The Battle of Los Angeles - *Audio of original news broadcast linked*

  • #1
Ivan Seeking
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"The Battle of Los Angeles" - *Audio of original news broadcast linked*

During the night of 24/25 February 1942, unidentified objects caused a succession of alerts in southern California. On the 24th, a warning issued by naval intelligence indicated that an attack could be expected within the next ten hours. That evening a large number of flares and blinking lights were reported from the vicinity of defense plants. An alert called at 1918 [7:18 p.m., Pacific time] was lifted at 2223, and the tension temporarily relaxed. But early in the morning of the 25th renewed activity began. Radars picked up an unidentified target 120 miles west of Los Angeles. Antiaircraft batteries were alerted at 0215 and were put on Green Alert—ready to fire—a few minutes later. The AAF kept its pursuit planes on the ground, preferring to await indications of the scale and direction of any attack before committing its limited fighter force. Radars tracked the approaching target to within a few miles of the coast, and at 0221 the regional controller ordered a blackout. Thereafter the information center was flooded with reports of “enemy planes, ” even though the mysterious object tracked in from sea seems to have vanished. At 0243, planes were reported near Long Beach, and a few minutes later a coast artillery colonel spotted “about 25 planes at 12,000 feet” over Los Angeles. At 0306 a balloon carrying a red flare was seen over Santa Monica and four batteries of anti-aircraft artillery opened fire, whereupon “the air over Los Angeles erupted like a volcano.” [continued]
http://www.sfmuseum.net/hist9/aaf2.html

Alternative interpretation [UFO] with newspaper accounts from the time.
http://www.rense.com/ufo/battleofLA.htm
http://www.rense.com/general28/histla.htm
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
motai
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It seems plausible from the original article that it could have been Japanese balloon bombs.

http://web.umr.edu/~rogersda/forensic_geology/Japenese%20vengenance%20bombs%20new.htm [Broken]

The first balloons were launched on November 3, 1944 and began landing in the United States on November 5th (off San Pedro, California) and by the following day (November 6th) were landing as far away as Thermopolis, Wyoming. 285 confirmed landings/sightings were made over a wide area, stretching from the Aleutian Islands, Canada and across the width and breadth of the continental United States: as far south as Nogales, Arizona (on the Mexican border) and easterly, to Farmington, Michigan (10 miles from Detroit). Most of the ballast bags were released in the trip across the north Pacific, but a few balloons crashed without exploding and some of the ballast bags were recovered. All of the bags contained the same type of dark colored sand.

The only problem is... according to the above article, the first balloons were launched by the Japanese on Nov. 3, 1944 (a full two years ahead of the "Battle of Los Angeles"). That is, unless the Japanese government were making military prototypes or sending out weather balloons in the general direction of America so as to record where they might land (prototypes can take up to years in advance). In which case, it brings up another question.

When the object was first sighted (2:15 AM), it was 120 miles away from shore. Then at 2:43 AM, the object was only a few miles away. Can balloons really travel that fast with the air current? I don't know enough about it to draw a conclusion.
 
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  • #3
Ivan Seeking
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My dad was living in Long Beach when this happened. He doesn't remember much as he was still very young, so I tried to talk with my aunt about it. Even after all of these years, the memories are so upsetting that she wouldn't discuss it except to say that they had an ack-ack gun in her neighbor's back yard, my uncle was overseas, and she was alone in the dark with her kids.
 
  • #4
Hdeasy
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Yes, this is indeed a most impressive incident. A balloon of whatever form would surely have been burst by the shrapnel exploding the near or direct hits scored by the anti-aircraft shells in the over 30 minutes time they had to target the sitting duck. Even in the photo from the LA times it is apparent that in the several seconds needed for this photographic exposure, a number of near hits were scored. Thus over 30 minutes a Gaussian distribution would have built up, with peak probability at centre. Ergo, Q.E.D. - the object could not have been a flimsy balloon.
 
  • #5
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Maccabee's Discussion of this
http://brumac.8k.com/BATTLEOFLA/BOLA1.html [Broken]

With Ph.D. in optical physics, Bruce S. Maccabee works for the Naval Surface Warfare Center. He was the first to study the somewhat famous McMinnville [Oregon] UFO event.
 
