CATEGORIES Sci-Fi, Cinematical


Even if you remove the superheroes from the equation, there are plenty of high-concept, big-spectacle movies on the horizon dealing with everything from aliens ('Cowboys & Aliens,' 'Apollo 18') to robots ('Transformers: Dark of the Moon,' 'Real Steel') to wizards ('Harry Potter'). But did you know that one of Hollywood's effects-heavy blockbuster hopefuls has something of a basis in reality? No, sadly, we are not here to confirm that Hogwarts is a real school of witchcraft and wizardry, but we would like to shed some light on the Battle of Los Angeles.

Yes, 'Battle: Los Angeles,' Sony's Aaron Eckhart–starring action flick about a full-force alien invasion does have a precedent in history. And yes, we were as surprised as you are to learn of it. (Unless you happen to be a UFO enthusiast, in which case this discovery is probably old hat for you.)



The above clip is obviously a bit of amusing viral video on the part of Sony, but it does contain a few accuracies. For starters, the gentlemen giving the talking-head testimonials are all real authors, doctors and physicists, but that's not the interesting part. The interesting part is that on Feb. 24, 1942, there really was an unexplained aerial event over L.A., an event that history has come to know as the Battle of Los Angeles.

An unidentified aircraft appeared in the sky over L.A. late on the night of the 24th. Sirens were set off, and the city -- taking a cue from London's response to WWII bombings by the Nazis -- immediately went into blackout mode in anticipation of an imminent attack. Anti-aircraft artillery was fired at the aircraft for nearly an hour (1,400 shells in all, according to Wikipedia) to no apparent effect. No bombing ever did come, though six people did die as a result of the incident -- three from the anti-aircraft fire and three from heart attacks. The city lifted its state of emergency later that morning.

The incident has since been officially attributed to a simple case of the nation having an itchy trigger finger in the months following Pearl Harbor (it certainly doesn't help that Santa Barbara, Calif., had actually been attacked by a Japanese submarine fewer than 24 hours prior) and that the 37th Coast Artillery Brigade had mistaken a weather balloon for an unidentified enemy aircraft. But the official stance still doesn't explain how 1,400 shells (each weighing nearly 13 pounds) failed to knock an ordinary weather balloon from the sky.

Is it world-shattering proof of UFOs? No, not even close. Is it an interesting tidbit of history that most people probably don't know about? Definitely.