After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7 1941, and the entry of the United States into World War II, the following day, tension in the states were high, and rightfully so. The West coast was particularly nervous with rumors of Japanese submarines cruising the waters near Juneau Alaska and a Japanese aircraft carrier off the coast of San Francisco Bay Area.
Civil defense sirens were sounding down the West coast and 500 US Army troops were stationed in Los Angeles just in case.
To make things more real, Japanese submarines had been attacking American merchant ships in the Pacific Ocean from December 1941 through February of 1942. The SS Agwiworld (escaped), SS Emidio (sank), SS Samoa (escaped), SS Larry Doheny (sank), SS Dorothy Phillips (damaged),
SS H.M. Storey (escaped, sank later), SS Cynthia Olson (sank), SS Camden (sank), SS Absaroka (damaged), Coast Trader (sank), SS Montebello (sank), SS SS Barbara Olson (escaped), SS Connecticut (damaged), and SS Idaho (minor damage). On February 24 1942 The Office of Naval Intelligence warned of a possibility of an attack to mainland California in the next ten days. That same evening, flares and blinking lights were reported in the vicinity of defense plants.
An Alert was sounded but then lifted about 3 hours later. On the morning of February 25, air raid sirens sounded at 2:25 am throughout Los Angeles County. 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 anti-aircraft shells into the air at reported aircraft; over 1,400 shells were eventually fired.
Pilots were readied but remained grounded and then at 4:14 am the “all clear” was sounded and the blackout order lifted around 7 am. Some buildings and vehicles were damaged from falling shell fragments.
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 industriesRepresentative Leland M. Ford of Santa Monica calling for a Congressional investigation
The military eventually attributed the incident to “war nerves” and the sighting of an errant weather balloon, ufologists have speculated for years that our guns were actually firing at extraterrestrial spaceships—a theory that provided inspiration for Battle: Los Angeles (Steven Spielberg’s film 1941 was also loosely based on the event). Two days before the air raid, a Japanese submarine fired several shells, near Santa Barbara, that caused minimal damage, but started the invasion scare that followed.
The panic was initiated when several credible witnesses reported seeing a large, round, object in the sky over Culver City and Santa Monica. This object was barraged with the 1400 shells with apparently no damage. The Army’s Western Defense Command in San Francisco initially attributed the incident to “unidentified planes” over Southern California, the secretary of the Navy said the event was the result of “war nerves” and a false alarm.
It wasn’t until 1983, more than 40 years later, that the military concluded that the incident was possibly caused by a drifting weather balloon. Sounds like Roswell a few years early.
Western Defense Command Patch