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  • #6
Garth
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Airships in the Second World War
While Germany determined that airships were obsolete for military purposes in the coming war and concentrated on the development of airplanes, the United States pursued a program of military airship construction even though it had not developed a clear military doctrine for airship use. At the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 that brought the United States into World War II, it had 10 non-rigid airships:

4 K-class : K-2, K-3, K-4 and K-5 designed as a patrol ships built from 1938.
3 L-class : L-1, L-2 and L-3 as small training ships, produced from 1938.
1 G-class built in 1936 for training.
2 TC-class that were older patrol ships designed for land forces, built in 1933. The US Navy acquired them from Army in 1938.
Only K and TC class airships could be used for combat purposes and they were quickly pressed into service against Japanese and German submarines which at that time were sinking US shipping in visual range of US coast. US Navy command, remembering the airship anti-submarine success from WWI, immediately requested new modern anti-submarine airships and on 2 January 1942 formed the ZP-12 patrol unit based in Lakehurst from the 4 K airship. The ZP-32 patrol unit was formed from 2 TC and 2 L airship a month later, based at US Navy (Moffet Field) in Sunnyvale in California. An airship training base was created there as well.

I say it was an airship on a covert patrol, or training flight, from Sunnyvale at an altitude too high for AA.

Garth
 
  • #7
Hdeasy
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Garth said:
Airships in the Second World War
I say it was an airship on a covert patrol, or training flight, from Sunnyvale at an altitude too high for AA.
Garth

Nonsense! The photo clearly shows shells expolding ABOVE the object, and also around, under and on it, if in the latter case that isn't the cockpit of the flying saucer.
Also, the serchlights clearly triangulate the object. As Macabbee says, the beams are stopped by the object, implying high density. That burst the baloon of your argument! QED.
 
  • #8
NateTG
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Just out of curiosity, when did the UFO=alien spacecraft thing get started?
 
  • #9
Garth
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Hdeasy said:
Nonsense! The photo clearly shows shells expolding ABOVE the object, and also around, under and on it, if in the latter case that isn't the cockpit of the flying saucer.
Also, the serchlights clearly triangulate the object. As Macabbee says, the beams are stopped by the object, implying high density. That burst the baloon of your argument! QED.
The shell bursts (if real) are in the foreground.

How far apart are the seachlights and at what altitude do they triangulate the object?

You get a different approach from THE ARMY AIR FORCES IN WORLD WAR II; DEFENSE OF THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE “The Battle of Los Angeles”
At the end of the war, the Japanese stated that they did not send planes over the area at the time of this alert, although submarine-launched aircraft were subsequently used over Seattle. A careful study of the evidence suggests that meteorological balloons—known to have been released over Los Angeles —may well have caused the initial alarm. This theory is supported by the fact that anti-aircraft artillery units were officially criticized for having wasted ammunition on targets which moved too slowly to have been airplanes. After the firing started, careful observation was difficult because of drifting smoke from shell bursts. The acting commander of the anti-aircraft artillery brigade in the area testified that he had first been convinced that he had seen fifteen planes in the air, but had quickly decided that he was seeing smoke. Competent correspondents like Ernie Pyle and Bill Henry witnessed the shooting and wrote that they were never able to make out an airplane.

Garth
 
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  • #10
Ivan Seeking
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Garth, the picture is from the LA Times. Over 1400 rounds were fired. As a kid, my dad collected the spent shells lying around the neighborhood.

Also, the link posted is the same as the OP.

If you take a look at Maccabee's discussion, he tries to estimate the size of the apparent object at the convergence of the beams, but he can't say how reliable this estimate might be due to a lack of information and the number of variables.

One estimate of the height of the object was 8,000 ft. For a 30 degree slant
angle of the beam from ground level up to 8,000 ft the distance along the
beam would be about 8,000/sin 30 = 16,000 ft. If this were so, then the beam diameter
at that height would have been about 165 ft and the horizontal width of the object
would have been about 330 ft.

If the slant angle of the beam was less than 30 degrees then the calculated sizes
would have been larger. Conversely, if the slant angle was greater the
calculated sizes would have been smaller.

Based on the above calculations, and realizing that a much better estimate
could be made if we had more accurate information on the spotlights,
camera, etc., I would hazard a guess that the width of the illuminated
"object" is on the order of 100 ft or more in size.
Without more solid information to go on this has to be no more than
a WAG (wild...rear-end... guess) (but I bet its close to right!)
 
