In February 1942, just 2 months after Pearl Harbor attack, the west coast of United States was a point of high tension, especially when on February 23 Japanese submarine managed to shell the Ellwood oilfield near Santa Barbara. The damages were marginal, but the first attack on the continental part of United States alarmed the citizens. But what happened on next day was something more.
On the night of 24 and 25th February 1942 an aerial object have triggered the anti-aircraft defence around Los Angeles - spotlights and anti-aircraft guns were operating for over an hour, over 1700 shells were fired and the full scale panic aroused in the area. The unit of fighters was ready to intercept the target, but finally was called off.
On the press conference called soon after the incident Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox called it a "false alarm". After the war it became clear that Japanese were not involved in the incident. Up to this day it is still unclear what actually triggered the chain of events - in some sources the out of control weather balloon started what is known as the Battle of Los Angeles and the flares fired to light the target might have dragged other anti-aircraft batteries to join the attack.
The explanation sounds rather corny when you take under consideration the events over Washington in 1952 and another "weather balloon" incident in Rosewell, but it can’t be ruled out as a real reason behind the event. On the other hand it sounds strange, even for war time panic atmosphere, for several batteries being engaged for over an hour in the attack on a weather balloon, which is... a balloon and as such can only move with the wind.
Do you have what it takes to solve a case like this?