Few wartime incidents have been so compelling, and controversial, in the eyes of modern ufologists as that famous “battle” which took place in the skies above Los Angeles in the early morning of February 25, 1942. While conventional history maintains that the entire ordeal had been the result of “war nerves,” UFO researchers have scoffed at the assertion that an object allegedly seen in the skies above Los Angeles that evening had simply been meteorological balloons (see Wesley Craven and James Cate’s 1983 The Army Air Forces in World War II: Defense of the Western Hemisphere for more on the official analysis of the incident).
The story is well known by now: a strange object appears on radar, moving in slowly toward land from off the Pacific, and soon there are reports buzzing about sightings of Japanese planes over California. Artillery fire ensues, lasting until around 4:14 AM, causing damage to buildings, and even a handful of deaths throughout the panic-stricken city, with reports of disabled Japanese fighter planes crashing to the ground.
The story has remained sensational, largely due to the interest and assertions of UFO researchers; in the past, I too have questioned, on occasion, how a misidentified aircraft of any kind might sustain an onslaught lasting nearly an hour and a half, courtesy of 12.8 pound anti-aircraft shells.
For all we know, maybe the root of the mystery really does have to do with an exotic aircraft… and to be fair, maybe weather balloons are still just as worthy of consideration. But over the years, there has been enough misinfo presented by both sides–favoring skepticism as well as belief–to almost forever color the waters around this strange and scary incident. So what happened on that February night over Los Angeles, and was California really visited by an unknown aircraft capable of sustaining long-term firing well into the morning hours?
Over the years, there have been a number of bad reports–some of them outright hoaxes–that have been passed along as “evidence” of something strange in the skies over Los Angeles in 1942. Back in 2010, I had taken particular interest in reports appearing at various sites online that alleged the object seen over LA that evening had resembled a giant butterfly. The specific source being cited for these claims had been The Reno Evening Gazette February 26, 1942 edition, thus resulting in a few Fortean scholars who began to draw parallels between the LA air raid of ’42 and later “Mothman” reports emanating from Point Pleasant, West Virginia, during the late 1960s. Like many others, I was intrigued by this, and so I decided to see if I could hunt down an old microfilm copy of this edition of the Gazette; sure enough, I located the paper thanks to a little help from an amateur historian friend of mine, with the famous headline emblazoned across the frontpage that read, “Los Angeles Confused Over Air Raid Alarm.” My search for a large Fortean fluttering beast had begun, but the biggest surprise came at the end, when it became clear that . . .
- Rethinking the Great Los Angeles Air Raid of 1942 (mysteriousuniverse.org)
- THE BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES FEB 24TH 1942: Was it an Attempted Japanese Attack or UFO? (lunaticoutpost.com)