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  • #11
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NateTG said:
Just out of curiosity, when did the UFO=alien spacecraft thing get started?

Do you mean wrt this event, or generally speaking?
 
  • #12
Hdeasy
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Garth said:
The shell bursts (if real) are in the foreground.
How far apart are the seachlights and at what altitude do they triangulate the object?
You get a different approach from THE ARMY AIR FORCES IN WORLD WAR II; DEFENSE OF THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE “The Battle of Los Angeles”
Garth
As stated above, Maccabbee makes those altitude estimates. Now, if the air defenses were accurate enough to triangulate their beams on the object, do you think the AA shell people would be so stupid as to fire into the foreground and not on target? Those people were working as a team in defense of their lovely city. Now as for quoting the army on this.. ahem... a bit like CNN last night interviewing only representatives of the nuclear power industry when asking if alternative power sources would be cleaner and better. But luckily ordinary citizens were not subject to the military muzzle, and said there were several direct hits on the object with no effect. Some quotes from http://www.rense.com/ufo/battleofla.htm -
"Few in the city were left asleep after the Coastal Defense gunners commenced firing hundreds and hundreds of rounds up toward the glowing ship which was apparently first sighted as it hovered above such west side landmarks as the MGM studios in Culver City. The thump of the batteries and the ignition of the aerial shells reverberated from one end of LA to the other as the gun crews easily landed scores of what many termed "direct hits"...all to no avail. Here now, is what the night skies of LA looked like at the height of the firing... "
"With the city blacked out, Katie, and hundreds of thousands of others, were able to see the eerie visitor with spectacular clarity. "It was a lovely pale orange and about the most beautiful thing you've ever seen. I could see it perfectly because it was very close. It was big!"
The U.S. Army anti-aircraft searchlights by this time had the object completely covered. "They sent fighter planes up (the Army denied any of its fighters were in action) and I watched them in groups approach it and then turn away. There were shooting at it but it didn't seem to matter." Katie is insistent about the use of planes in the attack on the object. The planes were apparently called off after several minutes and then the ground cannon opened up. "It was like the Fourth of July but much louder. They were firing like crazy but they couldn't touch it." The attack on the object lasted over half an hour before the visitor eventually disappeared from sight. Many eyewitnesses talked of numerous "direct hits" on the big craft but no damage was seen done to it. "I'll never forget what a magnificent sight it was. Just marvelous. And what a georgeous color!", said Katie."
"Author Ralph Blum, who was a nine-year-old boy at the time, wrote that he thought "the Japanese were bombing Beverly Hills."
"There were sirens, searchlights, even antiaircraft guns blamming away into the skies over Los Angeles. My father had been a balloon observation man (in the AEF) in World War One, and he knew big guns when he heard them. He ordered my mother to take my baby sisters to the underground projection room--our house was heavily supplied with Hollywood paraphernalia--while he and I went out onto the upstairs balcony."
"What a scene! It was after three in the morning. Searchlights probed the western sky. Tracers streamed upward. The racket was terrific." Shooting at the aerial intruders were gunners of the 65th Coast Artillery (Anti-Aircraft) Regiment in Inglewood and the 205th Anti-Aircraft Regiment based in Santa Monica. The "white cigar-shaped object" took several direct hits but continued on its eastward flight"
 
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  • #13
Garth
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Isn't it a little disappointing that all such 'close encounters' leave only very shadowy images behind?

Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.
Such stories get magnified in the telling.

Here is my opinion of what happened.

The West Coast was gittery, Pearl Harbor had happened and Britian had sustained the Blitz, with images of 'London burning' in people's minds. Was LA next?

A low level mist/smog lay over LA.

Radar in 1942 was very primitive. Some unknown, and possibly off course military aircraft, or a false echo (from waves/ weather etc), set off an initial alarm. Search lights focused on the aircraft, or unusal cloud formation and was quickly joined by other search light beams. Where the beams penetrated mist/smog they could be seen, at the top edge of the low level mist the beams became invisible hence explaining the strange 'cut-off' of the beams.

At this level the combined beams focusing on the upper mist layer gave the impression of a shadowy object and the AAA let rip.

Soon they were shooting up their own smoke."The acting commander of the anti-aircraft artillery brigade in the area testified that he had first been convinced that he had seen fifteen planes in the air, but had quickly decided that he was seeing smoke."

It's called the fog of war.

