On Feb. 20, the Fort MacArthur Museum in San Pedro hosted its annual event and fundraiser, the “Great Los Angeles Air Raid of 1942,” an event which the museum has held for a number of years and commemorates the mysterious circumstances surrounding the unidentified flying object(s) spotted in the skies above Los Angeles on Feb. 24-25, 1942 and the ensuing military response; a “battle” which still poses many questions for historians and ufologists alike, even 74 years later.
This so-called “Battle of Los Angeles” is considered by many to have been primarily the result of paranoia spurred from the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, which occurred two months prior to the alert in Los Angeles. The vital aircraft and other war materials factories situated in the Greater Los Angeles Area prompted a swift response from military and emergency personnel of the time, a feeling which this event aims to instill.
Set in the backdrop of a former coastal artillery battery, the volunteers and re-enactors worked tirelessly in the days prior to the event to ensure that the experience is more than memorable for all who attend.
The event featured musical performances by Dean Mora and the “Fort MacArthur Officers Orchestra,” accompanied by vocals from Kayre Morrison, Damon Kirsche, and members of the Satin Dollz Pinup Dancers, together performing beautiful renditions of top-charting big band and swing songs from the early days of the Second World War. Additionally, both the Satin Dollz and the Hollywood Hotshots Dancers provided exquisite and true-to-the-era dance performances for spectators that I’m sure were as enjoyable to watch as they were to execute.
Eminence grise and showman within the Los Angeles vintage community, writer/director Stanley Sheff, the eponymous MC of Maxwell DeMille’s Cicada Club at the Oviatt building in downtown Los Angeles, was in character as “Colonel” Maxwell DeMille (Sheff’s alter ego) acting as master of ceremonies for the event, providing news bulletins to set the mood and introducing the various talented acts which graced the stage.
As darkness fell over the event and the band played, the blare of air raid sirens interrupted the festivities and a wartime-era blackout commenced followed by the illumination of searchlights into the night sky as well as the scramble of military and police re-enactors to respond to the possible Japanese attack. Onlookers were then treated to a dazzling fireworks display accompanied by the rattle of machine gun fire and blasts from the cannon of a restored Sherman tank, situated atop a hill above the guest area, which acted as the explosive conclusion to the evening’s events.
As an avid amateur World War II historian and as someone enamored with 1940s culture, it was a great pleasure to attend this event (dressed in full historical military garb, naturally) which I had looked forward to for some time with much anticipation, and I will most certainly be returning next year.