Japanese Balloon Bombs FAQ
Why did the Japanese launch the balloon bomb project?
The balloon bomb project was launched as a direct result of the surprise and successful Dolittle raids in 1942 against Japan. After the raid, ideas were formulated on how to attack the United States and the balloon bomb project went into development. Many Japanese schools were closed and children put to work creating the material (paper) for the 9,000 balloon bombs that would be launched into the Jet Stream to travel to the United States.
Is it true that the United States tried to keep the media quiet about the balloon bombs?
Yes, it is. The U.S. knew that the only way Japan could measure the success of its balloon bomb program (called "Fu-Go") was by media reports. They could then use those media reports to improve the accuracy of the bombs. So the government sent a request to all media asking them not to talk about the balloon bombs. It wasn't until a few weeks after six people were killed in Bly, Oregon that the request was lifted. The censorship put on the media was partially credited for Japan ending the attacks since they never knew whether the project worked or not. To this day the majority of Americans still don't know about the attacks.
Was the bomb that killed the six people one that had just fallen out of the sky?
The balloon bomb attacks had stopped about a month before the May 5, 1945 incident near Bly, Oregon. A pastor, his wife, and five kids were on a picnic. As they arrived at a spot, the pastor dropped his wife and kids off while he parked the car. They saw the balloon in the tree and one of the 13-year olds tried to pull it down. That's when it exploded, killing everyone but the pastor.
How many balloon bombs didn't explode?
Quite a few balloon bombs failed to detonate and it is believed that there are hundreds that haven't been found yet in the U.S.. Many of those can still be extremely dangerous if tampered with.
What happened to the inventor of the bombs?
Five years after the bombs had been released had failed in their mission, the inventor (Dr. Toshiro Otsuki) committed suicide. In Japan, committing suicide was an honorable thing to do in the face of failure.
Is it true that Japanese school kids were involved in the making of the balloon bombs?
Yes. Japan required many high-school female schoolchildren to help create the balloon portion of the balloon bombs. Decades later, a group who had helped make the balloon bombs sent an apology to the families of those that were killed near Bly, Oregon. The letter read:
"We, the undersigned, humbly offer our prayers from the bottom of our hearts for the souls of the six who lost their precious lives due to one of the balloon bombs we helped build.
On the 44th anniversary of the tragic event that took the lives of your loved ones, we send to you these dolls from Yamagachi as a symbol of our earnest resolve never again to go to war and our fervent hope to bring the people of the world together in genuine love, to live in peace and friendship among us all."
Along with the letter was two Japanese Ouchi dolls that are now on exhibit in the Klamath County Museum in Klamath Falls, Oregon.
What other names were the Japanese Balloon Bombs called?
The name the Japanese gave for the balloon bombs was the "Fu-Go Weapon". In Japanese, the first character of the word Balloon is "Fu". They've also been called "Fire Balloons".
How many months did Japan send the balloon bombs to the U.S.?
From November 1944 to April 1945.
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