Two Balloon Bombs, released by Japan to set the USA alight are still missing after 70 years!

70 years after the end of World War Two, Japanese balloon bombs can still be found in North America. The latest discovery was in November 2014 in dense forest in British Columbia, Canada.

During World War Two Japan launched as many as 6000 balloon bombs across the Pacific, hoping they would land in North America to cause massive fires in forests and cities and do as much damage as possible. The Japanese developed their plan to use the air stream across the Pacific Ocean to send bomb-carrying balloons from Japan to North America. Luckily for the Allies, the balloon bombs weren’t as successful as the Japanese had hoped. Many did not arrive in North America, and many did not detonate upon landing.

Only a few hundred of the devices have ever been found, while it’s believed more will be located in the future.   The Japanese had hoped that the bombs would create chaos and disruption, hurting the Allies’ morale. U.S. authorities kept Japan’s “Balloon War” quiet and asked news organisations not to report the plot. Consequently, the existence of the bombs was little known, the NPR News reports.

Gun cameras show balloons being shot down near the Aleutians – Wikipedia

The balloons were made of lightweight paper with the bombs, including sensors, ammunition and  trigger devices, attached.  The actual balloons were quite an invention, made of lots of small pieces of hand-made paper stuck together. They were around 33 feet across and each carried a bomb weighing about 1,000 lbs. So that they might cause extensive fires, the devices were made to stay burning for almost an hour and a half before detonating.

After Japan released the balloons, it took a few days for the devices, floating in the jet stream across the Pacific, to reach North America. They were spotted far and wide across the continent – as far south as Mexico and as far north as Alaska, as well as in Hawaii to the west.  Records show that in 1944 people across the United States began to notice the balloons — hearing whistling and an explosion and seeing smoke. At the time, authorities investigated the reports, identifying the devices as being of Japanese origin but not reporting how they had arrived on the mainland.

The only recorded incident of the balloons having killed anyone was in 1945 when a woman and five children were killed near Ore in Oregon. Once the war ended lots of reports of the balloons started coming in; since then hundreds have been found across the region.  The most recent bomb discovered in British Columbia was destroyed by a bomb disposal team.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE