The “battle of Los Angeles” of 1942 – – Army colonel explains what really happened


from Robert Sheaffer, BAD UFOs:

Here we see another example that cautions us against taking “eyewitness accounts” at face value.

Let us examine a first-hand account of the “battle” written by Col. John G. Murphy, who not only witnessed the shelling, but participated in an official investigation of the incident.

Serious researchers realize that, the closer in time is an account to the event it describes, the more likely it is to be accurate.

Col. Murphy wrote, “We interrogated approximately 60 witnesses – civilians, Army, Navy and Air commissioned and enlisted personnel… Roughly about half the witnesses were sure they saw planes in the sky.”

Given that no planes were ever sent up – not ours nor any Japanese – here we see another example that cautions us against taking “eyewitness accounts” at face value.


Antiaircraft Journal

published by the United States Coast Artillery Association

Vol. LXXXXII No. 3. May/June, 1949 page 4


Los Angeles “Attacked”

by Col. John G. Murphy, CAC:

There were no enemy air attacks on the West Coast.

There were two submarine attacks by gunfire-one on Ft. Stevens, Oregon, and one on some oil docks north of Los Angeles.

However there were many alerts, many blackouts, many alarms, and the antiaircraft troops were always in a pertinent condition of readiness.

Prior to the battle of Midway there was a distinct tenseness all along the West Coast.

We believed the Japanese would attack Midway, but we also knew he could change his plans and attack any of the important cities of the West Coast.

AA troops during this period were ready for any action.

They were always ready for action, albeit sometimes overready or maybe even gullible – – as was shown by the famous “Battle of Los Angeles.”


On Feb 26, 1942, the author was on a Staff visit to the 37th Brigade.

Sometime after midnight I was awakened by the sound of gunfire.

A quick glance through the window was not productive of any enlightening information.

A quick trip to the roof of the hotel brought reward for the upward toil.

It was a beautiful moonlight night, but the moon’s magnificence was dwarfed by the brilliant glare of nineties and three-inchers spewing fire to the heavens, the glare and noise of the bursting shells, the delicate sky tracery of red and green forty-millimeters and fifty-calibers arching lazily through the skies, and the brilliant incandescence of the searchlights probing the heavens, hither and yon-up and down.

A beautiful picture – a grand show!

But at what were they firing?

Imagination could have easily disclosed many shapes in the sky in the midst of that weird symphony of noise and color.

But cold detachment disclosed no planes of any type in the sky-friendly or enemy.

And suddenly all was quiet and only the light of the moon relieved the grim picture of a city in total blackout.

I lingered on the roof, ruminated on what it was all about and was idly wondering if I could find my way to brigade headquarters through the blackout when all hell broke loose again.

A cacophony of sound and a glaring brilliance again pervaded all!

But soon it was over and quiet and darkness again descended on the awakened city.

On my way to brigade headquarters next morning, screaming headlines in the morning papers told of the many Japanese planes brought down in flames.

At brigade headquarters there was much gloom.

No one knew exactly what had happened.

Maj. Gen. Jacob Fickel and Col. (later Maj. Gen.) Samuel Kepner flew down from San Francisco and with the writer constituted a board to investigate the firing.

We interrogated approximately 60 witnesses-civilians, Army, Navy and Air commissioned and enlisted personnel.

Roughly about half the witnesses were sure they saw planes in the sky.

One flier vividly described 10 planes in V formation.

The other half saw nothing.

The elevation operator of an antiaircraft director looking through his scope saw many planes.

His azimuth operator looking through a parallel scope on the same instrument did not see any planes.

Among the facts developed was that the firing had been ordered by the young Air Force controller on duty at the Fighter Command operations room.

Someone reported a balloon in the sky.

He of course visualized a German or Japanese zeppelin.

Someone tried to explain it was not that kind of balloon, but he was adamant and ordered firing to start (which he had no authority to do).

Once the firing started, imagination created all kinds of targets in the sky and everyone joined in.

Well after all these years, the true story can be told.

One of the AA Regiments (we still had Regiments) sent up a meteorological balloon about 1:00 AM.

That was the balloon that started all the shooting!

When quiet had settled down on the “embattled” City of the Angels, a different regiment, alert and energetic as always, decided some “met” data was needed, felt it had not done so well in the “battle” and thought a few weather corrections might help.

So they sent up a balloon, and hell broke loose again.

(Note: Both balloons, as I remember, floated away majestically and safely.)

But the inhabitants of Los Angeles felt very happy.

They had visual and auricular assurance that they were well protected.

And the AA gunners were happy!

They had fired more rounds than they would have been authorized to fire in 10 peacetime years’ target practices.


For an excellent article on the “Battle of Los Angeles”, click and read Brian Dunning’s :



Also, as for the question, “if it was a balloon, why didn’t it pop?

UFOlogists argue that a balloon subject to shelling would have popped, but there is evidence that anti-aircraft fire might be less effective against Zeppelin-type airships and balloons than common sense suggests.

Rigid and semi-rigid aircraft do not rely on substantial overpressure to sustain their shape, and unlike a party balloon won’t necessarily “pop” and deflate immediately when punctured.

The flexibility of a balloon or blimp’s gas bag also provides some protection from explosive anti-aircraft fire; with the skin denting and distorting to absorb the impact without actually puncturing.

This is exploited in experimental spy blimps such as the LEMV.

This means that a balloon may well be able to sustain damage from the anti-aircraft fire but not be actually shot down immediately.

Secondly, it isn’t guaranteed that a hydrogen dirigible or balloon will ignite when hit by normal bullets or shrapnel common to anti-aircraft fire.

During World War I, a Zeppelin, the L33, was hit by anti-aircraft fire, but did not catch fire. The ship was forced to crash-land in Britain, whereupon her crew set her ablaze. Fighter aircraft only began to see successes against Zeppelins when they switched from normal ammunition to a mixture of explosive and phosphorus incendiary bullets. A combination of these fired at a Zeppelin would invariably ignite the ship’s hydrogen gas bags.

This adds some credence to the possibility that shrapnel from the anti-aircraft batteries would not necessarily have destroyed a balloon outright but could have punctured it, leaving it to descend in to, and later sink in, the Pacific Ocean.

For more on the “battle of Los Angeles”, CLICK AND READ THE FOLLOWING:



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2 thoughts on “The “battle of Los Angeles” of 1942 – – Army colonel explains what really happened

  1. You got it, Nomad. If any single reported alien incident on Earth were true, it would be the biggest story ever in our history. But so far it hasn’t happened. And the world goes on.
    Many UFO believers (those who adamantly state that UFOs are conclusive evidence of physical ET visitations to our Earth in physical alien spacecraft) site thousands and thousands of supposedly alien contact/landing cases. Even if only one of those were true, it would be the biggest news in human history.
    It hasn’t happened yet. And this ol’ world goes on, as usual.

    Liked by 1 person

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