While many Americans were concerned about the Chinese spy balloon that President Joe Biden allowed to fly over the continental U.S. for several days, this was not the first time a foreign nation sent a balloon to the mainland.
For example, Japan used balloons to send bombs to the United States during World War Two. Japan reportedly launched 9,000 balloons during a six-month period at the end of the war. Close to 300 were either found or observed in the U.S., according to Atlas Obscura.
Known as “fire balloons,” these balloons were reportedly filled with hydrogen and carried bombs that weight as much as 33 pounds. The U.S. Office of Censorship initially told media outlets not to report on the balloons in order to avoid giving Japan confirmation their devices had reached the United States.
However, reports of the balloon were made public after one after the balloon bombs resulted in the death of one Oregon family. Six casualties happened when an unexploded balloon bomb was discovered in Oregon by a small group on a church outing.
As the Washington Post recounted:
The only casualties from those attacks came from the tragic discovery on May 5, 1945, of an unexploded balloon bomb by small group on a church outing in the Gearhart Mountain area of Southern Oregon. The Rev. Archie Mitchell and his wife, Elyse Mitchell, of Bly, Ore., took five children with them. While the reverend parked the car, Elyse and the children called to him that they had found a strange object in the woods. He shouted a warning, but it was too late. The explosion killed his wife and the five children, ages 11 to 14.
In April 1945, one month before the Oregon balloon incident, a Japanese balloon bomb exploded in the sky near Omaha, Nebraska’s Dundee neighborhood.
As of Saturday, the Chinese spy balloon has been shot down and is no longer traveling across United States airspace.