An Eyewitness Account of the Mysterious Object that “Attacked” the Los Angeles Basin in the Wee Hours of February 25, 1942, plus a Ufological Assessment, Sixty-Four Years after the FactAt first, it was widely suspected that a high-altitude, carrier-based Japanese observation plane had strayed over the L.A. area. Or perhaps one of our own military planes was the culprit—although no 1942-vintage airplane was capable of standing still in the air. The one thing we did learn after the war was that neither the Japanese nor our own military have an “official” record of any of their aircraft flying over the L.A. basin that fabled evening. Even the presence of our pursuit planes, which was absolutely certain, has been denied. Of course, all concerned could be lying—though the probability of such a lie persisting for over sixty years is remote. That is, assuming what we saw was a terrestrial craft.
By C. Scott Littleton
Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus
Los Angeles, CA
- Part II -
By C. Scott Littleton
Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus
Los Angeles, CA
- Part II -
In recent decades several Ufologists have suggested that it might have been one of the largest mass UFO sightings in history, as it involved well over a million people. Only the sightings over Mexico City in the mid 1990s exceed it in terms of the total number of percipients.
To be sure, no one suggested this theory at the time, as it wasn’t until five years later, in 1947, after civilian pilot Kenneth Arnold’s landmark sighting of nine “flying saucers” over Mt. Rainer in June of that year, that the notion that UFOs from other planets might be invading our skies became widespread—although if the theory that a crash retrieval occurred at Cape Giradeau, MO, in 1941 is correct, it’s quite possible that the government had at least a modicum of knowledge about the phenomenon by 1942.
Several years ago, I joined forces with Ufologist Frank Warren, who’s been fascinated by this event for many years—although he’s of course much too young to have observed it personally. With the help of well-known Navy photo-analyst and UFO investigator, Dr. Bruce Maccabee, Frank and I have pretty well determined the craft’s path before it appeared in the sky over Hermosa Beach. It was initially observed by several residents of the Pacific Palisades rising over the Santa Monica Mountains around 2:45 a.m. From there, it seems to have moved southeast across Santa Monica and West L.A. in the direction of the Baldwin Hills, which separate Culver City from Inglewood and the flatlands to the south.
A Los Angeles Times reporter living in the San Gabriel Valley, a dozen miles or so to the east, had been alerted to what was happening by colleagues at the paper. He jumped in his car and began driving west as rapidly as he could toward the sound of the guns, arriving at the northern edge of the Baldwin Hills, in the vicinity of Jefferson and La Cienega, in time to photograph the object as it rose over the ridge line. I should add that there’s been some debate over exactly where the Times reporter took his famous picture. Some have held that he caught the object flying over Palos Verdes. But all indications point to a spot on the ridgeline just east of where La Cienega Blvd. cuts through it.
I’ve investigated this aspect of the matter and am pretty sure that I’ve found the spot, despite the fact that the terrain has changed significantly in the last sixty-odd years as the area has become more and more developed.
This image, which was published in the Times on February 26, is the only picture we have of the craft, at least to date. As you can see, it’s caught in the beams of several searchlights and is surround by white dots created by exploding shells.
Several residents who lived just north of the hills in question saw the object clearly. From their reports, it was round with a slight hump in the middle of the top, that is, its dorsal side. A similar configuration can be seen in on one of the Mexico City UFOs. Moreover, a woman named Katie, who observed it from the window of her home in the Baldwin Hills, recalled that in addition to having a hump it was huge, elliptical, and glowing bright orange, although my mother and I failed to spot either the hump or, as I indicated a moment ago, the possibly reflective orange glow. Indeed, I strongly suspect that what we saw was the object’s ventral, or “belly” side, which at that altitude was simply glowing white. In any case, as the Times image clearly indicates, the anti-aircraft barrage had begun, and the searchlights were following it steadily.
From the width of the light beams at the point they reached the object], plus the knowledge that at least one of them came from a searchlight battery in Manhattan Beach, some ten miles away (the others appear to have come from Inglewood or El Segundo), Frank Warren has concluded that it must have been considerably larger, that is, around 800 feet in length, and I agree with this estimate.
