Japan steals the Headlines from FDR
In Episode 55 we looked at the air ride that never was. The city of Los Angeles and much of the west coast watched the skies as WWII got underway. Japan had already attacked Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, what if they made it to California?
What was it?
Some thought it was Japanese planes overhead, some believed it might have been aliens. What was probably just a stray weather balloon caused five deaths and more damage than the Japanese ever did in the states.
Below are some of the images discussed in the podcast as well as headlines from local newspapers during the few days in February when America feared the worst. You can also listen to the podcast below.
Nearly 400 years before the event in Los Angeles, a group of people reported seeing a battle taking place in the sky.
A news article from April 1561 told the story of a mass sighting of celestial phenomena. The article came along with a woodcut engraving that depicted the scene over Nuremberg.
Apparently, around dawn on April 14th, 1561, numerous men and women witnessed some form of an aerial battle “out of the sun”. Objects included a large black triangular vessel, and numerous sphere shapes that were destroyed and fell to the earth in a cloud of smoke. The witnesses claimed to have seen hundreds of spheres, cylinders, and other odd-shaped objects that zig zagged throughout the sky, some emerging from larger shapes before taking off on their own.
In 1878, a Texas newspaper article ran featuring an interview with a farmer who had reportedly seen a large, dark, circular object soar through the sky. The man, John Martin, compared the shape of the thing to a saucer. It was one of the first uses of the word ‘saucer’ in association with UFOs. Reports surfaced for the next twenty years, causing frequent cases of mass panic. It was believed, for a short time, that Thomas Edison had created an artificial star that could fly around the country.
February 23, 1942 Japanese Submarine opens fire on Santa Barbara
The Japanese were looking to steal the headlines from Roosevelt who was delivering one of his famous fireside addresses to the nation that evening. They succeeded.
February 25th – 26th The Battle of Los Angeles
Just after 2:00 am on what was now the 25th of February, radars picked up an unidentified target 120 miles west of Los Angeles. Fifteen minutes later anti-aircraft batteries were put on Green Alert. At 2:25 am the air raid sirens sounded again, echoing throughout Los Angeles County. A total blackout was ordered.
The Air Force held off on sending any of their planes up, due to their limited resources, but kept them at the ready. Numerous calls came into the information center with residents reporting spotting enemy planes. As radar systems continued to track the unidentified object, just a few miles off of the coast now, it suddenly disappeared.
By 2:43 am, enemy planes were reported near Long Beach. A few minutes later, a coast artillery station colonel spotted what appeared to be a squadron of 25 planes flying at 12,000 feet. Tensions were high and Los Angeles was bracing itself for an attack.
Just after 3:00 am a balloon of some sort, carrying a red flare was seen over Santa Monica. Four different batteries of anti-aircraft artillery opened fire and the skies over Los Angeles lit up like a Fourth of July celebration.
Retouched photo causes a stir in the UFO community
On February 26th, 1942, as part of a five page collection of stories, editorials and photos, the Los Angeles Times published one photo that quickly became a centerpiece in numerous UFO conspiracy theories. The photo shows numerous spotlights all focused on one thing. Conspiracy theorists will tell you that the one thing is clearly an alien spacecraft. The photo in question was heavily retouched prior to publication which was commonly done back then to improve the contrast in black and white photos.
The Fort MacArthur Museum
Every February, the Fort MacArthur Museum, which is located at the entrance to Los Angeles Harbor, hosts an event called “The Great LA Air Raid of 1942”. There’s dancing, era themed attire and the evening culminates with spotlights, air-raid sirens and a fireworks show. The 2023 party was cancelled due to a Great Horned Owl nest located on the property.