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Japanese WWII Operations on the West Coast

Chris Weicht

Rtd. RCAF officer Chris Weicht speaking to the SSI Historical Society on Japanese submarine and fire ballon attacks on Canadian and US west coast.

Accession Number Interviewer SSI Historical Society Address
Date January 9, 2001 Location Central Hall
Media tape Audio CD mp3 √
ID 181 Duration


Summer 2021


Riley Donovan

181weicht - created 2009
Tue, 8/17 2:44PM • 49:06
Description: Chris Weicht gives a detailed lecture to the Salt Spring Historical Society about his book Jericho Beach and the West Coast Flying Boat Stations, specifically a chapter titled The Pacific Enemy. He describes the persistent Japanese warfare on the coast, and the Fu-Go fire balloon strategy where 9300 fire balloons were sent to the West Coast of North America by the Japanese with the intention of setting the coast ablaze. He shows many pictures of submarines and Fu-Go balloons and tells the story of the disappearance of Stranraer 951 near Vancouver Island.

World War Two, Japanese, Pacific Theatre, Fu-Go balloons, Fire balloons, West Coast during WW11, torpedoes, navy, Esquimalt, Chris Weicht

Unknown, Audience member, Chris Weicht

Chris Weicht 00:08
I'd like to thank Tom Wright, guess I better turn this thing on. Can we turn the projector on please? Back it up. I'd like to thank Tom Wright and the Salt Spring Historical Society for an invitation to speak to you today. My name is Chris Weicht. I retired last fall after 48 years of aviation. Can you hear me or is this too? Oh, is it? I'm getting some feedback don't I? No? Okay. I spent 48 years in the aviation business, and as I say, retired last year. And in my retirement, I pursued my interest in aviation history and I wrote this book Jericho beach and the West Coast flying boat stations. Now Jericho beaches on Vancouver's English Bay. And my interest is that I joined air cadets there in 1949. In 1953, I joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. Many years later, I learned that they were going to tear down the last vestiges of this air station. And at that time, it was an Army Reserve unit, what was left of it. So, I contacted the commanding officer of the last facility on Fourth Avenue in Vancouver. And I told Colonel Kroger, that I would like to write a history of Jericho beach. They, they have been wanting to do this for a number of years but didn't have the money or the wherewithal to do it. So, they had no funding for me, but they did everything in their power to help me complete the task. They reactivated my Air Force commission; I was put back in uniform and sent to Ottawa for almost a month. And during that time, I had three assistants assigned to me and the director of history of the Department of National Defense, and I carried out my research which culminated in the publication of this book. If any of you would like a copy of it later, I'd be more than glad to sign it for you. What I'm going to talk to you today is one chapter out of that book. In the book, it's entitled The Pacific Enemy. Canada's declaration of war against Japan, occurred almost simultaneously with that nation's attack on Pearl Harbour on December the seventh 1941. In the words of the United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a day of infamy. At the end of the 1920s, Japan had already entertained the idea of an attack on Canada's West Coast as a doorway to the United States. Little else was done with this plan until the late 1930s. In 1937, as the Canadian government slowly realized that Japan's intentions were serious, a Royal Canadian Air Force reconnaissance detachment was established to select five sites for the construction of flying boat stations. There were no airports other than Vancouver on the West Coast, so flying boats were destined to provide surveillance of the Pacific approaches to Western Canada. The five stations were in operation by the end of 1941, and were equipped with obsolete submarine patrol aircraft, of British design, which had been manufactured under license in Canada, the Supermarine Stanraer and the Blackburn Shark. By December 7, 1941, Japan had stationed no less than nine of their advanced I class submarines to monitor and harass the shipping lanes up and down the coast of North America. The West Coast of North America. The I class submarines were very large, and by World War Two standards. Can you still hear me without that? Okay. The I class submarines were very large by early World War Two standards. They were 360 feet long, with a range without refueling of 16,000 miles and carried a crew of up to 94 men. Each submarine had a waterproof hanger on the forward deck housing up to three folding wing reconnaissance seaplanes, equipped with machine guns and incendiary bombs. These small planes clandestinely overflew the United States and Canadian defense establishments and were also responsible for attempts to start forest fires by dropping their incendiary bombs in isolated locations. Minutes after the attack on Pearl Harbour, submarine I-26 attacked and eventually sank the Cynthia Olson, a United States lumber carrier approximately 1000 miles northwest of the Hawaiian Islands. And again, a few days later on December the 11th, I-9 attack the Matsen line freighter SS Lahaina. Firing on the Lahaina with their deck cannons, I-9 quickly sank the vessel and then proceeded to sink all but one of the lifeboats.

