Last week I chatted to the cast of the exciting new Sony blockbuster “Battle : Los Angeles“; As those interviews are embargoed for a couple of weeks, as is my review, all I can tell you is… well, the all-fruit smoothie I had beforehand sure tasted great.
Today marks the 69th anniversary of the historical air raid that inspired the movie. The raids, which earned the moniker ‘The Battle of Los Angeles’, took place in LA just a few months following the attacks on Pearl Harbor. The military fired upon unidentified aircraft high in the sky; to this day, the aircraft have not been identified.
Beginning shortly after 2 am on February 25, and throughout the night, unidentified objects were reported over Los Angeles and the threat was so unusual that air raid sirens were sounded, and a total blackout was ordered. At 3:16 am, the 37th Coast Artillery Brigade began firing 12.8-pound antiaircraft shells at the objects – more than 1,400 shells were fired over the next 58 minutes as the objects moved south, from Santa Monica to Long Beach.
“The obvious thought was that these were Japanese bombers come to attack the United States,” says UFO expert Bill Birnes, publisher of UFO magazine. “But it wasn’t. They were flying too high. And the astounding thing was, not one artillery shell could hit the craft – out of all the hundreds of shells that were fired. People outside that night swore that it was neither a plane nor a balloon – it was a UFO. It floated, it glided. And to this day, nobody can explain what that craft was, why our anti-aircraft guns couldn’t hit it – it’s a mystery that’s never been resolved.”
Descriptions of the UFOs varied widely. General George C. Marshall, in his initial memo to President Roosevelt regarding the event, wrote that the “unidentified airplanes… [traveled at speeds ranging from] ‘very slow’ to as much as 200 mph and from elevations of 9000 to 18,000 feet.” (The memo may be viewed at here) The number of craft reported by observers ranged from 9 to 15 to 25.
At first, officials offered a very vague explanation. According to the Los Angeles Times (February 26, 1942), the secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, dismissed the event as a “false alarm” due to “jittery nerves,” but when this failed to satisfy the press and the public, the Army responded with a definitive answer that the craft and the battle were real, and the next day, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson confirmed that. Santa Monica’s US Representative, Leland Ford, was quoted in the Times on February 27 calling for a Congressional investigation into the incident, but this went nowhere. In the years since, various explanations have been offered – from Japanese planes to German craft launched from secret bases in Mexico to unidentified aircraft to weather balloons to sky lanterns to blimps.
However, it is also alleged that General Marshall reported that the Army had recovered an unidentified aircraft off the coast of California that indicated that the “mystery airplanes are in fact not earthly and according to secret intelligence sources they are in all probability of interplanetary origin.”
“Battle : Los Angeles”, starring Aaron Eckhart, [the very sweet] Michelle Rodriguez and , tells of a marine who leads his regiment into battle with an enemy they’ve never encountered before… just like the one that paid us a visit 69 years ago?