Fu-Go Balloon Bomb file photo [32421]

Fu-Go Balloon Bomb

Country of OriginJapan
TypeBalloon Bomb
Width10.000 m
Height25.000 m
Weight360.000 kg
Ammunition Weight145.00 kg
Range10,000.000 km
Explosive ChargeOne 15kg anti-personnel bomb or one 12kg incendiary bomb, four 5kg incendiary bombs

Contributor:

ww2dbaseThe Japanese idea for a balloon bomb began in 1927 with an attempt to develop a hydrogen-filled balloon capable of delivering bombs to targets up to 70 miles away. The work was sporadic and the project was discontinued in 1935 without ever developing a workable system.

The notion was resurrected in 1942 as an option for a retaliatory weapon following the Doolittle Raid of 18 Apr 1942. After the Doolittle Raid, the Japanese General Headquarters looked for a long-range method to bomb the North American mainland. Several options were considered including carrier attacks similar to the attack on Pearl Harbor, long-range bombers on one-way missions, short-range seaplane bombers launched from submarines, and balloon bombs. The carrier attacks and long-range bombers were each impractical on several levels. The submarine-launched bombers were briefly operational with the first ever aerial bombardment of the United States mainland occurring on 9 Sep 1942, causing no damage. So, General Headquarters directed the Army's Noborito No. 9 Research Laboratory in Kawasaki, Japan to further develop the balloon bomb from the 1930s. The project was codenamed Operation Fu-Go and was headed by Major General Sueki Kusaba, who had been part of the earlier team. Fu-Go, meaning "Code Fu", was derived from the weapon's full name Fusen Bakudan, meaning "Balloon Bomb."

Several prototype designs were created. Early concepts were intended to have balloons launched from submarines near the American coast, but these plans were never implemented for several reasons: the high probability the fragile balloon envelopes would be damaged in transit; the inherent danger of transporting the explosive pressurized hydrogen gas within the submarine; and most significantly, the submarines were badly needed elsewhere once the Guadalcanal and Solomon Islands campaign began (this factor is also what finally doomed the seaplane bomber program). The balloon design process at Noborito, then, shifted to balloons that could be launched from Japan and still reach North America 6,000 miles across the Pacific.

In the 1920s and separate from the Noborito work, Japanese scientist Wasaburo Oishi discovered strong high-altitude air currents flowing over Japan from west to east. Oishi published his findings but his work did not become well known in the scientific community because he chose to publish it in Esperanto. The Japanese Central Meteorological Observatory, however, took note of Oishi's work and extrapolated his data into models of how the high-speed air currents flowed all the way across the Pacific Ocean. These winds blew at altitudes between 30,000 and 35,000 feet, moved at speeds of nearly 200 miles per hour, and were most prominent during the winter months from November to March. Though not widely understood at the time, these winds are known today as the jet-stream.

For balloons riding the high-altitude winds, the flying time from Japan to the United States was estimated to be between 30 and 60 hours. This meant the balloons would be aloft during both daylight and nighttime hours. The temperature differences between day and night, particularly at the desired altitudes, would alter the balloon's buoyancy with resulting changes in altitude. Since the designers could not control the temperatures, they focused on controlling the altitude. In the daytime when the sun beat down on the balloon envelope and the gas expanded, small amounts of hydrogen would be released through a pressure valve at the base of the envelope. At night when the gas cooled and lost buoyancy, onboard barometers would react to the descending altitude and trigger the dropping of ballast so the balloon would rise again. The balloons carried enough hydrogen and ballast to go through several cycles of this.

