Battle of Los Angeles: Fear and Anxiety

Battle of Los Angeles LA Times
The front page of the Los Angeles Times from Feb. 26, 1942.

On this date in 1942, anti-aircraft guns blazed over the city of Los Angeles during what was eventually determined to be a false alarm.

Here are some things you might not have known about “The Battle of Los Angeles.”

The United States was three months into its involvement in World War II following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

California was especially on edge, as the night before a Japanese submarine opened fire on an oil refinery near Santa Barbara, California.

Air raid sirens began sounding in Los Angeles County on the night of February 24. Air raid wardens were summoned to their positions and at 3:16 a.m., the 37th Coast Artillery Brigade began firing its .50 caliber machine guns and 12.8-pound anti-aircraft shells at the reported invading aircraft.

The anti-aircraft fire continued for almost an hour. More than 1,400 shells were fired. The all-clear was given at 7:21 a.m.

Five people died as an indirect result of the chaos. Three people died in car accidents, and two others died of heart attacks. Many buildings and vehicles were damaged.

The next day, the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, held a news conference blaming the entire incident on anxiety and “war nerves.” Some news outlets suspected a coverup. Other people suspected UFOs.

In 1983, the U.S. Office of Air Force History said the Battle of Los Angeles was triggered by a stray weather balloon along with war anxiety.

Following the war, the Japanese said they did not have any planes in the area.

Our question: Who directed the movie “1941” that was loosely based on the Battle of Los Angeles?


Today is Independence Day in Estonia, Flag Day in Mexico, and Engineer’s Day in Iran.

It’s unofficially World Bartender Day, National Tortilla Chip Day, and National Trading Card Day.

It’s the birthday of artist Winslow Homer, who was born in 1836; Admiral Chester Nimitz, who was born in 1885; and Apple founder Steve Jobs, who was born in 1955.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1997, the top song in the U.S. was “Wannabe” by The Spice Girls.

The No. 1 movie was “The Empire Strikes Back (Special Edition),” while the novel “Hornet’s Nest” by Patricia Cornwell topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

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