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Japanese Fire Balloons: An Unprecedented WWII Weapon

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World War II was a time like no other. Both sides were employing devices and weapons that no one had ever seen before and that were well beyond the scope of what most non-fighting individuals could even dream of. The Japanese were notorious for coming up with innovative and truly destructive weapons, the likes of which the other side had never encountered. The Japanese Fire Balloon is a wonderful example of that. This weapon was called the Fu-Go.


What is a Fu-Go?
A Fu-Go, or fire balloon is just that, a balloon that has been strapped with a large number of explosives designed to drop and detonate at the right time. These balloons were cheap to produce, and the Japanese fully believed that they were strong enough and durable enough to make it across the ocean to the United States for detonation. These balloons were huge, hydrogen filled balloons that would carry a wide assortment of bombs of various sizes and strengths dependent on what was on hand when the balloon was produced.

History of the Fire Balloon
There were two different types of this balloon, type B that were used for testing purposes only and did not contain any bombs, and the actual bomb carrying models. These balloons were produced between 1944 and 1945. The first were used to test just how far the balloons could go and how accurate their destruction was. The second was used in actual attacks. Japan sent out over 9,000 of these ill devised balloons, of which, very few actually made ground. One did land and caused six deaths, far less than the Japanese had hoped for.

How Well Did They Work?
These balloons, while they did make it to the United States, they were not as effective as the Japanese had hoped. When they did land and detonate they did very little damage and did not result in many, if any, casualties. The balloons were found in nearly every state but did very little in the way of damage. Though the fire balloons did very little physical damage, they were very taxing to the American people psychologically.

The newspapers did not report on the balloons leaving many to speculate what they actually were and when they did do damage, no one knew where they were coming from. The balloons did more to scare the American people than many of the other attacks and measures that the Japanese took to take down the United States. For the most part, the United States government tried to take down the balloons before they were able to do any damage and as soon as they were spotted to stop people from worrying so much about them.
Eventually, thought the balloons were making it to the United States, the Japanese abandoned the project because they did not cause enough destruction. The Fire Balloons were a good weapon, but only in theory, and the Japanese had much greater plans ahead.