This screen grab from a video shows the moments after military jets shot down the Chinese balloon, on Feb. 4, 2023.

This screen grab from a video shows the moments after military jets shot down the Chinese balloon, on Feb. 4, 2023.

The Chinese Spy Balloon, first seen over Montana – has been shot down in our airspace and has fallen into the water off the coast of South Carolina. This is a military engagement by two super powers. The balloon – was not a civilian weather balloon. This is more crucial than Gary Powers being shot down in his U2 over Russia. This is a military violation of the airspace of the United States.


During WW2 Japan released fire-balloons that they hoped would cause massive forest fires in the North West. People were killed in Oregon. A Japanese sub fired on us. Then there is Pearl Harbor. That Secretary of State Blinken canceled his trip, is reminiscent of the tracheary of Japan’s military might. This can be considered – AN ACT OF WAR! We are being tested. Consider this is our Foreign High Noon. Who saw it coming? Write President Biden and tell him he has your full support.

Did China study, and use data from the Fu-Go attacks to launch their military spy balloon? Oregon was targeted. Forest Rangers were on alert! We need to hear from Governor Kotek on the real danger there may be more Chinese balloons, possibly carrying deadly payloads.

John Presco



In 1945, a Japanese Balloon Bomb Killed Six Americans, Five of Them Children, in Oregon

The military kept the true story of their deaths, the only civilians to die at enemy hands on the U.S. mainland, under wraps

Christmas holiday, government officials stepped in to censor stories about the bombs, worrying that fear itself might soon magnify the effect of these new weapons. The reverse principle also applied—while the American public was largely in the dark in the early months of 1945, so were those who were launching these deadly weapons. Japanese officers later told the Associated Press that “they finally decided the weapon was worthless and the whole experiment useless, because they had repeatedly listened to [radio broadcasts] and had heard no further mention of the balloons.” Ironically, the Japanese had ceased launching them shortly before the picnicking children had stumbled across one.

Balloon Bomb
The sandbag mechanism for the bombs Photo courtesy Robert Mikesh Collection, National Museum of the Pacific War

Balloon shot down in US airspace: Official

The Chinese surveillance balloon has been shot down in U.S. airspace, according to a senior U.S. official.

It is expected to land in U.S.territorial waters, the official said, adding that airspace will be reopened once it’s in the water.

This screen grab from a video shows the moments after military jets shot down the Chinese balloon.

Fu-Go balloon bomb

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Shot-down balloon reinflated by Americans in California, January 1945
RoleIncendiary balloon
National originJapan
ManufacturerImperial Japanese Army (A-Type)
Imperial Japanese Navy (B-Type)
IntroductionNovember 3, 1944
RetiredApril 1945
Primary userImperial Japanese Army
Number builtabout 9,300

Fu-Go (ふ号[兵器], fugō [heiki], lit. “Code Fu [Weapon]”) was an incendiary balloon weapon (風船爆弾, fūsen bakudan, lit. “balloon bomb”) deployed by Japan against the United States during World War II. A hydrogen balloon measuring 10 metres (33 ft) in diameter, it carried a payload of two 11-pound (5.0 kg) incendiary devices plus one 33-pound (15 kg) anti-personnel bomb (or alternatively one 26-pound (12 kg) incendiary bomb), and was intended to start large forest fires in the Pacific Northwest.

Between November 1944 and April 1945, the Imperial Japanese Army launched about 9,300 balloons from sites on Honshu, of which about 300 were found or observed in the U.S. and Canada, with some in Mexico.[1] The balloons traveled on high-altitude and high-speed currents over the Pacific Ocean, today known as the jet stream, and used a sophisticated sandbag ballast system to control altitude on their three- to four-day flight. The bombs were largely ineffective as fire starters due to damp winter conditions, causing only minor damage and six deaths (from a single civilian incident in Oregon in May 1945). The Fu-Go balloon bomb was the first weapon to possess intercontinental range, with its flights being the longest-ranged attacks in the history of warfare at the time.[2]


