When thinking about the UFO Era that began in 1947, it’s hard not to suspect that it must have had roots during WWII, since most everything seemingly new in the postwar world actually had roots in The Big One, when humanity simply tried harder than at any point before or since.
An anonymous commenter points out:
Some part of the UFO craze was likely due to a backstory:
In WWII the Japanese conducted the against the US, using balloons that mostly dropped incendiaries (firebombs), though they also carried anti-personnel bombs. These balloons, somewhere between large weather balloons and those unmanned balloons researchers launch to travel around the earth in the jet stream, were carried by the jet stream to the US.
The Japanese launched some 9,300 balloons, around 300 are known to have landed in the US, , and probably around 1000 reached the US in total. The bombs were intended to start large-scale fires in the American west. In practice, the bombs were pretty ineffective. One killed 6 people. Ironically, one once .
One reason the balloons were ineffective was the US launched a gigantic effort to keep the Japanese from learning about any results. News reports were censored of anything relating to the bombs, so the Japanese would think their program was a failure. The US to counter forest fires that might be started by the balloons:
From your friendly :
“… 2,700 person military effort group assigned to Operation Fire Fly in US Forest Service regions 1,4,5, and 6. Fire Fly was organized as a massive civilian/military effort to combat the expected wildland fire threat from the Japanese balloon bombs, which had been arriving in increasing numbers along the west coast (and as far east as Michigan) since August 1944. Although it was not public knowledge at the time, there was serious concern by US officials that the balloon bombs would also introduce biological warfare agents into North America.”
As the above mentions, one reason the US was probably so leary about news getting out about the programs was the balloons could have been used for biowarfare, which the Japanese were known to be experimenting with.
The . Partially deflated, bouncing along the ground at night, and then perhaps exploding in a flash as the hydrogen went up when some of its ordnance went off… well it would have made for a strange sight that only left a burn mark after the FBI cleaned it up. Perhaps something took off?
And then the men in black from the government show up and tell you that you really, really didn’t see anything. And that if you did, it was very dangerous (and it was, that’s , a pregnant women and kids from a Sunday school class). And if you tried to talk to any local news men, well, as you went up the chain they started to get more and more shifty about it all… and you occasionally hear about special fighter plane squadrons of …
There’s , shot down over Alturas, California… in sight of a Japanese relocation camp.
So there was something real, but not out-of-this-world. Given the bioware possibilities, it was probably a sensitive subject during the early Cold War.
Did the Soviets ever send balloons over the U.S.? The Roswell Incident of 1947 was the crash of a high tech U.S. balloon that was intended to float over the Soviet Union.
Even earlier were the events of February 23-25, 1942, which are fictionalized in Steven Spielberg’s 1979 movie 1941, his follow-up to his UFO movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This is perhaps Spielberg’s biggest flop movie ever, despite all the talent that worked on it, including Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, and John Milius. It’s not an enjoyable movie since every single character is unlikeable. But it’s a memorable movie.
Anyway, on the evening of February 23, 1942, a Japanese submarine surfaced off the coast of California and started shelling the oil field west of Santa Barbara. (There’s now a plaque memorializing the event at the Sandpiper golf course in Goleta, CA.)
This didn’t do much physical damage, but the next night was the Battle of Los Angeles, a mass freakout probably set off by air raid observers shooting at a weather balloon, followed by everybody else in town shooting off their guns because they could hear everybody else shooting.
It’s easy to laugh at 1942 Angelenos for assuming that the seemingly pointless submarine attack on the Santa Barbara area was a feint to distract from a coming attack on a more strategic target, such as Los Angeles with its huge aircraft industry. But that’s how the Japanese rolled. They didn’t believe in concentrating their forces, they believed in extremely complex battle plans.
For example, the Japanese attack on Midway Island in the Central Pacific in June 1942 was accompanied by a massive side attack on the Aleutian Islands thousands of miles to the north to draw the U.S. Navy away. Fortunately, by then the U.S. was reading the Japanese code and didn’t fall for the bait. But as late as October 1944, Admiral Halsey fell for a Japanese feint at the ultra-complex Battle of Leyte Gulf, which caused some extremely dicey moments in the sub-Battle off Samar for the smallish U.S. ships left behind to guard the Army’s landing in the Philippines when suddenly the main Japanese fleet, including the world’s largest battleship, showed up unimpeded.