February 23 Is National Banana Bread Day
Hollywood, MD – As it often happens, you buy a bunch of bananas from the store and within a few days they are brown and spotty and they don’t get eaten. Good news! They are just about perfect for banana bread!
Once they begin to spot, the sugars in the banana become more concentrated and the banana softens. Mash them up into your banana bread batter and bake. Sweet moist banana bread smells terrific when it’s baking and tastes even better once it’s done.
Bananas arrived in the US in the 1870s, but the sweet fruit didn’t start showing up in dessert recipes for several years. Once baking soda and baking powder became popular in the 1930s that changed. Pillsbury published their “Balanced Cookbook” in 1933, and banana bread was included in the recipes. Your family likely has a traditional banana bread recipe that has been passed down, but if not, the web is full of delicious variations on this treat.
Weird History: The Battle of Los Angeles: February 24, 1942
In the first few months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, fears were running high on the west coast of the United States. Following the attack, seven Japanese submarines patrolled the US coast, destroying 2 merchant ships and damaged six more. On February 23, one submarine surfaced off of Santa Barbara California and shelled the shore. While the shells were directed near an oil refinery, they caused minimal damage.
The next night in Los Angeles air raid sirens went off. A total blackout was ordered and thousands of civilian air raid wardens rushed to their posts. At 3:16 AM a machine gunner of the 37th Coast Artillery Brigade opened fire. Anti-aircraft artillery fire soon filled the sky as searchlights swung wildly through the air trying to locate targets. Pilots at a nearby airfield were ordered to the ready, but never took off. More than 1,400 shells were fired into the air over Los Angeles, but remarkably only 5 civilian deaths were reported as indirect casualties, 3 died in car accidents during the chaos, and 2 of heart attacks attributed to the stress of the incident. Several buildings and vehicles were damaged by shell fragments.
By just after 4:00 the firing had ceased and by 7 AM the all clear had been given. In a press conference, the Secretary of the Navy explained it as an incident of “war nerves” set off by sightings of a wayward weather balloon. Newspapers played up different angles, with some claiming the sightings of mysterious objects in more than one place during the incident. These were explained as sighting flares fired during the shooting. Rumors of a cover-up began and persisted, with the reasons for the cover-up stretching all the way from industrial espionage to remove wartime industry from Southern California to UFOs buzzing the city.
The Army issued a statement that they believed it was a Japanese psychological warfare operation of commercial aircraft meant to panic the population. After the war the Japanese denied piloting any aircraft over Los Angeles. In a subsequent investigation, the Air force did confirm a weather balloon, but the official report also mentions other unnamed objects, and many reports of blinking lights in the skies over defense plants.
From the Air Force report: “ the next three hours produced some of the most imaginative reporting of the war: “Swarms” of planes (or, sometimes, balloons) of all possible sizes, numbering from one to several hundred, traveling at altitudes which ranged from a few thousand feet to more than 20,000 and flying at speeds which were said to have varied from “very slow” to over 200 miles per hour, were observed to parade across the skies. These mysterious forces dropped no bombs and, despite the fact that 1,440 rounds of anti-aircraft ammunition were directed against them, suffered no losses. There were reports, to be sure, that four enemy planes had been shot down, and one was supposed to have landed in flames at a Hollywood intersection.”
There wasn’t. But, among the more conspiracy minded, a photograph from the Los Angeles Times has been circulated purporting to show a UFO within the barrage. However, the photo had been heavily retouched, a common practice at the time to highlight detail for publishing purposes. As always seems to be the case with conspiracy theorists, there remains a contingency that believes the retouching and sensationalist headlines were done on purpose to cast doubt on the authenticity of the photo, which to them is proof of it’s reality. In modern times, in 2011 Los Angeles Times writer Larry Harnisch noted that the retouched photo along with faked newspaper headlines were presented as true historical material in trailers for the film Battle: Los Angeles. Harnisch commented, “if the publicity campaign wanted to establish UFO research as nothing but lies and fakery, it couldn’t have done a better job.”
The military stands by its report of a weather balloon touching off hysteria, and many of the ‘objects’ seen in the sky were the remaining smoke of shell bursts highlighted by the strobe effect of other bursting shells.