Design of the balloon envelope itself also went through several proposed designs. The final design called for a spherical balloon ten meters across made from a durable Japanese paper called "washi." This was a traditional Japanese paper made from the pulp of the paper mulberry bush. For the balloons, five layers of washi were laminated together using "konnyaku," a vegetable paste made from Japanese potatoes. The finished balloons were then covered in a vegetable-based lacquer. Even after the balloons were discovered by the Americans and Canadians, the Allies never fully appreciated the durability of these materials. To a certain extent, neither did the Japanese; the balloons' self-destruct system relied on the paper envelopes being destroyed when the hydrogen gas was ignited by a magnesium flash bomb, but in practice large sections quite often survived. Permeability tests done by the US Navy on recovered washi balloon material revealed the laminated and lacquered washi allowed hydrogen gas to seep through at half the rate helium gas seeped through the rubberized material used in US Navy airships. Early reports about the balloons identified the envelope material as "rice paper"; despite being wildly incorrect, this description has been erroneously replicated in several subsequent postwar works. The long fibers of the washi's paper mulberry pulp, especially when laminated in layers, yielded an impermeable, strong, lightweight, and very durable material.

The plan was to produce 10,000 balloons for use in the first five-month operational period. This meant a lot of washi and a lot of hands to glue it all together. The balloon assembly fell largely to Japanese school children, primarily school girls, and school schedules were adjusted so the students had more time in the afternoons to work. Large indoor spaces were needed for inflation tests so large music halls, theaters, and sumo wrestling arenas were enlisted.

It was expected that the five-month period of high-speed stratospheric winds would have about 20 days per month of ground weather suitable for launching balloons. Launching 10,000 balloons over those five months meant the Japanese had to be prepared to launch 100 balloons a day. The 10,000 balloons would also require almost 50,000,000 cubic feet of hydrogen gas. To produce the needed gas, the hydrogen generators would require 50,000 tons of raw materials (plus water). Rigging for the balloons required nearly 10,000,000 feet of new manila rope. The balloon envelopes would require 170,000,000 square feet of washi. The ballast dropping mechanisms first had to be invented and then mass produced. The entire project required a commitment from the Japanese of an enormous amount of scarce resources.

In late 1942, the Japanese Navy was directed to develop a balloon in parallel with the Army. Their balloon envelope was made from rubberized silk which, in some ways, performed better than the Army's laminated washi but was heavier so the balloon's payload was smaller. Their design was designated as the Type B balloon with the Army's as the Type A. With the decreasing availability of rubber, however, the scale of the Navy's program was greatly reduced and later consolidated with the Army's. Type B balloons were used to carry radio tracking equipment only and were launched with groups of Type A balloons. In this way, the swarms could be tracked for the first 1,000 miles or so until the radios were carried beyond their range.

The strategic purpose of Operation Fu-Go was to deliver incendiary bombs to the forests of the western United States and Canada with the hope of starting forest fires that would cause public panic, tax resources for firefighting, and deplete sources of wood for the Allied war effort. To this end, the last four pieces of ballast dropped were 5kg thermite incendiary bombs. One standard Type 92 15-kilogram high-explosive anti-personnel bomb was slung beneath the gondola to be the last ordnance deployed before the balloon's self-destruct system first destroyed the gondola and then ignited the hydrogen gas in the envelope. In some cases, the anti-personnel bomb was substituted with a single 12-kilogram incendiary bomb.

For the manpower to launch the balloons, three battalions of men were formed and three launch complexes were prepared along Japan's Pacific coast. Operational launches were set to begin on 3 Nov 1944, the 92nd birthday of Emperor Meiji, grandfather of Emperor Showa. On the day before that, however, an unarmed Navy Type B balloon was launched as a test to assess the high-altitude winds. After the balloon traveled beyond radio range, the balloon itself floated on with the winds. The United States Navy recovered most of this balloon on 4 Nov 1944 a mere 68 miles from the southern California coast within the Channel Islands. This was the first indication the Allies had that a Japanese balloon program existed, although the full scope of the program was yet to unfold.

Armed balloons began taking flight as scheduled on 3 Nov 1944. Ten days following the balloon recovery in California's Channel Islands, the first paper balloon was discovered by the United States Coast Guard 5 miles off Kailua, Hawaii. The first encounter with a Fu-Go balloon over North America was 800 miles inland from the Pacific coast. On 6 Dec 1944 near Thermopolis, Wyoming, an explosion of bright red flame was seen, followed by what appeared to be a parachute descending to Earth. Fragments of a Japanese 15-kilogram anti-personnel bomb were found the next day.

