Around 3 a.m. on February 25, 1942, Los Angeles was jolted awake to the sound of air raid sirens and anti-aircraft explosions. In the course of the "attack," which lasted less than an hour, more than 1,400 rounds were fired in a 40-mile arc from Santa Monica to Long Beach, a handful of people died from heart attacks and falling shrapnel, and the mystery assailant — assumed to be a squadron of Japanese bombers or perhaps an alien space craft — floated out over the ocean and disappeared. Although Japanese submarines did shell the U.S. West Coast, and in September, a Japanese plane did actually bomb an Oregon forest (the first aerial bombing of the U.S. mainland by a foreign power), no one remembers seeing a single airplane on that night in February. Was it a false flag operation designed to trump up war hysteria, an event designed to flush out saboteurs, or the first mass UFO sighting in the U.S.? The Battle of Los Angeles, as it's generally remembered, gave rise to what Huell Howser calls "the most interesting reenactment" he's ever witnessed: The Great Los Angeles Air Raid of 1942. No matter how you slice it, the wardens of the Fort MacArthur Museum (the Fort defended our harbor from 1914 to 1974), attend to every detail to recreate an amazing piece of local history, transforming the grounds with period tanks and weapons, uniformed officers, a spectacular shell-by-shell reenactment, complete with vintage air raid siren. The less militaristically inclined can dance to Dean Mora and the Fort MacArthur Officers Orchestra, drool at the Satin Dollz Pin-Up Dancers, and toddle around the terribly interesting museum, conversing with members of the Art Deco Society, UFO enthusiasts and veterans of various foreign wars. (Attendees are reminded to dress warmly and be prepared for loud noises). Fort MacArthur Museum, 3601 S. Gaffey St., San Pedro; Sat., Feb. 18, 3-8 p.m.. $20 advance, $30 at the gate. (310) 548-2631, theairraid.com.
Sat., Feb. 18, 3-8 p.m., 2012