The Japanese Bombed West Michigan with a Balloon in World War II
Nearly 78 years ago this month, West Michigan was bombed by Japan. Well, they tried at least, and it has some curious similarities to what's been happening over the U.S. as of late.
We've now seen four items shot down by the United States Military over North America. Sunday's "Octagonal-shaped" item was the latest over Lake Huron, but at one time, it prompted a closing of airspace over Lake Michigan.
IF this turns out be another balloon, then it would be the first time in the 21st Century that an inflatable object came down over the Great Lakes area (that we're aware of)... but not the first time in history.
During World War II, Japan continued to antagonize the United States. December 7, 1941 was obviously the attack on Pearl Harbor, and for years, we fought them in the Pacific Theatre.
But not all of the bombings after Pearl Harbor, took place on islands dotting the Eastern Hemisphere. Japan actually sent bombs to the U.S. via balloons, and one of them actually landed in West Michigan.
The "Fu-Go" balloon bomb, was an incendiary device that was attached to a 33-foot Hydrogen balloon, and released from Honshu, Japan. Between November 1944 and April 1945, Japan released around 9,300 of these balloons, hoping they would make their way across the Pacific Ocean, and land in America in some capacity. Only about 300 of them were found, or observed in the U.S. and Canada, with at least one seen in Mexico.
On February 23, 1945, one of those balloons was slowly falling on West Michigan. WoodTV talked with Lawrence "Buzz" Baily, who was 8 years old at the time, and saw the balloon fall in Byron Township near the Kent and Allegan County Lines.
"Coming down real slow because there was just a little breeze. Just on a little angle. It went a half a mile before it hit the ground. You could tell by the damage of the balloon that an explosion had taken place."
Thankfully, the damage "Buzz" and his fellow 8-year-old friends saw on the balloon was an indication that the incendiary bomb aboard had already detonated, and posed no threat, other than maybe a little bit of property damage.
What makes this story kind of fun is, he and his friends gathered up the balloon after it landed and deflated, and they took it home. Because... WHY NOT, right? A giant balloon just lands yards from a bunch of 8-year-old kids.
Finders, Keepers! OF COURSE you're gonna take it home!
The next day, though, the government came knocking, and the poor kid lost his balloon.
"They took that balloon and you couldn't ge tone bit of information out of them, and they advised everybody do not talk about this balloon at all."
So naturally, he told everyone.
That exact balloon is now stored in a box, on display at the Byron Center Historical Museum, and once in a while, they'll unfold it, and re-inflate it as a history demonstration.
Only one of the Fu-Go balloons caused any significant casualties in the U.S. That one landed in Oregon, and killed six people, less than three months after "Buzz" and his friends found their balloon.
Thankfully, for these recent sightings, it seems the balloons do NOT carry any explosive devices, but if you happen to see one of these floating objects in the air... probably best to keep your distance. And DO NOT try to shoot it down... that's just stupid.