It was apparent to the Americans that the Japanese were mounting some manner of bombing attack, but the method of delivery was not immediately clear. At first, explosions would be seen or heard with no further explanation. When witnesses did see the balloons, their partially deflated state at lower altitudes made them look like parachutes, suggesting the weapons could be parachute bombs. It was only when balloons, complete with their ballast dropping assemblies, were recovered in Alaska, Montana, and Oregon that the nature of the balloon bombs started to become clearer. What was still not clear, however, was where these balloons were being launched from. The idea that they might be coming directly from Japan was considered absurd and so they looked to Japanese submarines, German prisoner of war camps in the Pacific Northwest, or Japanese-American internment camps as possible sources. All of these ideas were swept aside once the scale of how many balloons were arriving became better understood. The Japanese had a much better knowledge of the winds at high-altitude than the Americans did and so the American understanding that these balloons were coming all the way from Japan was slow to catch on.

The Thermopolis incident was widely reported in the press. Fearing the Japanese would be able to assess the success of their efforts through the American press, on 4 Jan 1945 the United States Office of Censorship made a broad request to all press outlets asking that any mention of Japanese balloon bombs be kept out of press reports. Concerns about public panic was another reason for the request. Newspapers and radio stations complied fully and no further mention was made of the balloon bombs, despite balloons being found at numerous locations over North America for the rest of the war and beyond. As a result, Japanese Intelligence only learned of the Thermopolis incident and were otherwise completely in the dark about the success or failure of their operation.

At the same time, the United States mobilized military resources to detect and destroy incoming balloons. Operation Firefly assigned military assets to combat any fires caused by the balloons. Firefly also established a command and control structure that coordinated the Army's resources with the other Federal agencies involved. While this model had little chance to fight Fu-Go fires, the imprint survives today in the structure of Federal wildland firefighting. Among the most prominent of Operation Firefly's firefighting units was the "Triple Nickel" 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion made up entirely of African-American paratroopers who pioneered the concept of "Smoke Jumper" firefighting.

Intelligence analysts also had to consider that the balloons discovered so far could simply have been range-finders ahead of some other delivery. The possibility of a subsequent chemical or biological weapons attack could not be overlooked. As Operation Firefly prepared for forest fires, Project Lightning stockpiled decontamination chemicals at key points in the western states and also scripted requests to agricultural officers, veterinarians, and 4-H clubs to promptly report any new diseases affecting crops or livestock. [Chemical or biological agents were never placed on a Fu-Go balloon and in postwar interviews with the Japanese officials involved, they consistently said these agents were never considered.]

The Allied defense mobilization quickly yielded results. On 25 Jan 1945, United States Army Air Force fighters based on Shemya Island at the west end of the Aleutian chain, less than 2,000 miles from the balloons' launching points, intercepted a balloon at 28,000 feet. The balloon was shot down and sank at sea. More and more balloons were intercepted by Allied aircraft, but even more balloons and balloon parts were being found across the western United States and western Canada.

One of the leads pursued by American Intelligence while investigating the source of the Fu-Go balloons was an analysis of the sand in the balloons' ballast bags. For this, the authorities turned to the United States Geological Survey. While the results of their analysis did not come quickly, the geologists were able to confirm the ballast sand from all balloons came from the same beach and they were able to identify the exact beach in Japan where the sand most likely came from. An aerial reconnaissance mission was quickly conducted and photos showed what looked like partially inflated balloons just inland from the specified beach. A B-29 bombing raid was promptly carried out on the area.

As the geological analysis was going on, balloons and balloon parts kept turning up all over the western North American landscape. No forest fires were positively attributed to the balloon bombs but the closest thing to a strategic success occurred on 10 Mar 1945 and happened completely by accident. On that date, four different balloons were detected in the State of Washington alone. In Toppenish, a town of about 4,000 within the Yakima Indian Reservation, one balloon landed across some electrical wires. The electrical short circuit knocked out power over a large swath of central Washington, including the area of Hanford 40 miles away. At the time, Hanford was the location of the Manhattan Project's "Site W," where nuclear reactors were producing plutonium. When the electricity to the reactors was lost, backup systems quickly restored power but it took three days before Hanford was back to operating at full capacity. As the engineers inside the Hanford facility were coping with the momentary electrical outage, another Fu-Go balloon was harmlessly touching down outside the complex very close to their own main gate. So secret was the work being done at Hanford that not only did the Japanese not know anything about the near catastrophe, neither did the American public for another ten years.

