Japan Fire Bombed Oxnard During WWII

Column

By John Jay

Sometime in February 1945, a fire bomb was dropped on Oxnard after traveling thousands of miles from Japan on a giant balloon (called a Fu Go bomb). Saticoy also got one around the same time, in January of 1945. This information came from an extremely interesting article in the WWII Quarterly magazine (summer 2020 issue), starting on page 11.

In the latter part of 1944, the Japanese were extremely angry about all of the thousands of bombs raining down on their cities from U.S. B-29 bombers.  They sought a way to get even, and could not do so with bombers since they had none left. What did the use instead? Gigantic balloons called Fu-Go balloons! They had thousands of school girls assembling thousands of these gigantic balloons, each one of which could carry a good size fire bomb. These balloons, with their fire bombs, were released into the jet stream by the thousands (at least 9 thousand of them).

Many balloons never made it across the ocean, but over 5 thousand of them did reach the USA. Some landed in the north west USA, and others landed in California. Some even reached as far as Kansas. The idea was for these Fu Go fire bombs to land in heavily forested parts of the western U.S. to start massive fires, which could have produced enormous destruction, if successful.

The Fu Go balloons which made it to Saticoy and Oxnard did no real damage. Just minor brush fires which were quickly put out. It was still a very interesting part of WWII that less than one percent of us ever heard about. Remember you read it here first.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal

John Jay, Vietnam Vet.,  Voice of Truth, Oxnard

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C E Voigtsberger

My wife actually helped make those balloons during WWII. She was in junior high school at the time. Her education was interrupted significantly by the war to her everlasting regret. The most she remembers about making the balloons was how cold her hands became while gluing the panels together.

People who know nothing about WWII and all the machinations behind the scenes decry the use of the atomic bomb on two cities in Japan. I have been a student of WWII most of my adult life inasmuch as I too lived through it but at a much lesser intensity than my wife.

It has long been my opinion that had we not used the atomic bombs on Japan as we did Japan would have been divided between allied troops and Russian troops much as Germany was.

The difference is that Japan, had the Emperor not announced a surrender would have had Japanese guerrillas still fighting in the mountains of Japan today. Remember how long the Japanese soldier held out in the Philippine Islands — and he was alone in hostile territory.

When I was stationed on Okinawa in 1956-58 we were advised that there were Japanese soldiers holding out on the northern end of the island and that was 11 years after the war ended.

Even after the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, the Japanese unrealistically expected that somehow Russia was going to intervene on behalf of the Japanese government agains the allies. This pipe dream existed even while the Russian army was decimating the Japanese army stationed in Manchuria and China.

Had we not dropped the two atomic bombs it is my studied opinion that the war would have dragged on until the present time resulting in the loss of the Japanese people as a nationality and the total destruction of those islands.

My brother-in-law who was stationed in Manchuria at the end of the war expressed to me that it was a good thing that we dropped the atomic bombs that ended the war. He too realized that Russia’s intent was to seize Hokkaido as Russian territory and that the Japanese army was unable to prevent such invasion.

Even today the Japanese government is living in some kind of dream world. They continually negotiate with the Russian government for the return of the Kurile Island, not being able to accept that Russia considers the Kuriles as Russian homeland torn from its borders in the Russo-Japanese War in the 19th century. I have a better chance of winning the powerball lottery without buying a ticket than Japan has of having the Russian held Kuriles—that they consider theirs historically—returned to Japanese control.

RONALD LAWSON

I too obsess with WW2 History I explain that it is not morbid “I HATE war but I LOVE studying it “

Michael A....

There were a handful of people actually killed with these balloon bombs. I think somewhere in the Northwest.

C E Voigtsberger

In Oregon. I don’t remember how many people were killed. They went up and handled the incendiary bomb that was attached to the ballon resulting in fatal injuries to the folk who were investigating the device. It was partly the fault of the U.S. government as the use of the bombs and their arrival in the U.S. was a closely guarded secret, rating a top secret endorsement. The U.S. government felt it was better to keep the arrival of the bombs a top secret from the Japanese rather than advise citizens of the U.S. of the bombs’ potential deadly effect if mishandled by folks who didn’t know what they were.

Mike Smith
George Pattone

And while we’re sharing interesting WWII local history, it was on Apr 9 1943 that Col Ben Kelsey crash landed a P-43 in the hills of Calabasas. above the LA Pet Cemetery, while testing a new dive brake, flying out of what is now Hollywood Burbank airport…

George Pattone

He walked away with an injured ankle…

C E Voigtsberger

Unfortunately the P-43 was obsolete right from the beginning. While it had impressive high altitude performance figures for its time, it was poorly armed and more poorly armored for aerial combat. It had a tendency to burst into flames quite easily as Japanese pilots discovered during the China campaign. Only 270 some P-43s were built before it was declared obsolete.

