Glendale News Press
Wednesday, Feb. 25, 1942
Washington(AP)-Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox said today that there were no planes over Los Angeles last night. "That's our understanding," he said. He added that " none have been found and a very wide reconnaissance has been carried on." He added, "it was just a false alarm."
Anti-aircraft guns thundered over the metropolitan area early today for the first time in the war, but hours later what they were shooting at what remained a military secret. An unidentified object moving slowly down the coast from Santa Monica was variously reported as a balloon and an airplane.
No bombs were dropped and no planes were shot down during the anti-aircraft firing in the Los Angeles area, the western defense command said in San Francisco.
"Cities in the Los Angeles area were blacked out at 2:25 a.m. today on orders from the fourth interceptor command when unidentified aircraft were reported in the area," the western defense command said.
"Although reports are conflicting and every effort is being made to ascertain the facts, it is clear that no bombs were dropped and no planes were shot down."
"There was a considerable amount of anti-aircraft firing. The all-clear signal came at 7:25 a.m."
Army Scofts at Civilian Reports
Army intelligence, although uncommunicative, scoffed at reports of civilian observers that as many as 200 planes were over the area.
There were no reports of dropping bombs, but several instances of damaged property from anti-aircraft shells. A garage door was ripped off in a Los Angeles residential district and fragments shattered windows and tore into a bed where a few moments before Miss Blanch Sedgewick and her niece, Josie Duffy had been sleeping.
A Santa Monica bomb squad was dispatched to remove an unexploded anti-aircraft shell in a driveway there.
Wailing air raid sirens at 2:25 a.m. awakened most of the metropolitan's three million citizens. A few minutes later they were treated to a gigantic Fourth-of-July-like display as huge searchlights flashed along a 10-mile front to the south, converging on a single spot high in the sky.
Anti-Aircraft Guns Open Fire
Moments later the anti-aircraft guns opened up, throwing a sheet of steel skyward.
Tracer bullets and exploding shells lit the heavens.
Three Japanese, two men and a woman, were seized at the beach city of Venice on suspicion of signaling with flashlights near the pier. They were removed to FBI headquarters, where Richard B. Hood, local chief, said, "at the request of Army authorities we have nothing to say."
A Long Beach police sergeant, E. Larsen 59, was killed in a traffic accident while in route to an air raid post.
Henry B. Ayers, 63-year-old state guardsman, died at the wheel of an ammunition truck during the black-out. Physicians said a heart attack was apparently responsible.
Rumors of Planes Downed Spiked
Police ran down several reports that planes had been shot down, but said all were false alarms.
Aircraft factories continued operation behind blackened windows, while ack-ack guns rattled from batteries stationed near-by.
A Japanese vegetable man, John Y. Harada, 25, was one of three persons arrested on charges of violating a county black ordinance. Sheriff's Capt. Ernest Sichler said Harada, driving to the market with a load of cauliflower, refused to extinguish his truck lights.
Others held on similar charges were Walter E. Van Der Linden, Norwalk dairy man, accused of failing to darken his milking barns, and Giovouni Ghigo, 57, nabbed while driving to market with a truckload of flowers.
Traffic Snarl Follows All Clear Signal
Soon traffic was snarled. Thousand of southern Californians were an hour or more late to their jobs.
There were isolated incidences of failure to comply with black-out regulations. Neon signs were glowing inside stores. Traffic signals continued to flash in some areas.
Radio stations went off the air with the first alert, and were not permitted to resume broadcasting until 8:23 a.m.
There was speculation, that the unidentified object, might have been a blimp-although veteran lighter-then-air-experts in Akron, O., the nations center of such construction, said Japan was believed to have lost interest in such craft following experiments in World War I. These sources said inability to obtain fire proof helium caused discarding of such plans.
Observers lent some credence to the blimp theory by pointing out that the object required nearly thirty minutes to travel 20 or 25 miles-far slower then an airplane.
Unidentified Planes Pass Over Harbor
AN official source which declined to be quoted directly told The Associated Press in Los Angeles that United States Army Planes quickly went into action. Later however, another official said no United States craft had taken off because of possible danger from the army's own anti-aircraft fire.
A newspaper man at San Pedro said airplanes passed over the Los Angeles-Long Beach harbor area. The craft were not identified.
There were no reports of any attempt to bomb southern California from the air although many war-vital factories, shipyards and other defense industries were on the route the object followed.
Although some watchers said they saw airplanes in the air, semi-official sources said they probably were the United States Army's pursuits.
All the action, clearly spotlighted for ground observers by 20 or so searchlights, was just a few miles west of Los Angeles proper.
Object Disappears Over Signal Hill
Observers said the object appeared to be 8000 ft or higher.
Firing, first heard at 3 a.m., ceased suddenly at 3:30 a.m., after the object disappeared south of Signal Hill, at the east edge of Long Beach. Anti-aircraft guns fired steadily for two minute periods, were silent for about 45 seconds, and continued that routine for nearly a half an hour.
All of southern California from the San Juaquin valley to the Mexican border was blacked out. Los Angeles doused its lights first, at 2:25 a.m.. San Diego, just 17 miles from the border did not receive its lights out order until 3:05 a.m.
When daylight and the all-clear signal came, Long Beach took on the appearance of a huge easter egg-hunt. Kiddies and even grown-ups scrambled through the streets and vacant lots, picking up and proudly comparing chunks of shrapnel fragments as if they were the most prized possession they owned.