Submitted by Dick Martin
In the waning months of WWII, somebody in Japan must have had excess gas in their system; but instead of passing it, they came upon a plan to incite terror in the United States. Their Navy and Air Force had been destroyed as an effective fighting force and therefore, no threat to the United States. However, the Japanese came upon a plan to gas up 9300 balloons with a 26 to 33 pound high explosive bomb and four 11 pound incendiary bombs attached. The plan was to use the jet stream to transport the gas filled balloons to the United States, where they would land with their high explosives and incendiaries detonating killing thousands of Americans and inciting terror throughout the United States. The balloon attack would have been ineffective if the United States had not aided the plan by totally mishandling the public information part of the attack .
The Japanese soon found out it was one thing to be full of gas and quite another to successfully launch gas filled balloons in an effective assault on the United States. However, they were partially successful as about 1000 of the 9300 balloons launched did successfully use the jet stream to land in America, mostly in the Western states. (See Map Below) Thousands of Americans were not killed as most of the balloons did not land near populated areas; in fact, the only Americans killed were an inquisitive family tragically killed when they curiously inspected a balloon that had landed near Bly, Oregon.
At first the United States officials were perplexed by the debris they found from the balloons landing and exploding sites. The only successful effect the balloons had was in inciting terror in the United States aided by the US Information Agency and the military trying to keep the laughable balloon attack threat secret.
Finally, the military figured out the whole Japanese effort and came to its senses by printing an honest accounting of the balloon attacks and warning citizens of the danger in handling the devices if they came in contact with them. At that point, the balloon attacks ceased having any positive effect for the Japs so the attacks were ceased and the Japanese had to go back to holding the gas in their system. PU.
Taken from an article in the February issue of World War II magazine "An Ill Wind ."