The Battle of Los Angeles or, “Huh?” – 75 Years Later


City of Los Angeles | February 24th, 1942 – I know the title looks strange, but when you bring up the subject of the Battle of Los Angeles, the first response usually is, “Huh?” Because we know all about World War II; Allies, Axis, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima…But no one ever attacked the US. Or did they?

Here are a few facts:

The night of February 24th, 1942, air raid sirens sounded throughout greater Los Angeles. A large, orange-colored craft slowly hovered over the beach. Witnesses report it looking like a “jack-o-lantern.” The 37th Coast Artillery Brigade was ordered to begin firing at 3:16 a.m. (History Channel/The Battle of Los Angeles.)  Can you imagine the sheer terror caused by those four events? Babies crying, dogs barking, families hiding…Think of what you would do and feel if the Russians were overhead about to bomb your city. People were terrified.

On February 25th 1942, diners at a trendy Hollywood club called the Trocadero were among the first to witness the lights of Los Angeles shutting down. It was just after 2 a.m. and the blackout lasted until 7:21 a.m. Diners ran for their cars. The city had over a million people roused from sleep that night by the sounds and sights of war. Light blazed overhead, the air raid sirens didn’t stop.

“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 balloon.” – (according to UFO Roundup, Edited by Joseph Trainor, Feb. 22, 1998.)

That same report quotes author Ralph Blum. He was nine years old at the time, but vividly described bright lights, noise, and a “white cigar shaped object.” Yes, a completely different description from the ‘jack-o-lantern’ look mentioned earlier. Does this refer to two different vehicles or merely different viewpoints? Either way, the army couldn’t shoot it out of the sky.

Let’s notice something obvious here:

we have air raid sirens, guns going off, a blackout, lights flashing, a strange cigar-shaped air vehicle…this Battle didn’t happen down a dark alley. It didn’t take place under a rock. Los Angeles is huge. The population yanked out of bed in the middle of the night by all of the ruckuses. This panic and trauma happened to real people. So again, why isn’t this common knowledge?

Let’s face it; if this was just the military industrial complex experimenting with their new toys, then you know how little we rate. Imagine for a minute you’re a Los Angles citizen, maybe even one of those people dancing at the Trocadero when all military hell breaks loose. How frightened are you? Are your kids okay? Your wife, husband, mother…are they safe? No airplanes fell from the sky, but shrapnel did. And the blackout along with the sudden terror caused the deaths of five people via car wrecks and heart attacks.

Ralph Blum later wrote about how his father sent his mother along with his sisters into the basement of their home. He and his father went up to a balcony where they watched the battle. Blum called it amazing. Like a number of witnesses, he went on to write a book about his experience titled, “Beyond Earth: Man’s Contact with UFO’s” (Bantam Books, New York, NY, April 1974.)

My point being this was not something that merely happened. It happened, but it also affected and haunted people. Yet, check the title again, why is “Huh?” still the most common answer about it?

So after the population was awakened in the middle of the night, Los Angeles also witnessed the presence of a ‘cigar-shaped vehicle’ and, as if that wasn’t enough, 25 silver planes made an appearance. The army just couldn’t bring any of them down that night. The result: questions. Lots and lots of questions. Like what attacked us?

The first reasonable thought along those lines would be Japanese planes. After all, it was WWII and we weren’t friends. But a few things cannot be ignored:

“I watched what was described as the second wave of planes from atop the seven-story Long Beach City Hall…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 group passed along from one battery of searchlights to another, and under fire from anti-aircraft guns, flew from the direction of Redondo Beach…” – Long Beach Police Chief J.H. McClelland

He further reported that they continued toward Santa Ana and Huntington Beach. The Police chief added that “Anti-aircraft fire was so heavy we could not hear the motors of the planes.”

If they were Japanese aircraft with so much firepower aimed at their planes, it is a difficult to believe that not even one could be shot down.

Later, the military suggested it might have been a large weather balloon or dirigible. Again, given the anti-aircraft fire, I don’t know how those suggestions can be acceptable. I mean, over 1,400 shells and we couldn’t pop a balloon? Are you kidding? I’m tossing out Japanese airplanes and balloons as possible enemy combatants that night. Was it a UFO? That’s always a possibility.

In his book ‘UFO’s and the National Security State,’ Richard Dolan wrote, “At least a million residents awoke to air raid sirens…at 2:25 a.m. US Army personnel fired 1,430 rounds of anti-aircraft shells to bring down what they assumed were Japanese planes. But these were not.” Dolan goes on to say how George Marshall wrote a memorandum to President Roosevelt about the incident. That report remained confidential until 1974.

This raises more questions as in, “Why?”

Because if this battle was no big deal, if the incident amounted to nothing more than stray balloons, why the secrecy? Call it a case of war jitters. After all, Pearl Harbor was only a two-month-old event at the time. But war jitters wouldn’t keep the US firing at an object for better than an hour. There is a very famous picture of the event where beams of light meet, all aimed at one given point. If there was nothing up there then the spotlight crews made the same mistake at the same time…for about an hour.

There is a possibility that this could have been a military test of a new aircraft, one extremely difficult to bring down. But the dismissive attitude of the military leaves that possibility layered in suspicion. And it is because of their rather smug secrecy that I think the idea of it being a UFO will never be out of the question. Because if there is anything to learn from the Battle of Los Angeles and the Roswell crash five years later, it is that when you’ve seen something for yourself, never let the government tell you, “No, you didn’t.”

Keep thinking for yourself, and happy anniversary.


About Michele Archer

Michele Olmsted Archer was born in Los Angeles, kid number four in a family of six. One of her favorite activities in those days included watching the sky. Later, she studied violin, played as a symphony musician, performed at many weddings and events and taught a number of children and adults how to also play the violin. In the process of doing this, she managed to see New York City from the top of the World Trade Center, hitch-hike across the country, climbed the El Capitan mountain range in New Mexico and had a sword fight with a real witch. Archer is rarely bored.

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