After crossing the Baldwin Hills, the object appears to have turned westward toward El Segundo—directly over the aircraft plants located there, including Douglas, North American, and Lockheed, which makes one wonder if the craft was specifically interested in them.
When it reached the coast, it rose to a higher altitude and slowly followed the edge of the ocean due south to the point where we first saw it. Then, as I indicated earlier, it veered southeastward over Redondo Beach, blithely ignoring everything we were throwing at it, and soon disappeared from sight behind the town’s low hills.
However, we can now tentatively pick it up over Redondo. Another possible eyewitness, who claims to have lived in Redondo Beach and to have been five years old at the time, has recently come to my attention. He—I’ve yet to discover his name—says that he recalls watching the craft descend as it passed slowly over his family home on Irena Street, which is about a mile back from the ocean. The man also claims that his father at first thought it was coming in for a landing, perhaps at the nearby Lomita airstrip, and that the latter and several neighbors jumped into a pickup truck and tried to follow the object. But apparently it soon regained altitude and passed over the Palos Verdes Hills to the south. He also recalls noting that the “stern” of the craft was rectangular, with rounded edges, ands very thick.
While this account, gleaned from the Internet, is extremely shaky, and there are reasons to question some other assertions made by the same “eyewitness,” the fact that my mother and I lost sight of the object as it descended in the direction of Redondo Beach does lend some credence to this report.
As I said, it’s now pretty certain, from eyewitness accounts collected years after the fact, that something did in fact crash-land on South Vermont Avenue that morning, and that it was almost certainly an American pursuit plane, forced down either by the object itself or by “friendly fire.”
click on image to enlargeAccording to one account, it was immediately hauled away on a flat-bed truck under a tarp, as the military apparently didn’t want the public to know that it had shot down one of its own plans. However, the witness in question caught a glimpse of the markings on the fuselage before it was covered up. They clearly indicate that it was one of ours. (What happened to the pilot is unknown.). I should add here that add Frank Warren tells me that he’s come across an eyewitness account of another possible plane crash that morning, this time in Hollywood somewhere. Again, the downed aircraft seems to have been hauled off almost immediately on a flat-bed truck. The witness claims to have seen “Japanese letters” on the fuselage, although this is extremely doubtful. The Japanese used Arabic numbers on all of their WWII planes, and he may simply have assumed that it was a Japanese plane, and then perceived the rest of what he saw in terms of that assumption. If a second plane did crash in Hollywood somewhere, it was also almost certainly one of ours.
It’s recently been suggested, on the basis of what in my opinion is some pretty shaky evidence that the craft itself ultimately crashed in the ocean off San Diego and was recovered by Navy divers.
This might possibly explain its apparent descent over Redondo Beach. Perhaps the object had in fact been wounded by the intense anti-aircraft fire and, after nearly crashing into Redondo Beach, eventually lost control, and went into the sea. Yet another recent assertion, equally shaky, is that it landed more or less intact on San Clemente Island, in those days a Navy bombing range, and was commandeered by either the Navy or the Marine Corps, presumably along with its occupants, assuming they survived the landing. If there’s any validity to these theories, the military may already have had a fair amount of evidence in hand by the times of the Roswell crash in 1947, in addition to any it might have garnered prior to 1942.
As far as civilian casualties were concerned, there was only a handful. According to the Times, five people died from heart attacks and automobile accidents, and there were some injuries from falling shrapnel. There was also some minor property damage, again mostly from shrapnel. Yes, there were a great many jangled nerves that morning, but the overall impact of the event was slight compared to other disasters—earthquakes, fires, floods, etc.—the region has experienced over the years.