The balloon bomb concept was a brainchild of the Imperial Japanese Army‘s Number Nine Research Laboratory (also known as the Noborito Laboratory), founded in 1927.[3] In 1933, Lieutenant General Reikichi Tada began an experimental balloon bomb program at Noborito, designated Fu-Go,[a] which proposed a hydrogen balloon 4 metres (13 ft) in diameter equipped with a time fuse and capable of delivering bombs up to 70 miles (110 km). The project was stopped by 1935 and never completed.[5]

After the Doolittle Raid in April 1942, in which American planes bombed the Japanese mainland, the Imperial General Headquarters directed Noborito to develop a retaliatory bombing capability against the U.S.[6] In summer 1942, Noborito investigated several proposals, including long-range bombers that could make one-way sorties from Japan to cities on the U.S. West Coast, and small bomb-laden seaplanes that could be launched from submarines.[7] On September 9, 1942, the latter was tested in the Lookout Air Raid, in which a Yokosuka E14Y seaplane was launched from a submarine off the Oregon coast. Warrant Officer Nobuo Fujita dropped two large incendiary bombs in Siskiyou National Forest in the hopes of starting a forest fire and safely returned to the submarine; however, response crews spotted the plane and contained the small blazes. The program was cancelled by the Navy.[8]

Also in September 1942, Major General Sueki Kusaba, who had served in the original balloon bomb program under Tada in the 1930s, was assigned to the laboratory and revived the Fu-Go project with a focus on longer flights.[8] The Oregon air raid, while not achieving its strategic objective, had demonstrated the potential of using unmanned balloons at a low cost to ignite large-scale forest fires.[9] According to U.S. interviews with Japanese officials after the war, the campaign was undertaken “almost exclusively for home propaganda purposes”, with the Army having little expectations for its effectiveness.[10]


By March 1943, Kusaba’s team developed a six-metre (20 ft) prototype capable of flying at 25,000 feet (7,600 m) for more than 30 hours.[11] The balloons were constructed from five thin layers of washi, a durable paper derived from the paper mulberry (kōzo) bush, which were glued together with konnyaku (Japanese potato) paste. The Army mobilized thousands of teenage girls at high schools across the country to laminate and glue the sheets together, with final assembly and inflation tests at large indoor arenas including the Nichigeki Music Hall and Ryōgoku Kokugikan sumo hall in Tokyo.[12] The original proposal called for night launches from submarines located 600 miles (970 km) off the U.S. coast, a distance the balloons could cover in 10 hours. A timer would release a five-kilogram (11 lb) incendiary bomb at the end of the flight.[13] Two submarines (I-34 and I-35) were prepared and two hundred balloons were produced by August 1943, but attack missions were postponed due the need for submarines as weapons and food transports.[11]

Engineers next investigated the feasibility of balloon launches against the United States from the Japanese mainland, a distance of at least 6,000 miles (9,700 km).[12] Engineers sought to make use of strong seasonal air currents discovered flowing from west to east at high altitude and speed over Japan, today known as the jet stream. The currents had been investigated by Japanese scientist Wasaburo Oishi in the 1920s; in late 1943, the Army consulted Hidetoshi Arakawa of the Central Meteorological Observatory, who used Oishi’s data to extrapolate the air currents across the Pacific Ocean and estimate that a balloon released in winter and that maintained an altitude of 30,000 to 35,000 feet (9,100 to 10,700 m) could reach the North American continent in 30 to 100 hours. Arakawa further found that the strongest winds blew from November to March at speeds approaching 200 miles per hour (320 km/h).[14]

  • Fu-Go carriage, with labeled electrical circuits, fuses, ring, bombs, and ballast
  • Altitude control device, with central master aneroid barometer and backups
  • Top view of carriage assembly, with control device removed
  • Bottom view of carriage fuses
  • Reconstructed balloon at the moment a blowout plug is detonated

