Skip to comments.When Japan Attacked the U.S. Mainland
Posted on 12/13/2007 5:18:58 PM PST by Richard Poe
|by Richard Lawrence Poe
Monday, December 10, 2007
| Permanent Link
JAPANESE BOMBERS descended on Pearl Harbor 66 years ago, killing more than 2,400 Americans and demolishing our Pacific fleet. Every American knows the story. However, too few of us know that Japanese forces made additional attacks on U.S. soil after December 7, 1941. Pearl Harbor was merely the first. Our history books grow strangely tongue-tied on this subject. After 66 years, it is time to tell the full story.
Following his success at Pearl Harbor, Japanese Fleet Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto sought to press his advantage. He planned a two-pronged assault on America. His main force would invade Hawaii. A smaller force would create a diversion by attacking Alaska.
Alaskas soft underbelly was the Aleutians, a chain of more than seventy islands stretching 1,100 miles to the southwest. The easternmost island, Attu, lies only 750 miles from Japan. After taking Attu, Yamamoto could island-hop his way to the Alaskan mainland.
For the attack on Alaska, Yamamoto sent his Fifth Fleet, including 2 light aircraft carriers, 13 destroyers, 5 cruisers, and 4 troop transports.
Two waves of Japanese bombers struck Dutch Harbor, Alaska on June 3 and 4, killing 33 U.S. servicemen and 10 civilians. After neutralizing this critical U.S. base on the island of Unalaska, Japanese troops siezed Attu and Kiska, and dug themselves in.
The attack on Hawaii did not fare as well. American cryptographers had cracked the Japanese naval code and knew Yamamoto's plans. They knew he planned to capture Midway island to use as a staging base for his move on Hawaii.
While Yamamoto's main force attacked Midway on June 4, the Americans lay ready for him. By the end of the day, they sank four Japanese aircraft carriers, crippling the Imperial Navy.
Japan's offensive ground to a halt. Now the Americans counterrattacked.
The Japanese proved strong on defense. In the Aleutians, U.S. ground troops got their first taste of Japan's warrior code, which favored death over defeat. Out of 2,650 Japanese troops defending Attu, only 28 lived to surrender. It took 14 months and 700 American lives to clear the invaders from the Aleutians.
Meanwhile, Japanese submarines prowled America's Pacific coast, sinking ships and even firing on land-bound targets.
On the night of February 23, 1942, for instance, the submarine I-17, under Commander Nishino Kozo, surfaced near the Bankline Company Oil Refinery in Goleta, California -- about 12 miles north of Santa Barbara -- and opened fire with the sub's deck gun, damaging an oil well.
Some Japanese submarines functioned as mini-aircraft carriers. They stored one or two light bombers in watertight hangars on deck, which they launched with explosive catapults. These Yokosuka E14Y floatplanes could carry two bombs or one torpedo. A 7.7-mm machine gun adorned the rear cockpit.
One such converted submarine, the I-25, terrorized America's west coast for four months in 1942.
Its skipper Meiji Tagami bombarded a naval base at Fort Stevens, Oregon on June 22, 1942, firing 5.5-inch shells from the I-25's deck gun.
Tagami's most daring feat was launching the first air strike on the U.S. mainland. Planners in Tokyo hoped to start forest fires with incendiary bombs, which would spread down the coast destroying cities.
A young pilot named Nobuo Fujita would lead the historic raid.
The I-25 surfaced off the Oregon coast on September 9, 1942. Captain Tagami told Fujita, "You're going to make history today, Nobuo. You're going to show them who really owns the Pacific -- the Empire of the Rising Sun!"
Fujita and his navigator-bombardier, Shoji Okuda, took off with two bombs and flew inland. "For miles there were nothing but great forests..." Fujita later wrote. He released the first bomb, watching it "explode with a brilliant white light..." The second burst like a "white blossom".
We had done it! Fujita wrote. We had bombed America!
Fujita dropped two more bombs on Oregon forests the night of September 29. Pressed by U.S. aircraft and bad weather, the I-25 aborted its mission and headed out to sea on October 5.
Before the war ended, the Japanese started much worse fires with unmanned balloon bombs set adrift over U.S. forests. Yet Fujitas mission stands unique in the annals of warfare.
Militarily ineffective, it nonetheless captures our imagination, embodying all that we hated and admired in our Japanese adversaries: their bluster, their arrogance, their disquieting tenacity, their selfless valor.
Sixty-six years ago, two peoples met in war, finding in each other worthy foes. May our peoples prove as stout in friendship as we did in enmity.
|Richard Lawrence Poe is a contributing editor to Newsmax, an award-winning journalist and a New York Times bestselling author. His latest book is The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton and Sixties Radicals Siezed Control of the Democratic Party, co-written with David Horowitz.|
Then l I went to another history museum, this one in Halifax NS CA, and they had one there (the frame was original and the fuse/payload was “re-created) and there was the whole story about fire balloons on the West Coast.
I do not understand the caginess, this long after the events.
Thank you for the details.
I knew there were attacks and that Japanese subs were off the west coast. Never knew any of the details or particularly about the fire bomb plan.
One landed here in Farmington Hills, Michigan. I never knew that until a few years ago.
I used to live in the Crescent City area, on the extreme of California’s north coast. Just across the state line in Oregon is the town of Brookings. The forests behind Brookings were one of the fire bombing aircraft’s targets.
After the war- in the Sixties, IIRC, the Japanese pilot that did the deed was invited to Brookings and a big celebration was thrown by the city and it’s citizens in his honor; he was treated as a visiting celebrity.
I can imagine his puzzlement.
The War Department suppressed reports of the incendary balloons to prevent any panic. At least one woman was killed after handling one.
“Farmington Hills, Michigan”
I never knew they had the range!
Makes sense at the time, but even now there seems to be a reluctance to bring it up.
Maybe people feel a little more vulnerable thinking about the homeland being attacked.
“Secret Japanese airstrips in the Pomona Alfalfa fields “!
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Post or FReepmail me if you wish to be enlisted in or discharged from the Navair Pinglist.
This is a medium to low volume pinglist.
Additionally, they didn't want the information that the things were reaching US soil at all to get back to the Japanese. If it had- the quite reasonable assumption was that the Japanese would conclude that the tactic had some tactical merit, and would have launched a whole lot more of them.
If we had today's news media back then, the Japanese would be getting BDAs (Bomb Damage Assessment reports) and target correction info from it.
You are a wealth of information..did not know that!
The thing that seems impressive about this to me is that they had a plane that could:
1. Be stored in a submarine.
2. Take off from a submarine.
3. Find its way back to the submarine.
4. Be safely retrieved along with the pilot.
When this was revealed after the War, it was not at all popular with people living south of London.
Guess I haven’t been at FR long enough! :)
There were over 300 recorded incidents over 19 western U.S. states between November 1944 and August 1945.
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