The last of the Fu-Go balloons were launched in the first week of April 1945. Some sources (even Japanese sources) attribute the closure of the program to the lack of any indication the program was succeeding. Others point to the destruction of the balloon launch sites in B-29 air raids, as some were. But what is perhaps more likely is that the operation had simply run its course. The program depended on the high-altitude winds which were the most dependable during the months of November through March. Original production plans called for producing 10,000 balloons and 9,300 were launched. Indications are that the operation had always been planned to shut down just when it did.

The press blackout of the balloon bombs was reconsidered following the discovery of a live bomb on the slopes of Gearhart Mountain near Bly, Oregon on 5 May 1945. Unfortunately, that bomb was found by people who had no idea what it was. When it detonated, five children and one pregnant woman on a church outing were killed. After this, the government abandoned its campaign of silence and instead instituted a broad educational campaign to warn all citizens, particularly children, not to tamper with strange objects they might find in the woods. These six fatalities on Gearhart Mountain were the only known American deaths caused by enemy action within the continental United States during World War II.

In the end, Operation Fu-Go did not achieve any of its operational goals. The principal objective, to set fire to the North American forests, was doomed from the beginning by the weather. First, the most favorable winds occurred in the winter months when the forests were normally at their wettest (and often covered in snow) and, second, the winter of 1944-45 was North America's wettest winter of the decade. The operation's secondary objective to create panic among the American citizenry was effectively thwarted by the press blackout that kept the larger public from knowing very much about the balloon bombing program until it was all over.

Even though the Japanese launched no balloons after early April 1945, balloon fragments and components continued turning up in Alaska, British Columbia, and the western United States - two were even found in Mexico. There were over 50 such finds in the closing months of the war with at least eight more found in the late 1940s. Three were found in the 1950s, two in the 1960s, and one in the 1970s. Many balloons were found with live ordnance attached or nearby. One device, complete with a live bomb, was found near Lumby, British Columbia in 2014. Another was found near McBride, British Columbia as late as 2019, also with a live bomb.

A balloon found in 1954 in northeastern Alaska, the northern most balloon yet discovered, was examined closely by United States Army intelligence. Their report noted the completeness of the find and good condition of all components after nearly a decade in the Arctic weather. Specifically, the report noted how tough the paper envelope was, saying it was "so durable that it could not be torn apart by two men pulling at it."

Despite the Fu-Go balloon's failures as a weapon of war, the concept was an ingenious blend of low-tech, clever mechanical engineering, and a superior understanding of the winds. In our day of high-tech advanced weaponry, a paper balloon riding on the wind will forever stand as the first truly intercontinental weapon system.

Sources:
"Japan's World War II Balloon Bomb Attacks on North America"; Robert C. Mikesh; 1973
Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum
United States Army
United States Navy
Canadian War Museum
Royal Canadian Air Force
State of Oregon Archives
FU-GO: The Curious History of Japan's Balloon Bomb Attack on America; Ross Coen; 2014
The Press Democrat (newspaper); 5 Apr 2022
12 O'Clock High forum
The Nevada Appeal (newspaper); 5 Nov 2015
Kelowna Infonews.ca; 10 Oct 2014
The Rocky Mountain Goat (newspaper); 22 Oct 2019
Museum of Ventura County (California)
United States Census Bureau
Inside Science; 21 Mar 2016
Atomic Heritage Foundation; 10 Aug 2016
Amusing Planet; 28 May 2018
Wikipedia
ww2dbase

