Second World War: Balloon Bomb

Balloon bombs were a little known Japanese tactic during the Second World War.

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Sometime late in the Second World War, probably in January 1945, I was living in Bolivar, Missouri. I got up late one night to check the fire in a big coal stove. It was very cold outside, probably around zero. A light snow was being carried on the northwest wind. 

As I went through the dark room, I saw a flash of light through a southwest window. I thought to myself, "That's funny, I've seen lightning in a snowstorm before, but never when it was so cold."

I never thought any more about it, even the next day when Dad, who had been staying out at the farm some distance west of town, came in with a story about an explosion he had seen and heard to the south the night before. He swore it was a bomb.

I thought, "Why would anybody waste a bomb on a frozen Missouri cow pasture?" There was no sound of planes, though, and nothing more was said about it, not even when stories came around about remnants of a Japanese balloon being found farther east.

It wasn't until after the War, when I was reading about the Japanese launching balloons carrying bombs over the United States, that it dawned on me that I had seen one exploding.

Since there was no report of damage, the bomb probably exploded in the air, and the wind carried the balloon farther to the southeast.

It's sort of amusing to think - some farmer may have been shaken out of his bed if that thing went off over his house in the middle of the night

V. E. Carter
Topeka, Kansas

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.