Garth
 
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  • #14
Hdeasy
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To continue firing for 30 minutes, 1400 shells at a puff of smoke would not be what I call the fog of war, but downright idiocy. Give the Americans credit for a somewhat higher IQ. As if on cue, a friend just sent this joke:

A man enters a bar and orders a drink. The bar has a robot bartender.

The robot serves him a perfectly prepared cocktail, and then asks him,
"What's your IQ?"*


The man replies "150" and the robot proceeds to make conversation about
global warming factors, quantum physics and spirituallity, biomimicry,
environmental interconnectedness, string theory, nano-technology, and sexual proclivities.*


The customer is very impressed and thinks, "This is really cool." He decides
to test the robot. He walks out of the bar, turns around, and comes back in for another drink. Again, the robot serves him the perfectlty prepared drink and asks him, "What's your IQ?"

The man responds, "about a 100."*

Immediately the robot starts talking, but this time, about football, NASCAR,
baseball, supermodels, favorite fast foods, guns, and women's breasts.

Really impressed, the man leaves the bar and decides to give the robot one more test. He heads out and returns, the robot serves him and asks, "What's your IQ?"*

The man replies, "Er, 50, I think."*

*And the robot says... real slowly,

"So... you going to vote for Bush again?"
 
  • #15
Garth
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Hdeasy said:
Give the Americans credit for a somewhat higher IQ.

...

"So... you going to vote for Bush again?"
:wink:

Garth
 
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  • #16
Ivan Seeking
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Garth said:
Isn't it a little disappointing that all such 'close encounters' leave only very shadowy images behind?

That's not really true. The problem is that the best footage is almost never free on the net. I have some footage allegedly taken from the cockpit of a Mig that is staggering. If it is a fake, by far its one of if not the best I've ever seen. It was recorded from a documentary years ago but I have never seen it on the net. And this makes sense really. If a person gets great footage that they know WILL be on TV, why would they give it away?

One of my frustrations is the ability to link to videos. About the time that I find what I've seen from one source or another, the website goes away; presumably because the video clips are pirated.

Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.

There is no doubt that 1400 rounds were fired at a UFO, or several UFOs. I have seen little to no claims of aliens, but the event is striking and does raise some interesting questions.
 
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  • #17
Ivan Seeking
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  • #20
nismaratwork
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Hmmmm... given the conusion at the time, the weak RADAR by our standards, and what you can clearly see and read as being a state of panic... who the heck knows?

I doubt we'll ever know, but it doesn't strike me as being overly significant except that we were waiting for another attack from that direction.
 
  • #21
Ivan Seeking
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Hmmmm... given the conusion at the time, the weak RADAR by our standards, and what you can clearly see and read as being a state of panic... who the heck knows?

I doubt we'll ever know, but it doesn't strike me as being overly significant except that we were waiting for another attack from that direction.

That people were watching may be the only reason this isn't just another minor UFO event with a few sporadic reports. This is the mystery: With an average speed of less than one mile per hour, it couldn't have been a plane. That leaves balloons or a blimp, neither of which should have survived the shrapnel from the anti-aircraft fire seen exploding all around the object. Given that it was tracked for over a half hour over a distance of about 30 miles, it seems clear that something real was in the sky that night, but nothing seems to fit the profile. Also, no evidence has ever been produced showing that the Japanese had anything to do with this.
 
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  • #22
nismaratwork
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That people were watching may be the only reason this isn't just another minor UFO event with a few sporadic reports. This is the mystery: With an average speed of less than one mile per hour, it couldn't have been a plane. That leaves balloons or a blimp, neither of which should have survived the shrapnel from the anti-aircraft fire seen exploding all around the object. Given that it was tracked for over a half hour, it seems clear that something real was in the sky that night, but nothing seems to fit the profile. Also, no evidence has ever been produced showing that the Japanese had anything to do with this.

Oh, I doubt it was a balloon from Japan in '42, but it could have been a friendly craft, such as a balloon. True, flak would generally shred a balloon made of mylar, or rubber, but given the RADAR of the day... maybe they missed... a LOT. I don't mean that they had bad aim, but maybe they were off in terms of altitude, or you have the "basket" (whatever in this case) suspended some distance below the "balloon". You riddle the basket with shrapnel, but that doesn't materially effect the flight characteristics, and a balloon can take a lot of damage if made well. It would have slowly lost altitude, but unlike an aircraft, it wouldn't have plowed into the ground, but drifted.

