The Battle of Los Angeles 1942
Garfield Faculty Relate Their Experiences in
The Battle of Los Angeles (or The Great Los Angeles Air Raid)
After the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941, California along with the rest of west coast feared an impending attack by the Japanese. The military quickly filled the Los Angeles area with air raid sirens, aerial searchlights, alongside huge and ominous anti-aircraft guns. Blackout orders were in place and air raid drills practiced. On December 23rd, Japanese submarines had sunk the Montebello off the California coast, attacked the SS Absaroka on the 24th and on February 23rd, 1942 fired well over a dozen shells at Ellwood Oil Field in Santa Barbara.
Los Angeles was very much on edge during the early morning hours of February 25th, when something was spotted by military radar on the coast -- something coming towards Los Angeles. Two other radar posts confirmed the aerial object and at 2:25 am air-raid sirens were sounding in the city. A total blackout was ordered and thousands of Air Raid Wardens were called to their locations.
At 3:16 am the 37th Coast Artillery Brigade began firing flares, .50 caliber machine guns, and 12.8-pound anti-aircraft shells into the air at aircraft – they thought were there. Searchlights swung back and forth and convened on what they thought were targets. Jittery soldiers saw enemy aircraft everywhere. Eventually over 1,400 shells would be fired. Pilots of the 4th Interceptor Command were alerted but their aircraft remained grounded, probably for their own safety. The artillery fire continued periodically until about 4:14 am, but it wasn’t until 7:21 am that the all clear was sounded and the blackout order revoked.
The attack turned out to be a false alarm, and believed to have been caused by weather balloons released the night before. Of course jittery and jumpy nerves played a big role in the incident. Five people were killed during the attack, through either car accidents or heart attacks. There had been no enemy aircraft.
Below is an article from the Garfield Log, March 6, 1942, page 2, relating various experiences of the faculty on the night that Los Angeles was under attack.