Over the past 10 days or so, much of America has been enthralled by an errant Chinese balloon transversing the continental U.S., including several sensitive sites (“U.S. tracked Chinese spy balloon from the start but held off on attack, NORAD commander says,” Web, Feb. 6). Since major media was reporting on this balloon, one got the impression it represented a new tactic in military power. Not so, by a long shot.
Seventy-nine years ago, the Japanese government launched a campaign whereby it bombarded the U.S. mainland with more 10,000 balloons, each loaded with two incendiary devices and a 33-pound anti-personnel bomb. About 300 Japanese balloons actually struck the U.S. over a six-month period, most without any significant damage. However, a mother and five of her children in Bly, Oregon, were killed by one that exploded. In keeping with national wartime security policy, news media was persuaded not to report the balloon event, so as to avoid spreading panic.
For reasons that are still unclear, the Defense Department continued to keep the balloon information from the public for many years after the war.
So what did the balloon payload reveal? The Chinese government maintains that the balloon was simply a weather observation balloon. That is possible, but it does not explain why the balloon flew a path over vital defense facilities, including nuclear missile silos.
JAMES W. ANDERSON
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