10 Lesser Known Foreign Attacks on US Soil

10 Lesser Known Foreign Attacks on US Soil

Khalid Elhassan - March 29, 2018

Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and the War of 1812 are what most people think of when they think of attacks on American soil. However, those were not the only times when foreign adversaries struck within US territory. Other attacks might not have been as devastating as the aforementioned trio, but enemies have struck Americans on US soil numerous times, in aggressions that are barely remembered today.

Following are ten of history’s lesser known foreign attacks on US soil.

The Time German Saboteurs Almost Blew Up the Statue of Liberty

Today, the highest point accessible to the public when visiting the Statue of Liberty, reached via a long and winding staircase, is its crown. However, for the first three decades after the statue’s dedication and opening to the public in 1886, visitors could go even higher, up the statue’s upraised arm, until they reached its torch of freedom. That ended in 1916, when Lady Liberty’s torch was closed to the public because of an act of sabotage that qualifies as the first attack on America a foreign terror cell. The torch has been inaccessible to the public ever since, for over a century and counting.

New York Harbor had a rock known as “Black Tom” off the New Jersey shore, that was a navigation hazard. So authorities used landfill to create a 25 acre artificial island around the rock, that became known as Black Tom Island, with a causeway and rail line to connect it with the mainland. Piers and warehouses were built, and by the early 20th century, Black Tom Island had become one of the East Coast’s biggest munitions depots.

10 Lesser Known Foreign Attacks on US Soil
Wreckage of a Black Tom Island pier, opposite the Statue of Liberty, in the aftermath of the 1916 explosion. NY Daily News

When WWI broke out in 1914, Black Tom Island’s depots and warehouses could barely keep up with the combatant’s orders for American manufactured munitions. America stayed neutral until 1917, and during that period either side was free to buy American munitions. As a practical matter, however, only the Entente Powers of Britain, France, Russia, and their allies, were in a position to take advantage of the American arsenal. Barring the risk of German submarines, Entente ships could freely sail the seas. By contrast, Britain had blockaded Germany in 1915, its Royal Navy controlled the sea lanes, so the Germans had no way of getting arms and munitions from the US to Germany.

That being so, the Germans sent secret agents and saboteurs to America, with orders to disrupt the production and delivery of weapons and munitions from the US to Germany’s enemies. Black Tom Island, being one of the major storage and shipping sites on US soil for arms and munitions destined for the Entente Powers, was thus high on the Germans’ to-do list.

On the night of July 30th, 1916, Black Tom Island had about two million pounds of artillery and small arms munitions in freight trains and barges, including 100,000 pounds of TNT, all destined for Russia. Sometime after midnight, guards noticed a series of small fires on the piers, and took to their heels, fearing an explosion. Their instincts were right.

At 2:08 AM, July 30th, 1916, millions in the region were jolted awake by a massive explosion, whose seismic vibrations were equivalent to a 5.5 earthquake on the Richter Scale. The blast hurtled debris for over a mile, shattered windows up to 25 miles away, and its shockwaves were felt as far as Philadelphia. At least 5 people were killed, including a police chief and an infant. The actual death toll is unknown, however, for there were many housing barges nearby, and other victims are thought to have been incinerated by the blast. The blast and debris struck the Statue of Liberty, popping rivets in its upraised arm holding aloft the torch of freedom. As a result, that part of the statue has been closed to the public ever since. All in all, the explosion caused about half a billion dollars in property damages.

Investigators concluded that the explosion had been accidental. However, years after the war, a Slovak immigrant named Michael Kristoff revealed the truth. He admitted to having worked for German agents in 1916, when the US was still neutral, and identified two guards at Black Tom Island who were also German agents. An investigative commission eventually concluded that Imperial Germany was responsible for the explosion. In 1953, West Germany finally accepted German responsibility, and agreed to settle the damages for $95 million, of which the final payment was made in 1979.