Changing pressure levels in a fixed-volume balloon posed technical challenges. During the day, heat from the sun increased pressure, risking the balloon rising above the air currents or bursting. A relief valve was added to allow gas to escape when the envelope’s internal pressure rose above a set level. At night, cool temperatures risked the balloon falling below the currents, an issue that worsened as gas was released. To resolve this, engineers developed a sophisticated ballast system with 32 sandbags mounted around a cast aluminum wheel, with each sandbag connected to gunpowder blowout plugs. The plugs were connected to three redundant aneroid barometers calibrated for an altitude between 25,000 and 27,000 feet (7,600 and 8,200 m), below which one sandbag was released; the next plug was armed two minutes after the previous plug was blown. A separate altimeter set between 13,000 and 20,000 feet (4,000 and 6,100 m) controlled the later release of the bombs. A one-hour activating fuse for the altimeters was ignited at launch, allowing the balloon time to ascend above these two thresholds. Tests of the design in August 1944 indicated success, with several balloons releasing radiosonde signals for up to 80 hours (the maximum time allowed by the batteries). A self-destruct system was added; a three-minute fuse triggered by the release of the last bomb would detonate a block of picric acid and destroy the carriage, followed by an 82-minute fuse that would ignite the hydrogen and destroy the envelope.[15]

B-Type rubberized silk balloon, with outline of a human for scale

In late 1942, the Imperial General Headquarters had directed the Navy to begin its own balloon bomb program in parallel with the Army project. Lieutenant Commander Kiyoshi Tanaka led a project that developed a nine-metre (30 ft) rubberized silk balloon, designated the B-Type (in contrast to the Army’s A-Type). The silk material was an effort to create a flexible envelope that could withstand pressure changes. The design was tested in August 1944, but the balloons burst immediately after reaching altitude, determined to be the result of faulty rubberized seams. The Navy program was subsequently consolidated under Army control, in part due to the declining availability of rubber as the war continued.[16] The B-Type balloons were later equipped with a version of the A-Type’s ballast system and tested on November 2, 1944; one of these balloons, which was not loaded with bombs, became the first to be recovered by Americans after being spotted in the water off San Pedro, California, on November 4.[17]

The final balloon design was 10 metres (33 ft) in diameter, and had a gas volume of 19,000 cubic feet (540 m3) and a lifting capacity of 300 pounds (140 kg) at operating altitude.[18] The bombs most commonly carried were:

  • up to four (typically two) 11-pound (5.0 kg) thermite incendiary bombs consisting of 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) steel tubes 15.75 inches (40.0 cm) long with ignition charges of magnesium, potassium nitrate and barium peroxide;
  • one Type 92 33-pound (15 kg) high-explosive anti-personnel bomb consisting of 9.5 pounds (4.3 kg) picric acid or TNT surrounded by 26 steel rings within a steel casing 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter and 14.5 inches (37 cm) long and welded to a 11-inch (28 cm) tail fin assembly;
  • or alternatively to the anti-personnel bomb, one Type 97 26-pound (12 kg) thermite incendiary bomb using the Type 92 bomb casing and fin assembly, containing 11 ounces (310 g) of gunpowder and three 3.3-pound (1.5 kg) magnesium containers of thermite.[19]


Fu-Go launching sites and flight-following stations on Honshu

A balloon launch organization of three battalions was formed. The first battalion included headquarters and three squadrons totaling 1,500 men in Ibaraki Prefecture with nine launch stations at Ōtsu. The second battalion of 700 men in three squadrons operated six launch stations at Ichinomiya, Chiba; and the third battalion of 600 men in two squadrons operated six launch stations at Nakoso, Fukushima. The Ōtsu site featured its own hydrogen plant, while the second and third battalions used hydrogen gas manufactured at factories near Tokyo. The combined launching capacity of the sites was about 200 balloons per day, with 15,000 launches planned through March.[20] The Army estimated that 10 percent of the balloons would survive the journey across the Pacific Ocean.[9]

Each launch pad consisted of anchor screws drilled into the ground and arranged in a circle the same diameter as the balloons. After laying out a deflated envelope, hoses were used to fill the envelope with hydrogen before it was tied down with guide ropes and detached from the anchors. The carriage was attached and the guide ropes were disconnected. Each launch took between thirty minutes and an hour, depending on the presence of surface winds that made releases difficult.[21] The best time to launch was just after the passing of a high-pressure front, and wind conditions were most suitable for several hours prior to the onshore breezes at sunrise. Suitable launch conditions were expected for only about fifty days through the winter period of maximum jet stream velocity.[20]