The "why", or "who"... can only be speculation IMO. Was it ours, and a mistake was made, and a secret kept so that a potential technology or weapon wasn't exposed? Maybe, or maybe it was a gift from Nippon, but who knows? If this was a "right hand doesn't know what the left is doing" this is not a situation in which that would have come to light... better a UFO of whatever stripe than, "Whoops, air defense tracked our balloon that drifted off course..."

I can only say that as UFO's go, it fits a balloon very well, or a 'basket' with a series of balloons hung from different lengths above it.

edit: It could have been some form of helicopter perhaps?... although I'm still going with balloon , not a rigid frame
 
  • #23
Ivan Seeking
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To me it seems unreasonable or even irrational to assume that a 1400 rounds of fire couldn't get close enough to a balloon moving at less than 1 mph, to damage it beyond flight capability; esp when considering the photo on the front page of the LA Times the next morning. They didn't need a direct hit. Anything in the neighborhood should have been sufficient to take it down. In fact, any of the shells seen exploding in the photo should have taken it down, but it remained aloft for at least another thirty minutes after the photo was taken. Also, no balloon was ever found.

Some eyewitnesses reported seeing a large craft.

Btw, I don't know if I mentioned this earlier in this thread, but my dad was living there at the time and remembered collecting shell fragments the next morning. My aunt was home alone with a new baby and a husband overseas. There was an ack-ack gun in her neighbor's backyard. It was all so terrifying that to this day she refuses to talk about that night.
 
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  • #24
nismaratwork
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To me it seems unreasonable to assume that a 1400 rounds of fire couldn't get close enough to a balloon moving at less than 1 mph, to damage it beyond flight capability; esp when considering the photo on the front page of the LA Times the next morning. They didn't need a direct hit. Anything in the neighborhood should have been sufficient to take it down.

That depends on the fire... flak wasn't quite as impressive then as it is now, and shooting a balloon with non-fragmenting rounds, at night, with only general radar tracking (not guidance)... I'd say missing more often than not is not hard to imagine at all.

A direct hit though... that would be hard to explain away...
 
  • #25
Ivan Seeking
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That depends on the fire... flak wasn't quite as impressive then as it is now, and shooting a balloon with non-fragmenting rounds, at night, with only general radar tracking (not guidance)... I'd say missing more often than not is not hard to imagine at all.

A direct hit though... that would be hard to explain away...

Who said anything about non-fragmenting rounds? One can actually see the rounds bursting in the air. Clearly they were fragmenting. What's more, many people kept fragments as mementos. They were all over the city the next morning.
 
  • #26
nismaratwork
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Who said anything about non-fragmenting rounds? One can actually see the rounds bursting in the air. Clearly they were fragmenting. What's more, many people kept fragments as mementos. They were all over the city the next morning.

I'm not arguing against flak being used, it clearly was, I'm just wondering if other rounds were used too, given that AA at the time included... well... some big bullets if you want to put it that way (which I do).

A dirct hit with either should have destroyed ANY balloon, but flak at least has a chance of bursting well off target if the altitude is at all off. Still... it is very odd... it's the only reason I'm reaching for, 'multiple balloons, suspended high above the body caught in searchlights and flashes.'

It could have been a really clever drill, but I admitted before and will again, I doubt we'll evere know. SOMETHING was there, tracked on radar, caught in searchlights, and a hell of a lot of live rounds were expended... it's a mystery to me.
 
  • #27
FlexGunship
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I understand that in 1983 the Air Force pointed towards meteorological balloons as the culprit. I don't think that's too far-fetched to believe. A weather balloon would be too high to be affected by flak guns and, during that time, I believe they were known to cause radar "ghosts" on the clouds below.

I'm kind of hunting for a source right now, and all I have is the Army's official statement about the event on Wikipedia. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Los_Angeles)

@Nismar: I wouldn't be so sure something was caught in the spotlights. A light hitting a spot on a cloud could create the initial illusion. Once additional lights are drawn to the area (as in the famous photo), the contrast would likely be too high against the dark sky to be able to make out anything but a disc-shape.

I kid you not when I say an ex-girlfriend called me in a panic from Taco Bell saying there was a UFO above the clouds. It was a searchlight. I can only imagine that multiple in one area would conflate the problem.
 
