February 24, 1942. Prompted by air raid sirens, the US military fires over a thousand anti-aircraft rounds into the sky over Los Angeles at a target that to this day remains a mystery. What was to become known as the ‘Battle of Los Angeles’ came less than three months after Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbour and dragged the US into World War II. The previous day had also seen the Japanese bombing of Ellwood near Santa Barbara and the whole of the country’s west coast was on high alert, fearing a full-scale invasion.
Incoming aircraft were first spotted just before midnight on February 24 and a few hours later the anti-aircraft guns were peppering the sky aided by spotlights fixed on what was thought to be their target. Six people died on the ground as a result: three killed by wayward ground-to-air shelling, three others of stress-related conditions thought to have been provoked by the events. By morning though military top brass declared it had been a “false alarm” and put the reaction down to “war nerves”. Japan denied the attack and no aircraft wreckage was ever found.
Yet tens of thousands of eyewitnesses claimed to have seen an, or several objects in the sky that night. There have since been official claims it was a stray weather balloon that managed to avoid being hit by the heavy artillery and brought to ground. Many others still believe the objects in the sky were UFOs, while various conspiracy theories suggest the ‘Battle’ was to further some secret domestic agenda. Little has ever been proven.
(Image: front page photo from the Los Angeles Times – February 25, 1942)
Also on February 24: US president Andrew Johnson is impeached (1868); Juan Domingo Perón wins Argentine presidential election (1946); Space Shuttle Discovery takes off for its last flight (2011).
Born on February 24: Denis Law (1940), Steve Jobs, Alain Prost (1955), Floyd Mayweather Jr (1977).