Between the late evening of February 24th, 1942 and the early morning hours of February 25th, the City of Angels flew into a panic as what were initially believed to be Japanese enemy aircraft were spotted over the city. This suspected Japanese raid — coming soon after the Pearl Harbor bombing, and just one day after a confirmed Japanese submarine attack off the Santa Barbara coast — touched off a massive barrage of anti-aircraft fire, with some 1400 shells shot into the skies over Los Angeles during the frantic evening.
Strangely, however, the anti-aircraft shells hit nothing. Despite the intense barrage, no aircraft wreckage was ever recovered.
Many people believed the aircraft they’d seen was extraterrestrial – one eyewitness even described an object he’d seen as looking like an enormous flying “lozenge” – and some accused the government of a cover-up. Conflicting accounts of the incident from the Navy and War Departments didn’t help clarify matters.
As if to confirm public fears of extraterrestrial attack, one famous L.A. Times photograph (see above) emerged from the incident showing an ominous, saucer-like object hovering over the city. This much-debated photograph inspired America’s first major UFO controversy — a full five years before Roswell.