Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wartime Wednesday: Project Fugo

In my blog on December 22, I wrote about one of the few attacks made on U.S. soil during WWII. A second series of attacks occurred in the Pacific Northwest by the Japanese between November 1944 and April 1945. Dubbed Project Fugo (literally “balloon bomb”) the attacks sent bomb-carrying balloons from Japan to set fire to American forests, in an effort to create havoc, dampen American morale and disrupt the U.S. war effort.

The thirty-three foot diameter, hydrogen balloons were made of lightweight paper fashioned from  tree bark and designed to ride the Pacific jet stream from Japan to the West Coast of North America. The trip took several days. Attached to a sixty four foot long fuse was either one thirty-three pound antipersonnel bomb or one twenty six pound incendiary bomb combined with four eleven pound incendiary devices.
Ultimately unsuccessful, (there were only six deaths during one incident) more than 9,000 weapons were released over a period of time and landed from northern Mexico to Alaska, and from Hawaii to Michigan. The attacks occurred at particular time of year because the period of maximum jet stream velocity is November to March. Unfortunately for the Japanese, this is also the time of year for maximum precipitation in the targeted area.
Since the end of the war these explosive devices have surfaced in numerous places. In November 1953, a balloon bomb was detonated by an Army crew in Edmonton, Alberta, and in January 1955, the Air Force discovered one in Alaska. The Sentinel reported that a bomb had been discovered in southwest Oregon in 1978. And as recent as October 2014 a bomb was recovered in British Columbia. Fortunately, to date no one has been injured or killed by these seventy year old war relics.

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