Last Major Revision: Mar 2023

Fu-Go Balloon Bomb Interactive Map

Photographs

The chandelier style gondola of a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb recovered in the Klamath Mountains between Red Bluff and Hayfork, California, United States 1 Feb 1945. Note the clear battery box on top.Nearly deflated Japanese Fu-Go Type A balloon grounded near Tremonton, Utah, United States, 23 Feb 1945. The ballast dropping equipment found with this balloon was damaged.A Royal Canadian Navy intelligence officer approaching a downed Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb in the western Canadian provinces, circa Mar 1945. Note the incendiary bombs still attached.Captain Harold Cross of the Canadian Army was a balloon expert and is seen here next to a Japanese Fu-Go balloon’s ballast dropping apparatus after a balloon bomb recovery in Canada.
See all 23 photographs of Fu-Go Balloon Bomb

Maps

Map of Honshu, Japan showing the launch sites and radio tracking stations for the Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb program.

Videos

United States Navy training film describing the Japanese Fu-Go balloon bombs.

Fu-Go Timeline

3 Nov 1944 The Japanese commenced the Fu-Go balloon bomb campaign against the continental United States and Canada. The balloons employed an altitude-keeping device which kept them in the prevailing west-east wind. The balloon would crash on arrival over the US where its small bombload of incendiary bombs would then detonate.
4 Nov 1944 A floating rubberized silk balloon envelope was recovered by a US Navy patrol craft inshore of California’s Channel Islands. This balloon had been launched three days earlier from Ichinomiya, Japan carrying only radio equipment to assess the speeds of the high-altitude winds.
14 Nov 1944 United States Coast Guard personnel witnessed a paper Japanese Fu-Go balloon descend into the sea 5 miles off Kailua, Hawaii. The envelope, the rigging, and some apparatus were recovered. This was the farthest south any Fu-Go balloon was known to have been aloft.
6 Dec 1944 A sudden explosion of bright red flame was seen near Thermopolis, Wyoming and what appeared to be a parachute descended to earth. Fragments of a 15kg anti-personnel bomb from a Japanese Fu-Go balloon were found the next day.
11 Dec 1944 The envelope and some rigging from a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb were found near Kalispell, Wyoming, United States. Based on the amount of snow covering the balloon, it was estimated to have landed between 11 & 25 Nov 1944.
24 Dec 1944 A nearly complete Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb was found near Holy Cross in western Alaska.
31 Dec 1944 The envelope, rigging, and some damaged apparatus frame pieces from a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb were found suspended in a tree near Estacada, Oregon, United States. It was estimated that the balloon became entangled in the tree on 27 or 28 Dec 1944.
1 Jan 1945 Fragments from an envelope of a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb were found near Stony Rapids, Saskatchewan, Canada.
4 Jan 1945 A paper Japanese Fu-Go balloon was seen drifting inland from Jenner on the northern California coast. Later that same day, what was believed to be the same balloon was seen to land in an apple orchard near Forestville, California. Including the four incendiary bombs still attached to it, this was the most complete balloon recovered by the US Army to date.
4 Jan 1945 The United States Department of Censorship requested a voluntary blackout of all press coverage in newspapers and radio concerning the Japanese balloon bombs being found in western states. All media outlets complied.
10 Jan 1945 A US Navy F6F Hellcat fighter pilot flying from NAS Klamath Falls, Oregon located a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb in flight at 28,000 feet. The pilot circled the balloon for several minutes taking photographs before attempting to shoot it down, whereupon he found that his guns had frozen. The Hellcat made repeated dives on the balloon which forced it to a lower altitude. The balloon continued drifting to the southeast as the Hellcat was joined by another aircraft from the same base. Together in a coordinated effort, the pilots continued to make passes on the balloon driving it downward until it finally grounded near Alturas, California. The complete balloon was later recovered and closely examined. The balloon was later inflated at Moffett Field for testing and is currently housed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
12 Jan 1945 In Minton, Saskatchewan, Canada, a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb was observed to descend, drop one 15kg incendiary bomb and two 5kg incendiary bombs, and then rise again disappearing from sight. One 5kg incendiary bomb exploded, the others did not.
