From balloon bombs to pollution:
Riding the jet stream to our shores

Fu-Go: "windship weapon." Photo, via public.resource.org

Seventy years ago, Sunday school teacher Elyse Mitchell and five of her adolescent charges died when they disturbed a Japanese bomb they found in a mountain forest near Bly, Oregon.

Last October, two forestry workers working near Lumby, B.C., found a similar bomb. The bomb-disposal crew called in from CFB Esquimalt safely detonated that bomb, with no casualties.

The Japanese military had dispatched both bombs, and more besides, to North America by balloon during the Second World War.

From November 1944 to April 1945, they released thousands of paper balloons into the skies over Honshu, Japan’s largest island. Each of 10-metre bags of hydrogen gas carried small payloads of incendiary bombs and high explosives. Japanese commanders hoped the balloons would sail eastwards across the Pacific Ocean and start forest fires in North America, destroy farms, divert resources needed for fighting the war, and incite panic across the continent.

Only two decades earlier, a Japanese meteorologist had discovered a vast river of air that flows west to east, about 9,000 metres overhead. Now known as the jet stream, the atmospheric river moves at speeds up to 280 kilometres per hour. It is fast enough to have delivered Japan’s bombs within days—to North America, with love….

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist

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