On the night of February 24-25th, 1942, an incident took place over the skies of Los Angeles which has come to be called The Battle of Los Angeles or The Great Los Angeles Air Raid. Sometime after midnight something overhead triggered an abundance of searchlights scanning the skies plus anti-aircraft artillery firing away and air raid sirens sounding across the city. It was thought to be the Japanese who, not quite so incidentally, had shelled the Santa Barbara coast (Goleta, actually) from a surfaced submarine just the night before. And so people supposed they were now swarming over L.A. But there were no bombs, no damage. But it did stir up the city and remained a puzzle for years ... in fact, it's still a puzzle. Who was it up there and what were they doing? Since that time, the ufologists have entered the picture, turning what were searchlights beaming up into the sky into mother-ship lights projecting down onto the city.
So, why do I speak of it? Well, as it happened, I was a witness to it. Yes, a little tot at the time. It was possibly my earliest memory. But I well remember my mother waking my brother and me from our sound sleep and telling us we had to get up and see what was happening. Keeping the lights off, we went to the living room window and looked out over our city of Los Angeles. There indeed were searchlights getting a beam onto very-high-overhead aircraft. Airplanes. Not a space ship, not barrage balloons, but airplanes. There were several, as I recall, flying in formation ... well-lit by the searchlights but also too high, it seemed, to be shot down. It all quieted down soon enough as the planes flew on and disappeared. "Next day," as my mother liked to tell it, "there were many houses up and down the block with For Sale signs." But ever after, when we still lived there and high beamed searchlights played back and forth some evenings, I would ask my parents if it was an attack ... or the premiere of some movie over there on Hollywood Boulevard.
|In my father's air raid warden outfit|
You can check all this out online. (Don't pay any attention to the doctored photo that looks like a space ship.) Apparently, L.A.'s Fort MacArthur Museum hosts an event every February commemorating this little piece of history. (Incidentally, the Japanese say it wasn't their planes.)