July 12, 2004

Rerun: Nice Try, But...

December 7, 1941 is a "date that will live in infamy," but few people remember February 23, 1942, the date the Japanese attacked the U.S. mainland.

A Japanese submarine fired 25 shells at an oil refinery at the edge of Ellwood Oil Field, twelve miles northwest of Santa Barbara. One shell actually hit on the rigging, causing minor damage. On its face, the shelling of Ellwood beach in 1942 was not a major event of the war. It injured no one and did a mere $500 damage to a shed and catwalk belonging to the Barnsdall-Rio Grande Oil Co.

Yet, for a country still recovering from the Pearl Harbor attack just two months before, the 5-inch shells were enough to scare many into the belief that Japan could wage war on mainland American soil. After all, this was the first enemy attack on U.S. shores since the War of 1812.

The attack quickened the round-up of Japanese Americans in internment camps for the remainder of the war, a move Franklin D. Roosevelt had authorized just four days earlier. Seven months later, Japan struck the U.S. mainland once more...on September 9, 1942 a Japanese bomber hit the uninhabited mountains east of Brookings, Oregon.

The idea was conceived by the Japanese imperial general staff, still smarting from General Jimmy Doolittle's Tokyo raid. To retaliate, the Japanese hatched a plan to set the Oregon forests afire. They expected the flames to spread to the cities and panic the entire West Coast. However, three of the bombs were duds; the fourth started a small blaze that was quickly spotted and doused by forest rangers.

I was unable to find any documentation on whether the Japanese attempted to acquire sharks with laser beams attached to their heads. It is possible they found some mutated sea bass.

Posted by Jennifer at July 12, 2004 09:00 AM


It was my understanding that the forest fire plan involved balloons carrying the bombs, not aircraft.

If I wasn't so lazy, I'd do a quick GIS and find out for sure... for now I'll just wonder. :)

Posted by: Fubar at July 12, 2004 12:58 PM

There is an example of one of the Japanese balloon bombs in the Canadian War Museum here in Ottawa. Its so pathetic in a way. The best the Japanese could do against the North American continent is to try to set a few trees on fire. If I remember correctly, two people died as a result of the attacks. When you compare that to what the USAAF and the US Navy was able to do to the main islands of Japan...seems pretty lopsided. One should really pick one's enemies better.

Posted by: Dr_Funk at July 12, 2004 09:01 PM

here's a link to a page about the balloon bombs: http://collections.ic.gc.ca/balloons/content.htm

Posted by: Dr_Funk at July 12, 2004 09:05 PM