Science: Something in the Air

Off the Aleutian Islands, in the dangerous summer of 1943, the radar watch of a Navy task force picked up the blips of enemy warships. In a brisk, 45-minute fire fight, the battle fleet expended more than 1,000 rounds of 14-in. and 8-in. ammunition. From their battle stations, lookouts reported the flares and star shells of the otherwise invisible Japanese. Radar operators called in corrections for what seemed to be near misses. But there was no return fire. Eventually, a bewildered Navy decided that it had been slugging it out with phantoms.

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