reportedly observed that night – anywhere from one to several hundred were seen, ranging in altitude and speed. The mysterious craft dropped no bombs and despite reports that four were shot down, no evidence of this was forthcoming. Hollywood residents perched themselves on rooftops and hills to watch the fiery parade of UFO’s and exploding shells. The only damage sustained to the city came from some shell fragments and car accidents, initiated by a military-enforced blackout. One citizen reportedly died of heart failure amidst the excitement – the first real taste of the drama of the Second World War for most Americans.
At a press conference on the 25th, Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox explained that the incident was a false alarm and there was no evidence supporting the presence of enemy planes. For it was not initially stated by anyone that the observed craft were alien in nature. The most common belief was that the craft were either commercial airlines or Japanese planes - the fact that no bombs were dropped signified a reconnaissance mission. The Army waited a day to issue any statements, interviewing witnesses to the event and eventually arriving at the aforementioned conclusions. After the war however, the Japanese insisted that no planes had been anywhere in the vicinity of Los Angeles on the night in question.
The actions of the military were put on trial in the media with reporters expressing concern at the lack of a satisfying response to the event. If no craft were actually present and it were a case of the jitters, the confidence in the actions of military personnel was extremely troubling. If the craft were indeed flying as low as 9,000 feet (as was reported by some), why were the aircraft batteries so ineffective? And moreover, why were no American planes sent to engage the objects even though they were put on alert? The question posed was what would the response have been if the incident were not a false alarm? Was this the kind of incompetence the public could expect?
These simple facts regarding the “Battle of Los Angeles” have been the source of much speculation from those researching the global UFO phenomenon. The vanishing objects, the lack of damage or downed craft and the supposed cover-up by the military have all lent credence in the eyes of the UFO community to the version of events relating to alien visitation. There is no denying that an event took place in the skies above Los Angeles in 1942, but its explanation could be as far from the aroused speculation as the distance covered by visiting alien life-forms.
by Max Drake
(Freelance writer and artist for GritFX.)
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