The first balloons were launched at 0500 on November 3, 1944. Some balloons in each of the launches carried radiosonde equipment instead of bombs, and were tracked by direction finding stations in Ichinomiya, at Iwanuma, Miyagi, at Misawa, Aomori, and on Sakhalin to estimate the progress of the balloons towards North America.[22]

Two weeks after the discovery of the balloon off San Pedro, another was found in the ocean off Kailua, Hawaii, on November 14. More balloons were found near Thermopolis, Wyoming, on December 6 (with an explosion heard by witnesses) and near Kalispell, Montana, on December 11, followed by finds near Marshall, Alaska, and Estacada, Oregon, later in the month. National and state agencies were placed on heightened alert, and forest rangers were ordered to report any balloon sightings and finds. On January 4, 1945, the Office of Censorship requested that newspaper editors and radio broadcasters give no publicity to balloon incidents; this voluntary censorship was highly effective, with the Japanese military only learning of the Wyoming find.[b][26] The balloons continued to be discovered across North America, with sightings and partial or full recoveries in AlaskaArizonaCaliforniaColoradoIdahoIowaKansasMichigan (the easternmost finds), MontanaNebraskaNevadaNorth DakotaOregonSouth DakotaTexasUtahWashington, and Wyoming; as well as in Canada in AlbertaBritish ColumbiaManitobaSaskatchewan, and the Northwest and Yukon Territories; in northern Mexico; and at sea by ships.[27]

  • Balloon found near Alturas, California, on January 10, 1945, reinflated for tests
  • Balloon found near Bigelow, Kansas, on February 23, 1945
  • Balloon found near Nixon, Nevada, on March 29, 1945
  • Aerial photograph of a balloon taken from an American plane
  • Aerial photograph of a balloon taken from an American plane

American authorities concluded the greatest danger from the balloons would be wildfires in the coastal forests of the Pacific Northwest during dry months. The Fourth Air ForceWestern Defense Command, and Ninth Service Command organized the “Firefly Project” with a number of Stinson L-5 Sentinel and Douglas C-47 Skytrain aircraft and 2,700 troops, including 200 paratroopers of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, who were stationed at critical points for use in firefighting missions.[28] Through Firefly, the military used the United States Forest Service as a proxy, unifying fire suppression communications among federal and state agencies and modernizing the Forest Service through the influx of military personnel, equipment, and tactics.[29] In the “Lightning Project”, health and agricultural officers, veterinarians, and 4-H clubs were instructed to report any strange new diseases of crops or livestock caused by potential biological warfare. Stocks of decontamination chemicals, ultimately unused, were shipped to key points in the western states.[28] A report by U.S. investigators, based on interviews with Imperial Army officials after the war, concluded that there had been no plans for chemical or biological payloads.[30]

Balloon shot down by P-38 Lightning fighters at AttuAleutian Islands, Alaska, on April 11, 1945

Army Air Forces and Navy fighters were scrambled on several occasions to intercept balloons, but they had little success due to inaccurate sighting reports, bad weather, and the very high altitude at which the balloons traveled. Overall, fewer than 20 of the balloons were shot down by aircraft. Experiments conducted on recovered balloons to determine their radar reflectivity also had little success. In the “Sunset Project” initiated in early April 1945, the Fourth Air Force attempted to detect the radio transmissions emitted by tracking balloons using sites in coastal Washington; 95 suspected signals were detected, but were of little use for interception due to the relatively low percentage of balloons with transmitters, and observed fading of the signals as they approached the coast.[28]

Few American officials believed at first that the balloons could have come directly from Japan. Early U.S. theories speculated that they were launched from German prisoner of war camps or from Japanese-American internment centers. After bombs of Japanese origin were found, it was believed that the balloons were launched from coastal submarines.[31] Statistical analysis of valve serial numbers suggested that tens of thousands of balloons had been produced.[10] Sand from the sandbags was studied by the Military Geology Unit of the United States Geological Survey, revealing mineral and diatom compositions that corresponded to Ichinomiya. Aerial reconnaissance later located two nearby hydrogen production facilities, which were destroyed by B-29 bombing raids in April 1945.[32]

Starting in February 1945, Japanese propaganda falsely announced great fires and a public in panic, declaring casualties in the hundreds to thousands.[33]

Results and abandonment[edit]

Map of Fu-Go incident locations in North America. Sites marked with a black dot.