13 Jan 1945 A complete Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb was found grounded near Lame Deer, Montana, United States.
15 Jan 1945 Shortly after sunset in Ventura County, California, a Japanese 15kg anti-personnel bomb exploded in the riverbed of the Santa Clara River between Oxnard and Saticoy. The bomb came from a paper balloon of Operation Fu-Go which landed later that night about 15 miles farther inland near Moorpark, California.
19 Jan 1945 The envelope, rigging, & some apparatus from a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb were found near Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, Canada. The balloon was estimated to have landed at least a day earlier.
25 Jan 1945 A Japanese Fu-Go balloon was detected at 28,000 feet 40 miles southwest of Shemya Island in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska and was shot down by USAAF fighter planes. The balloon was not recovered.
31 Jan 1945 [appx date] Fragments of a paper balloon envelope from a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb were found near Nogales, Arizona, United States near the Mexican border.
1 Feb 1945 A nearly complete Japanese Fu-Go balloon was found between Red Bluff and Hayfork, California, United States, including pieces of a paper envelope, rigging, apparatus, 7 sandbags, and 4 unexploded 5kg incendiary bombs. This was the first complete Fu-Go balloon ballast dropping apparatus to be discovered.
2 Feb 1945 A Japanese Fu-Go balloon was found near Laurens, Iowa, United States, including pieces of a paper envelope, rigging, and the ballast dropping apparatus.
7 Feb 1945 A Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb paper envelope, some rigging, and pieces of the ballast dropping apparatus were found near Provost, Alberta, Canada. Two men were injured during the recovery of this balloon.
9 Feb 1945 The paper envelope and shroud lines of a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb were found near Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada.
12 Feb 1945 The envelope and 2 incendiary bombs from a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb were found near Burwell, Nebraska, United States.
12 Feb 1945 Bomb explosion attributed to a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb was followed by a small ground fire near Hardin, Montana, United States. The fire was quickly extinguished. Three other Japanese incendiary bombs also went off near Riverdale, Montana on the other side of the state.
17 Feb 1945 Despite having no intelligence on the matter, the Japanese Domei News Agency made a radio broadcast in English directed at the United States that the Fu-Go balloon bomb program had inflicted great damage on the United States, claiming that there had been thousands of casualties and numerous fires had been started.
19 Feb 1945 A partially inflated Japanese Fu-Go balloon was recovered near Takla Lake, British Columbia, Canada. Separately on this date, 13 RCAF fighters were scrambled in British Columbia on reports of the Fu-Go balloon in flight. It turned out to be the planet Venus.
21 Feb 1945 Two bomb explosions were detected near Spokane, Washington, United States. The bombs were believed to be one 15kg high-explosive bomb and one 5kg incendiary bomb from a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb.
21 Feb 1945 A Japanese Fu-Go balloon was discovered floating across southern British Columbia, Canada and was pursued by P-40 Kittyhawk fighters of RCAF No. 133 Squadron flying from Patricia Bay. The balloon was shot down from 25,000 feet by Pilot Officer E.E. Maxwell near Sumas Mountain, British Columbia, Canada.
21 Feb 1945 A Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb was seen to hit the ground, drop pieces of its ballast dropping apparatus, and rise again before disappearing from sight.
22 Feb 1945 Near Manyberries, Alberta, Canada, a nearly complete Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb was recovered.
22 Feb 1945 A Japanese Gu-Go balloon bomb was seen exploding in the sky near Powell, Wyoming, United States (probably the self-destruct charge). The wreckage, that included three 5kg thermite incendiary bombs, was recovered and analyzed.
22 Feb 1945 A Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb was seen grounding near Glendo, Wyoming, United States and was later recovered. The ballast dropping apparatus was damaged with some components missing.
22 Feb 1945 A Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb was discovered floating at 12,000-feet over Coos Bay, Oregon. It was shot down by Navy planes and parts of it were later recovered.
22 Feb 1945 A paper balloon envelope and ballast dropping equipment from a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb were found near Porcupine Plain, Saskatchewan, Canada.