10 Lesser Known Foreign Attacks on US Soil
A vehicle destroyed during the bombing of Naco, Arizona. Wikimedia

The Drunk Bombing of Naco

American soil has been attacked from the air a few times, with Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks being the best known instances. However, the first time America was attacked from the air happened in 1929, in the town of Naco, Arizona. Fighting from a rebellion in Mexico spilled over across the border, and a possibly drunk mercenary pilot, hired to bomb Mexican forces, bombed an American town instead.

In the late 1920s, rebels in northern Mexico rose up against the Mexican government in what came to be known as the Escobar Rebellion. During the fighting, Mexican government forces, or federales, entrenched in the Mexican border town of Naco, in the state of Sonora. Their positions lay directly across the border from the American town of Naco, Arizona.

The locals in American Naco and the surrounding region came to view the conflict in Mexican Naco as a spectator event. Sightseers arrived from miles around, to take up advantageous positions from which they could view the view the gun battles between Mexican government and rebel forces. Many even crossed into Mexican Naco, for a better look. It did not seem foolhardy at the time, particularly as combatants from both sides, fearful of US military intervention, were careful not to fire across the border or unnecessarily endanger the gringos. Still, the occasional stray shot flew by, which only added to the spectators’ thrill and excitement.

Things got too exciting, however, in April of 1929, when the rebels hired a mercenary barnstormer pilot, an Irishman named Patrick Murphy, to drop homemade bombs on the federales trenches. On April 2nd, 1929, he dropped two bombs near federales positions, that turned out to be duds, before finally striking a Mexican customs house. Shrapnel peppered crowds of American spectators gathered in nearby salons and clubs in Mexican Naco, causing them to rush back to the American side of the border.

It has widely been rumored that Murphy was flying while drunk, which explains why, soon thereafter, he dropped a bomb on American Naco. Over the next few days, as he flew further bombing raids, Murphy frequently missed the Mexican trenches, and ended up bombing Naco, Arizona. His bombs on the US side of the border destroyed a car parked in a garage, blew up a general store, shattered numerous windows, damaged a US Post Office, and inflicted some injuries, none of them life threatening.

The drunk bombing reign of terror finally ended on April 6th, 1929, when a lucky shot from a federales rifle struck the engine of Murphy’s plane. Trailing white smoke, Murphy managed a crash landing, then sprinted to the rebel lines, and from there crossed into the US. He was arrested by American soldiers and taken to a Nogales jail, but was never charged. US Army detachments, plus a fighter squadron, were sent to Naco, but by the time they got there the rebels had already been defeated, and the fighting was over.

10 Lesser Known Foreign Attacks on US Soil
A pier damaged during the bombardment of Ellwood. Goleta History

The Japanese Bombardment of Targets Near Santa Barbara, California

In the small towns and communities near Santa Barbara, California, a little remembered WW2 event is commemorated to this day: a Japanese bombardment of coastal targets in the opening months of WW2. It was carried out by one of seven Japanese submarines sent to cruise America’s West Coast after the attack on Pearl Harbor. By late December of 1941, they departed to resupply and replenish before some of them returned.

One of the returning submarines was the I-17, captained by a Commander Kozo Nishino. Around 7 PM on the evening of February 23rd, 1942, the I-17 surfaced near the Ellwood Oilfield, and Japanese sailors scurried to ready its 5.5 inch deck gun for action. A few minutes later, the region’s quiet was shattered when Commander Nishino ordered the gun to open fire, lighting up the night skies with a bombardment that lasted about 20 minutes.

The Japanese were familiar with the Ellwood oil field and its facilities, as Japanese ships had frequently made use of its facilities during peacetime. Yet, the bombardment of Ellwood, during which the I-17’s guns fired about 16 shells, was haphazard. Commander Nishino’s men took aim at fuel tanks and oil storage facilities, but missed, and the only damage inflicted was the destruction of a pump house and a derrick, plus the chipping of a pier and catwalk.

