The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor is one of the most remembered events in American history. That started the war between the U.S. and Japan, and essentially made the world war happen. What is not as widely known, is that the Japanese sent other kinds of bombs toward the mainland United States, and some of them actually landed in the states. One of them landed and exploded in North Dorr, Michigan.
It was a rather ingenious project the Japanese came up with. They launched 9,300 balloons loaded with fire bombs. They hoped they would travel the jet stream and land in the pacific northwest, causing forest fires. The Japanese hoped this would cause panic at home, and distract from the actual battles of war.
The balloons were filled with nitrogen to keep them afloat. The balloons carried a metal bomb. The balloons were sent upward into the Jet stream, and had a control device that kept them between 30,000 and 38,000 feet.
In 1944, the Japanese had 10,000 of these balloons prepared. They launched 9,300 of them from the island of Honshu. It took a couple of months, but some of them did reach the United States. Many fell harmlessly into the ocean, and only 300 have been confirmed to have landed. As far as is known, there were no injuries as a result of the 300 that did reach the continent.
Most were found along the pacific coast as expected, but a few made it further inland. Some have been found in Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Montana.
The U.S. government had a news blackout, and news organizations cooperated. They did not want the Japanese to know any had reached the mainland., The Japanese also hoped Americans would talk about it, and they could learn from that how to make them better. The news blackout worked, because the Japanese stopped launching the balloons early in 1945, thinking they were not working.
The bombs kept coming for awhile though, and two of them made it as far as Michigan. One landed near Detroit and another one landed in North Dorr, which is near Grand Rapids.
In 1945, three young boys saw a balloon falling to the ground, and they could tell it would land near them. They managed to get someone to drive them in the direction of the balloon, and they found it in a field. The bomb had exploded, and the platform it was on had turned black. They brought the balloon home.
Finally the army was notified. The Government took the balloon away and told the family to never speak of it again. They were told to act like it never happened, and they did that.
It was several years later before the information was declassified. The boys then found out what they had found that day in a field. The balloon was taken to an intelligence center in D.C. to be studied. It was then sent to New Jersey to a research facility.