A Japanese balloon bomb drifted 6,000 miles to deliver a deadly blow to a party of Sunday school picnickers in Bly, Oregon.
In 1945, In Bly, Oregon, Mrs. Elsie Mitchell and five neighborhood children are killed while attempting to drag a Japanese balloon out the woods. Unbeknownst to Mitchell and the children, the balloon was armed, and it exploded soon after they began tampering with it.
They were the first and only known American civilians to be killed in the continental United States during World War II.
The U.S. government eventually gave $5,000 in compensation to Mitchell’s husband, and $3,000 each to the families of Edward Engen, Sherman Shoemaker, Jay Gifford, and Richard and Ethel Patzke, the five slain children.
The explosive balloon found at Lakeview was a product of one of only a handful of Japanese attacks against the continental United States, which were conducted early in the war by Japanese submarines and later by high-altitude balloons carrying explosives or incendiaries.
More than 9,000 of these incendiary weapons were launched from Japan during the war via the jet stream with the intention of causing mass disruption and forest fires in the American West.
The existence and purpose of the Balloon Bombs were kept secret from the American public for security reasons until a tragic accident forced a change in policy.