Most oilfield workers had already clocked out of work and left for the day when the I-1-17 surfaced, and there was only a skeletal crew present during the bombardment. Nobody was killed or injured, and the damage was minimal. Although the event was trifling, it nonetheless produced great consequences, as the psychological impact of the bombardment exceeded the most optimistic of Japanese expectations. Panic gripped the West Coast, which was swept by a baseless invasion scare. That, coupled with a mounting paranoia, finally culminated in the decision to intern Japanese-Americans during the war.

10 Lesser Known Foreign Attacks on US Soil
The Thornton Skirmish. University of Texas, Arlington

The Thornton Affair, When Mexico Invaded the US

In 1835, after about a decade of mounting tensions between the Mexican government and the steadily growing American immigrant population in its northern state of Texas, the immigrants rose up in rebellion. The following year, after defeating an army sent to stamp out the rebellion and bring Texas back under the Mexican government’s control, the immigrants declared independence and proclaimed the Republic of Texas.

Most Texans, a majority of whom were American immigrants, wanted to join the US. However, both major political parties at the time were leery about adding a vast slave holding state into the volatile and often toxic political climate surrounding the slavery question. They also wanted to avoid a war with Mexico, whose government did not acknowledge Texas’ independence, and viewed it as a rebellion province temporarily outside the Mexican government’s control.

However, in 1843, American president John Tyler, on the outs with both parties, decided to annex Mexico in order to build a popular base of support for a reelection bid. Tyler did not manage to get reelected, but he did manage to get Texas added to the US. After a 9 year run as an independent country, the Republic of Texas was annexed to the United States, and admitted into the Union as the 28th state on December 29th, 1845.

As a result, tensions mounted between the US and Mexico, who officially still saw Texas as part of its territory. Matters were further exacerbated by disagreements about just where Texas’ border with Mexico lay. Mexico claimed that the border lay at the Nueces River, while the US claimed that the border lay at the Rio Grande, hundreds of miles to the south. The disputed region between those two rivers thus became a flashpoint.

In March of 1846, the US Army began taking up positions north of the Rio Grande, in the territory claimed by Mexico. The Mexican government responded by sending an army to clear what it considered its territory of foreign forces, and on April 24th, the Mexican army began crossing the Rio Grande. Upon receiving the news, the US commander sent two dragoon companies of about 80 men, under the command of a Captain Seth B. Thornton, to investigate.

On April 25th, 1846, Thornton ran into a Mexican force of about 1600 men, and his command was largely wiped out. Of his 80 men, 11 were killed, 6 were wounded, and 49 were captured. The incident, which came to be known as “The Thornton Affair”, became a casus belli. As newly inaugurated president James Polk put it when asking a joint session of Congress for a declaration of war: “Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil“. The US won the ensuing American-Mexican War, in which Mexico lost all of its northern provinces. In the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the war, Mexico recognized the Rio Grande as the US-Mexican border, making the Thornton skirmish a foreign attack on US soil.

10 Lesser Known Foreign Attacks on US Soil
A Deutschland class submarine in London after the war. Last Stand Zombie Island

The Bombardment of Orleans, Massachusetts

Until America ended its WWI neutrality and joined the Entente side in 1917, combatants from either side were free to buy American products and goods. However, as seen in an earlier entry about the Black Tom Island Explosion, the British Royal Navy’s blockade of Germany prevented German ships from transporting goods from US ports to German ones.

Large cargo shipments were thus off the table for the Germans. However, in 1916, to run the blockade while hauling high value goods, the Germans designed and built a special class of submarines capable of transporting nearly 1000 tons of cargo. Known as the Deutschland class, the specialty submarines were designated as unarmed merchants, and began plying the sea lanes. Despite British protests, the US agreed to treat them as merchants, and allowed them to transports goods from US ports.

After the US entered the war in 1917 and American markets were completely closed to Germany, the cargo submarines – WWI’s biggest subs – were converted, armed, and sent into combat. Their size allowed them to be fitted with two 5.9 inch deck guns – a powerful surface armament for a submarine of that era. Their huge cargo space also allowed them to carry prodigious amounts of fuel, making them perfect for long range cruises.

