During World War II, Pearl Harbor was not the only attack on United States soil. On 9 September 1942, a Japanese pilot named Nobuo Fujita flew a seaplane from off the coast of Oregon and headed east. He was heading towards Mt. Emily where his instructions were to drop an incendiary bomb on the forest. Reasoning behind this mission was to create an enormous fire, shocking Americans and forcing them to divert their resources into fighting the fire and away from the war.
As Fujita entered the forest air space, he was monitored by Howard ‘Razz’ Gardner, who was part of the forest service lookout. Just before sunrise, Gardner noted hearing a sound which resembled the backfiring of a Model A Ford. He scanned the skies and caught a glimpse of the aircraft circling above the forest. He immediately called the siting into the ranger station, but the operator assumed it was just one of the patrol planes which would typically cruise up and down the coast.
Soon, the fog lifted and Gardner spotted smoke, at which time, he sounded the alarm and made the call for help. He still had no idea what had happened. In fact, he assumed an electrical storm they experienced the day before was the culprit. Gardner gathered his necessary equipment and headed out towards the smoky area. He met up with a co-worker and the two soon arrived at the smoldering fire which encased an area about 50-75 feet wide. They were able to control the fires in the area, and upon examination, discovered a crater which displayed signs of intense heat. Pieces of what would later be discovered to originate from a bomb were found as far as 100 ft. away from the site. The government found it difficult to keep this incident under wrap.
More Sightings of Japanese Bombs
A second attack occurred at the end of September and had the forest not been unusually damp for that time of year, the Japanese plan to divert the American’s resources may have worked. The State Defense Council was able to use these isolated incidences to their advantage in raising public awareness of a possible enemy attack. Prior to this, the morale of the civilian defense workers was low as they did not believe such an attack would occur on the mainland.
In November of 1944, Japan began launching bombs directly from the island using balloons to carry the explosives to the east via the newly discovered jet stream. These bombs were capable of travelling at elevations as high as 30,000 ft. Balloon sightings were tracked in the states and reported to military authorities. But on May 5, 1945, an unfortunate occurrence involving a Japanese balloon/bomb took place. That morning, Rev. Archie Mitchell decided to take his wife, along with five children, on a picnic. After dropping them off, he went to park the car. His pregnant wife called out to him, “Look what I found, dear”. She was referring to a balloon up in a tree. One of the children nearby tried to remove the balloon and set off the bomb. His wife Elyse and all five children were killed. The explosion left a crater roughly three feet wide and one foot deep.
This was not to be the last of the balloon sightings, but no others would result in the loss of life. For the most part, the balloons/bombs simply disrupted the routines of the officials for a time as they investigated the sightings. Radio stations in Japan, however, would report these attempts as successful, killing thousands of Americans. The Americans were shielded from news of these bombs to prevent feeding Japan any hope that they were being even remotely effective. Even today, much of the American population is unaware that during World War II, Pearl Harbor was not the only attack on United States soil.