February 24: The Battle Of Los Angeles

Battle_of_Los_Angeles_LATimesLate in the evening on February 24, 1942, the skies above Los Angeles were lit up as the 37th Coast Artillery Brigade engaged in battle with the Japanese, no, a UFO, no perhaps a weather balloon?

The west coast was already a bit on edge prior to the event that became known as The Battle Of Los Angeles. After all, less than three months earlier Pearl Harbor had been attacked and literally the day before, on February 23, the Bombardment of Ellwood had occurred in Santa Barbara. So, when something was spotted in the sky that evening, Angelenos took it extremely seriously. The air raid sirens started blaring and the city instantly went into black out conditions.

Starting at 3:16 AM the 37th Coast Artillery Brigade began shooting at the unidentified flying object, eventually firing 1,400 shells. Shelling would go for about an hour and an all clear would be sounded just before 7:30 on the morning of February 25. The shells would damage many buildings and vehicles, and although no one was directly injured by the shelling, five civilians did die as an indirect result of the night’s events: Three individuals died in a car crash and two others suffered fatal heart attacks presumably brought about by the hour long barrage.

So, the million dollar question is “What was the 37th shooting at?” Well, initially there were fears that it was a Japanese air craft. The official military report said that the events were sparked by a loose weather balloon and that the smoke from the continued shelling created the impression that there were more objects in the sky and that those objects were firing back.

Of course, this explanation isn’t enough for some people. The front page of the February 26 edition of the Los Angeles Times featured a photo of spotlights shining in the sky. Naturally, this had led some people to assume that the unidentified flying object was no weather balloon, but an actual UFO; an alien spaceship. Proponents of this theory claim that the Times photo clearly shows searchlights focused on an alien vessel. However, in actuality the photo had been modified before publication. At the time, a certain level of photographic modification was considered acceptable in the newspaper industry, especially when modification would improve the contrast in black and white photos. So, by making the searchlights clearer, a UFO myth was born.

So, on the 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Los Angeles, and its accompanying blackout, let’s mix a Blackout. It’s a nice after-dinner drink that takes a Gimlet and adds blackberry brandy.

Blackout

  • 1 3/4 ounces Gin
  • 3/4 ounce Blackberry Brandy
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: An entire football team is given the death penalty.

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