Chris Weicht 05:30
The harassment of the shipping lanes on the West Coast continued. And by the end of the year, the nine Japanese I-boats had attacked eight other vessels. The embarrassment to the United States Navy increased when the first retaliatory strike came from an unexpected source. Submarine I-15 was on patrol off of San Francisco and inadvertently was run down by the SS Taho. The Taho Skipper reported citing a periscope 60 yards in front of his vessel, but he was unable to stop and hit the submarine's periscope. He reported the incident to the naval authorities who were not impressed that the Taho, the city of Oakland's garbage scow, had carried out the first retaliatory strike on an enemy submarine. On the night of February, the 24th 1942, the captain of I-17 ordered his crew to surface in Santa Barbara Strait and fire 10 shots at the unsuspecting city of Los Angeles. The Americans responded by firing 1400 rounds discriminately (must mean indiscriminately) at random from the shore batteries. The incident became known as the Battle of Los Angeles, John Valucci made a movie about that called 1941. On June 8, 1942, the Japanese submarines turned their attention towards Canadian waters. I-26 launched a torpedo that sank the American vessel SS Coast Trader between Cape (unintelligible) British Columbia and Cape Flattery in Washington State, at the entrance to the Straits of Juan de Fuca. A Royal Canadian Air Force Stranraer flying boat from Ucluelet sighted two lifeboats, which were rescued by the Royal Canadian Navy Corvette Edmonston. I-26 then moved up the coast of Vancouver Island where it surfaced off of Estevan point and shelled the lighthouse and signal station with 30 rounds from its deck cannons. On June 14, the freighter Ocean Vengeance was sunk off of Vancouver Island and the escaping crew were fired on by the submarine. A Royal Canadian Navy patrol boat from Port Renfrew arrived on the scene and rescued the crew. At the end of July, I-26 intercepted two submarines running on the surface off of Vancouver Island. Believing them to be American, I-26 quickly launch a torpedo and sank one of the submarines, which turned out to be the Soviet submarine L-16 en route from Vladivostok to the USSR via the Panama Canal. Not all Japanese submarines operated with apparent impunity. On July 7, 1942, a Royal Canadian Air Force patrol aircraft from Annette Island Alaska spotted a submarine just below the surface and bombed it. The submarine was severely damaged and later sunk by a US Coast Guard cutter. The citizens of the West Coast heard rumors of Japanese submarine activity but were given few details. No one had any idea of the number of attacks in coastal waters or any information about the sophistication of the I-class submarines. Canadian and American governments gave out information on a need-to-know basis only and few details were given to the public. Now, over 50 years later, it is vital for world peace that we forgive. But very important that we not forget the anguish caused by man's inhumanity to man. And right here in our own backyard, young Canadian airmen with little public acknowledgement of a tremendous job they were doing under adverse conditions lost their lives protecting the West Coast from a potential invasion. We must not forget what they were prepared to do.

