February 24, 1942: The U.S. vs. UFOs, the Battle of Los Angeles

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From the Series Lil’ History Chips

On February 24, 1942, less than 3 months after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the city of Los Angeles seemed to be under attack from a mysterious flying object. 

Later claimed by the government to have been a false alarm, something had to have caused numerous air raid alerts to go off and give anti-aircraft gunners something to shoot at.  Shoot they did, and a furious firefight ensued with .50 caliber machine guns and 3-inch artillery shells, about 1,400 rounds of which exploded over the city,  showering it with metal fragments.

General Marshall later speculated that unknown persons had perhaps used commercial aircraft to rattle the public in a sort of psychological warfare, but this lame explanation seems unfounded.  Even at the time, many found the government response to be somewhat sketchy, and many have theorized that the incident was a response to a UFO encounter.  At least one congressman demanded a congressional inquiry, and newspapers noted the reluctance of the government to speak openly.  It has even been claimed that the government or the military staged the incident to keep the public alert and on edge.

In 1983, the U.S. Air Force produced an investigative report that blamed a common suspect in UFO encounters, dreaded weather balloons.  A photo that had appeared in the LA Times 2 days after the incident, however, is considered “proof” by UFO conspiracy theorists that the object being shot at was a UFO of alien origin.

Every year the event is celebrated as “The Great LA Air Raid of 1942” at the Fort MacArthur Museum located at the Los Angeles harbor.  The 1979 film 1941, with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, is a comedy based loosely on this event.  The 2011 film Battle: Los Angeles refers to this incident and the infamous newspaper photo, but does so with fictitious headlines purporting to be real historical fact.

Make of the “battle” what you will, but our advice is if you hear explosions going off above you, find cover quickly!

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.