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Japanese balloons brought death in 1945: World at War

Discussion in 'WWII Today' started by JCFalkenbergIII, Jul 25, 2008.

  1. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

    Jan 23, 2008
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    [​IMG]John Kuntz/The Plain DealerDallas Barnett, now of Amherst, was a Navy meteorologist during World War II whose jobs included tracking the origin of Japanese Fu-Go balloons.

    On May 5, 1945, Rev. Archie Mitchell and his wife took a group of five children from their church on a tragic outing in the woods near Bly, Oregon.

    Something strange -- a large deflated balloon -- dangled from a tree. One of the group grabbed hold and pulled it, setting off a fragmentation bomb, killing everyone except the pastor.
    They became the only casualties of a Japanese attack on the U.S. mainland during World War II; their gravestones noting: "Killed by enemy balloon bomb."
    From November, 1944, to April, 1945, more than 9,000 balloons were launched by the Japanese into high-altitude westerly winds, carrying anti-personnel or incendiary bombs over the North Pacific Ocean to land in the U.S.
    An estimated 1,000 "Fu-Go" balloons completed the trip, and about 300 confirmed landings or sightings were reported across a wide area stretching from Canada to the U.S./Mexico border, and as far east as Michigan.
    Seeking to avoid public panic and deny Japan confirmation of their successful efforts, U.S. officials persuaded the media to withhold news about the balloon bombs which generally landed in unpopulated areas, causing little damage or injury . . .
    Until that deadly day in Oregon.
    The incident not only prompted officials to alert the public about the balloons, but added urgency to the efforts of people trying to find and destroy the balloon launching sites. One of those people was Navy Lt. Junior Grade Dallas Barnett.
    Barnett, 91, of Amherst, said he was an "aerologist" with the Naval Air Corps, one of many officers and civilians trained in meteorology at five universities to meet the Navy's pressing need for weather forecasters as its fleets and planes spread across the world.
    The specialty was an odd match for Barnett when considering the required duty aboard ships, airplanes and hot-air balloons for a guy who was prone to seasickness, airsickness and acrophobia. "When we landed I was sicker than a dog," he recalled of his first balloon flight.
    But the training did have its rewards. During his studies at the University of Chicago, he met a civilian meteorology student. Their hands met and sparks flew whenever she needed to borrow an eraser from him, which not-so-surprisingly turned out to be quite often. She later become his wife of 63 years, Georgia.
    Barnett's role in the balloon-bomb investigation started when he accidentally received a classified report about one of the attacks. His superiors, figuring he'd already read the report, gave him top-secret clearance and the assignment of tracking the flights back to their point of origin in Japan.
    The task involved studying wind patterns over the Pacific during the balloon flight, at a time when meteorological science was based largely on observational data, with none of the radar, satellites or computers now used to track global weather patterns.
    At best his determinations were an educated guess, according to Barnett, who wet a fingertip and held it in the air to illustrate his point. "I never got any reports back saying, 'Yeah, they're there, we got 'em'," he said.
    He was not alone in his search, however.
    The 31-foot diameter, hydrogen-filled paper balloons were fitted with a control system that automatically maintained its altitude for the three-day ocean crossing by venting gas to decrease height or dropping ballast bags of sand to go higher.
    American geologists, examining the sand in the ballast bags of fallen balloons, were able to narrow down possible launch sites to one area of Japan, where subsequent aerial reconnaissance spotted factories producing hydrogen for the balloons.
    The factories were bombed but historians and authors say the project also was doomed by lack of publicity about the attacks in the U.S., that would have confirmed Japan's hopes of success and possibly led to launching even more balloons.
    Barnett believes the intended impact of the attacks was largely psychological, to discourage American civilians and inspire the Japanese populace.
    One hunch he developed during the war, but could never prove, was that ships or islands were being used as balloon launching points. The balloons just seemed to be coming from so many different directions and locations.
    Barnett said that decades later, when he went to Japan on a business trip, he had dinner with a plant manager and fellow World War II vet who, as it turned out, had helped launch the Fu-Go balloons -- from a ship.
    Since retiring, Barnett can relax and second-guess, sometimes even out-predict, weathercasters with their array of sophisticated radar and satellite imagery.
    Nowadays, however, the stakes are far less grimmer than when he once tracked the paths of death from the skies.
    Japanese balloons brought death in 1945: World at War - Cleveland Metro News – The Latest Breaking News, Photos and Stories from The Plain Dealer
  2. texson66

    texson66 Ace

    Jul 12, 2008
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    Even Texas came "under Attack':eek:

