WWII Japanese Invasion
Intended to Set Coastal Wildfires

Believe it or not, Pearl Harbor wasn’t the only US location that was attacked or invaded by the Japanese during World War II.

Wildfire as Weapon

On the morning of September 9, 1942, an Imperial Army submarine just off the coast of Cape Blanco in southwestern Oregon, launched an air raid attack on the mountains of Oregon, several miles outside the city of Brookings.

Japanese invasion

Imperial Japanese Navy Photo, Public Domain

The attack’s sole purpose was to set the coastal forests ablaze, with the hope of creating a national panic.

The invasion was the first time the 48 contiguous United States was bombed by an enemy aircraft. Fortunately, the resulting damage caused by the attack was minimal, thanks to fire patrol lookouts and conditions unfavorable to forest fire. Only a few small scattered fires were started, due to the quick actions of two fire patrol officers based in lookout towers on Mount Emily in the Siskiyou National Forest and Bear Wallow. A heavy rain the night before didn’t hurt, either.

Japanese invasion

U.S. Dept of Treasury Image, Public Domain

According to a subsequent investigation by the FBI, the Japanese floatplane, flown by Warrant Officer Nobuo Fujita, had carried two bombs, both of which were dropped, but only one of which was ever located. Fragments of the first bomb were found, however, along with a foot-deep crater.

The Rest of the Story…

Japanese invasion

Public Domain Photo

All of this sounds strange enough, but… hold on to your hats for “the rest of the story”…

Twenty years later, in the spring of 1962, Officer Nobuo Fujita served as the Grand Marshall in the annual Brookings, Oregon, Azalea Festival. At the festival, the former fighter pilot presented the town with his family’s 400-year-old samurai sword as a symbol of his deep regret for his actions.

Apparently, the former Japanese officer was so ashamed of his attempted invasion that he had intended to use the sword to commit hara-kiri if he was not well received by the residents of Brookings. He was generally treated with kindness and respect, however, and he ended up returning to Brookings for three more visits over the next 10 years. In 1992, Fujita planted a tree at the bomb site as a gesture of peace.

Several days before his death in 1997, Fujita was made an honorary citizen of Brookings, Oregon–the town he had tried to destroy 55 years earlier. His daughter scattered some of his ashes at the bomb site.

So now you know.


Featured Image: IStock Photo, License Granted


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