Although there’s never been a definitive, “official” explanation of this episode, a great many unofficial ones have been advanced over the years, including an errant barrage balloon that had lost its tether over one of the El Segundo aircraft plants, a lost Army weather balloon (shades of Roswell!), or an off-course private pilot, perhaps in a vintage Piper Cub—although civilian aircraft had been firmly banned from the skies over Southern since the outbreak of the war. It’s even been suggested that the whole thing was caused by a flock of high-flying sea birds. But none of these explanations comes anywhere close to being satisfactory. Indeed, from most reports, as well as the Times photograph, the object appears to have been a huge, glowing, saucer-shaped object with a distinct protuberance on its dorsal side. To be sure, unlike the witnesses who observed it in at a much lower level in Culver City and the Baldwin Hills, my mother and I saw only a bright, shimmering lozenge caught in the glare of the searchlights.
Nevertheless, despite the Redondo Beach man’s atypical—and perhaps skewed—recollection (after all, he claims to have been five year-old at the time), what we saw, together with the majority of the descriptions Frank and I have collected, as well as the object caught in the Times reporter’s photograph, all jibe closely with literally tens of thousands of eyewitness accounts of UFOs in this country and elsewhere that have come to light in the course of the last six decades. (For a magisterial account of that history, I heartily recommend a book that I’m sure many readers are already familiar with: Richard M. Dolan’s UFOs and the National Security State: Chronology of a Cover-up 1941-1973, the second edition of which was published by Hampton Roads in 2002.)
The aspect of this episode that clinches the extraterrestrial theory here, at least in my opinion, is the fact that the object was able to resist the impact of over 1,400 rounds of high explosive, antiaircraft shells. No contemporary aircraft, let alone any World War II planes, could have withstood that barrage. I suspect that the object was surrounded by an electromagnetic force field of some sort, which deflected the shells and caused them to explode harmlessly. This EMF field could perhaps have caused our planes to lose control and crash when they flew too close to it.
To be sure, in the postwar era, after we’d obtained the technology to build sophisticated air-to-air rockets from captured German scientists, it was another story. At that point, it appears that we did have the capability to shoot down UFOs, at least occasionally, which in part explain the spate of UFO crashes—including, perhaps, the ones at Roswell and Aztec—in the late 1940s and early 1950s. But not in 1942.
That the whole business has been covered up by the government for the past sixty-four years seems almost certain. Indeed, most Ufologists are convinced that a similar cover-up has been in place regarding the Roswell crash since 1947, to say nothing of what’s been going on at Area 51. Perhaps they—that is, the government—had a model based on their response to the February, 1942, incident that it brought to bear in hushing up later episodes. Or perhaps they’ve simply been in denial for the past six decades. Extremely doubtful, but remotely possible.
Maybe someday the truth about the “Battle of Los Angeles” will finally come out, along with the truth about so many other anomalous phenomena that so many people all over the world have seen—and continue to see—in the sky, both before and after 1942. Then again, it just may prove to have been a remarkably flack-resistant barrage balloon that our gunners simply couldn’t bring down. But I certainly wouldn’t bet a bundle on that possibility!
In sum, in light of the evidence, that is,
• The object’s purposeful, intelligently controlled flight pattern;
• Its invulnerability to an intense anti-aircraft barrage;
• Its size (perhaps 800 feet in diameter);
• Its bright white (and, in some accounts, orange) glow, which was evident even in the searchlight beams;
• Its configuration (oval, with a protuberance on the dorsal side);
• Its probable EMF impact on our pursuit planes that flew too close;
• And the absence of any post-war Japanese record of one of their planes being over Los Angeles that night,
I submit that the most efficient explanation for the object that triggered the “Battle of Los Angeles” in the early morning hours of February 25, 1942, is that it was a genuine, honest-to-God, unidentified flying object that came from beyond this planet. In other words, I’m convinced that what I witnessed that night when I was eight years-old from in front of 2500 Strand in Hermosa Beach was a classic UFO episode, one that must be ranked among the most important episodes in the history of this remarkable phenomenon, if only because it was witnessed by more than a million anxious Southern Californians, all of whom prayed—successfully, as it turned out—that it was not the harbinger of a Japanese attack.
Unfortunately, the probability that the object in question reflected something far more profound than that has only begun to surface after the great majority of those who saw it have passed on to their rewards. However, Frank Warren and I are hot on the trail of several more key eye-witnesses and/or their progeny, as well as some additional photographs. So please stay tuned!