New York Times, February 26, 1942

Los Angeles Guns Bark at Air ‘Enemy’ —

5-Hour Blackout Marks Vain Search for ‘Invader’ – 2 die in Crashes – 30 Arrested


Los Angeles Guns Bark at Air ‘Enemy’

5-Hour Blackout Marks Vain Search for ‘Invader’ – 2 die in Crashes – 30 Arrested

Special to The New York Times.

LOS-ANGELES, Feb. 25 – Anti-aircraft batteries protecting airplane factories and oil depots in the Los Angeles metropolitan district directed barrage after barrage in the pre-dawn darkness today against planes which late in the afternoon were still unidentified.

Residents from Santa Monica southward to Long Beach, covering a thirty-nine-mile arc, watched from rooftops, hills and beaches as tracer bullets, with golden yellowish tints, and shells like skyrockets offered the first real show of the second world war, on the United States mainland.

Police throughout the area said that planes ranging in number from one to 100, were overhead, but no bombs fell during the five-hour blackout and no aircraft was shot down.

Thirty persons, twenty of whom —

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Los Angeles Fires at Unseen Foe In Reported Aircraft Invasion

Continued From Page One

— were Japanese, were arrested; two persons were killed in traffic accidents during the blackout and at least two houses were damaged by shells which failed to explode in the air. Shrapnel which fell like hail in some sections broke windows and caused other minor damage.

Defense Command Issues Report

American planes engaging in the search apparently had no success. The Western Defense Command, with headquarters at San Francisco’s presidio, made the following statement at 3:45 P. M.:

“The aircraft which caused the blackout in the Los Angeles area for several hours this morning have not been identified.”

Earlier the same Army Headquarters issued this statement:

“Cities in the Los Angeles area were blacked out at 2:25 A. M. today on order from the Fourth Interceptor Command when unidentified aircraft were reported in the area. Although reports are conflicting and every effort is being made to ascertain the facts, it is clear that no bombs were dropped and that no planes were shot down.

“There was a considerable amount of anti-aircraft firing. The all-clear signal came at 7:21 A. M.”

Officials of Los Angeles and its environs were just beginning to relax after a three-hour alert signal when the blackout sirens began to wail. Possibly because of the virtually harmless shelling of an oilfield area north of Santa Barbara by a submarine the night before, an alert was ordered last night for the entire coast from San Luis Obispo to the Mexican border.

Air Raid Sirens Are Sounded

There was no blackout before the all clear came at 10:23 P.M., but a new alert came at 2:22 A. M. The air raid sirens, supplemented by the howls of Fire Department sirens, ushered in the blackout three minutes later and preceded the barrages by “ack-ack” gunners. Although an all clear was sounded at 7:21 A. M., another alert was flashed soon after noon to be followed by a second all clear about 8:30.

During the blackout police telephones were busy with reports that airplanes had fallen here and there, that “Japanese” were flashing signals from hilltops and that “a Japanese” had been seen with a short wave radio apparatus on a rooftop, probably communicating with the approaching aircraft. Another report, discounted by officials along with some of the others, was that gunfire had destroyed a big floating bag resembling a balloon high in the air.

The sound of shellfire could be heard in Santa Monica, in the harbor area of Los Angeles, in El Segunda, Redondo Beach, Inglewood Park, Huntington Park and beyond Long Beach.

Residents of Beverly Hills, including Tom C. Clark, enemy alien control coordinator for the Far West, saw perhaps twenty searchlights piercing the heavens, all focused on the same spot, and said that they were reminded of “a world premiere” of a movie.

Eyewitness Seem Confused

There was much confusion in the accounts of eyewitnesses. According to one version, “twenty-seven” planes came a few miles in from the ocean, turned south and vanished. Police sources at Long Beach said that the same squadron of planes came over twice or there were two squadrons. Still other persons, standing on rooftops and watching through night glasses, failed to discern a single plane.

Shrapnel showered the vicinity of the Municipal Airport, broke plate-glass windows at the North Long Beach branch of the Bank of America, shattered panes in the home of Hugh G. Landis in the southwest part of the city and knocked down some telephone wires.

A three-inch shell exploded in an office room in the home of Dr. Franklin W. Stewart and blasted heavy fragments through a partition into the kitchen. The interiors of both rooms were demolished but Dr. Stewart and his wife escaped injury.

Victor L. Norman probably would not have lived to tell the story if he had been in his bedroom when an anti-aircraft shell exploded. The inside of the room was rubble afterward.

As Clyde Lane, 32, of Long Beach watched the “fireworks” display a piece of shrapnel struck him on the head, causing a slight scalp injury. Bomb squads were sent out to remove several “duds,” one of which lay buried but unexploded in a Santa Monica driveway. Another struck at a Los Angeles street intersection.

Not the least of the results of the blackout was a traffic tie-up, which was described as the greatest in the city’s history. Thousands of workers in defense plants were delayed in reaching their destinations, for there was no movement of traffic except such emergency vehicles as police cars and ambulances. The crush began after the “all clear” sounded. Some shipyard workers reported that shrapnel fragments fell about them as they stayed at their jobs.

Two Die in Blackout crashes

Sergeant Engelbert Larson, 59, of the Long Beach Police Department was killed as he was driving to headquarters for air raid duty. His car was in collision with that of Thomas King of Long Beach. Both machines were traveling without lights.

Mrs. Beulah Klein, 48, of Arcadia was killed when the family automobile, driven by her husband, was in a crash with a milk truck during the blackout.

A California State Guardsman, Henry B. Ayers, 60, died of a heart attack while the anti-aircraft barrages were continuing. He was driving a truck loaded with ammunition.

Several other persons were treated in the metropolitan area for minor injuries.

Most of the arrests were made on complaints of air wardens, who said the prisoners were attempting to signal or actually signaling with flashlights or lights in their homes. Some prisoners were turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, several were fined and others were held for court hearings. F.B.I. spokesmen said that they had been requested by Army officers not to discuss the arrests.

The blackout was the longest any area of the West Coast has experienced since the start of the war. Although there was some spottiness, officials pronounced it satisfactory on the whole.

“The work of 10,000 air raid wardens and auxiliaries was fine,” said Ross McDonald, Chief of Police of Los Angeles. “There was splendid cooperation everywhere. This was the first time such a large group had been called out and the results exceeded our greatest expectations.”

The day’s developments, following so closely upon the reappearance of enemy underseas craft off the California coast, increased demands for the evacuation of all Japanese, citizens and aliens alike, from the combat zone.

Image: Searchlights converged in the sky and anti-aircraft bursts dotted the area