  • #28
Ivan Seeking
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I'm not arguing against flak being used, it clearly was, I'm just wondering if other rounds were used too, given that AA at the time included... well... some big bullets if you want to put it that way (which I do).

A dirct hit with either should have destroyed ANY balloon, but flak at least has a chance of bursting well off target if the altitude is at all off. Still... it is very odd... it's the only reason I'm reaching for, 'multiple balloons, suspended high above the body caught in searchlights and flashes.'

It could have been a really clever drill, but I admitted before and will again, I doubt we'll evere know. SOMETHING was there, tracked on radar, caught in searchlights, and a hell of a lot of live rounds were expended... it's a mystery to me.

This is one that strikes me as a genuine mystery as well. I just don't see a balloon or a blimp surviving the barrage of shells fired. Hot steel should have been flying in all directions around the object and for a good distance.

Flex, the military has offered a number of explanations. First was that people actually saw US planes. The next was the nothing was there at all. The latter explanation was rejected by at least one ranking official.

If a balloon was so high that no gun could hit it, then it would seem that no one should have seen it. Also note the angle of the lights from the Hollywood hills. Those hills are only about 1000 feet high. The target couldn't have been too high. Maccabee guesses the altitude to be about 8000 feet based on his analysis, but there is no way to know for certain.

I think the ack-ack guns were good to about 20,000 feet but haven't spotted a source for the guns in use at that time - I Don't know if that's real information or something I saw in a movie. But just by looking at the photo, altitude didn't seem to be a problem. The shells appear to be bursting at about the proper height.

Were all lights trained on a cloud with guns firing? This goes back to the suggestion that nothing was there in the first place. But that is inconsistent with testimony from the time. Keep in mind that this event lasted for thirty minutes with the track of the object clearly identified; both time and distance.
 
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  • #29
Ivan Seeking
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Note that one witness, a now retired Professor of Anthroplogy [C. Scott Littleton], states that the object was a glowing blob.

I was an eyewitness to the events of that unforgettable February morning in February of 1942. I was eight-years-old at the time, and my parents lived at 2500 Strand in Hermosa Beach, right on the beach. We thus had a grandstand seat. While my father went about his air-raid warden duties, my late mother and I watched the glowing object, which was caught in the glare of searchlights from both Palos Verdes and Malibu/Pacific/Palisades and surrounded by the puffs of ineffectual anti-aircraft fire, as it slowly flew across the ocean from northwest to southeast. It headed inland over Redondo Beach, a couple of miles to the south of our vantage point, and eventually disappeared over the eastern end of the Palos Verdes hills, what's today called Rancho Palos Verdes. The whole incident lasted, at least from our perspective, about half an hour, though we didn't time it. Like other kids in the neighborhood, I spend the next morning picking up of pieces of shrapnel on the beach; indeed, it's a wonder more people weren't injured by the stuff, as we were far from the only folks standing outside watching the action.

In any case, I don't recall seeing any truly discernable configuration, just a small, glowing, slight lozenge-shaped blob light ---a single blob. We only saw one object, not several as some witnesses later reported. At the time, we were convinced that it was a "Jap" reconnaissance plane, and that L.A. might be due for a major air-raid in the near future. Remember, this was less than three months after Pearl Harbor. But that of course never happened. Later on, we all expected "them," that is, the Military, to tell us what was really up there after the war. But that never happened, either..
http://wanderling.tripod.com/la_ufo.html
 
  • #30
nismaratwork
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Hmmm... well the "glowing blob" idea could very well fit with a weather balloon, and tracking via RADAR without guiding shells and fusing would almost certainly fall well short... although it might look impressive. On the other hand, it seems like a rather huge mistake to make, at the cost of so many live rounds, but that's just speculation .

The clouds... this could be as Flex says it... or not. If this balloon were illuminated, it would certainly produce a diffuse "glow", and I'd imagine clouds would too. We'd need to know if the spotlights converged on a "guide" via RADAR, or if it was just flocking to one point.

One thing, you an definitely have a weather balloon WAAAAY up there, beyond the reach of flak shells, and still be visible depending on the design, or it could be tracked on RADAR and the rest was about the exploding shells and searchlights.

Given the well deserved fear at the time, and the need to cover even a simple error... I doubt we'll ever know. Truly a UFO, even if Flex's explanation is the one I... well... prefer.
 

Suggested for: The Battle of Los Angeles - *Audio of original news broadcast linked*

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