Skip to comments.Japanese Balloon Bombs: A Forgotten History
Posted on 05/04/2008 9:12:11 AM PDT by blam
Japanese balloon bombs: A forgotten history
Posted: May 2, 2008 10:47 PM CDT
Balloon bombs, sent aloft by Japanese during WWII, reached West Coast, and one proved deadly
With hundreds never recovered, still a rare chance of risky encounter
By Christian Boris, KTVZ.COM
In 1944 and 1945, the Japanese military launched bomb-carrying balloons to strike the American homeland. Many balloons landed in Oregon, including one that killed six people in Klamath County.
On May 5, 1945, a group of Sunday school students encountered a balloon bomb snagged in a tree near Bly in Klamath County. Thirteen-year-old Joan Patzke attempted to pull the balloon from the tree when the attached bomb exploded, killing five children and a woman, Elsie Mitchell.
The Mitchell Monument near Bly remembers the victims at the site of the explosion. The plaque on the monument states that the victims were the only American deaths in the continetal U.S. attributed to enemy action during World War II.
The balloon bombs were launched with the hopes of igniting large forest fires across Western North America and creating general panic among the population. The hydrogen-filled balloons ascended into the prevailing jet stream flow which would carry the balloons across the Pacific in about three days.
By early 1945, balloons began to appear over the skies of the West Coast. Several of the bombs detonated as planned, while others landed without incident.
Landings occurred from Alaska to Mexico and as far east as Michigan.
When the media caught wind of the mystery balloons the U.S. Government Office of Censorship sought to quiet the stories out of fear that the Japanese would realize the weapons were effective and thus step up attacks.
Teams of FBI. agents briefed local forest rangers in Central Oregon on the threat of explosive balloons, but also discouraged them from releasing information to the general public.
During the attacks ,balloons landed in the Fort Rock area as well as southern Klamath County.
It is estimated that 10,000 balloons were launched during the campaign, with about 10 percent, or 1,000 balloons making it to North America. About 300 balloons were recovered by the military and local authorities, leaving 700 still unaccounted for.
The highest concentration of known balloon landings occurred from Alaska south to Northern California. A lethal balloon bomb was discovered in Alaska 10 years later, in 1955, while the last remnants of a non-lethal charge were found in Alaska in 1992.
"Balloon wreckage is dispersed over a wide area all over Western North America" said local Forest Service archaeologist Paul Claeyssens.
"It is unlikely that an individual would just stumble across one, but if it were to happen I would recommend not touching any of these artifacts, but instead write down the location, take a picture if possible, and notify the Forest Service or BLM."
"It is likely that leftover bombs would be corroded and most likely covered in organic debris that has accumulated since World War II," added Claeyssens.
Balloon wreckage that is likely to survive includes metal framework as well the bomb load, which varied between one and five small bombs per balloon. Some of the bombs could remain lethal if their chemical components have not been compromised through years of decay.
Not as surprised as the Japanese were at our knowledge of splitting the atom.
A good one. :-)
And, today there is an article in the Seattle Times about the poor Japanese students at the UW who were sent to Internment Camps.....at least they got to come home....my husband’s Uncle died in WWII.....all his family got were his dog tags.
Incendiaries. Launched by the weatherman just like any weather balloon.
For a great read on the subject, I recommend “Retaliation: Japanese Attacks and Allied Countermeasures on the Pacific Coast in World War II” by Bert Webber, Oregon State University Press...if you can find it.
The biggest surprise the Japanese ever got was the Doolittle raid.
Never crossed their minds that an immediate counter-attack was possible.
By 1945 they were a lot less convinced of their invulnerability. :)
Balloon bombs — the first ICBMs!
And we were told that “99 Luftballoons” by Nena was a song promoting world PEACE?
Remnants of one of these balloon bombs was on display at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre, SD.
Yup. They flew directly over the Imperial Palace with orders not to bomb it. The Emperor recognized that they could have.