It was an interim aircraft built while the P-47, the famous “Jug” was being fabricated and tested for service. The P-43 resembled the Jug in configuration but of course, was not nearly the plane that the P-47 was.

Bruce Boyer, candidate for Ventura County Sheriff

You are confusing the P43 Republic Thunderbolt with the P40 Curtiss Warhawk; the P40 was deployed to China not the P-47. The P40 had the most armament of and single engine aircraft of its time. The P47 was even more heavily armed. The P40 suffered from a lack of range.
Both aircraft were superb in their designed roles, neither was designed to be a high altitude interceptor though the P47 managed it quite well.,.

C E Voigtsberger

I think not. The P43 was an interim fighter design between the P40 and the P47. Unfortunately, in the rapid advance of aeronautics during WWII, lots of prototypes fell by the wayside when newer aircraft with superior attributes appeared off the drawing board. It was a time when there were numerous aircraft companies competing for government wartime contracts and a/c advances leapfrogged ahead. With only 240 some models produced it is easy to see the P-43 was dead from the get go. 240+ models was less than an assembly lines production for a week.

Aeronautic design went from doped linen over plywood airframe to jet a/c in the space of about ten years. We really haven’t made that much progress in aeronautical design in such a short span of time since.

The P-47, the Jug, was one of our more successful a/c designs. It was the Timex watch of WWII. It could take a licking and keep on ticking. It’s secret was the armor around the pilot and its self-sealing gas tanks. Six wing mounted, 50 caliber Brownings helped a bit too. It also served as a fighter-bomber being able to carry both bombs and rockets in under-wing racks.

The P40’s successes in China were due more to the superb flying skills of the pilots who flew them rather than the superior aircraft design of the plane. Chennault’s Flying Tigers were a group of volunteer pilots who flew on contract with the Chinese government. Japan was already feeling the pinch of having jammed the whole cake in their mouth at once.

Their battlefield tactics of “Hey diddle diddle right up the middle” worked against poorly trained, poorly armed, poorly led, Chinese farmers but weren’t very practical against a fairly well armed force of reasonably trained troops with decent heavy weapons support

Yamato Damashii sounded good in the propaganda speeches but proved a ghost when faced with the industrial might of the U.S. at that time. Too bad we have allowed that industrial might to be shipped overseas. I fear in the next major conflict we won’t fare so well with so much heavy industry moved overseas. Even our medicines are manufactured overseas in India and China. My most recent prescription refill is from Dr. Reddy’s Lab from — I don’t remember where in India.

Tom

The Museum of Ventura County has an article titled “When Jellyfish in the Sky Attacked Ventura County” that reports that in 2014 two forestry workers in Lumby, British Columbia stumbled across a balloon bomb that had been in the dirt for almost 70 years.”

https://venturamuseum.org/research-library-blog/when-jellyfish-in-the-sky-attacked-ventura-county/

C E Voigtsberger

Very interesting story. Thanks for the URL I had read in another source that the Army actually had classified knowledge of the balloons as “top secret” although with them landing in populated areas making that classification stick was difficult at best as revealed by the Museum’s monograph on the balloons.

My wife said they cheered when the JA announced that the bombs had been successful. They were too young to realize that propaganda was even more prevalent in the Axis regimes than in the U.S. which had enough propaganda to go around two times.

Not only were female Japanese students involved in the war efforts, Japanese male students from junior high upward were drilling with wooden rifles and bamboo sticks in anticipation of being thrown into combat when U.S. troops invaded Kyushu in September 1945.

Had that enormously tragic event occurred casualties on both sides would have been in the millions. It has been my opinion for a long time that Japan would have ceased to exist as a nation. It would have been reduced to bands of survivors waging fourth generation warfare to the present day. Those two atomic bombs saved tens of thousand of U.S. lives plus hundreds of thousands of U.S. casualties in addition to millions of Japanese lives, Most of the last two to three generations of Japanese would not be here today because their grandfathers and grandmothers would have been sacrificed by the delusions of the Imperial Japanese Army.

Many folks in the U.S. would not be here today because their grandfathers died on the beaches and the rice paddies of Kyushu and Honshu.

RONALD LAWSON

I agree as.a Navy Brat living in Japan post war I played Baseball with the Japanese kids and I have loved Japanese ever since