22 Feb 1945 A Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb was seen to scrape the ground near Ekwok, Alaska, knock its battery loose, and fly on. Paper balloon envelope fragments were found nearby three weeks later.
23 Feb 1945 A paper Japanese Fu-Go balloon was seen drifting over Sonoma County, California. P-38 Lightning fighters were scrambled from the Santa Rosa Army Airfield and 1Lt Clinton Bergen shot down the balloon near Calistoga after it crossed the ridge. Balloon pieces were later recovered.
23 Feb 1945 A nearly deflated Japanese Fu-Go Type A paper balloon grounded itself near Tremonton, Utah, United States. The ballast dropping equipment found with this balloon was damaged causing the self-destruct charges to fail.
10 Mar 1945 A Japanese Fu-Go balloon came down across electrical lines in Toppenish, Washington causing a power outage. Although not widely known for another ten years, the outage shut down the reactor at the Hanford, Washington facility of the Manhattan Project. Back-up systems quickly restored power but it would take another three days for the reactors to reach full capacity again. A burned balloon envelope, shroud lines, and ballast dropping equipment were recovered from the downed balloon. At almost the same time, another complete Fu-Go balloon bomb grounded near Cold Creek, Washington, very near the Hanford site.
10 Mar 1945 Two Japanese Fu-Go balloons were discovered floating across Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada and was pursued by P-40 Kittyhawk fighters of RCAF No. 133 Squadron flying from Patricia Bay. One balloon was shot down from 13,500 feet by Pilot Officer J.G. Patten near Galiano Island. The second balloon escaped.
12 Mar 1945 RCAF No. 6 Squadron Flight Lieutenant Moodie and his crew flying in a Vickers PBV-1A Casno (Canadian built version of the PBY Catalina) observed a low flying Japanese paper Fu-Go balloon at about 500 feet near Rupert Inlet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. By making passes over the balloon, F/Lt Moodie forced the balloon downward until it was caught in some trees on the south side of the inlet. The balloon was later recovered and examined. F/Lt Moodie’s crew also saw a second balloon but it escaped.
12 Mar 1945 Parts of a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb including the paper envelope, shroud lines, and ballast dropping equipment were found near Oxford House, Manitoba, Canada. This was the farthest east any signs of the Fu-Go campaign were found in Canada.
12 Mar 1945 The paper envelope of a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb was recovered by from the Pacific Ocean 950 miles WSW San Diego, California, United States, about one-third of the way from San Diego to Hawaii.
19 Mar 1945 A nearly complete Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb was found near Marie Lake, Manitoba, Canada.
19 Mar 1945 In Sonoyta, Mexico, a short distance from the US border, a grounded Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb was located.
20 Mar 1945 Near William Lake, Manitoba, Canada, a paper balloon envelope and ballast dropping equipment from a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb were found.
21 Mar 1945 An intact Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb was located near Dillingham, Alaska.
22 Mar 1945 A paper Japanese Fu-Go balloon was shot down by USAAF pilots in Bell P-63 Kingcobras flying from Walla Walla, Washington. The balloon was first tracked near Redwood, Oregon and followed to just beyond Reno, Nevada (with the aircraft needing some refueling along the way). The balloon was shot down in hills southeast of Reno and exploded on impact. Nevertheless, two in-tact incendiary bombs were recovered nearby.
25 Mar 1945 In Farmington, Michigan, 15 miles from Detroit, a small fire was observed in an open field that sputtered briefly like a magnesium fire but soon went out. Later, a casing from a Japanese 5kg incendiary bomb from a Japanese Fu-Go balloon was found. This is the farthest east that any of the Japanese balloon bombs were known to have traveled. Separately, a captured and reinflated Fu-Go balloon was on a test flight from Lakehurst, New Jersey when it was lost by its chase airplanes. It was last seen heading out to sea over the Atlantic.
28 Mar 1945 In the area of Laguna Salada in northern Baja California, Mexico, a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb was shot down by Mexican authorities.
30 Mar 1945 A paper balloon envelope and valve from a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb were found near Waterhen Lake, Manitoba, Canada.
7 Apr 1945 [appx date] The last set of Japanese Fu-Go balloon bombs were launched into the jet-stream.
10 Apr 1945 Near Southern Indian Lake, Manitoba, Canada, a paper envelope and other parts from a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb were found.
