The Americans shot down a Chinese balloon off the coast of South Carolina yesterday. Beijing claims it was an atmospheric research balloon that drifted to America because of the winds and flew over Alaska and Canada before reaching the United States. Washington says it’s a spy operation.
However, the Chinese have spy satellites that are much more effective… and more discreet. You would have given in to a provocation – Secretary of State Blinken was expected in Beijing – to humiliate President Biden? Really ? The Americans will analyze the debris from the recovered balloon. We will see.
This isn’t the first time a balloon from Asia has sparked fear in North America: the Japanese dropped balloon bombs on the United States and Canada during World War II. In the final months of the conflict, Tokyo decided to use balloon bombs as revenge for the devastating American attacks on Japanese cities.
Known as Fu-Go, the balloon bombs were designed to start massive forest fires and even coincidentally fires in urban centers, causing mass panic. It did not work. The incendiary bombs caused little damage, mainly because of the wet winter conditions.
Balloon Bombs: Kisses from Tokyo
From November 1944 to April 1945, Tokyo dropped about 9,300 balloon bombs over the Pacific Ocean from three locations on Japan’s main island of Honshu, about 7,500 km off the North American coast. With good weather and favorable winds, 200 to 300 balloons could be launched every day. Inflated with hydrogen and carried by the jet stream, they crossed the Pacific at 60 km/h at an altitude of 10 km in about five days. Only 10% of the balloon bombs dropped reached North America.
The bombs were made from 600 sheets of “Washi” paper, used in Japan to make kites and fans, and were 10.6 m in diameter. Below the balloon was a small basket with 19 rows of 15 m guy ropes four bombs, two anti-personnel and two 25-pound incendiary bombs were hung.
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, about 220 balloon bombs have been found in 18 American states, including Michigan, the easternmost state on the list.
Silence! It is forbidden to talk about it
The US Bureau of War Censorship barred newspaper publishers and broadcasters from reporting it. In Canada, the RCMP urged those who found balloon bombs not to tell anyone to avoid panic.
Only after the first and only fatal attack was the publication ban lifted. A teacher and five children picnicking in the Oregon woods were killed in May 1945 when a balloon bomb exploded.
The remains of two of these balloon bombs were recently found in British Columbia, one near McBride in 2019, the other near Lumby in 2014, had to be detonated by a Canadian Navy team.