The story of the Japanese Naval Aviator who became the only Axis Pilot to bomb US Mainland during World War II

The story of the Japanese Naval Aviator who became the only Axis Pilot to bomb US Mainland during World War II

By Dario Leone
Sep 11 2023
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The only Axis pilot to bomb the contiguous US during World War II

Nobuo Fujita was a Japanese naval aviator who flew a seaplane from a submarine and dropped incendiary bombs on the forest near Brookings, Oregon, on Sep. 9 and Sep. 29, 1942 conducting the so-called Lookout Air Raids. This was the only time during the war that the continental US was bombed by enemy aircraft and Fujita became the only Axis pilot to bomb the contiguous US during World War II.

According to Wikipedia:

‘Fujita himself suggested the idea of a submarine-based seaplane to bomb military targets, including ships at sea, and attacks on the US mainland, especially the strategic Panama Canal. The idea was approved, and the mission was given to I-25 long-range submarine aircraft carrier. Larger submarine aircraft carriers such as the giant I-400-class submarines would be developed specifically to bomb the Panama Canal.

Fire caused by a Japanese bomb

‘At 06:00 on 9 September, I-25 surfaced west of the Oregon/California border where she launched the Yokosuka E14Y “Glen” seaplane, flown by Fujita and Petty Officer Okuda Shoji, with a 154 kg (340 lb) load of two incendiary bombs. Fujita dropped two bombs, one on Wheeler Ridge on Mount Emily in Oregon. The location of the other bomb is unknown. The Wheeler Ridge bomb started a small fire 16 km (9.9 mi) due east of Brookings, which US Forest Service employees were able to extinguish. Rain the night before had made the forest very damp, and the bombs were rendered essentially ineffective.

‘Fujita’s plane had been spotted by two men, Howard Gardner and Bob Larson, at the Mount Emily fire lookout tower in the Siskiyou National Forest. Two other lookouts (the Chetco Point Lookout and the Long Ridge Lookout) reported the plane, but could not see it due to heavy fog. The plane was seen and heard by many people, especially when Fujita flew over Brookings in both directions. At about noon that day, Howard Gardner at the Mount Emily Lookout reported seeing smoke. The four US Forest Service employees discovered that the fire was caused by a Japanese bomb. Approximately 27 kg (60 lb) of fragments, including the nose of the bomb, were turned over to the United States Army.

The story of the Japanese Naval Aviator who became the only Axis Pilot to bomb US Mainland during World War II
Japanese submarine I-26. The bulbous plane hangar and the catapult are visible forward of the conning tower.

Under attack by a USAAF aircraft on patrol

‘After the bombing, I-25 came under attack by a USAAF aircraft on patrol, forcing the submarine to dive and hide on the ocean floor off Port Orford. The American attacks caused only minor damage, and Fujita flew a second bombing sortie three weeks later on 29 September. Fujita used the Cape Blanco Light as a beacon. After 90 minutes flying east, he dropped his bombs and reported seeing flames, but the bombing remained unnoticed in the US.

‘The submarine torpedoed and sank the SS Camden and SS Larry Doheny and then sailed for home. On its way to Japan, I-25 sank the Soviet submarine L-16, which was in transit between Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and San Francisco, California, mistaking it for an American submarine (Japan and the USSR were not at war at the time).

‘The two attacks on Oregon in September 1942 were the only enemy aircraft bombings on the contiguous United States and were the second time the continental United States was attacked by such aircraft during World War II, following the bombing of Dutch Harbor in Unalaska, Alaska three months earlier.’

According to an interesting post appeared on Quora, despite the devastation that the bombing caused, Fujita’s actions after the war were seen as a symbol of remorse and reconciliation.

The story of the Japanese Naval Aviator who became the only Axis Pilot to bomb US Mainland during World War II
Nobuo Fujita

Kindness and forgiveness

In 1962, the city of Brookings invited Fujita to attend their Azalea Festival and to plant a tree as a symbol of peace and friendship between the two nations. Fujita accepted the invitation and became the first Japanese pilot to visit the United States after the war. During his visit, Fujita presented the town with a 400-year-old Samurai sword that had been in his family for generations as a gesture of goodwill and reconciliation. He also donated $1,000 towards a student exchange program between the two countries.

Fujita’s actions were met with mixed reactions. While some people saw his gesture as a sincere attempt to make amends for the past, others felt that he had not done enough to atone for his actions. In fact, his daughter later revealed that he had brought a dagger with him on his visit to the town, and had planned to commit ritual suicide if he had been met with hostility or anger.

Despite the mixed reactions to his visit, Fujita was grateful for the kindness and forgiveness shown to him by the people of Brookings. His daughter stated that the sword was a symbol of her father’s desire for peace and understanding between the two nations. Fujita’s actions were an example of the power of forgiveness and reconciliation, and his visit to Brookings remains a significant moment in the history of US-Japan relations.

Fujita passed away in 1997, and the sword remains on display at the Chetco Community Public Library in Brookings as a testament to the power of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The story of the Japanese Naval Aviator who became the only Axis Pilot to bomb US Mainland during World War II
Nobuo Fujita standing by his Yokosuka E14Y “Glen”

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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