On the morning of July 21st, 1918, one of those armed and long range cruising Deutschland class submarines, the U-156, surfaced about 3 miles off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Sailors cleared its twin 5.9 inch guns for actions, and opened fire on a tugboat, the Perth Amboy, that was towing four barges. The unfortunate tugboat was sunk, causing its four barges to capsize as well. The U-156 also opened fire on the nearby town of Orleans, but the shells landed harmlessly in a marsh, and nobody was hurt. However, the shelling earned Orleans the distinction of being the only spot in the United States to receive enemy fire during WWI.

10 Lesser Known Foreign Attacks on US Soil
The captured Nazi agents of Operation Pastorius. Ushap

The Time Nazi Germany Sent Agents to Sabotage the US War Effort and Terrorize the Population

During WW2, as in WW1, the United States was once again transformed into an arsenal that furnished Germany’s enemies with prodigious amounts of materiel, munitions, and armaments. German intelligence personnel recalled how a few German agents had inflicted significant damage on US soil during WW1 with the Black Tom Island explosion, and decided to try for an encore.

The result was Operation Pistorius, a mission to sabotage the American war effort, and launch terror attacks against civilian targets to demoralize the population. Eight German residents who had lived in the US, including two US citizens, were recruited by Germany’s military intelligence, the Abwehr, and taught the arts of sabotage. Special emphasis was given to the use and manufacture of explosives. They were given a laundry list of targets, including hydroelectric plants, railroad passes, river locks, and bridges. They were also ordered to sow panic by setting off explosives in public places, targeting civilians.

After memorizing convincing background histories for the fake identities they would use in the US, the German agents were split into two teams of four, loaded into two U-boats, and sent to America. The first team landed in New York, 115 miles north of Manhattan, on June 12th, 1942. A Coastguardsman came upon them at the beach, but rather than kill him, the agents threatened him, then gave him $260 before catching a train to Manhattan. The Coastguardsman reported the encounter, and a manhunt ensued.

The other team landed in Florida four days later, and caught a train to the north. The two teams were to meet at a Cincinnati hotel on July 4th, to coordinate the launch of their sabotage campaigns. Before the second team had even landed, however, one of the first team’s agents, George Dasch, talked a fellow agent, Enrst Burger, into joining him in abandoning the mission and defecting. Dasch contacted the FBI, first by phone, then by traveling to Washington, DC and walking into FBI headquarters, demanding to speak to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

With Dasch’s cooperation, all German agents were rounded up and arrested before they had a chance to cause any harm. J. Edgar Hoover took for himself and the FBI the credit for foiling the German plot. In reality, the plot unraveled not because of the FBI’s counterintelligence skills, but simply because one of the German agents got cold feet and snitched on his comrades.

Dasch and Burger were promised pardons and leniency by Hoover in exchange for their cooperation. They got a rude surprise, however, when they ended up alongside the other German agents before a military tribunal, tried on charges of spying, and violating the laws and Articles of War. All eight were found guilty and sentenced to death, but president Roosevelt commuted Burger’s sentence to life imprisonment, and Dasch’s to 30 years. The remaining six were executed by electric chair on August 8th, 1942.

10 Lesser Known Foreign Attacks on US Soil
Japanese pilot Nobuo Fujita and his seaplane. Wikimedia

The Lookout Air Raid, When the Japanese Tried to Set the Pacific Northwest on Fire

The United States was unique, and exceptionally fortunate among the major WW2 combatants, in that it did nearly all of its fighting outside its territory, and far away beyond its borders. As the war raged on in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa, the continental United States, and pretty much the entirety of the Western Hemisphere, remained largely untouched.

