Japanese Fire Balloons during World War II

 


Japanese Fire BalloonsA fire balloon (風船爆弾 fūsen bakudan?, lit. “balloon bomb”), or Fu-Go (ふ号[兵器] fugō [heiki]?, lit. “Code Fu [Weapon]”), was a weapon launched by Japan during World War II. A hydrogen balloon with a load varying from a 15 kg (33 lb) antipersonnel bomb to one 12-kilogram (26 lb) incendiary bomb and four 5 kg (11 lb) incendiary devices attached, it was designed as a cheap weapon intended to make use of the jet stream over the Pacific Ocean and drop bombs on American and Canadian cities, forests, and farmland.The Japanese fire balloon was the first ever weapon possessing intercontinental range (the second being the Convair B-36 Peacemaker and the third being the R-7 ICBM). The Japanese balloon strikes on North America were at that time the longest ranged attacks ever conducted in the history of warfare, a record which was not broken until the 1982 Operation Black Buck raids during the Falkland Islands War.

From late 1944 until early 1945, the Japanese launched over 9,300 fire balloons, of which 300 were found or observed in the U.S. Despite the high hopes of their designers, the balloons were ineffective as weapons: causing only six deaths (from one single incident) and a small amount of damage.

The Japanese designed two types of balloons. The first was called the “Type B Balloon” and was designed by the Japanese Navy. It was 9 m (30 ft) in diameter and consisted of rubberized silk. The type B balloons were sent first and mainly used for meteorological purposes. The Japanese used them to determine the possibility of the bomb-carrying balloons reaching North America. The second type was the bomb-carrying balloon. Japanese bomb-carrying balloons were 10 m (33 ft) in diameter and, when fully inflated, held about 540 m3 (19,000 cu ft) of hydrogen. Their launch sites were located on the east coast of the main Japanese island of Honshū.

Japan released the first of these bomb-bearing balloons on November 3, 1944. They were found in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, as well as Mexico and Canada.

General Kusaba’s men launched over 9,000 balloons throughout the course of the project. The Japanese expected 10% (around 900) of them to reach America, which is also what is currently believed by researchers. About 300 balloon bombs were found or observed in America. It is likely that more balloon bombs landed in unpopulated areas of North America.

The last one was launched in April 1945.


Source:

Wikipedia

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