Chris Weicht 09:17
On August the 23rd 1942 Stranraer 951, with flight sergeant E.T Cox and his seven-man crew, well prepared for a long patrol ahead of them took off from Royal Canadian Air Force Station at Coal Heart, that's near Fort Hardy, at 920 hours. Nine hours later, about 90 miles northwest of Cape Scott on the northwest tip of Vancouver Island, the Stranraer developped engine trouble and flight Sergeant Cox was forced to ditch his aircraft in the ocean. The wireless operator sent out an SOS, giving their position and a short cryptic message. They were down on the sea and sinking. The five remaining aircraft on the station were immediately dispatched, and the Navy was advised also. Two hours later, flying officer Snyder, and a crew of Stranraer number 952 sighted number 951. Some of the crew had climbed out on the wing and were waving and cheering at their approaching comrades. The high seas made landing impossible, but the crippled aircraft wireless operator, flight Sergeant Kram, signalled that they were all relieved to be sighted and everyone was fine, except for the aircraft which was taking an awful beating in the high seas. Flying officer Snyder advised dispatch that now his aircraft was experiencing some engine troubles, and he was ordered to circle over the ditched aircraft until Stranraer number 950 could get there to relieve him. In the meantime, the high-speed launch Malacite was dispatched from Quatsino sound to pick up the crew and the rest of the searching aircraft were ordered back to base. As total darkness closed in, it seemed that the situation was well in hand. Somewhere in their circling pattern over the blackness beneath them, the crew of Stranraer 952 lost sight of the Stranraer. When Stranraer number 950 arrived, it completed a thorough search of the area but return to the Coal Harbour station with negative results. The Malacite also returned and reported that they had seen no trace of Stranraer 951 or it's crew. Flying Officer (unintelligible) in Stranraer Number 909 was within sight of the search area when his aircraft also developed engine troubles and he had to turn back to base, but he reported sighting a submarine that he thought was moving in the direction of the downed aircraft. (unintelligible) returned to the station and took off again in one of the Stranraers that had been fitted with long range tanks. In spite of the poor weather conditions and the cloud ceiling, sometimes as low as 100 feet, he circled the crash site throughout the night. Along with other searchers flying opposite (unintelligible) refused to give up hope and continued to fly long hours through the next week as the search area was expanding. His courageous work and trying to locate the last aircraft earned him the Air Force cross. (unintelligible) Carpenter operating out of Royal Canadian Air Force Station Ucluelet took personal charge of the organized search over the enlarged area. Aircraft from Coal Harbour, Bella Bella, Ucluelet and Patricia Bay made extensive sweeps and criss cross patrols over a large area, but the results continued to be negative. At the end of August, no clue had been uncovered to explain the total disappearance of Stranraer 951 or its crew. The Japanese submarine sighted so close to the crash point also remained part of the mystery. Royal Canadian Air Force Station Coal harbour lowered its Air Force flight to half mast in honour of its' missing comrades as the squadron struggled to resume their daily duties. By the end of August 1942, no trace of 951 or its crew were found. And there were no clues from which to determine its fate, except the unanswered question of the Japanese submarine sighted by flying officer (unintelligible) in Stranraer Number 909. Was the crew of Stranraer Number 951 picked up by the submarine and interned on its' return to Japan? A search of logs of the Japanese submarines operating on the coast at the time shows no reference to the incident. Two months earlier, on June 14, 1942, a Japanese submarine sank the Ocean Vengeance, a freighter in the south of Barkley sound on Vancouver Island, and machine gunned the crew in their life boats. Would this be the treatment that a distressed anti submarine patrol aircraft would be given down at sea?

Chris Weicht 14:02
There is no tangible evidence in the case of Stranraer Number 951 however, the passengers and crew of the Liberty ship Jean Nicolette had a taste of exactly this kind of treatment from the enemy. The freighter was 51 days out of Wilmington, California en route to Calcutta, India with 100 troops and supplies on board. On July 2, 1944, the vessel was 750 miles south and Ceylon now called Sri Lanka. At 7pm, as darkness fell over the calm sea, the Nicolette was struck on the right forward's end by a torpedo. Numerous fires broke out and after a second torpedo hit the stern, the vessel started to roll on its side. The order was given to abandon ship and the survivors pulled away from the sinking ship in their lifeboats. That Japanese submarine surfaced and began shelling the sinking freighter and then turn their machine guns on the lifeboats. A short time later the submarine picked up the remaining survivors and assembled them on the foredeck. The Japanese crew stripped their captives of their watches, wallets, and other valuables before binding their wrists behind their backs with wire. As a submarine commander gave the order to submerge, some of the prisoners were a bayonetted where they stood, and the rest of the bound men were abandoned on the submerging deck. A few of the men were able to tread water until they managed to release their bonds. After 14 hours in the water, they were rescued by a Royal Canadian Air Force Catalina out of Ceylon. Only 24 of these men survived. After Pearl Harbor, the loyalties of Canadians and Americans of Japanese heritage came under open suspicion, which eventually resulted in the controversial internment and confiscation of their property. A drastic measure in a drastic time.

