The 1942 UFO Sighting That Turned Deadly

Okay, look at this from the perspective of an Occam's razor enthusiast, wherein the simplest solution is equal measures zany and petrifying. In the early hours of February the 25th, 1942, a cocktail of paranoia and faulty radar systems was mixed on the California coastline, resulting in over 1,400 rounds of anti-aircraft ammunition being fired over the ocean for more than an hour. Their target? Nothing, as far as anyone can tell. World War II had everyone jittery, and as History points out, coastal defenses were just given some bad information. Itchy trigger fingers and a heaping FOMO attitude did the rest.

The problem with this theory, of course, is that it doesn't explain the reports of sightings made on that fateful night — sightings of dozens of aircraft and strange, balloon-shaped objects floating above the water. But if there was something in the sky that night, then why did the Army's Western Defense Command release a statement stating "it is clear that no bombs were dropped and no planes were shot down?"

Look! Up in the sky! Shoot it!

Stop us if you've heard this one: maybe those UFOs were just weather balloons.

At least, that's a theory. In 1983, a report published by the Office of Air Force History stated that a series of meteorological balloons had recently been released in the area. Maybe that's what people saw. Maybe that's what caused the radar blips. It doesn't explain civilian reports of buildings being buzzed by aircraft. The sky was full of shrapnel, and it was probably easy to misinterpret things. Probably.

What is known is that while no enemy planes were recovered once the shooting stopped, a number of deaths did occur, largely due to heart attacks and car accidents caused by the night's chaos. Also, according to History, at least twenty Japanese Americans were arrested for supposedly signalling enemy aircraft during the attack — with "attack" here meaning "there was no attack" and "signalling" meaning "definitely not signalling because there was no attack."