13 Apr 1945 US fighter planes based on Attu Island, Aleutian Islands, Alaska encountered ten-to-thirty (sources differ) Japanese Fu-Go balloons between 30,000 and 37,000 feet. Nine were shot down and parts of one balloon were recovered.
20 Apr 1945 Near Tikchik Lake, Alaska, the paper envelope, a damaged valve, the ballast dropping equipment, the barometer box, the demolition block, and other parts of a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb were found.
23 Apr 1945 120 miles off Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia, Canada, a rubberized silk balloon envelope from a Japanese Fu-Go radio tracking balloon was recovered from the ocean.
28 Apr 1945 A nearly intact Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb was located near Akiak, Alaska.
5 May 1945 A minister from Bly, Oregon, United States, his pregnant wife, and five children from their Sunday School class ages 11 to 14 traveled to Gearhart Mountain a short distance east of Bly for an outing. As the minister was parking his car, his wife called to him that the children had found something. Almost instantly, a bomb exploded killing all six onlookers. Analysis revealed they were killed by a Japanese 15kg anti-personnel bomb from a Fu-Go balloon. These six fatalities were the only Americans killed by enemy action in the continental US during World War II. This incident also led to the lifting of the press blackout concerning the balloon bombs and prompted a well-publicized educational effort to warn people about the hazards of handling Japanese balloons or their components.
14 May 1945 The United States Department of Censorship partially lifted the blackout on information about the Japanese balloon bombs. In the regions where balloons were landing, a "word of mouth" campaign was launched at public gatherings and meetings of civic organizations to verbally brief residents. The continuing ban on printed press coverage or radio news reports was emphasized.
22 May 1945 Following the deaths of six people in Oregon including five children, the United States Department of Censorship lifted the blackout of press coverage about the Japanese balloon bombs. In its place, a safety warning was widely publicized describing the balloons and cautioning people, especially children, to avoid contact with any strange objects found in open country. News editors were still encouraged to keep any reporting of specific balloon activities out of their reports in order to deny the Japanese that intelligence.
14 Jun 1945 A complete Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb was found grounded near Egegik, Alaska.
18 Jun 1945 The paper balloon envelope, valve, ballast dropping equipment, three sandbags, one unexploded 15kg high-explosive bomb, and two unexploded 5kg candle-type incendiary bombs from a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb were found near Anchorage, Alaska.
24 Jun 1945 Fragments of a paper balloon envelope from a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb were found along the Old Crow River in the Yukon Territory, Canada. This was the farthest north any Fu-Go evidence was found to date within Canada.
19 Jul 1945 Carrier aircraft from US Task Force 38 operating southeast of Japan encountered a Fu-Go balloon in flight. The balloon was shot down and sank before it could be recovered. Ironically, this was very near the launch point of the Doolittle Raid three years earlier for which Operation Fu-Go was created to avenge.
1 Jul 1954 [appx date] A Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb was recovered from northern Alaska's Brooks Range. After nearly ten years of exposure to the Arctic weather, the balloon remained in remarkably good condition. The paper envelope was "so durable that it could not be torn apart by two men pulling at it" and the 5kg incendiary bomb was still "highly explosive." This balloon was the farthest north of any balloon found.
1 Oct 2014 [appx date] A logger near Lumby, British Columbia, Canada found an unexploded 15kg high-explosive bomb from a Japanese Fu-Go balloon from 1945.
1 Sep 2019 [appx date] A hunting party on the rugged mountains above the Raush River in British Columbia, Canada discovered a weathered aluminum ballast ring and a steel relief valve from a Japanese Fu-Go Balloon bomb. The ballast ring still had at least one incendiary bomb attached.




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Fu-Go Balloon Bomb Photo Gallery
The chandelier style gondola of a Japanese Fu-Go balloon bomb recovered in the Klamath Mountains between Red Bluff and Hayfork, California, United States 1 Feb 1945. Note the clear battery box on top.
See all 23 photographs of Fu-Go Balloon Bomb


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