How would the Japanese attack the continental US? By Submarines armed with Airplane Slingshots and Fire Balloons!

Was in a conversation with someone a few days ago where they mentioned that “The continental US has never been bombed by anyone, 180px-japanese_fire_balloon_moffet.jpgever!” This of course, is not true at all. During WWII the Japanese dropped bombs on the Pacific Northwest from aircraft at least twice, and from “Fire Balloons” numerous times.

First, the aircraft:


The IJN began experimenting with aircraft-carrying submarines in 1925. By the time of Pearl Harbor, 11 of its submarines were equipped to carry, launch, and recover one specially configured floatplane. Most of those early boats were classified as scouting submarines, B1 Type, of the I-15 class. They displaced 2,584 tons submerged and had a length of 356 feet. Powered by twin diesel engines and electric motors driving two propeller shafts, the B1 type boats had a cruising range of more than 14,000 miles. The crews were comprised of 97 officers and enlisted men, including the pilot and crewman for the single floatplane. Although the B1 type submarines carried an aircraft for reconnaissance purposes, they were also formidable attack boats, armed with 17 torpedoes and a 5.5.-inch thick deck gun.Aboard a B1 type submarine, the floatplane was housed in a streamlined, water-tight, hangar installed forward of the conning tower. Its wings, fins and floats were removed, and the horizontal tailplane folded upward in order for it to fit inside. Two launching rails extended forward from the hangar to the bow, from which the reassembled floatplane was catapulted aloft by compressed air. In order to recover the aircraft, the pilot had to make an open-ocean landing and taxi to the starboard side, where a retractable crane hoisted it back on board the submarine. It took a well-trained crew 20 to 30 minutes to launch or recover the aircraft, depending on sea conditions. These were risky and dangerous minutes for the surfaced parent submarine, which lay virtually defenseless against air attack during that period.

On September 9. 1942 one of these planes flown by Nobuo Fujita dropped 2 170-pound incendiary explosives on the southwest corner of Oregon. One of them, dropped near Wheeler Ridge, started a small fire that had to be put out by the US Forest Service. The fires were small because unseasonal (funny for the Northwest, I know) rains the night before had caused the trees and other combustibles to be too damp to start the major fires that was the intent. Did this have any effect? For the Japanese it was seen as a major propaganda victory, and was thrown across the headlines all over Japan. For the US? Again from

American government officials attempted to keep Fujita’s September 9 bombing attack secret, but so many people knew or had heard about it that the effort proved futile. Newspaper and radio accounts of of the attempted fire bombing caused considerable public consternation and demands for more protection for the American Western states. As a result, four additional fighter aircraft were temporarily stationed near the Washington coast. In addition, the FBI conducted a fruitless search for Japanese floatplanes hidden on one or more of the numerous remote Northwest lakes.(they didn’t even consider submarines at the time) Finally, blackouts became more rigidly enforced all along the West Coast.

And now, for the Fire Balloons: Sending a balloon with a bomb attached seems like a silly idea that would be doomed for failure for everyone except the Japanese. Knowing how stable the jet stream was over Japan (but not yet calling it that) Technical Major Teiji Takada came up with the idea of sending hydrogen balloons with incendiaries over the ocean to hopefully descend on the Northwest.

From ol’ Wiki:

The first balloon was released in early November 1944. Major Takada watched as the balloon flew upward and over the sea: “The figure of the balloon was visible only for several minutes following its release until it faded away as a spot in the blue sky like a daytime star.”By early 1945, Americans were becoming aware that something strange was going on. Balloons had been sighted and explosions heard, from California to Alaska. Something that appeared to witnesses to be like a parachute descended over Thermopolis, Wyoming.A fragmentation bomb exploded, and shrapnel was found around the crater. A P-38 Lightning shot a balloon down near Santa Rosa, California; another was seen over Santa Monica; and bits of washi paper were found in the streets of Los AngelesTwo paper balloons were recovered in a single day in Modoc National Forest, east of Mount Shasta. Near Medford, Oregon, a balloon bomb exploded in towering flames. The Navy found balloons in the ocean. Balloon envelopes and apparatus were found in Montana, Arizona, Saskatchewan in the Northwest Territories, and in the Yukon. Eventually, an Army fighter managed to push one of the balloons around in the air and force it to ground intact, where it was examined and filmed.

It is said that the Japanese created over 9,000 of these balloons, with one actually have tragic consequences…


May 5, 1945

Six killed in Oregon by Japanese bomb

In Lakeview, Oregon, Mrs. Elsie Mitchell and five neighborhood children are killed while attempting to drag a Japanese balloon out the woods. Unbeknownst to Mitchell and the children, the balloon was armed, and it exploded soon after they began tampering with it. They were the first and only known American civilians to be killed in the continental United States during World War II. The U.S. government eventually gave $5,000 in compensation to Mitchell’s husband, and $3,000 each to the families of Edward Engen, Sherman Shoemaker, Jay Gifford, and Richard and Ethel Patzke, the five slain children.The explosive balloon found at Lakeview was a product of one of only a handful of Japanese attacks against the continental United States, which were conducted early in the war by Japanese submarines and later by high-altitude balloons carrying explosives or incendiaries. In comparison, three years earlier, on April 18, 1942, the first squadron of U.S. bombers dropped bombs on the Japanese cities of Tokyo, Kobe, and Nagoyo, surprising the Japanese military command, who believed their home islands to be out of reach of Allied air attacks. When the war ended on August 14, 1945, some 160,000 tons of conventional explosives and two atomic bombs had been dropped on Japan by the United States. Approximately 500,000 Japanese civilians were killed as a result of these bombing attacks.

Moral of this story? If your going to argue history with me, you best have your facts straight.


If your interested, or if you think that “only those crazy Asians would try to bomb things with balloons,” the British had a little thing they called “Operation Outward” that may sound familiar:


~ by herodotuswept on December 2, 2007.

2 Responses to “How would the Japanese attack the continental US? By Submarines armed with Airplane Slingshots and Fire Balloons!”

  1. Thank you for confirming what I had a feeling was true, that the Japanese had indeed managed some attacks here on the mainland. I think it is a shame that this information is very difficult to find and highly unlikely to be discovered unless one is specifically searching for it. I had to deliberately Google “attack” AND continental U.S.” to find this. If we continue to sweep uncomfortable history under the rug there is no dount in my mind that we will pay dearly.

  2. Somebody necessarily assist to make severely articles I’d state. This is the very first time I frequented your website page and to this point? I amazed with the research you made to create this particular post extraordinary. Excellent job!

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