From The News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
August 15, 1945

Jap Balloons Fell
In Sixteen States


     SEATTLE, Aug. 15 -- AP -- Japan landed more than 200 bomb carrying unmanned paper balloons in western North America, out of perhaps thousands launched, but the bizarre attack fell flatter than a pancake as a military weapon.
    Details of the strange balloon attacks, hitherto largely secret to keep the enemy from learning the results, were disclosed today with relaxation of censorship.
    As of the end of July, nearly 230 of the lethal balloons or their exploded remnants had been recovered. They fell from Alaska to Mexico and as far east as Michigan, but most frequently in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California and Montana.
    Many more were sighted and still are being recovered in isolated areas, where unexploded bombs remain a menace. Possible duplications in reports of balloons sighted and the fact that many may have come down unseen in mountainous areas make uncertain the exact number that actually reached this continent.
    Unknown too, unless Japan tells, is the number launched. But official guesses that it may be in the thousands are based partly on a navy task force report that hundreds were sighted in a single day off the Aleutians, headed for California. It was at the time of the San Francisco [United Nations] security conference and the report caused apprehension and a redoubled watch. But not one of these was sighted ashore, all apparently falling into the sea.

Flop As Weapon

    Except for killing six persons who tampered with a bomb near Lakeview, Ore., perhaps causing two small fires, and diverting manpower for their investigation and control, the balloons flopped badly as a war weapon. Not one ever dropped in a city or war plant, although several came down near the Hanford atomic bomb factory in south central Washington state and one dropped on the Bonneville Dam power line, momentarily stopping power to the Hanford project.
    The two fires possibly started by balloon bombs were a small brush blaze in Shasta county, Calif., and one on a turkey farm in Oregon, but neither was definitely established as balloon caused.
    The Japanese radio threat to send balloons carrying suicide pilots never materialized. There was no indication any balloon was manned.
    Authorities quickly imposed secrecy on balloon landings. Investigation showed the balloons were 33 foot [diameter], hydrogen filled bags made of five layers of paraffined rice paper and that they traveled at around 30,000 feet with prevailing Pacific winds, coming from Japan in three and a half to four and a half days at 80 to 120 miles an hour. Each carried five bombs, four incendiaries and a 33 pound fragmentation type anti-personnel bomb.
    Combating the balloons quickly became an important defense project under the army's western defense command. The army and navy set up joint operations centers from which planes were dispatched to shoot down the balloons. Comparatively few were destroyed by planes, however. Cooperation of state and local authorities was enlisted, and the military stationed "recovery teams" which pursued and disposed of balloons when sighting reports were received. Recovered balloons were sent to the aerological laboratories at Anacosta, D. C., where they were studied.

Poor Workmanship

    Authorities found the design of the balloon, and the ballast dropping device intended to keep it aloft until it reached this country, was so good some suspected they were of German origin. But the Japanese workmanship was sloppy, and the equipment frequently failed to function properly -- a factor which helped make the attacks unsuccessful. About half the bombs dropped or were dragged off before the balloons were found.
    The balloon traffic reached a peak last March and dropped to a mere dribble the last two months, but authorities attribute this to the fact summer winds are unfavorable for sending gasbags from Japan.
    Near Moxee City, Wash., a sheepherder found a fallen balloon with live bombs, dragged it behind his automobile and kept it in a building two weeks before authorities learned of the incident.
    A small boy in Washington state found an anti-personnel bomb, which looked to him like a toy airplane. He wound the "propeller" -- the arming device in the nose -- until it was within one-sixteenth of an inch of exploding the bomb.
    The lad was pretty disappointed when his plaything was removed, but not more so than the Indian children near Wapato, Wash., who found part of a paper balloon and used it to make a beautiful tepee in their back yard. They were crushed when the officers snatched it away.

From the Seattle Times
August 18, 1945

Jap Balloon Blew Up
Near Tacoma Feb. 28;
One Found Near Orting


     Japan's weird balloon-bomb attacks on North America, during which at least 228 balloons or bombing devices landed in the United States, Canada and Mexico, dwindled sharply in the three months before Japan surrendered.
    Now that censorship has been lifted it can be revealed that on Feb. 27, a balloon exploded in the air near Goldendale, Wash., and the next day another blew up in the air 10 miles northwest of Tacoma.
    Another one of the balloons landed on a farm between Puyallup and Orting on March 3. Investigating officers were sworn to secrecy at the time of the discovery and the farmer who notified them of his find did not confirm until Thursday his suspicions of it being a Jap balloon.

Land on Mt. Rainier

    It was also reported that five or six of the balloons were found in the Mount Rainier park area, but no damage was done.
    Another one of the balloons landed on telephone wires at Keyport, near Bremerton. An FBI demolition squad was called after telephone linemen cut down the missile.
    It was learned that one of the balloons hit a military objective but no damage was done. The balloon landed on the runway at Paine field, an army airfield at Everett.
    The Tacoma office of the state patrol was the "funneling" point for reports of discovery of the balloons. All reports received were then referred to the army and the FBI.

58 in One Day

    The highest number of balloons reported seen in one day in the state was 58.
    The balloons were first made out of paper, but later models were composed of high-grade latex and fabricated silk.
    Authoritative sources revealed that crews of B-29 planes had seen hundreds of the balloons in the air on bombing missions and that the starting point for them was Tokyo.
    The first balloon equipped with bomb devices was discovered in December of 1944 at Kalispell, Montana, by two woodchoppers. Its bombs apparently already had been dropped automatically into the wilds or the ocean without damage.
    In the first action by fighter planes against the gas bags, Royal Canadian air force planes shot down a balloon before it had penetrated 500 yards beyond the American west coast, 20 miles north of Bellingham, Feb. 22.
    Radar was used extensively in detecting the approach of the balloons offshore, and thereafter they were tracked by navy blimps and planes.

Close to Paine Field

    Scattered balloon arrivals continued until March 13, when Everett had its closest call. A gas bag landed at the edge of Paine field, with one incendiary still attached. Two other balloons were found elsewhere in the state the same day by farmers.
    In Yakima, a boy unknowingly carried around a Jap anti-personnel bomb he found for several days before white-faced authorities persuaded him it was dangerous. If he had twisted the armed bomb's detonating device 1/16th of an inch it would have exploded.
    On April 18, near Yakima, an Indian family was found to have built a tepee of fabric from a balloon which crashed nearby.

Last on May 16

    The last two balloons to land in the state came down near Apotin, May 28, and Tampico, Yakima county, June 20.
    The possibility that the Japanese launched many thousands of the balloons may be indicated by the numbers on certain parts of the devices -- numbers which ranged as high as 15,980.
    At the time of the United Nations conference in San Francisco, several hundred Jap balloons were reported at sea drifting toward the Golden Gate, but presumably all crashed harmlessly into the ocean.

From the Seattle Times
October 3, 1945

Jap Balloons


    TOKYO---(UP)---Japanese bomb-carrying balloons, directed against the United States, boomeranged against Japan, a Japanese official said Wednesday.
    The balloons, whose gas bags were made of paper, were designed to follow high altitude winds to the United States. However, tricky winds over the home islands returned at least two of the balloons to spots near their launching points in the early days of the experiment.
    Many balloons were shot down in the Aleutians and one dud carried an inspection tag through which the U.S. Air Force located the manufacturing plant and bombed it out of existence.
    An analysis of the sand ballast of the balloons revealed their launching points and these, too, were bombed.
    The Japanese knew the bombs carried by the balloons were too small to be of any great military value, but hoped they would land in a city or cause forest fires.
    The Japanese conceded their first concrete evidence that a balloon actually had reached the United States was an official American announcement.