When Japan Attacked Continental United States During WW2

 Nobuo Fujita

Nobuo Fujita  (1911–30 September 1997) was a Warrant Flying Officer of the Imperial Japanese Navy who flew a floatplane from the long-range submarine aircraft carrier I-25, and conducted the only wartime aircraft-dropped bombing on the continental United States, which became known as the Lookout Air Raid. Using incendiary bombs, his mission was to start massive forest fires in the Pacific Northwest near the city of Brookings, Oregon with the objective of drawing U.S. military resources away from the Pacific Theater. The strategy was also used in the Japanese fire balloon campaign.

Fujita himself suggested the idea of a submarine-based seaplane to bomb military targets, including ships at sea, and attacks on the U.S. mainland, especially the strategic Panama Canal. The idea was approved, and the mission was given to I-25. Submarine aircraft carriers such as the giant I-400-class submarines would be developed specifically to bomb the Panama Canal.

 Nobuo Fujita standing by his Yokosuka E14Y "Glen".

At 06:00 on 9 September, I-25 surfaced west of the Oregon/California border. The submarine launched the "Glen", flown by Fujita and Petty Officer Okuda Shoji, with a 154 kg (340 lb) load of two incendiary bombs. Fujita dropped two bombs, one on Wheeler Ridge on Mount Emily in Oregon. The location of the other bomb is unknown. The Wheeler Ridge bomb started a small fire 16 km (9.9 mi) due east of Brookings, which U.S. Forest Service employees were able to extinguish. Rain the night before had made the forest very damp, and the bombs were rendered essentially ineffective. Fujita's plane had been spotted by two men, Howard Gardner and Bob Larson, at the Mount Emily fire lookout tower in the Siskiyou National Forest. Two other lookouts (the Chetco Point Lookout and the Long Ridge Lookout) reported the plane, but could not see it due to heavy fog. The plane was seen and heard by many people, especially when Fujita flew over Brookings in both directions. At about noon that day, Howard Gardner at the Mount Emily Lookout reported seeing smoke. The four U.S. Forest Service employees discovered that the fire was caused by a Japanese bomb. Approximately 27 kg (60 lb) of fragments, including the nose of the bomb, were turned over to the U.S. Army.

 Japanese submarine I-25. The bulbous plane hangar and the catapult are visible forward of the conning tower.

After the bombing, I-25 came under attack by a USAAF aircraft on patrol, forcing the submarine to dive and hide on the ocean floor off Port Orford. The American attacks caused only minor damage, and Fujita flew a second bombing sortie three weeks later on 29 September. Fujita used the Cape Blanco Light as a beacon. After 90 minutes flying east, he dropped his bombs and reported seeing flames, but the bombing remained unnoticed in the U.S.

The submarine torpedoed and sank the SS Camden and SS Larry Doheny, and then sailed for home. On its way to Japan, I-25 sank the Soviet submarine L-16, which was in transit between Dutch Harbor, Alaska and San Francisco, California, mistaking it for an American submarine (Japan and the USSR were not at war at the time).

The two attacks on Oregon in September 1942 were the only World War II aircraft bombings on the continental United States.

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-- Aeschylus

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