Japanese Bombed Oregon
     American news media kept these attacks a secret during the war in cooperation with the US government to prevent fear, panic, and confusion which would fulfill the Japanese propaganda goals. Lea had said if the nation as well as individuals prepared for the Japanese attacks, there would be no chaos.
      The seaplane carried two bombs launched from a special modified submarine. It was equipped with compressed air gear to assist ejecting the seaplane from a short uplift-rail. The seaplane then landed at sea after a mission and was hoisted to the submarine to repeat the same steps. The floats and wings were removed and folded up to fit in the watertight hanger. (see above picture)
      On May 27, 1942 two Japanese submarines, the I-26 and I-15 were positioned in the area of Kodiak, Alaska to support a reconnaissance flight launched from the third submarine I-25 for planning a diversionary attack on Dutch Harbor. The plan was to divert American attention and the upcoming attack against American positions on Midway island. On June 20, the I-26 shelled the lighthouse at Estevan Point on Vancouver Island. While moving south, the I-25 shelled and torpedoed the freighter S.S. Fort Camosun off Cape Flattery. The freighter was rescued and towed to safety in Neah Bay.
     The next evening, June 21, the I-25 positioned off the Columbia River, surfaced to shell Fort Stevens, a coastal defense installation on north coast of Oregon. The only damage was to the baseball backstop. On July 30, on their return to Yokosuka, Japan, the US submarine USS Grunion (SS-216) was believed to have been downed by the I-25.
     On the evening of September 9, 1942, the I-25 was back on the Oregon coast. It launched a seaplane with two incendiary bombs, which flew over Mount Emily, to drop bombs on the dense forest near Brookings. Its intent was to cause massive forest fires which would draw the US Pacific fleet to reposition closer to the mainland. The I-25 was spotted by a US A-29 bomber and dove to the safety of the ocean floor off Port Orford. A second similar seaplane attack was reported just after midnight on September 29, about 50 miles west of Cape Blanco. The I-25 used four of its six incendiary bombs. Both mission failed due to the bad weather, which had saturated the woods. They could have started large forest fires.
     On Sunday, October 4, 1942, the I-25 sank the freighter SS Camden off Coos Bay and on the following Tuesday, the submarine was successful at sinking the tanker SS Larry Doheny off Cape Sebastian on the south Oregon coast. On its way back to Yokosuka, October 11, the I-25 destroyed a Soviet submarine L-16 mistaking it for a US submarine.
     The newly discovered eastward jet stream at the high elevation of 30,000 feet opened up another opportunity for Japanese to drop incendiary bombs on the US mainland. The thirty three pound bomb was carried by a balloon with a ingenious mechanism that dropped sand bags along the way, in order to remain on the 30,000 foot altitude. The code name was “Fu-Go”. From November, 1944 to April, 1945, over 342 incidents were recorded in the US and Canada. There were 45 balloon incidents reported in Oregon. On May 5, 1945, while the family picnicking in the woods, a pregnant wife, named Elsie Mitchell cried out to her husband as he parked the car, “Look what I found, dear!”. One of her five children removed the balloon from the tree and triggered the explosion. The children died instantly and Elsie lived briefly afterward. Balloon bomb incidents were registered as far away as Michigan and Iowa, including seventeen states.
     The above incidents could have been the Japanese retaliation for General Jimmy Doolittle’s aerial raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942, the first attack on Japanese soil.
Based on the Oregon State Archives Exhibit  -  RY        
Drawing - courtesy of Nichimo Models, Inc. Japan.
A comment by reader Bill MaCash:
I enjoyed reading your article titled "Japanese Bomb Oregon" on the website about Homer Lea. As the author of "Bombs Over Brookings," which is about the bombings of Curry County, Oregon and the postwar visits of Nobuo Fujitato Brookings, Oregon, I'm always looking for different accounts about the bombings.
I thought the article was excellent. However, I noted some errors that I wanted to bring to your attention. First, the September 9, 1942 bombings occurred about 6 AM, not in the evening. The September 29, 1942 bombings occurred at about 5:30 AM, not at midnight. The information about a midnight bombing was from an account written years after the fact from a Japanese sailor on the submarine. I believe this mistake was a result of the time difference between Tokyo and the West Coast of the US.
Contrary to popular belief, the US media did report attacks on the West Coast shortly after they occurred. For example, the news about the September 9 bombings was released on September 14 and was front page news on September 15. The September 29 bombings wasn't released until June of 1943. However, the newspapers reported the shelling of the oil refinery in Southern California and the shelling of Fort Stevens near the Columbia River very quickly. As many people know, the balloon bombs information was not released until May of 1945 (when the 6 people were killed near Bly, Oregon) to deceive the Japanese about the success of the balloon bombs. The fact that this ploy was successful is remarkable.
As I said earlier, I enjoyed your article. It is very well-done and mostly correct. That makes it unusual.
Thank you for your time.
Bill McCash
Author, "Bombs Over Brookings"  
Oregon State
Thursday, September 27, 2007