THE GREAT L.A. AIR RAID MYSTERY STILL UNSOLVED TO THIS DAY JUST WHAT IT WAS, IF ANYTHING, THAT MILITARY GUNS FIRED AT IN FEBRUARY 1942.
Byline: Stephanie Walton
Questions still abound over the Great Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. Air Raid of 1942.
What was it that showed up on military radar screens the night of Feb. 24, 1942, prompting authorities to order a blackout and unleash an hourlong anti-aircraft barrage?
Could it have been enemy aircraft like those that attacked Pearl Harbor Pearl Harbor, land-locked harbor, on the southern coast of Oahu island, Hawaii, W of Honolulu; one of the largest and best natural harbors in the E Pacific Ocean. In the vicinity are many U.S. military installations, including the chief U.S. less than three months earlier? Was it just a weather balloon weather balloon, balloon used in the measurement and evaluation of mostly upper atmospheric conditions (see atmosphere). Information may be gathered during the vertical ascent of the balloon through the atmosphere or during its motions once it has reached a ? Might it have been a UFO UFO: see unidentified flying objects.
(United Functions and Objects) A programming language developed by John Sargeant at Manchester University, U.K. ?
"What have we learned? Not much," said Steve Nelson
Decades later, it's difficult to imagine the tension gripping residents of Los Angeles and the rest of California. They were still reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor and worried about a similar assault on the U.S. mainland.
Their fears were realized on Feb. 23, 1942, when a Japanese submarine surfaced and fired on an oil production facility near Santa Barbara Santa Barbara (săn'tə bär`brə, –bərə), city (1990 pop. 85,571), seat of Santa Barbara co., S Calif., on the Pacific Ocean; inc. 1850. . Reports circulated that the sub then headed south, in the direction of Los Angeles.
According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. historical accounts by the California State Military Museum The California State Military Museum is the official military museum of the State of California. It is located in Old Sacramento.
The museum was begun 1991 during the administration of California Governor Pete Wilson. , U.S. naval intelligence Naval intelligence refers to the gathering and distribution of information relevant to a nation's navy. It is used to predict an enemy fleet's movements and intentions, and how to counter their plans. issued a warning on Feb. 24 that an attack was expected in 10 hours, but the advisory was later lifted.
Then, early on Feb. 25, radar picked up an unidentified target 120 miles away from Los Angeles.
At 2:15 a.m., anti-aircraft gun batteries were alerted and were ready to fire minutes later.
At 2:21 a.m., the regional controller ordered a blackout. Information centers were flooded with reports of enemy planes "even though the mysterious object tracked in from the sea seems to have vanished," the museum's Web site said.
At 2:43 a.m., planes were reported near Long Beach and one coastal artillery Coastal artillery is the branch of armed forces concerned with operating mobile anti-ship artillery or fixed gun batteries in coastal fortifications.
Coastal artillery appeared in Europe almost as soon as the introduction of cannons during the 16th century; when a colonial colonel spotted "about 25 planes at 12,000" feet over Los Angeles.
At 3:06 a.m., a balloon carrying a red flare was seen over Santa Monica Santa Monica (săn`tə mŏn`ĭkə), city (1990 pop. 86,905), Los Angeles co., S Calif., on Santa Monica Bay; inc. 1886. Tourism and retailing are important, and the city has motion-picture, biotechnology, and software industries. and four batteries of anti-aircraft artillery opened fire.
Reports of what happened afterward vary.
"Probably much of the confusion came from the fact that anti-aircraft shell bursts, caught by the searchlights, were themselves mistaken for enemy planes," the museum's Web site states.
Among those anti-aircraft batteries responding were the crews at Fort MacArthur who, according to veterans' reports, fired about seven rounds of 3-inch shells from guns mounted on the upper reservation, near where the Korean Friendship Bell stands today, Nelson said.
The number and type of aircraft reportedly seen over various parts of the Los Angeles area widely varied from one to 220 and from airplanes to balloons to a blimp blimp: see airship. .
Some eyewitnesses said that there were no planes.
And some people, in later years, have claimed that the objects were UFOs.
"Although reports were conflicting and every effort is being made to ascertain the facts, it is clear that no bombs were dropped and no planes were shot down," the Western Defense Command said in a Feb. 25, 1942, Associated Press Associated Press: see news agency.
Associated Press (AP)
Cooperative news agency, the oldest and largest in the U.S. and long the largest in the world. story.
Those conflicting reports included the military.
Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson Henry Lewis Stimson (September 21, 1867 – October 20, 1950) was an American statesman, who served as Secretary of War, Governor-General of the Philippines, and Secretary of State. He was a conservative Republican, and a leading lawyer in New York City. announced that as many as 15 aircraft, "possibly piloted by enemy agents," had flown over Los Angeles the morning of Feb. 25, according to an Associated Press report.
Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox said that "reports reaching him indicated the incident was a false alarm and that extensive reconnaissance had disclosed no evidence of planes," the same story said.
Whether an enemy aircraft flew over American soil, there were several casualties due to blackout conditions.
One occurred in Long Beach, where a police sergeant driving to headquarters was killed in a head-on collision with another driver, who had just come off duty at a shipyard.
Another death was attributed to a heart attack. A third man died of injuries suffered when he walked into an automobile while trying to catch a Pacific Electric train in heavier than normal morning traffic after the all-clear was sounded.
Despite the uncertainty over the cause of the events, public officials praised the efficiency of civil defense officials, air raid wardens and anti-aircraft batteries in response to the perceived threat.
Daily activities resumed after the all-clear was signaled at 7:21 a.m. although not without some glitches.
Newspaper reports noted pupils absent from school and employees late to work that day while others went hunting for souvenirs -- anti-aircraft shrapnel.
310-540-5511, Ext. 377
WANT TO GO?
The Great Los Angeles Air Raid will be re-created, from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday at the Fort McArthur Museum, 3601 S. Gaffey St., San Pedro. Admission is $20. Call 310-548-2631 or go to www.ftmac.org.
3 photos, box
(1 -- color) Fort MacArthur Museum volunteers Thomas Minton, left, and Andy Grant stand with equipment to be used during Saturday's re-enactment.
(2 -- color) The front page of a February 1942 Long Beach newspaper headlines the "mystery" air raid that took place over Los Angeles and Long Beach and activated all the anti-aircraft batteries.
Bruce Hazelton/Staff Photographer
(3) no caption (newspaper clippings)
WANT TO GO? (see text)