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The Curious History of Japan's Balloon Bomb Attack on America

Ross Coen

Narrated by Johnnie C. Hayes

Book published by University of Nebraska Press

Near the end of World War II, in an attempt to attack the United States mainland, Japan launched its fu-go campaign, deploying thousands of high-altitude hydrogen balloons armed with incendiary and high-explosive bombs designed to follow the westerly winds of the upper atmosphere and drift to the west coast of North America. After reaching the mainland, these fu-go, the Japanese hoped, would terrorize American citizens and ignite devastating forest fires across the western states, ultimately causing the United States to divert wartime resources to deal with the domestic crisis. While the fu-go offensive proved to be a complete tactical failure, six Americans lost their lives when a discovered balloon exploded.

Ross Coen provides a fascinating look into the obscure history of the fu-go campaign, from the Japanese schoolgirls who manufactured the balloons by hand to the generals in the U.S. War Department who developed defense procedures. The book delves into panic, propaganda, and media censorship in wartime. Fu-go is a compelling story of a little-known episode in our national history that unfolded virtually unseen.

Ross Coen is a historian who writes about the American West, Alaska, and the Arctic. He is the author of The Long View: Dispatches on Alaska History and Breaking Ice for Arctic Oil: The Epic Voyage of the SS Manhattan through the Northwest Passage.


“This story about a little-known failed military excursion by the Japanese will appeal to general history readers as well as military history buffs.”

Library Journal

Fu-go is an engaging, thorough narrative that adds to the historiography surrounding World War II.”


“Coen's valuable history provides a thoughtful epilogue, a thorough bibliography, and useful maps and tables of fu-go incidents. Many readers will consult this thorough source.”

Pacific Northwest Quarterly

“A fascinating and little-known story.”

—David Sears, author of Such Men as These: The Story of the Navy Pilots Who Flew the Deadly Skies over Korea

“Ross Coen has written an extremely well-researched and carefully documented book.”

—Lee Juillerat, regional editor of the Klamath Falls Herald and News

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University Press Audiobooks
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University Press Audiobooks