Some of the few exceptions to that inviolability occurred in September of 1942, when the Japanese launched a pair of air raids that dropped incendiaries on the forests of Oregon, hoping to ignite uncontrollable wild fires. The mission was entrusted to the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Lieutenant Commander Meiji Tamagi, captain of the IJN submarine I-25.

Tamagi’s submarine, which had a range of 16,000 miles, was specially built with a small aircraft hangar in front of the conning tower, that housed a seaplane. On the morning of September 9th, 1942, the I-25 surfaced off Oregon’s Cape Blanco to launch its seaplane. It was piloted by a Warrant Officer Nobuo Fujita, and armed with a pair of 168 pound incendiary bombs.

Fujita’s plane was spotted by a lookout in a forest tower as he flew to the Siskiyou National Forest in southwestern Oregon. The Japanese pilot dropped his incendiaries, but did so from an incorrect height, resulting in only a few scattered fires. Between that bombing error, recent rains that kept the area damp, and the efforts of fire lookouts and Park Rangers, the flames were contained and extinguished within a few hours. A few weeks later, on September 29th, Fujita returned and dropped another load of incendiaries, but the second raid’s results were just as negligible as the first.

10 Lesser Known Foreign Attacks on US Soil
The ruins of Columbus, New Mexico, in the aftermath of Pancho Villa’s raid. Wikimedia

The Battle of Columbus, New Mexico

On March 9th, 1916, Mexican revolutionary and bandit Francisco “Pancho” Villa (1878 – 1923), leading a force of about 400 men, crossed the US-Mexican border, and rode to the town of Columbus, New Mexico. The town, which had a US Army garrison of about 600 men, was home to a man named Sam Reval, whom Villa had paid for weapons, only to get stiffed when Reval kept the money without delivering the arms.

Pancho Villa had been born into a family of Mexican sharecroppers, and raised in poverty. At age 16, he reportedly killed his first man, a hacienda owner whom he accused of raping his sister. He then stole his victim’s horse and fled to the hills, which became his base for years to come as he turned to full time banditry. Captured in 1902, he was spared the death penalty, and inducted into the Mexican army instead. He deserted after killing an officer and stealing his horse, and returned to banditry.

When the Mexican Revolution began in 1910, Villa joined the rebels, and was instrumental in defeating the government’s forces in northern Mexico. After victory, Villa was appointed a brigadier general in the new government’s army, but struck a superior during a quarrel and was sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to imprisonment, and Villa eventually escaped from prison and fled to the US.

He returned to Mexico in 1913, after securing American support to fight against a new government that had seized power in a coup. Villa again achieved considerable success, and was appointed governor of the state of Chihuahua. As governor, he confiscated grand haciendas, broke them into smaller plots, and redistributed the land to the widows and families of fallen revolutionaries.

Villa’s side overthrew the coup-installed government, but when the victors again fell out, Villa did poorly in this third round of fighting. By 1915, he was reduced to a small band hiding in the hills of Chihuahua, and the US shifted its backing from Villa to his opponents. Feeling betrayed, he began attacking American interests in northern Mexico, and in 1916, crossed the border to attack Columbus, New Mexico.

Between resentment against the US for abandoning him, and resentment against Sam Reval for cheating him, Villa was in a foul mood. His men were in a similarly foul mood, after learning that American authorities had arrested 20 Mexicans two days earlier in El Paso, doused them in kerosene, and set them on fire. It had probably been accidental: it was routine practice in those days to delouse prisoners with kerosene before locking them up. But the news served to further raise the raiders’ hackles.

At 4:45 AM, Villa’s men rode into Columbus, and opened fire on a US Army barracks, shocking its sleeping soldiers awake. One detachment of raiders went looking for Sam Reval, but could not find him – he had gone to El Paso to see a dentist. Another detachment charged into a hotel, killing four guests and setting the establishment on fire. Yet other detachments rode around the town, firing into houses and shooting anybody who came out.

Once the American soldiers in Columbus recovered from their surprise, they began offering increasingly effective resistance. About 7:30 AM, Villa ordered a bugle blown, a signal for his raiders to retreat. They were pursued by US soldiers across the border, about 5 miles into Mexican territory, before they were repulsed by strong resistance.