By mid-April 1945, Japan lacked the resources to continue manufacturing balloons, with both paper and hydrogen in short supply. Furthermore, the Army had little evidence that the balloons were reaching North America, let alone causing damage. The campaign was halted, with no intention to revive it when winds restarted in late 1945.[34] In total, about 9,300 balloons were launched in the campaign (approximately 700 in November 1944, 1,200 in December, 2,000 in January 1945, 2,500 in February, 2,500 in March, and 400 in April), of which about 300 were found or observed in North America.[35] The Fu-Go balloon bomb was the first weapon to possess intercontinental range, with its flights being the longest-ranged attacks in the history of warfare at the time.[2]

No wildfires were positively identified as being caused by balloon bombs.[36] As predicted by Imperial Army officials, the winter and spring launch dates had limited the chances of the incendiary bombs starting forest fires due to the high levels of precipitation in the Pacific Northwest; forests were generally snow-covered or too damp to catch fire easily.[37] Furthermore, much of the western U.S. received disproportionately more precipitation in 1945 than in any other year in the decade, with some areas receiving 4 to 10 inches (10 to 25 cm) of precipitation more than normal.[29] Many of the recovered balloons also had a high percentage of unexploded blowout plugs, caused by failures of the battery or fuses.[28] The most tactically successful attack took place on March 10, 1945, when one of the balloons descended near Toppenish, Washington, causing a short circuit in power lines supplying the Manhattan Project‘s production facility at the state’s Hanford Engineer Works. Backup devices restored power to the site, but it took three days for its nuclear reactors to be brought to full capacity; plutonium produced in the reactors was later used in Fat Man, the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in August 1945.[38]

Single lethal attack[edit]

Mitchell Monument in 2011

On May 5, 1945, six civilians were killed near Bly, Oregon, when they discovered one of the balloon bombs in Fremont National Forest, becoming the only fatalities from enemy action in the continental U.S. during the war.

Reverend Archie Mitchell and his pregnant wife Elsie (age 26) drove to Gearhart Mountain that day with five of their Sunday school students for a picnic. While Archie was moving the car, Elsie and the children found the balloon lying on the ground. A large explosion occurred; the four boys (Edward Engen, 13; Jay Gifford, 13; Dick Patzke, 14; and Sherman Shoemaker, 11) were killed instantly, while Joan Patzke (13) and Elsie died several minutes later. A bomb disposal expert guessed that the bomb had been kicked.[39] Military personnel who arrived on the scene saw that the balloon still had snow beneath it while the surrounding area did not. They concluded that the balloon had drifted to the ground several weeks earlier, and had lain there undisturbed until found by the group. The press blackout in the U.S. was lifted on May 22 to ensure that others were warned of the threat.[40]

A memorial, the Mitchell Monument, is located at the point of the explosion, 50 miles (80 kilometres) northeast of Klamath Falls in the Mitchell Recreation Area. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Several Japanese civilians have visited the monument to offer their apologies for the deaths that took place here, and cherry trees have been planted around the monument as a symbol of peace.

After World War II[edit]

Small-scale model (1:5 balloon, 1:2 carriage) of a Fu-Go balloon at Edo-Tokyo Museum

The remains of balloons have continued to be discovered after the war. At least eight were found in the 1940s, three in the 1950s, two in the 1960s, and one in the 1970s.[41] A device with a live bomb was found near Lumby, British Columbia, in 2014 and detonated by a Royal Canadian Navy ordnance disposal team.[42] Remains of another balloon were found near McBride, British Columbia, in 2019.[43] Many war museums in the U.S. and Canada exhibit Fu-Go fragments, including the National Air and Space Museum and Canadian War Museum.[44]

See also

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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