    The Bombing of Texas

    In the spring of 1945, the war in Europe was nearing an end, and attention was turning to finishing the job against the Japanese in the Pacific. Both conflicts were thousands of miles away from the rural Texas communities of Woodson in Throckmorton County and Desdemona in Eastland County.
    While both communities sent people to the armed forces, the daily dangers of wartime were hardly a consideration.
    On March 23 and 24, 1945, Woodson and Desdemona were "bombed" by the Japanese, though no damage was done in either community.
    The Desdemona "Bomb"
    On March 23, C.M. "Pug" Guthery, just shy of his 15th birthday, was getting off the afternoon Desdemona school bus that had taken him home. In the southeastern sky, he saw what looked like a giant basketball drifting quickly to Earth.
    With youthful enthusiasm, Guthery began chasing the object on foot, running almost two miles before the balloon finally fluttered to the ground. By the time he reached the object, another school bus also had arrived and several children were examining the contraption. The balloon was gray, and the only marking on it was a large, fading rising sun on its top.
    Guthery recalled later that he didn't follow the lead of the other children. "The thing smelled bad," he said, "something like creosote. So I didn't fool with it."
    The other youngsters, however, busily gathered souvenirs. Some cut lengths of the quarter-inch grass rope that encircled the balloon, and others took pieces of the balloon itself. "It looked like leather," Guthery recalled. "Whatever it was, it was a tough material."
    Government officials arrived in Desdemona the day after the discovery to pick up the balloon, and they came to the school to ask all the students to return the souvenirs they had taken from it. "The pieces were needed to reconstruct it," Guthery said.
    After that, no more was heard of the balloon, and it didn't last as a topic of conversation for more than a couple of days.
    Huge Bomb Found near Woodson
    Sixty miles to the northwest the following day, Ivan Miller, a cowboy on the Barney Davis ranch eight miles north of Woodson in southeast Throckmorton County, was checking cattle near his home about 8:30 a.m. when he came upon a collapsed balloon.
    His widow, Florence Miller, recalled later that Ivan described the balloon "as big around as a house." The balloon also had a large rising sun painted on its top, and several smaller versions of the sun were located around the bottom.
    The postmaster was notified soon after the discovery, and in the early afternoon, government officials arrived to take charge of the situation. As at Desdemona, school children showed great interest. Several visited the site and took souvenirs from the balloon. And again, government officials requested that the pieces be returned.
    Balloon Attack Plans
    What Guthery and Miller found were two of about 6,000 laminated paper balloons that had been released during a six-month period beginning in November 1944 by the Japanese. The balloons had been made by Japanese schoolgirls from paper and paste.
    The balloon bomb project may have been planned in retaliation for Col. Jimmy Doolittle's April 1942 raid against Tokyo. The intent was to demoralize the American public, perhaps to cause civilian deaths and to start hundreds of fires in the forests of the Pacific Northwest.
    The Japanese figured that the Fugo balloon bombs, about 70 to 80 feet high, 30 feet in diameter and filled with hydrogen, would ride eastward on the jet stream, each carrying a couple of incendiary bombs and a 33-pound antipersonnel bomb. When they descended, they would explode, start hundreds of fires, and frighten – and perhaps kill – Americans in the process.
    About 360 bombs were eventually found in North America, from the Aleutian Islands south of Alaska to Mexico and as far east as Detroit, Mich.
    No fires were reported. However, six people in southern Oregon, a minister's wife and five children, were killed when the children began playing with a device they discovered while on a fishing outing. They were the only Americans killed in the continental United States by enemy action in World War II.
    American officials blacked out news of the balloon bombardment in the belief that if the Japanese thought the effort unsuccessful, they would stop releasing the balloons. The strategy apparently worked, because the Japanese stopped releasing the balloons in April 1945, although some balloons were found in Canada as late as July.
    — Based on an article written by Mike Kingston, former editor of the Texas Almanac, first published in the 1992-1993 Texas Almanac."
  3. Kieran Bridge

    Kieran Bridge Member

    Oct 30, 2007
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  4. Takao

    Takao Ace

    Apr 27, 2010
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    Reading, PA
  5. Fred Wilson

    Fred Wilson "The" Rogue of Rogues

    Sep 19, 2007
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    Vernon BC Canada

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