Paging Wild Bill Kelso
January 12, 2006 11:44 AM   Subscribe

The "Battle of Los Angeles" occurred on February 24/25, 1942, when a large object was picked up on radar approximately 120 miles off the southern California coastline. Fearing another Japanese attack, a general blackout was called and fighter planes were dispatched to combat the unknown assailant.

Three hours later, the planes were recalled. Witnesses reported furious fighting but no sightings of downed planes were noted. The Navy claimed there were no enemy planes; the Army put out the story (embedded sound) that Japanese spy planes were indeed present. Subsequent investigations revealed that the invasion was most likely a weather balloon. Other opinions were also expressed.
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies (25 comments total)
Obviously they were battling some giant prehistoric sea creature that wanted to devour Los Angeles.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:50 AM on January 12, 2006

If you look closely, you can see it's Lee Harvey Oswald flying that saucer.
posted by you just lost the game at 11:52 AM on January 12, 2006

It's also an album.
posted by Shanachie at 11:59 AM on January 12, 2006

Thanks for the interesting links - maybe the more ambitious movie would have had Belushi playing both the real life Kozo Nishino quixotically getting his revenge on the oil fields of Santa Barbara and Capt. Wild Bill Kelso?

Meanwhile I'll stick to my day job and trolling MF.
posted by tzelig at 12:05 PM on January 12, 2006

Radars picked up an unidentified target 120 miles west of Los Angeles

Japanese submarines carried float planes for reconnaisance; there's a story about one bombing Oregon. I wonder if something similar was happening here?
posted by alumshubby at 12:05 PM on January 12, 2006

They also used balloons to bomb the US - some got as far as Colorado. But this was in 1944-45, not 1942.
posted by carter at 12:26 PM on January 12, 2006

It's also an album.

And a damn good one, at that.
posted by thanotopsis at 12:35 PM on January 12, 2006

When the movie "1941" came out I thought it was only OK. But then one Thanksgiving, when the game was over and leftovers were still a few hours away, it came on TV. Just my Dad and I watched it.

Dad never served. His father had died before Pearl Harbor and the rule then was that the armed services would not take the eldest son off a farm if the father was ill or dead. Yeah, they did things like that back then. My uncle who was younger ended up in the Pacific theater, building runways. But anyway, this is just to say this was Dad's era. And so watching it with him was seeing it though my Dad's eyes. And the rambling, somewhat corny, over-the-top characters that I found to be too much were dead-on hilarious for him. I ended up laughing my ass off just because the old man was enjoying the movie so much.

Dad's gone now and that was probably the last time I watched an entire movie with him. So if by the odd chance that I ever do meet Spielberg, I will have to thank him for this one.
posted by Ber at 12:48 PM on January 12, 2006

Fascinating post, DeepFriedTwinkies....thank you very much!
posted by Anders Levant at 12:58 PM on January 12, 2006

In Los Angeles, firing 1430 rounds of ammunition into the air isn't a military incident.. it's called New Years Day.
posted by chef_boyardee at 1:00 PM on January 12, 2006

According to the second link, "At the end of the war, the Japanese stated that they did not send planes over the area at the time of this alert."
posted by kirkaracha at 1:03 PM on January 12, 2006

They had there own problem. Namely, Godzilla.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:23 PM on January 12, 2006

Their. Shit.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:34 PM on January 12, 2006

"Bombs! I don't hear any bombs! Now they're up there. They came all the way from Asia. Don't you think they'd bring a few bombs along? "
posted by darren at 2:04 PM on January 12, 2006

The event is captured in the gripping documentary 1941. Also Known As: The Night the Japs Attacked (USA) (working title).
posted by Mr T at 2:24 PM on January 12, 2006

"Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?!"
posted by bardic at 2:51 PM on January 12, 2006

My father saw a Japanese Zero fly overhead in California.

He's not alive anymore, so I can't press him for more detail... there was a newspaper article about it once, but he said they got a lot of it wrong.

What I do know:

He lived in Salmon Creek at the time, a very tiny coastal town (even now)... just a bump in the road.

He was around 10... I'm not sure when in the war it happened.

Everyone back then studied recognition profiles pretty intensely for just such an emergency.

It wasn't just him who spotted it, at least one neighbor did too. There were no kids in the area, he was the only one, so it's likely that the other spotter is also long dead.

They had to drive several miles to get to a phone... they weren't common back then, especially in very rural (albeit beautiful) areas.

The Japanese person was captured, but the whole thing was kept very hush-hush. (I'm honestly not sure why.)

My father was told he had been awarded a commendation, but he never actually saw it, because they wanted to keep it quiet.

Apparently, the Japanese had some kind of submersible aircraft carrier that held a few planes. They crept in close to the Pacific coast, and launched this fellow to do some sabotage... I think my father may have mentioned some kind of refinery. This was about, oh, 75 miles to the north of San Francisco. I believe Oakland was pretty industrial at the time, so that may have been his target.

Of course, a Japanese person anywhere in the country at the time would have stood out like a sore thumb. I don't know if the Japanese knew about the internment camps or not.

The venture was completely doomed to failure, in other words, but they did try it at least once. And for whatever reason, the US government was very, very afraid that anyone would find out about it.

I'm sorry I don't know more detail. He only mentioned it a few times, and I never thought to seriously press him about it.
posted by Malor at 3:15 PM on January 12, 2006

"They had there own problem. Namely, Godzilla."

Not until after the nuke tests in the Pacific. (seriously, who conducts bomb tests at a place called "Monster Island".)
posted by Tenuki at 4:46 PM on January 12, 2006

I thiunk it was a Japanese float-plane.

"By the time of Pearl Harbor, 11 of its submarines were equipped to carry, launch, and recover one specially configured floatplane."

And a Japanese sub shelled Goleta, near Santa Barbara, on 2/23.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:12 PM on January 12, 2006

Ber, that is a great story.

I saw the film as a twelve year old, dubbed in Spanish, on international theatrical release in a theater in Guadalajara, Mexico, and have had a soft spot for it ever since. Slim Pickens in the can, even now, kills me. This is even more true after seeing him in Strangelove, riding the bomb rather than faking one.
posted by mwhybark at 8:05 PM on January 12, 2006

also, "although submarine-launched aircraft were subsequently used over Seattle."

posted by mwhybark at 8:14 PM on January 12, 2006

And then there's the lesser known battle of L Ron Hubbard vs the magnetic anomaly.
posted by scalefree at 8:45 PM on January 12, 2006

What's up with the second link in the OP? The content comes from this page at, but is presented as if it was from the quicksilver page.
posted by ymgve at 8:53 AM on January 13, 2006

Personally, I have no doubt that it was a UFO.

As in, it was flying, it was some sort of object, and it wasn't identified. QED.

UFOs - They're everywhere!!!
posted by purple_frogs at 2:32 PM on January 13, 2006

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