The Battle of Los Angeles

The content below is from Episode 148 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast


  • This episode was largely copied and pasted from the 3 sources listed at the bottom in the CREDIT section of the podcast.


  • This week I recommend you go watch some sports.
    • My wife’s cousin John plays hockey. He is a senior in high school so this is the likely the last year we will get to see him play.
    • But they are really fun. I remember the first time Shannon suggested we go see her counsin play hockey years ago. I thought it was going to be a boring thing I was expected to do on a week day.
    • but I truly enjoy the experience each time and I think I’m going to miss it.
    • Everytime we go I get to see my inlaws (company I actually enjoy, sorry, no cliche hatred for my inlaws here). We also get to spectate a sport that is a lot more unpredeictable because they aren’t pros, they are kids. PLUS, you wouldnt’ believe how crazy some of these parents get LOL.
    • The games are fun, it is a family bonding moment, and I feel a little more intune with the community each time I go.
    • So next time your Significant Other, parent, or friend suggests going to a local hockey, football, or any other kind of game… I recommend you go. You might be surprised by how much fun you have and how refreshing it is to change up your weekday routine.
      • Plus, it is always a good opportunity to win some brownie points with your loved ones … or whomever it is that you attend the game with.


  • Pearl Harbor happened on December 7, 1941
    • So that’s why in February 1942, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was still fresh in people’s minds, and major American cities on the Pacific Coast were worried they would be next.
  • On February 23rd, 1942, a Japanese submarine attacked the Ellwood Oil Field near Santa Barbara, about a two-hour drive north of LA.
  • All it took to kick off a panic was a weather balloon. 
    • Sound familiar? Weather balloons and paranoia?
    • On February 24, 1942, US Naval Intelligence warned West Coast units that the Japanese might descend on Los Angeles within the next 10 hours. At 1 a.m. on February 25, meteorological balloons were launched 120 miles west of Los Angeles to monitor the weather. An hour later, the balloons showed up on military radar.
    • Mistaking the balloons for enemy aircraft, radar operators sounded the air raid alarm, and by 3 a.m., anti-aircraft gunners in Santa Monica started shooting. Over 1,400 rounds were fired in the confusion, but there were no enemy aircraft in the area, and Japan confirmed after WWII that it hadn’t attacked the city. 
    • But the “Battle of Los Angeles” wasn’t a harmless misunderstanding. Three people lost their lives in car collisions related to the false alarm, and two more perished from cardiac arrest. The FBI and LA County Sheriff also arrested several Japanese gardeners who were falsely accused of signaling to Japanese planes. 
    • That evening, many flares and blinking lights were reported from the vicinity of defense plants. An alert was called at 7:18 pm, and was lifted at 10:23 pm. Renewed activity began early in the morning of 25 February.[12] Air raid sirens sounded at 2:25 am throughout Los Angeles County.[13] A total blackout was ordered and thousands of air raid wardens were summoned to their positions. At 3:16 am, the 37th Coast Artillery Brigade began firing .50-caliber machine guns and 12.8-pound (5.8 kg) anti-aircraft shells into the air at reported aircraft; over 1,400 shells were eventually fired. Pilots of the 4th Interceptor Command were alerted but their aircraft remained grounded. The artillery fire continued sporadically until 4:14 am. The “all clear” was sounded and the blackout order was lifted at 7:21 am.[14]
    • Several buildings and vehicles were damaged by shell fragments, and five civilians died as an indirect result of the anti-aircraft fire: three were killed in car accidents in the ensuing chaos and two of heart attacks attributed to the stress of the hour-long action.[1] The incident was front-page news along the West Coast and across the nation.[15]
  • Panic is real people!
  • Within hours of the end of the air raid, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox held a press conference, saying the entire incident had been a false alarm due to anxiety and “war nerves”. Knox’s comments were followed by statements from the Army the next day[16] that reflected General George C. Marshall‘s supposition that the incident might have been caused by enemy agents using commercial airplanes in a psychological warfare campaign to generate mass panic.[17]
  • Some contemporary press outlets suspected a cover-up of the truth. An editorial in the Long Beach Independent wrote, “There is a mysterious reticence about the whole affair and it appears that some form of censorship is trying to halt discussion on the matter.” Speculation was rampant as to invading airplanes and their bases. Theories included a secret base in northern Mexico as well as Japanese submarines stationed offshore with the capability of carrying planes. Others speculated that the incident was either staged or exaggerated to give coastal defense industries an excuse to move further inland.[18]
  • Representative Leland M. Ford of Santa Monica called for a Congressional investigation, saying “none of the explanations so far offered removed the episode from the category of ‘complete mystification’ … this was either a practice raid, or a raid to throw a scare into 2,000,000 people, or a mistaken identity raid, or a raid to lay a political foundation to take away Southern California’s war industries.”[19]
  • Japanese submarines continued to conduct occasional attacks against allied shipping off the U.S. coast during the rest of the war. Sent to American waters in hopes of targeting warships, the submarines managed to sink only a handful of merchant ships, besides conducting a few minor attacks on shore targets. These consisted of a bombardment of Fort Stevens on the Columbia River, an attack on a Canadian lighthouse on Vancouver Island, and two air raids launched from a submarine in an attempt to start forest fires in southwest Oregon
  • After the war ended in 1945, the Japanese government declared that they had flown no airplanes over Los Angeles during the war.[13] In 1983, the U.S. Office of Air Force History concluded that an analysis of the evidence points to meteorological balloons as the cause of the initial alarm:[12]
  • A photo published in the Los Angeles Times on February 26, 1942, has been featured in UFO conspiracy theories as evidence of an extraterrestrial visitation.[20] They assert that the photo clearly shows searchlights focused on an alien spaceship; however, the photo was heavily modified by photo retouching prior to publication, a routine practice in graphic arts of the time intended to improve contrast in black and white photos.[21][22]Times writer Larry Harnisch noted that the retouched photo along with faked newspaper headlines were presented as true historical material in trailers for the 2011 film Battle: Los Angeles. Harnisch commented, “[I]f the publicity campaign wanted to establish UFO research as nothing but lies and fakery, it couldn’t have done a better job.”[23]