Chris Weicht 15:52
On March, in March 1943, Japan devised yet another strategy to attack the West Coast of the coast of North America. The Japanese scientists and military authorities envisioned the Fu-Go weapon, or Japanese fire balloon as a deadly floating bomb that would turn the forests of North America into a raging inferno. The huge balloons carrying incendiary and anti-personnel bombs were launched in Japan and carefully calculated to be gently transported by the jet stream into the heart of the coastal forests. By 1940, November 1944, the plan was ready, and the first of 9300 fire balloons was launched. The amazing structure was 100 feet in circumference and held 19,000 cubic feet of hydrogen, which allowed the balloon to raise to over, rise to over 30,000 feet. The jet stream carried the balloon at speeds in excess of 200 miles an hour on its lethal journey across the Pacific. Canadian and American authorities realized that panic would result if news of the fire balloons became widespread. Both governments instructed newspapers and radio stations to cooperate in a news blackout, which would also deny the Japanese any information on the results of their new weapon. An explosion or unexplained forest fire was credited to lightning storms or other plausible causes, and very little information ever reached the general public. Of the estimated 1000 balloons that arrived over the continent of North America, only 285 were accounted for in reports turned into the American and Canadian authorities. Fortunately for North America, the fire balloon did not produce the grand scale of devastation envisioned by its creators. One of the last recorded Fu-Go weapon balloons to land in North America enjoy a somewhat ironic success. In its random descent, it came to rest in brush country between Bonneville and Grand Coulee, Washington. In a capricious twist of fate, the incendiary bombs detonated inside the security fences surrounding the Hanford Washington atomic energy plant. The brush fire caused the exploding balloon triggered, caused by the exploding balloon triggered the elaborate safety mechanisms surrounding the plant and the power supply automatically shut down. It took several days to reactivate the system. Unknown to the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Fu-Go fire balloon weapon caused a delay in the production of the atomic bomb that was destined to end the Second World War in August of 1945. That concludes my formal talk to you. I'm going to show you some slides now, which I think you'll find interesting.

Chris Weicht 18:43
Some of these slides were actually taken onboard Japanese submarine I-26, operating off the coast of Vancouver Island. And I managed to pick these up, an acquaintance of mine in the United States attended a reunion of Japanese submarines in Tokyo in the mid 80s and was able to get copies of some of the photographs that these men had actually taken onboard these Japanese submarines. So, it's a little unusual, but we'll show those to you. And if you have any questions afterwards, please feel free to ask away and I'll do my best to answer them for you.

Chris Weicht 19:23
So, I'm going to try and read my notes with this light here. So, if I'm disappearing into a cavern, that's what that's all about. Could you back that up, please? Do you know how to operate it? No, we're going the wrong way. But keep going, back it up. Okay, this is a cover of my book, Jericho Beach and the West Coast flying boat stations. As I said what I've been telling you here today is a chapter in that book called The Pacific Enemy. The picture on the cover here was commissioned by myself with maritime artist Michael Dean, and it depicts a 1924 scene of Jericho beach on English bay of Vancouver, where they're launching a World War One flying boat, which is used for patrol fisheries and forests of the West Coast of British Columbia. This is Admiral Isoroko Yamamoto, head of the Japanese Navy, and he was responsible for the invasion at Pearl Harbour, as well as the occupation of the Western Aleutian Islands. And it was his idea to launch these Japanese fire balloons. This is the carrier Rujo, was one of three carriers used by the Japanese invasion fleet of the Aleutian Islands. A group of dive bomber Japanese dive bomber pilots onboard the Roju prior to the attack on Dutch Harbour, Alaska. Rear Admiral Akiyama, naval commander of Kiska Island, how'd you like to meet him on a dark night? (unintelligible). And here is army commander of Atu and his officers. Japanese float plane pilots on the beach at Kiska island in the Aleutian Islands, and you could see one of their aircraft in the background on the beach, here preparing to take off and attack Dutch Harbour, Alaska. Here's submarine I-15 running on the surface off of West Coast. And I don't want you to change this yet I'm gonna point. In front of the conning tower where it says I-15 there can see a bulbous piece sticking out in front of it. That was a hanger, a waterproof hanger. In there was 1 to 3 folding wing seaplanes. They would open that hangar door and they would bring out the aircraft and they would put the wings into position and assemble the floats on them. And they would launch it, you can see there's a launching ramp in front of that which is a catapult launching ramp. The airplanes go out and do its surveillance or drop bombs or whatever it was going to assigned to do, and then come back and land next to the submarine. And they would pull it on board with a davit which is a crane, and then put it back into the hangar. Again, this information was not public during World War Two, for obvious reasons, we didn't have anything like this. The British had tried to, the Japanese didn't invent this idea, it was a British invention, at the end of World War One, but the British could not perfect the sealing of those hangar doors. But the Japanese were able to do it. This submarine was the size of an early World War Two aircraft carrier, so it was big. This is the area which the I-boats operated, and you can see their tracks around in the North Pacific. The Aleutian Islands have changed sticking out there. Four or five of those islands were occupied by the Japanese. Couple of newspapers, San Francisco and Portland Oregonian reporting some of the activity of the submarines and the Japanese on the West Coast. This is the Cynthia Olsen the first vessel attacked by the Japanese five minutes after the attack on, the declaration of war at Pearl Harbour. There's the Cynthia Olsen going down after she was torpedoed by submarine I-26 December the seventh 1941. (unintelligible) pictures were taken on board I-26 the Japanese sub. Here's the vessel, this is an American freighter called the Coast Trader. It was sunk by I-26 June 7, 1942. Chief gunner on I-26 Nayashi. Chief torpedoman on I-26 Komala. Here's the SS Camosun, a British liberty ship on its first maiden voyage out of Esquimalt sunk on June 20, 1942, by submarine I-25. This is, the closest to you is the Royal Canadian naval corvette Edmunston taking survivors off of the Fort Camosun which had just been torpedoed. Here is a picture taken from a Stranraer flying boat out of RCN station Ucluelet. And they've spotted these other survivors off of the Fort Camosun in in the water. They were in turn rescued by a Royal Canadian naval patrol boat out of Port Renfrew. There's I-26, running on the surface.

