On the 24th February 1942 the Battle of Los Angeles broke out. Barely two months after the USA entered World War Two, coastal defences along the Pacific Coast feared an attack by Japan. The disastrous losses suffered at Pearl harbour on December 7th 1941 had left people living and working in fear.
So it wasn’t really too much of a surprise that when the coastal defences thought that an attack formation was approaching the Pacific Coast of mainland USA, they opened up with everything they had.
The spotlight crews of the anti-aircraft battery stations had managed to pinpoint a target above them and within seconds the guns started pounding away it. All in all, around 1500 shells were fired trying to bring the target down, but they seemed to have little effect.
In fact, the only casualties were on the ground; five in total, three killed in road traffic accidents and two died as a result of heart attacks.
What was it?
What aircraft could withstand such a bombardment? Certainly nothing available to the Imperial Japanese Forces of the day.
In 1983, the United States Office of Air Force History appeared to attribute the trigger for the initial response to be meteorological balloons in their report “The Army Air Forces in World War II“.
At 0306 a balloon carrying a red flare was seen over Santa Monica and four batteries of antiaircraft artillery opened fire, whereupon “the air over Los Angeles erupted like a volcano.”US Office of Air Force History
However, is that conclusion really credible? If such a huge barrage over Los Angeles was to take place, wouldn’t the observers, the trained observers be able to distinguish between a weather balloon and an aircraft caught in the beams of multiple, powerful spotlights? Where was the debris? Why were no explosions in the sky seen? After all, a red hot shell penetrating the skin of a balloon and coming into contact with the hydrogen gas inside would create a fireball. We only have to look at the footage of the Hindenburg disaster to realise that.
So what was it? Was it a manmade craft that remains secret to this day? Or perhaps its origins truly were out of this world. We may never know.