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This month marks the 75th anniversary of The Battle of Los Angeles, one of the most mysterious incidents of World War II – and one of the most colorful tales in all of UFO lore. Ufologist Bill Birnes joined Richard Syrett in the first half to discuss what happened on the evening of February 24th, 1942, when the city flew into a panic as what were initially believed to be Japanese enemy aircraft were spotted, touching off a massive barrage, with some 1400 shells shot into the skies during the frantic evening. Strangely however, no hits were recorded and despite the intense shelling, no aircraft wreckage was ever recovered. Birnes recounted that there were actual Japanese submarines off the coast of Southern California which attacked an oil refinery the night before, so the city was already on edge when a dark object moved overhead from the north and antiaircraft batteries opened up on it. Birnes said that the object or objects “moved at a slow speed without changing direction” so they could not have been conventional aircraft.
Birnes recalled that a report in a local paper accused the government of a coverup of the facts within a few days. The standard “weather balloon” explanation was trotted out, but as Birnes pointed out “Why wouldn’t the shrapnel from the shells be puncturing the balloon?” Birnes told of a deep undersea trench off the coast near Los Angeles that seems to have been the source of unidentified submerged object (USO) reports for decades as well as the wealth of UFO sightings in the Santa Monica bay off the coast of the city. Patty called from California to say that she was 11 years old in 1942 and saw the battle firsthand. She said that during the shooting she kept thinking “where’s the airplanes?” and that she “saw a lot of searchlights.” Birnes said his next book is about the race between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla to create devices to talk to the dead
In the second half, Dr. Julia Shaw, senior lecturer and researcher in the Department of Law and Social Sciences at London South Bank University, discussed the astonishing variety of ways in which our brains can indeed be led astray and why we can misappropriate other people’s memories, or even suggestions of an interviewer, subsequently believing them to be our own. Dr. Shaw is involved with the Innocence Project, which seeks to free people who have been wrongly imprisoned because of faulty or misremembered testimony. She said that when we experience something, that this first goes into short term memory, which is only active for about 30 seconds. Shaw says that only “if they have enough emotion or relevance to our lives” do they then move to long term memory.
Afterwords, memories can be influenced by others’ recollections, selective questioning, or simply reliving the memory for yourself. Shaw has conducted experiments where she implants false memories of crimes that were never committed. She does this to show law enforcement, judges and juries how easy it is to get a false confession, even if the person doing the questioning may have no conscious intention to do so. Shaw says that convincing people that they have committed a crime is “surprisingly easy” and she can consistently do this in as little as three interviews, with only a small amount of personal information. She says although her research may seem unusual, that it is “being done in the name of science and justice” so that more are aware of how easy it is to convince someone that they have committed a crime. Shaw emphasized that participants are debriefed after their sessions to help them understand what has happened.