Chris Weicht 25:42
And here's I-26's is commander, Minoro Yokota and his officers. Here's the oil tanker Larry Donahue going down to the bottom after an attack by I-25 off of the Straits of San, Juan de Fuca. And here's the tanker Camden en route to Puget Sound under attack by I-25. A picture taken by Stranraers from Ucluelet that came out to assist them. Torpedoman Isiawawa (?) and Gunatao (?) of I-25. These pictures were obtained in Japan at the submariners reunion long after we ended the war. There's Soviet submarine L-16 sunk by I-25 off of Vancouver Island. They believed it to be an American submarine. And initially, reports were that it was the USS Grunion that went missing around the same time. However, it was later discovered that it was a Russian submarine. The fella in the picture there was a Russian born US Navy officer Andreovitch Mikaila. And he was a liaison officer on board the Soviet submarine while it was transiting along the coast of West Coast in North America. He also died with the submarine. Now, America has devised a plan to try and track the Japanese submarines. What they did was take some old obsolescent freighters, and they heavily armed them. And they put an armor plate on the side to protect them against torpedo attack and shelling and so forth. And these were World War One freighters. They called them cue ships. And when they were in port, their crew wore civilian clothes and the idea was that they wouldn't act like naval people at all. Once at sea, then naval regiment came into effect. But they would go out and try and have the Japanese submarines attack them so that they could in turn attack them and they had multiple cannons on the side which were hidden. There's the tanker Larry Donahue, which we showed you earlier. This is a picture taken from that cue ship the Anna (unintelligible). There's the engine room onboard the I-26 off of Vancouver Island and the torpedo room showing four torpedo tubes. After the fall of Hong Kong, Esquimalt was the only allied deep sea shipyard in the Western Pacific. And on February the 23rd 1942, the Queen Elizabeth arrived at Esquimalt for a refit. It was thought beneficial that instead of the, Queen Elizabeth had a speed greater than most warships, so she didn't have an escort. She traveled by herself. I think she's travelled at something like 26 knots, crossing the Pacific.