By the time it was over, 8 American soldiers and 15 civilians had been killed in Columbus, while Villa’s raiders had lost about 100 men. The US responded with a punitive military expedition to Mexico, to hunt down Villa, that lasted into 1917. It proved futile, as Villa eluded his pursuers, and his popularity rose among Mexicans resentful of the intrusion.

10 Lesser Known Foreign Attacks on US Soil
Ambos Nogales in 1918, with Nogales, Arizona, on the right, and Nogales, Sonora, to the left. Wikimedia

The Battle of Ambos Nogales Led to America’s First Border Fence With Mexico

1918 was a tense time at the US-Mexican border. In 1916, Pancho Villa’s attack on Columbus, New Mexico, had led to a US incursion into Mexico that lasted into 1917. America’s joining WWI in 1917 did not help calm things down: with war declared against Germany, American authorities now feared attacks from Mexicans instigated by German agents.

In that tense environment, in mid August, 1918, American military intelligence reported the presence of strange Mexicans, plentifully supplied with arms and munitions, in the Mexican border town of Nogales. There were also reports of white men, presumably Germans, instructing gatherings of Mexicans on military tactics. Simultaneously, an anonymous letter was received from somebody claiming to have been an officer in Villa’s forces, warning of German influences in and around Nogales.

Nogales was a border town split down the middle, with only a wide and open boulevard, named International Street, separating the American part of town, in Arizona, from the Mexican part, in the state of Sonora. Together, the two towns were known as Ambos Nogales, Spanish for “Both Nogaleses”. Historically, the border had been open and unrestricted, with no impediments to crossing from one Nogales to the other. That changed in 1918, however. Thenceforth, crossing into Nogales, Arizona, was restricted to inspection points, and soldiers were posted on International Street to control human traffic into the US.

In the months before August, 1918, at least two Mexicans had been killed while attempting to cross International Street, including a deaf mute who was unable to hear American border guards’ instructions to halt. That built up a store of resentment against US border agents by their Mexican counterparts, and things finally came to a head on August 27th, 1918.

It began when a Mexican carpenter returning to Mexican Nogales was ordered to halt in the middle of International Street by a US Customs official, who wanted to inspect a parcel he was carrying. Only a few feet away, Mexican border agents directed him to ignore the American command, and continue into Mexico. As he hesitated between the competing groups of border agents shouting contradictory instructions, an American soldier raised his rifle to encourage the carpenter to return to the US side. Amidst the confusion, a shot was fired, and the carpenter dropped to the ground.

Thinking the carpenter had been shot, a Mexican Customs official drew out his pistol and shot an American soldier in the face. A US Customs official then drew out a revolver, and shot two of his Mexican counterparts dead. In the meantime, the carpenter, who was unhurt, got up and sprinted to safety down a side street. As gunfire erupted, Mexicans citizens rushed home to grab their firearms, and returned to help the Mexican border agents. Before long, Both Nogaleses were engulfed in a running firefight.

As the fighting intensified, troopers from the 10th US Cavalry Regiment, stationed in Fort Huachuca, were called in. They were followed by a detachment from the 35th Infantry Regiment, whose members set up a machine gun and opened fire on Mexican positions. In an attempt to quell the violence, the mayor of Mexican Nogales tied a white handkerchief to a stick and ran down the street, waving it to try and get the combatants to cease fire. He was shot dead. Finally, around 7:45 PM, fighting stopped when the Mexicans waved a large white flag over their Customs building. After peace was restored, American and Mexican authorities agreed to divide the two Nogaleses with a chain link fence – the first border wall between the two countries.

