Japanese bomb balloons 1940s

1940s Japanese balloon bombs

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As originally published in the Oct. 4, 1945, Emmett Index.

Remember the reports of the Japanese balloons passing over Emmett, late in 1944 and early in 1945 with no mention of them made in Emmett newspapers, because of the strict censorship. Four or five balloons were reported seen over the city, drifting west but only one case is reported.

Earl Graham of Vale, Ore., brother of Mrs. W. H. Camerer and Mrs. Lin Peebles of Emmett, accompanied a party of FBI men to central Oregon and brought back a harmless Japanese balloon, requiring two pack horses to pack the paper balloon back to civilization.

Guards at the Black Canyon Dam reported seeing two balloons floating by and mill employees reported another. And now the secret is out.

Japanese report that 9,000 balloons were launched from three sites near Tokyo before the experiment was abandoned on April 20, 1945 — almost three years to the day from the Doolittle carrier-borne raid. Dolittle’s surprise strike had so angered Tokyo militarists that they resolved to “make our own V-1,” the Japanese technical section explained.

It took more than two years to complete experimentation, before the first balloon was launched and cost more than 9,000,000 yen (more than $2,000,000 at pre-war exchange) to manufacture the strange weapon.

Officers said they finally decided the weapon was worthless and the whole experiment useless, because they had repeatedly listened to the Chungking radio and had heard of no further mention of the balloons.

(Actually, there were quite a number of the balloons reported found in America, but at the request of the War Department, publicity was withheld. One of the bombs, found intact by a picnic party in Oregon, exploded and killed six people.)

The bombs were prepared more for “psychological effect” upon the people of both Japan and America than for destructiveness, officers said. The secret weapons were not heavily propagandized in Japan, however, because “we weren’t sure of results in America.”

So all the Japanese knew about their balloon bombs was what they read in the newspapers - and newspapermen said they didn’t bother to write much about it.

Intending to “create confusion” by starting forest fires and frightening civilians, the officers said they had no expectation of causing any military damage because the combs were too small — the balloons carried weapons weighing 30 pounds or less – and they were uncontrolled.

Editor’s note: A June 4, 1945, San Francisco newspaper read: Japanese propagandists predicted the United States would be attacked by bomb-carrying stratosphere balloons manned by death defying Japanese pilots. The balloons were not manned or radio controlled but were moved by wiwnd currents.

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