Chris Weicht 29:38
I-23 was guest delegated to, no excuse me, I-8 was delegated to hunt her down and commander Hashimoto in I-8 unsuccessfully, he didn't find it. They couldn't make the same speed that the, running on the surface, that the Queen could, so they didn't locate it so there's I-8. There's the first vessel to strike a retaliatory offense against the Japanese submarines. This is the Taho. The garbage scow in the city of Oakland. There's the launching of submarine I-17, prior to the Pearl Harbor attack on July 19 1941. And it was it I-17 that shelled Los Angeles if you recall. This is torpedo Ogasananu (?) of I-17 shown here on February the 23rd 1942. There's the forward deck of I-26. You're standing next to the conning tower looking forward. You can see underneath you that circular thing that would be the waterproof hanger. On the front of that you can see the launching ramp for the for the seaplane. That's the Estevan Point Lighthouse. A photograph taken onboard I-26. There's the lighthouse in a picture taken from the shore side. 30 shells were fired that day at Estevan point. Apparently they didn't do a lot of damage. There's one of the shell fragments. The Japanese also deployed magnetic mines along the coast and here is one sitting off of Long Beach, washed up on shore. They would be attracted to anything metallic and those probes on the side when it touched would cause the mine to explode. Here's a landing bar, we set up a bunch of phone poles, well they looked like phone poles and the idea was that anybody who tried to land on the beaches would run into these things and hold their landing barges or vessels or whatever. There is I-26 on the steering view and you can see their deck cannon in front of you there. They're moving right along. There's a model of the aircraft which they had onboard the submarines It was called a Yokosuka E-14Y1. The allies gave it the name Glen because they couldn't pronounce all that other stuff. There's a drawing of the submarine and its aircraft assembly and you can see its pilot climbing into, into the cockpit. There's an actual photograph of an assembled Glen getting ready to be launched, sitting on its catapult. Now as I mentioned, they actually attacked, overflew, they spied on various defensive locations, and in two cases, they dropped bombs. The only bombing or attack on these continental United States occurred from one of these off of submarine I-25. And they flew inland off of the Washington Oregon coast and dropped bombs in order to start forest fires. And this is Warrant Officer Fujita, the Glen pilot of I-25 and he actually was the pilot on both those occasions where they dropped the bombs on the, at Brookings, Oregon, and started forest fires and these were reported to Seattle naval authorities by the Forest Service Lookout Tower. He survived the war and became a hardware store operator in Tokyo. And in during the 1980s, he was brought back at expense of Portland city, Oregon, and they, he publicly apologized to the United States citizens, and they put up a monument. There's the gunner of that, onboard warrant officer Fujita's I-25 Glen aircraft. There's an artist's impression of the aircraft landing next to its mother submarine. This is commander Meiji Tagami, I-25 commander. He survived the war and became a merchant vessel captain, sailed into Vancouver on many occasions. Another painting of a Glen and its I-class submarine being below it. You see this came from Japan you see all the Japanese characters down there. There's the lookout tower in Brookings, Oregon, where they reported seeing that Glen aircraft on September the ninth 1942.

Chris Weicht 36:14
The Americans were justifiably concerned about this activity, because they had not had a direct attack on their territory since the Civil War, or the war between England and the United States in 1812. So this is the Boeing aircraft plant in Seattle, which they've camouflaged to look like a subdivision. So this is one of the strategies they devised. They also did similar type things at the Graverton (?) shipyards near Seattle. Here's the layout of the Glen the Yokosuka Y-14 Glen. At the end of the war, they came out with an even larger submarine, the Japanese came out with five of these, they called the I-400 class, they all had a compliment of three bomber aircraft. And they were also on floats. And the idea was that they would launch them off of the coast of North America and they would be able to strike into the city, right into the heart of the country. There's one of those vessels, they were almost 500 feet long docking in Japan, see the difference in the size between the two vessels there. Here's two of those I-400 class submarines and a conventional Japanese submarine being surrendered to the US authorities at the end of World War Two in Japan. None of these vessels survived the war. In two cases, their commanders scuttled their ships. Now, as I said before, we, they, Japan devised yet another method of attacking North America, the Fu-Go weapon, or fire balloon. It was 100 feet in circumference, had 19,000 cubic feet of hydrogen in it. And it would, when launched, it would rise to 30,000 feet, encounter the tropopause, that's that layer it would rise to, and then it would encounter winds of up to 200 miles an hour which would take it across the North Pacific. They were intended to start fires in the, on the West Coast, but some of them actually went as far east as Thunder Bay. And they came down in Mexico and in Alaska. And there are a great many of those which weren't located, are still out in the bush I understand. There's a balloon being launched in Japan. Another picture of it going out, we have several of these. Another right here. Not a very good picture but it's a p-38 fighter, and the Americans launched aircraft as did we, out of Pat Bay, which is now Victoria International, to intercept these and shoot them down. And a p-38. fighter aircraft attacked them over Nevada. And it's kind of a humorous story. He was shooting at this thing, and it eventually sort of was losing its hydrogen and came down on a, near a road. So, he lands his p-38, o this dusty road out in the middle of the desert, and runs after it down the road with his with his pistol drawing. And I guess it took off again. And it was a Keystone cops type adventure where all these p-38s were chasing this thing across the countryside. This is Major General Kusaba, he was the commander of the entire Fu-Go weapon balloon project. We see Japanese schoolgirls working in the balloon factory. And what they have in front of them there is a pot of, some sort of juice off the mulberry tree which they're melting. And they use that to coat the balloon to make it sealed to prevent the gas from escaping. Another shot of these high school girls in Japan, and I guess what they're doing now is scraping the excess of that mulberry plant juice, whatever you call it, off of the fabric before they assemble the balloon itself. Another shot of the factory where they're assembling the balloon. This is the personnel of the Fu-Go weapon factory. Another couple of pictures of their launching of the balloon.

