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A careful study of the evidence suggests that meteorological balloons—known to have been released over Los Angeles —may well have caused the initial alarm. This theory is supported by the fact that anti-aircraft artillery units were officially criticized for having wasted ammunition on targets which moved too slowly to have been airplanes. After the firing started, careful observation was difficult because of drifting smoke from shell bursts.
At 3 a.m. on the morning of the raid, the 203rd launched two balloons, one from its headquarters on the Sawtelle Veterans Hospital grounds in Westwood and the other from Battery D, located on the Douglas Aircraft plant site in Santa Monica. So that the balloons could be tracked at night, a candle placed inside a simple highball glass was suspended under each balloon, whose silver color would reflect the light enough to be tracked to heights usually well above 25,000 feet. Lieutenant Melvin Timm, officer in charge of Battery D’s meteorological operations, ordered his balloon launched and had notified the filter room–also known as the Flower Street Control Center, where all planes, identified or otherwise, were tracked on a giant, flat table map–of its departure, when ‘all hell broke loose.’
At 0306 a balloon carrying a red flare was seen over Santa Monica and four batteries of anti-aircraft artillery opened fire, whereupon “the air over Los Angeles erupted like a volcano.” From this point on reports were hopelessly at variance.
I immediately reported to our regimental commanding officer, Colonel Ray Watson, that the guns were firing at our balloon and that there were no aircraft in sight
Watson sent out the order that none of the 203rd’s 3-inch guns were to fire, then notified the Flower Street Control Room of what was happening. Astonishingly, the order came back from Flower Street to shoot down the balloon.
said Timm, ‘I was summoned. I was told to keep my mouth shut, and that there had been seven Japanese planes up there. I was also told that if I repeated my story about shooting at a balloon and not enemy planes, I would be put behind bars.
Probably much of the confusion came from the fact that anti-aircraft shell bursts, caught by the searchlights, were themselves mistaken for enemy planes.
In any case, the next three hours produced some of the most imaginative reporting of the war: “swarms” of planes (or, sometimes, balloons) of all possible sizes, numbering from one to several hundred, traveling at altitudes which ranged from a few thousand feet to more than 20,000 and flying at speeds which were said to have varied from “very slow” to over 200 miles per hour, were observed to parade across the skies.
Originally posted by WitnessFromAfar
Internet Articles [E-]on the Battle:
Regardless of what was or was not overhead, once the shooting started nobody seemed to care. Whenever and wherever searchlights stopped probing and focused on something, orange-colored bursts of exploding anti-aircraft shells quickly filled the sky around it. At least one unit, the 211th Coast Artillery Regiment, admitted that although its members did not see any planes, they shot anyway.
Sergeant John Ziesler, with the 122nd Coast Artillery in Downey, said that as soon as his battery went into action everyone went crazy: ‘Guys were seen firing .45 pistols, rifles, submachine guns; even the 37mm guns from the roof of the aircraft plant were firing. You could hear the expended ordnance landing all around.
Although nobody from the Fourth ever came forward to admit that, possibly, the ‘raid’ was more the result of overreaction by its men than marauding Japanese aircraft, it is almost certain that the excitement that evening stemmed from a misread radar contact that placed the city on a red alert, and underexperienced and overanxious anti-aircraft gunners who chose to shoot first and ask questions later when the balloons began floating over the city.
Originally posted by WitnessFromAfar
Extralien took extra steps last night to get an image analyst to weigh in on the above experiment, and quite generously, Jeff Ritzmann gave it a look.
Jeff is very busy this morning, and didn't have time to post, but he sent me the following reply, and asked me to post it here:
"You can post this for me in the thread since I don't know when I'll get in today:
I think while it's an admirable undertaking you've done, it's got two very, very serious issues: cloud cover and shell smoke.
To do a fair comparison, you'd need the exact cloud cover, and the added smoke from the anti-aircraft shells exploding. You wont be able to negate that the object might be not only a convergence of spots, but also that convergence coupled with significant smoke and unknown cloud cover.
It's essentially a dead end. We cannot duplicate the night, with all it's nuances. Could the lighted object in the spots be the craft? Yup. Could it be a wishful thinking UFO made of smoke and clouds and spot convergence? Yup.
For what it's worth, I think we might be seeing whatever was up there...but I don't think we'll ever be sure.
Unfortunately, there's just too many nuances and unknowns to base that on a very old poor quality photo.