10 Lesser Known Foreign Attacks on US Soil
Japan’s balloon firebomb attack on the US. National Geographic

The Fire Balloon Attacks

By 1944, WW2 had had gone disastrously wrong for Japan. It was being slowly starved by an ever tightening American blockade, and its cities were being gradually demolished by steadily intensifying American bomber raids. Japanese authorities were under intense pressure to strike back, but they had no bases or platforms from which to launch retaliatory bomber raids against the US. Then somebody in Japan came up with the idea of using a low tech weapon, such as a balloon, to hit back.

The result was the Fu-Go (“Code Fu”) weapon, a hydrogen balloon capable of carrying a 70 pound load of explosive or incendiary bombs. Planners calculated that when released in Japan, the jet stream would carry them over the Pacific Ocean until they reached North America, where their bombs would drop on American and Canadian cities, forest, and farms. The Japanese were particularly hopeful that the incendiary bombs, coming down in the heavily forested Pacific Northwest, would ignite devastating wildfires, wreak havoc, and cause widespread panic.

The technology was brilliant in its utilization of cheap materials to launch a simple device capable of reaching an enemy’s homeland, thousands of miles away. The Fu-Go fire balloons were technically the first weapons ever with an intercontinental range. In that respect, they preceded both the American B-36 Peacemaker bomber and the Soviet R-7 intercontinental ballistic missile.

The first fire balloon was launched on November 3rd, 1944, and in the following months, over 9300 more were built and launched. Japanese planners calculated that about 10% of them would make it across the Pacific to North America. Within days, the first balloon was found floating near Los Angeles, and by the end of November, others had been found as far away as Wyoming and Montana. To avoid a panic, authorities in the US and Canada imposed a news blackout on the fire balloons. It kept civilians from panicking, and also kept the Japanese in the dark about the impact of their campaign.

The greatest hoped-for effect, the sparking of massive wildfires in the forested Pacific Northwest, never materialized because unusually heavy rains kept the forest too damp to ignite. Between that and the news blackout, the Japanese eventually concluded that the Fu-Gu campaign had been a complete flop, so they gave up and abandoned it in April of 1945.

On May 5th, 1945, a minister, his wife, and five children from their parish were on an outing in the woods near the small town of Lakeview, Oregon, when his wife and the children came across one of the Fu-Go devices. Curious, they handled it to see what it was, causing it to go off and kill the woman and the five children. They were the only fatalities of the thousands of bombs launched in the fire balloon campaign.

Fu-Go devices were discovered all along the western parts of North America, from the arctic circle in northern Alaska and Canada, all the way down to Mexico. The majority of the Japanese fire balloons that reached North America were never discovered. So it is a statistical certainty that at least some of these devices are still scattered all over the western parts of the continent. Most of them have probably deteriorated and gone inert by now, but odds are that some are still dangerous if disturbed.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Sources & Further Reading

American Oil and Gas Historical Society – Japanese Sub Attacks Oilfield

AZ Central, July 24th, 2014 – How a Possibly Drunk American Missed His Target and is Responsible For the First Aerial Bombing of the US

Center For Greater Southwestern Studies, University of Texas, Arlington – Thornton Affair

Daily Dose, The – August 27, 1918: The Battle of Ambos Nogales Brings the Fence to the Border

Huachuca Illustrated, Volume 2, 1996 – Buffalo Soldiers at Huachuca: The Battle of Ambos Nogales

National Geographic, May 27th, 2013 – Japan’s Secret WWII Weapon: Balloon Bombs

New York Daily News, June 25th, 2016 – German Spies Nearly Blew Up Statue of Liberty in 1916, Closing Torch to Tourists Forever

Now I Know – Lookout Air Raids

Smithsonian Magazine, June 28th, 2016 – The Inside Story of How a Nazi Plan to Sabotage the US War Effort Was Foiled

Task and Purpose – Balloon Bombs: How Japan Killed Americans at Home In WWII

True West Magazine, October 7th, 2016 – The Bombing of Naco

University of Texas – Pancho Villa: The Attack on Columbus, New Mexico

Wikipedia – Battle of Ambos Nogales

Wikipedia – Operation Pastorius