This damaged and retouched photograph by a Los Angeles Times reporter shows searchlight beams converging on a mysterious aerial intruder over the Culver City area of Los Angeles on the morning of 25 February 1942. The UFO can just be made out. The small blobs of light are not UFOs, but bursts of anti-aircraft shells.
(Above Top Secret, Good)
The LA raid was heralded when lights and flares seen near defense plants led to a four-hour alert from 7.18 pm. Then, at 2.15 am, radar picked up an unidentified target 120 miles (194 km) out to sea. At 2.25 am on 25 February air raid sirens sounded over Los Angeles. The city blacked out, and at 3.16 anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) batteries began firing at “unidentified aircraft” coming in over the ocean, as searchlight beams pursued them through the sky.
There seemed to be at least two types of craft taking part. Witnesses saw fast-moving, high-flying small objects, red or silver in color, that arrived in formation and then appeared to dodge their way through the AAA salvos at a speeds of up to five miles per second (18,000 mph/29,000 kmh). The object tracked on radar seemed luminous to ground observers, and at one point remained stationary for some time. It moved inland and was caught in searchlights over Culver City, where it was photographed and proved impervious to AAA fire. It then moved at a stately 60 mph (75 kmh) to the coast at Santa Monica and then south toward Long Beach, before being lost to sight. Anti-aircraft fire continued until 4.14 am against the smaller UFOs. In the words of witness Paul T Collins, these were consistently “appearing from nowhere and then zigzagging from side to side. Some disappeared, not diminishing in brilliance or fading away gradually but just vanishing instantaneously into the night.” Others would “mix and play tag with about 30 to 40 others moving so fast they couldn’t be counted accurately.” Another witness recalled a formation of “six to nine luminous, white dots in formation” that “moved painfully slowly – you might call it leisurely – as if it were oblivious to the whole stampede it had created”.
The entire episode lasted for 58 minutes, and consumed 1,430 12.8 lb shells in all. The blackout was eventually lifted at 7.21 am. No bombs were dropped on Los Angeles, and no aircraft were downed, but buildings were destroyed by shell debris, and three people died of heart attacks brought on by panic.
Some ufologists have discerned the beginnings of a cover-up in the official reaction to [the event]… The “raid” was witnessed by thousands of people… It was readily enough explained at the time. But it did appear to be inexplicable to almost everyone who witnessed it, while those who had to account for the expenditure of a vast number of high-explosive shells to no effect were somewhat strained to put a good face on an embarrassing episode.
Next day, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox announced from Washington that no planes had been over the city, and the barrage had been the product of war nerves and a false alarm. The government line changed within hours, after General George C Marshall, the Chief of Staff, gave President Roosevelt his understanding of what had happened. Marshall wrote:
The following is the information we have from GHQ at this moment regarding the air alarm over Los Angeles of yesterday morning:
“From details available at this hour:
“1. Unidentified airplanes, other than American Army or Navy planes, were probably over Los Angeles, and were fired on by elements of the 37th CA Brigade (AA) between 3:12 and 4:15 AM. These units expended 1430 rounds of ammunition.
“2. As many as fifteen planes may have been involved, flying at various speeds from what is officially reported as being ‘very slow’ to as much as 200 MPH and at elevations from 9000 to 18000 feet…”
General George Marshall’s secret memorandum of 26 February 1942 to US President Franklin D Roosevelt describes the most violent reaction on record to a UFO sighting…
(UFO: The Government Files, Brookesmith)
In 1987 UFO researcher Timothy Good released a document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act in the USA. It had been kept secret for over 30 years. This was [this] memo to President Roosevelt from his Chief-of-Staff… written just 24 hours after the incident. The report clearly indicated that despite the denials, “unidentified airplanes, other than American Army or navy planes, were probably over Los Angeles”.
Was this a military excuse to hide the tragic chaos, or an admission that real unidentified aerial objects were the cause of a false alarm?
(UFOs and How to See Them, Randles)
No proof that this… surmise [that three people died of heart attacks] was accurate has ever been forthcoming, and no papers describing the supposedly “continuing” investigation have surfaced yet, either. Some ufologists find this suspicious, and further wonder if even in this memo Marshall was concealing something. Could it be the knowledge that the “aircraft” were not of this earth? They point out that the official estimates of the UFOs’ speeds are hugely at variance with those of witnesses, and that the objects’ maneuvers were reportedly quite unlike those that would be expected of conventional aircraft.
They back their case that the military knew these were unusual targets with a further point: in the period between the first alert and the opening of the anti-aircraft barrage, fighters of the 4th Interceptor Command stationed nearby were not sent to engage the intruders…
More dark significance is attached to the fact that for years the Department of Defense denied having any record of the event until obliged to disgorge General Marshall’s memo by the FOIA. Even at the time, the Long Beach Independent noted: “There is a mysterious reticence about the whole affair and it appears some form of censorship is trying to halt discussion of the matter.”