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LA Times On Battle Of LA Photo

From: Kentaro Mori <kentaro.mori.nul>
Date: Sat, 12 Mar 2011 17:41:45 -0300
Archived: Sun, 13 Mar 2011 08:20:15 -0500
Subject: LA Times On Battle Of LA Photo

Source: The Los Angeles Times


March 10, 2011

Photograph By: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

The Battle Of L.A., 1942
By Scott Harrison

Feb. 25, 1942: Searchlights converge on an unknown object in the
skies over Los Angeles. During the early morning air-raid alert,
more than 1,400 anti-aircraft shells are fired. This is the
unretouched version.

The incident, now referred to as the Battle of L.A., occurred
less than three months after the Pearl Harbor attack and two
days after a Japanese submarine shelled an oil facility near
Santa Barbara.

The next day, on Feb. 26, The  Times published a photo page with
a retouched version of the above searchlight photo and seven
other images of damage from falling anti-aircraft shells.

This six-photo gallery includes two versions of the searchlight
photo. The first was recently found at the Los Angeles Times
Photographic Archive at UCLA. The second version =97 retouched =97
was published in 1942. The second version exists as a copy
negative also at UCLA.

This week I inspected the negatives from which the two versions
were scanned at UCLA.

The non-retouched negative is very flat, the focus is soft and
it looks underexposed. While I could not tell if  the negative
was the original or a copy negative made from a print, it
definitely showed the original scene before a print was

The second negative is a copy negative from a retouched print.
Certain details, such as the white spots around the
searchlights=92 convergence, are exactly the same in both

In the retouched version, many light beams were lightened and
widened with white paint, while other beams were eliminated.

In earlier years, it was common for newspapers to use artists to
retouch images due to poor reproduction =97 basically 10 shades of
gray if you were lucky.

Thus my conclusion:  the retouching was needed to reproduce the
image. But man, I wish the retouching had been more faithful to
the original. With our current standards, this image would not
be published.

The Los Angeles Times published another retouched version of the
image on Oct. 29, 1945. The white spots near the convergence of
the searchlights are larger than in the 1942 version. This print
is in The Times=92 library and is in poor condition.

Retouched searchlight version published on Feb. 26, 1942.

Different retouched searchlight version published on Oct. 29,

Larry Harnisch is posting additional Battle of L.A. information
in the Daily Mirror blog.

Also of interest is the March 9, 1942 Life magazine. On page 22
is another image of searchlights from the night of the Battle of

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