Chinese spy balloons and Japanese balloon bombs
The Americans yesterday shot down a Chinese balloon near the coast of South Carolina. Beijing claims it was an atmospheric research balloon that drifted to America due to the winds, flying over Alaska and Canada before reaching the United States. Washington says it is a spy operation.
However, the Chinese have spy satellites that are much more effective… and more discreet. They would have indulged in a provocation – Secretary of State Blinken was expected in Beijing – to humiliate President Biden? Really ? The Americans will analyze the debris from the balloon they recovered. We'll see.
This is not the first time that a balloon from Asia has sown fear in North America: the Japanese launched balloon bombs against the United States and Canada during the Second World War. In the final months of the conflict, Tokyo decided to use bomb balloons as revenge for the devastating American attacks on Japanese cities.
The bomb balloons, known as Fu-Go were to trigger massive forest fires and even, by chance, to cause fires in urban centers, causing mass panics. It did not work. The incendiary bombs caused only minor damage, particularly due to the wet winter conditions.
Balloon Bombs: Kisses from Tokyo
From November 1944 to April 1945, Tokyo launched some 9,300 balloon bombs over the Pacific Ocean from three sites on Japan's main island, Honshu, some 7,500 km off the North American coast. If the weather was good and the winds favorable, 200 to 300 balloons could be launched daily. Inflated with hydrogen and carried by the jet stream, they crossed the Pacific at 60 km/hour at an altitude of 10 km in about five days. Only 10% of balloon bombs dropped reached North America.
The balloon bombs were made of 600 sheets of “washi” paper, which is used in Japan for making kites and fans, and were 10.6 m in diameter. Suspended below the balloon from 19 lines of 15m long guy wires was a small basket with four bombs, two anti personnel and two 11 kilo incendiaries.
Several balloon bombs have landed in British Columbia, Yukon, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. Five were shot down by the Canadian Air Force. In the United States, some 220 balloon bombs have been found in 18 American states, including Michigan, the easternmost state listed.
Hush! It's forbidden to talk about it
The United States Bureau of War Censorship prohibited newspaper editors and broadcasters from reporting it. In Canada, the RCMP asked those who found balloon bombs not to tell anyone to avoid panic.
It was only after the first and only fatal attack that the ban on publication has been lifted. A teacher and five children picnicking in the woods of Oregon were killed when a balloon bomb exploded in May 1945.
The remains of two of these balloon bombs were recently found in Colombia -British, one near McBride in 2019, the other, near Lumby in 2014, had to be detonated by a Canadian Navy team.