Since the end of World War II, the debate on whether the Japanese planned or did not plan to invade Washington and Oregon with troops still rages on. Some say the Japanese had no intention of invading the U.S. because of the long distance across the Pacific Ocean, and others say they were likely wary of a long drawn out battle with armed Americans, as most households in rural areas at the time had a firearm (81 years later this topic is still highly debated).

Japanese Charge
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It is a fact that the Japanese launched an attack on the Oregon and Washington coast.

Naval Combat
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In June of 1942, a Japanese submarine shelled a lighthouse on Vancouver Island (Canada), torpedoed a freighter near Cape Flattery, Washington, and haphazardly sent shells toward Fort Stevens near the mouth of the Columbia River in Astoria, Oregon.

(National Archives, image no. ARC 299673)
(National Archives, image no. ARC 299673) Ft. Stevens, Oregon - a shell crater from a Japanese submarine.
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Three months later in September of 1942, on the most southern part of the Oregon coast near the town of Brookings, a Japanese floatplane was launched from a Japanese ship offshore, it carried a 170lb Thermite bomb. It missed and landed in the Redwood National Forest.

American Civilians Were Killed By a Japanese Balloon Bomb In Oregon

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US Air Force
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Four years later, just three months before the end of the war with Japan, a young family came upon a strange-looking object on Gearhart Mountain near Bly, Oregon. The family was out for a picnic and tragically, a woman and her five children were killed by an unexploded Japanese balloon bomb. They were the only civilians killed on the American mainland during the war.

How did the Balloon Bombs Reach the United States?

U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force
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The Japanese studied weather patterns and winds aloft airflow – the Jetstream – although they didn’t call it that back then. They timed the balloon launches (winter months) and away they went headed for North America.  It’s estimated they sent around 9,000 balloon bombs with about 1000 making their way to the U.S. Only a hundred or so incidents were reported on the west coast of the U.S. and Canada.

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