Chris Weicht 42:11
There's another layout of it. They had 19 (unintelligible) lines and the gondola on the bottom of it had, like I said a payload of incendiary and anti-personnel bombs. There's only one, there was one known set of fatalities from one of these balloons and that occurred in Oregon. A balloon came down in the woods and a fellow by the name of Archie Mitchell, a Reverend Archie Mitchell, took a Sunday school class on a picnic. The whole busload of kids discovered this balloon in the bush, and somebody touched it and it blew up, killed everybody, including Reverend Archie Mitchell's wife, on May 5, 1945. Here's the different kinds of bombs which are on board this balloon. The top one is a high explosive bomb. The central one is a thermite incendiary, and the bottom one is a 12-kilogram incendiary bomb. There's the Reverend Archie Mitchell, at Bligh Oregon, and drove that Sunday school class to their doom. And there's a bomb exactly the same as the type that killed those kids. That's the scene of the tragedy after its occurrence. I mentioned earlier that the final, one of the final balloons that came down caused a shutdown of the atomic energy plant. There's the security gate at that place in Washington State. There are the powerlines bringing in the electricity into, to operate that atomic energy plant and I guess when the balloon came down and the hydrogen exploded when it made contact with those high-tension lines. And that's what shut the operation down. That concludes my presentation. Again, I would be more than glad to entertain any questions and answer them to the best of my ability. And if anybody wishes to buy my book at the back there, I'd be glad to sign it for you. There's gonna be an exam before you get out of here, so you better ask a question. Okay, I hear a voice but don't, yes, go ahead.

Audience member
Can I ask about the fire balloon? The whole notion of the fire balloon seems to me to be so random. The chances of hitting anything worthwhile, are really slight. So it would only be a good strategy if there was a really dense population spread since the rockets German against Britain. So I was wondering what kind of information you'd found the Japanese had which would make this whole thing effective, or whether it was some kind of lunatic notion of somebody that thought it would be a good idea.

Chris Weicht 45:51
Well, the whole concept was thought up by Admiral Yamamoto, and he was certainly no lunatic, he was one of the moderates of the Japanese military. He actually was educated at Harvard, in the United States. And they launched 9300 of these things. And as we, I said earlier, only a little over 1000 those were actually believed to come down in the, on the coast, the idea was to start forest fires. And they had this idea that if they started forest fires they'd get the whole coast ablaze, I don't think they reckoned with our rain stuff. And they thought that if they could, if some of these could come down, close to cities, it would start panic, and they probably would have and our authorities put a news blackout on it so that if one of these things came down and started a forest fire, well, it was lightning or careless campers or hunters or something, you know, and that's what they announced.

So chancy (unintelligible)

Chris Weicht 46:56
Well, I know but it was..

How expensive would it be for the Japanese to undertake this strategy?

Chris Weicht 47:02
Probably not very expensive if you put all the school girls to work. Probably didn't pay 'em. But it's, it's the same, I was in England in London, actually during World War Two and those... (tape ends)