Fu-Go: The Curious History of Japan's Balloon Bomb Attack on America

Fu-Go: The Curious History of Japan's Balloon Bomb Attack on America

Fu-Go: The Curious History of Japan's Balloon Bomb Attack on America

Fu-Go: The Curious History of Japan's Balloon Bomb Attack on America

Synopsis

Near the end of World War II, in an attempt to attack the United States mainland, Japan launched its fu-go campaign, deploying thousands of high-altitude hydrogen balloons armed with incendiary and high-explosive bombs designed to follow the westerly winds of the upper atmosphere and drift to the west coast of North America. After reaching the mainland, these fu-go, the Japanese hoped, would terrorize American citizens and ignite devastating forest fires across the western states, ultimately causing the United States to divert wartime resources to deal with the domestic crisis. While the fu-go offensive proved to be a complete tactical failure, six Americans lost their lives when a discovered balloon exploded.

Ross Coen provides a fascinating look into the obscure history of the fu-go campaign, from the Japanese schoolgirls who manufactured the balloons by hand to the generals in the U.S. War Department who developed defense procedures. The book delves into panic, propaganda, and media censorship in wartime. Fu-go is a compelling story of a little-known episode in our national history that unfolded virtually unseen.

Excerpt

Forest Service 34, a one-lane gravel road known to locals as the Dairy Creek Road, runs north by northeast from the small lumber town of Bly, Oregon, through cattle pasture dotted with juniper trees and outcroppings of basalt rock to the rising slopes of Gearhart Mountain twelve miles away. Straddling the border between Klamath and Lake Counties in south-central Oregon, the volcanic peak features long, sloping ridges at lower elevations and craggy cliffs near its 8,364foot summit. On a clear day from the top, visitors can see hundreds of miles to other peaks up and down the Cascades. The mountain’s dry pine forest features old-growth white fir and ponderosa and lodgepole pines, while open meadows with aspen and wildflowers dot the upper elevations of the peak. Deer, elk, coyote, black bear, and mountain lion, as well as dozens of species of birds, inhabit the mountain. The profusion of rainbow and brook trout in the many streams of the lower slopes make the area a popular destination for fishermen, especially from nearby Bly.

It was to those streams that the Reverend Archie Mitchell, on the bright, sunny morning of Saturday, May 5, 1945, took his wife and five children from his Sunday school class for a picnic lunch and a day of fishing. The tall, lanky, bespectacled Mitchell was the new pastor of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in Bly. His wife Elsie was five months pregnant with their first child. Having accepted the pastorate in Bly just two weeks before, the . . .

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