UFO Incidents: Battle of Los Angeles and Foo Fighters

Over the next several days I will be posting a series of short articles written by my astrophysics students this summer. As our final assignment, I asked the students to investigate various famous UFO sightings and alien abduction incidents and evaluate the evidence based on sound critical thinking. These articles have become the main part of our latest edition of Ad Astra Per Educare, with a link included at the end of this blog post. I will present their articles in the chronological order in which the events occurred, although this gets a bit difficult during the UFO craze of 1947 when a number of these incidents happened and overlapped in time.

Newspaper coverage of what became known as the Battle of Los Angeles, a nighttime incident of early war hysteria when people of Los Angeles thought they were being attacked by Japanese aircraft, except there were no Japanese aircraft carriers anywhere near Los Angeles. Some have said this could have been one of the earliest UFO sightings. It is also a great example of mass hysteria, where people under the great stress of war and possible attack start seeing things in the night.

Battle of Los Angeles

by Fizzy

On February 25, 1942, admits World War 2, US military radars picked up an unidentified aircraft fly over Los Angelos. During this time Pearl Harbor had caused tensions to rise and Americans believed the Japanese were going to attempt to invade. A few months early in December 9, 1941, false reports of aircraft had caused some invasion anxiety in New York City. At the time lots of untrained pilots had been making calls of Japanese warships and submarines when later found to be fishing boats, logs, and even whales.

A few days before on February 23rd a Japanese submarine surfaced and fired at the mainland. This attack caused minor damage but scared the armies in California. With the armies on high alert, a radar scanning reported that an aircraft was approaching Los Angelos and was 120 miles away. Immediately troops prepared to fire and swept the night sky with a spotlight.

About an hour later the army started shooting. Not long after many coastal city‘s weaponry joined in. The LA Times wrote, “Powerful searchlights from countless stations stabbed the sky with brilliant probing fingers while anti-aircraft batteries dotted the heavens with beautiful, if sinister, orange bursts of shrapnel.” Soldiers claimed they shot down one of the six reported planes but the next day nothing was found but shrapnel from the attack of the night before. Coastal artilleryman Charles Patrick later wrote, “I could barely see the planes, but they were up there all right. I could see six planes, and shells were bursting all around them. Naturally, all of us fellows were anxious to get our two-cents’ worth in and, when the command came, everybody cheered like a son of a gun.” Even the next day some soldiers claimed they saw nothing but smoke and clouds.

Later that morning they called it off after firing 1,400 rounds of anti-aircraft ammunition. When they searched for bomb sites of enemy planes they were met with no proof of an attack from the night before. “Although reports were 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,” said the Army’s Western Defense Command.

This ‘attack’ was shoved off and said to be a false alarm. Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox said it was just nerves triggered by the ongoing war. Japanese leaders say that they did not fly any aircraft over the city. It was later claimed to be a weather balloon mistaken for enemy planes in the dark. This balloon could have reflected light from the moon, catching the eye of the service members.

I believe that ‘The battle of Los Angeles’ was merely a strange accident. The whole country was on the balls of their feet from the war going on and seeing a plane would have sent them into a frenzy. The fact there is proof a weather balloon was sent just before this all happened was and when the soldiers thought they shot down a plane they merely saw the balloon get shot and fall into the ocean.

An artist’s drawing of the strange orange, white, and green lights that seemed to follow World War II aircraft. They were nicknamed Foo Fighters after a saying by a character in a popular comic strip.

The Foo Fighters

by Lola

During World War two there were strange sights that had been observed by WWII airplane pilots. The pilots had said that there were strange lights that were following their planes. There had been multiple sightings saying that there would be eight to ten lights that would follow the planes, the lights would be orange, green or red. The reports would say that the lights would show up alongside them but would mysteriously disappear and would never show up on the pilots’ radars. Each sighting had an unusual way of the lights approaching the airplanes. The lights would fly alongside, follow behind, close in on the pilots or rise to the planes. The pilots would set their planes to defense, attempt to flee, or try to take defensive maneuvers but each time the lights would follow and eventually disappear.

When the sightings had finally made it to the public, theories attempted to find a reason for these strange lights. None of the theories would match up because of all the things that were unusual about the sightings. It would be easy to produce a theory but it would be shut down by the fact that the lights would not appear on the pilots’ radars and how they could easily keep up with the planes and move faster and easier than the airplanes being used. The strangest part was the lights disappearing and reappearing.

The UFOs were named ‘Foo Fighters’ by the pilots that sighted the lights. The UFO was named after a cartoon comic strip called Smokey Stover. Smokey was a fire man that had a catch phrase that said: ‘where there’s a foo, there’s a fire.’

I had heard the name ‘Foo Fighter” before but I did not know what it was. I was not expecting the sightings to take place in World War II, I thought that the ‘Foo Fighter’ sightings would have been more recent. UFO sightings have been seen for many years, we must keep wondering and exploring the possibilities of what could be outside of our world.

About davidvblack

I teach courses in multimedia, 3D animation, Earth science, physics, biology, 8th grade science, chemistry, astronomy, engineering design, STEAM, and computer science in Utah. I've won numerous awards as an educator and am a frequent presenter at state and national educator conferences. I am part of the Teachers for Global Classrooms program through the U.S. Department of State and traveled to Indonesia in the summer of 2017 as an education ambassador. I learned of the Indonesian education system and taught classes in astronomy and chemistry at a high school near Banjarmasin in southern Borneo. I am passionate about STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics); science history; photography; graphic design; 3D animation; and video production. This Spaced-Out Classroom blog is for sharing lessons and activities my students have done in astronomy. The Elements Unearthed project (http://elementsunearthed.com) will combine my interests to document the discovery, history, sources, uses, mining, refining, and hazards of the chemical elements.
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