How many times was the US west coast shelled bombed or attacked by the Japanese in 1941-1942?
Let me start out with a simple answer and finish with a broader answer.
By December 17, 1941 there were nine Japanese submarines off the West Coast of America. They were looking for ships destine to reinforce the forces at Pearl Harbor. There were few sinkings, before they received orders to fire all their 4.7" ammunition against various coastal areas of American on December 24. Just hours before the shelling was to begin the orders were changed and the subs ordered back to Japanese bases.
On February 25, 1942 the Japanese submarine I-17 surfaced in the area of Santa Barbara at 5:30 pm. Its target was the Elwood Oil Field. They fired 17 shells before stopping.
A day or two later the air-raid sirens of Los Angeles were sounded. Someone spotted a Japanese airplane over the city, and all the guns of the city fired into the sky. For weeks after this many cars were getting flat tires from all the metal splinters that lay on the roads from the shells fired that night. I had a friend that swore he saw a truck drive by his house with something in its trailer. The object was covered by canvas, but part of the canvas was not tied, and he saw a Japanese "meatball" (symbol) on the wing of a plane. The truth is that there were no Japanese submarines in the area, and no Japanese aircraft either. It demonstrated the tension that seized the people after the shelling near Santa Barbara shortly before.
After the Battle of Midway some submarines that were part of the decoy group near Alaska were ordered to the North American West Coast. On June 20, '42 the Japanese submarine I-26 shelled the Canadian telegraph station at Estewan Point, Vancouver. The next day submarine I-25 shelled Fort Stevens in Oregon.
On September 9, 1942 the submarine I-25 surfaced off the coast of Oregon. It carried, in a special container, an airplane. It was launched, and following orders, ignored ships. Its job was to start large forest fires. Its bomb were capable to showering out fires to a diameter of 200 yards. Two such bombs were dropped. After storing the aircraft in its container the I-25 sailed for northern California and the redwood forests. However the waves were too strong to launch an aircraft, so the I-25 returned to Oregon where there previous bombings were repeated.
After this Japanese submarines were needed more to protect the combat areas of the Japanese Empire, so the American coastline was safe from submarines. =============== Well there is the "simple" answer. Now for the rest of the story. While the Japanese could not use submarines or aircraft to attack us, they were still determine to set fires in the United States. Project Fu-Go was launched on the Meji Emperor's birthday (November 3, 1944). This was an attack used gas-filled balloons. The balloons carried two fire bombs and one explosive bomb. There was a timer that was based on the expected number of days it would take the balloons to be carried by the winds from Japan to America. Records indicate they landed in an area as far north as Alaska, as far south as the California/Mexican border, and as far east as the Great Lakes! Here are the records of the launchings: November 1944 700 December 1,200 January 1945 2,000 February 2500 March 2500 Early April 400
In modern times we have "Smoke Jumpers" that are dropped by air to fight fires in areas where there are no roads capable of getting fire fighters to the fire. The first fire fighters were a group of Black paratrooper that were not used in the war, but were used to fight this "secret war" in the forests of America. Very little information about the Japanese balloon attacks, and the fire fighting involved have been revealed over the years. The reason then was to prevent panic in America. Why not much has been written since about these Black "Smoke Jumpers" is sad. It could have been a serious problem. Fortunately the period of the year that had the best winds for the Japanese were mainly in the winter months, when the forest were covered with snow.
Hope this helps, John
The Black "Smoke Jumpers" that you refer to were the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion. An excellent history of the 555th to read is: The Triple Nickles
by Bradley Biggs Hamden. Conn. Archon Books 1986
Richard V. Horrell
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