It was easy for American's to feel safe during World War II. After all, there was a vast ocean that separated us from our enemies and the war that raged on in Europe. But our false security would soon turn to fear and then panic as the vulnerability of the US was exposed and the long reaching arm of the Axis Powers emerge.
February 23, 1942
So where did the enemies of the United States attack? Surprisingly on both coasts. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor seven Japanese submarines spent the next few weeks patrolling our western coast. The U.S. Navy had two encounters with the Axis Power before the submarines headed back to safe waters. But not before the Japanese had sank two merchant ships and damaged six others.
The Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-17 would return to America's West Coast and her waters for one more attack. The submarine was over 365 feet long and carried 17 torpedoes plus a 14cm/40 Naval gun. On February 23, 1942, Nishino captained the I-17 up the Santa Barbara Channel, surfaced, and then used his deck gun to fire 16 shells on Ellwood Oil Field, a large storage facility outside of Santa Barbara. Nishino then took the I-17 beneath the water and disappeared into the ocean.
Only minor damage was incurred to the oil field. A pump house and one oil derrick were destroyed in the shelling. This was the first shelling of the Continental US and sent a panic through the nation. We weren't as safe as we thought.
June 21, 1942
Interestingly, one could say we led the Japanese to our back door on this June morning. A group of fishing vessels maneuvered their way around the mine fields and unbeknownst to them were trailed by the Japanese I-25 submarine which made its way to the mouth of the Columbia river.
Surfacing just before midnight near the Civil War Army base, Fort Stevens, the submarine used its deck gun to fire 17 rounds onto the base. Because of the time of the raid, darkness worked to the American's advantage. The Fort Commander chose not to return fire, realizing that doing so would reveal their position. Because of his wise decision the Japanese attack was unsuccessful. The only damage incurred was to a nearby baseball field.
September 9, 1942
It was an early morning raid by the Japanese. The I-25 submarine surfaced and rolled out a small float boat. The pilot, Fujita, climbed aboard his Yokosuki E14s plane with his crewman and two 176 pound incendiary bombs strapped beneath the wings. Fujita flew the plane along the Oregon coast looking for his target of forestry, hoping to start large fires with his bombs. The tall trees were easy to spot and he flew his plane in at 500 feet, released the bombs, circled one time to see if they'd started a fire and then headed back out to his submarine.
Unhappy with the results, Fujita returned on September 29th, only this time at midnight. Choosing to fly 50 miles west of Cape Blanco along the Oregon Coast, Fujita dropped his bombs once again in the tall trees of the forest. Satisfied with the red glow below, he returned to his submarine having completed his last mission of bombing on US soil.
However, after daylight a crew of forest rangers were sent out searching for the area and were unsuccessful at finding any smoke or remains of debris from the bombs. To this day they have not been found.
May 5, 1945
The United States and Canada had been familiar with the Japanese fire balloons since 1944 when the Axis Power began releasing the first of its 9000 balloons. The balloons were made of rubberized silk or paper, were filled with 19,000 cubic feet of hydrogen, and were approximately 33 feet in diameter. One might call the balloons smart balloons, for they had barometer operated valves that released hydrogen if the balloon gained too much altitude and dropped sandbags if it flew too low. Of the 9000 balloons released it is known that 342 made their way to the United States.
The balloons silently floated along the jet stream, making their way across the pacific to the mainland of the United States. The military balloons were a byproduct of an atmospheric experiment done by the Axis Power. While mapping out air currents with measuring instruments in the balloons, the researches discovered the strong air current that made its way across the Pacific at around 30,000 ft.
The only combat fatalities every known on the United States mainland were caused by these balloons. A minister, his pregnant wife, who was a Sunday School teacher, and five 13 and 14 year old students were traveling on a mountainous road headed to a picnic when the pregnant woman became sick. Her husband pulled over and began talking to a road crew about fishing conditions as she and the students walked away. They were about 100 feet away when she yelled back, "Look what I found, dear."
Immediately there was an explosion, twigs, branches, dust, and even logs flew through the air. The crew and her husband ran to them to find all five students dead as well as his wife and unborn child.
The idea behind the balloons were in hopes they would drop over a city or in a heavily wooded area, causing a fire. But other than the tragic deaths mentioned above, the balloons were unsuccessful. One hit a power line and temporarily caused a blackout at a nuclear weapons facility in Hanford, Washington. But power was quickly restored. Most fell or were shot down with little damage. Some maps show balloons reaching as far as Nebraska while others show two balloons traveling as far as Michigan.
How about you? Were you aware that the US mainland had seen combat during WWII? Do you think that would have frightened you if you were living during that time? Does that make you feel more vulnerable as a country now that you know that our soils have been breached?
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Debbie Lynne Costello has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina. She has worked in many capacities in her church and is currently the Children's Director. Debbie Lynne has shown and raised Shetland Sheepdogs for eighteen years and still enjoys litters now and then. In their spare time, she and her husband take pleasure in camping and riding their Arabian and Tennessee Walking horses.
Penelope Beatty made up her mind long ago she would live and die a Scottish warrior not a wife. But when nearly all her clan is killed and she is betrayed, she loathes doing the unthinkable, but must seek the help of an Englishman who owed her father his life.
Thomas Godfrey never married, but when a Scottish warrior lass shows up needing his aid, he finds her both annoying and irresistible. But the last thing he wants is to marry a woman who fights alongside him. If he was going to marry—which he isn’t—it would be to a soft, submissive woman. But when the Lady Brithwin meets the Scottish lass, she’s sure she’s found the perfect match for Thomas and nothing is going to stop her from seeing a summer wedding.