Japanese Balloon Bombing Offensive


Mi Lieutenant
MI.Net Member
Dec 19, 2004
One of the best kept secrets of the war involved the Japanese balloon bomb offensive, prompted by the Doolittle raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942 as a means of direct reprisal against the U.S. mainland. Some 9,000 balloons made of paper or rubberized silk and carrying anti-personnel and incendiary bombs were launched from Japan during a five-month period, to be carried by high altitude winds more than 6,000 miles eastward across the Pacific to North America. Perhaps a thousand of these reached this continent, but there were only about 285 reported incidents. Most were reported in the northwest U.S., but some balloons traveled as far east as Michigan.

The first operational launches took place on Nov. 3, 1944 and two days later a U.S. Navy patrol boat spotted a balloon floating on the water 66 miles southwest of San Pedro, California. As more sightings occurred, the government, with the cooperation of the news media, adopted a policy of silence to reduce the chance of panic among U.S. residents and to deny the Japanese any information on the success of the launches. Discouraged by the apparent failure of their effort, the Japanese halted their balloon attacks in April 1945.

On May 5, 1945, six picnickers were killed in Oregon when a balloon bomb they dragged from the woods exploded. The U.S. Government quickly publicized the balloon bombs, warning people not to tamper with them. These were the only known fatalities occurring within the U.S. during WWII as a direct result of enemy action.
Gun camera photos attached, show balloons being shot down by 11th Air Force fighters near Attu in the Aleutians on April 11, 1945. Nine balloons were downed in two hours.

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Heres another one from the galleries

Interesting stuff Matzos n Droney
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Not very sucessful I believe ?
only 4 people got killed, a family found a silver "thing" on the ground and the kids touched it and it went off.
A related story, about the winds of war, to the above story on Japanese balloon bombing of the continental U.S. When WW II started, the best and only authority on wind currents in the Pacific region was a relatively unknown Japanese scientist. No one in the West, before hostilities, had paid him any attention, but the Imperial War Department of Japan did and the balloon bombing campaign was the result. Here is the part of this tale that I want to expand on, the high altitude winds that we now call the "Jet Streams." These were totally unknown to everyone, back in 1945. The American B-29 Superfortress was designed, late in the war, for high altitude precision bombing of Japan. This aircraft's only mission was to travel over huge areas of ocean water and fly at such a high altitude as to be untouchable from ground fire. They were the first aircraft with pressurized and heated cabins for the crew and remote controlled anti-aircraft guns. The B-29 was the cutting edge of military technology at the time. There was still a problem with Japanese fighter aircraft and mechanical malfunctions forcing planes to fail, thus the official need for the capture of Iwo Jima. It was to provide a place for emergency landings and refueling and also a location for long distance fighter escort. None of this really materialized however. It turned out that the distances were far too great for accurate navigation. Iwo Jima was used mainly as a non-emergency landing field and a place to top off tanks that were far from empty. But I am digressing, the real point of this post is about the jet streams. When the allied bombers flew at the required high altitude, they encountered the jet streams for the first time. If the direction was with the bombers, the flight over the islands of Japan was too fast and it was impossible to accurately hit targets. If the jet stream was against the bombers, they never made any headway, became easy targets and usually used too much fuel for a safe return. The allies were at a loss and finally decided to fly the B-29 at low altitude and do saturation fire-bombing of Japanese cities, as had been done in Germany. This was found to inflict the most casualties on the enemy, short of the Atomic bomb, which arrived soon after. So in conclusion, on one hand, the winds of war helped the Japanese attack America from a long distance and on the other hand, the winds of war kept the American new B-29 from performing as designed but weren't enought to stop the march of America into the atomic age. Semper Fi
only 4 people got killed, a family found a silver "thing" on the ground and the kids touched it and it went off.

That was here in Oregon, If memory is right, Southern Oregon.

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