Page 5 - The 'X' Chronciles Newspaper - June / July 2018 Edition
P. 5

Attack Of The Killer Balloons                                                                                  5

                ATTACK OF THE                            situation worked: the Japanese abandoned the
                                                         project because they didn’t hear of any
             KILLER BALLOONS                             successes.

                                                                 But after the Mitchell tragedy in Oregon,
                                                         the public was warned. The last balloon bomb
            The secret weapon aimed at the west.
                                                         was found in Alaska in 1955; its bombs were
                                                         still capable of exploding. Ironically, on March
          On May 5, 1945, Reverend Archie Mitchell, his
                                                         10, 1945, one of the last paper balloons
          wife Elsire, and five children from his Sunday
                                                         descended near Hanford,  Washington.  The
          school drove from the tiny southern Oregon two
                                                         balloon landed on electrical power lines,
          of Bly for a picnic  on Gearhart Mountain. While
                                                         shutting off the Hartford nuclear reactor for
          Reverend Mitchell parked his car, his wife and
                                                         three days. The Hanford reactor, part of the top-
          children explored. They came upon a device the
                                                         secret Manhattan Project, was producing
          U.S. knew about but had kept secret. When one  plutonium for the bomb that was dropped on
          of them touched the device, it exploded: Mrs.  Nagasaki, Japan, five month later.
          Mitchell and the five children were killed. The
                                                                 The Fugo balloon bombs are considered
          six Oregonians became the only known fatalities
                                                         a failure as a weapons system. There were no
          on the U.S. mainland from enemy attack during
                                                         bomb-caused forest fires, and they cause little
          all of World War II.
                                                         other damage. Elsi Mitchell and the five
                                                         children were the tragic exceptions. []
          MADE IN JAPAN
          The exploding contraption was a Japanese Fugo     WORLD’S GREATEST
          balloon bomb, the brainchild of Major General
          Sueyoshi Kusaba of the Japanese Ninth Army                    HOAXES
          Technical Research Laboratory.  The balloons
          measured 33 feet across and 70 feet long from  THE CARDIFF GIANT
          top to bomb.  They were constructed (by
          Japanese schoolgirls) from bits of tough paper
          called  washi, made from mulberry trees, and
          glued together with potato paste. The bomb parts
          were made in a factory - not by schoolgirls.
                 Filled with hydrogen gas, the payload
          consisted of 36 sandbags for ballast, four
          incendiary bombs, and one 33-pound
          antipersonnel bomb. Launched to rise to 35,000
          feet, the balloons were designed to use the
          prevailing Pacific eastward winds to reach the
          west coast of North America. As the balloons
          leaked gas and lost altitude, barometric pressure
          switches caused the sandbags to drop off and the
          balloons would rise back to the jet stream. The
          trip took three to five days. By the time they
          reached the United States, the balloons, now out
          of sandbags, were supposed to drop the bombs
          and then self-destruct. The Japanese hoped the  The Set-Up: In 1869, at an upstate New York
          bombs would cause forest fires and panic the   farm just outside the town of Cardiff, well
          American public.                               diggers found what seemed to be the petrified
                                                         body of a man, but more than a man, a 10-foot-

          FUGIO, FUGO, FUGO!                             tall giant. The diggers had been hired by New
                                                         York cigar maker George Hull, a relative of the
          Between October 1944 and April 1945, Japan
                                                         farm’s owner.
          launched 9,300 of these balloons. Estimates are
                                                         The Impact: News of the amazing discovery
          that fewer than 500 balloons reached the United
          States or Canada; the rest fell into the Pacific  spread quickly around the world. Hull charged
                                                         people 50 cents to take a peek at the giant.
                                                         Experts cried fraud, but the fundamentalists ate
                 In November 1944, one balloon was
                                                         it up. So did the civic boosters in whatever town
          discovered in the ocean off Dan Pedro,
                                                         it was exhibited in. The sign that accompanied
          California. In January 1945, a balloon bomb
                                                         the giant claimed that P.T. Barnum had offered
          landed in Medford, Oregon, without exploding.
                                                         $150,000 to buy it. The figure may have been
          At some point a rancher in Nevada discovered a
                                                         lower, but an offer was made. Hull refused to
          balloon and used it as a tarp to cover his hay;
                                                         sell, so Barnum made his own replica of the
          police later discovered that two bombs were still
          attached to it.                                giant and sued Hull, declaring the original to be
                                                         a fake.
                                                         It  Was All a Hoax: Under cross-examination
          WHAT BALLOONS?
                                                         during the ensuing trial, Hull admitted that the
          Most of the balloons either exploded harmlessly
                                                         giant was nothing more than an elaborate hoax,
          or failed to detonate on impact. Approximately
                                                         carved from gypsum and washed with sulphuric
          90 of them were recovered in the United States
                                                         acid to make it look old. He had thought up the
          as far east as Michigan. Strict censorship kept
                                                         idea after an argument with a fundamentalist
          their existence out of the newspapers, and those
                                                         preacher. He wondered if he could convince the
          who knew of their presence were sworn to
                                                         preacher that the “giants in the earth” mentioned
          secrecy. It was feared that the news of the
                                                         in the Bible were real. Of course, there was the
          balloons’ arrival would encourage the launching
                                                         money-making angle, too. Hull came out of the
          of more balloons. They weren’t seen as much of
                                                         deal some $30,000 ahead.
          a danger, but the hush-hush handling of the
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