September 9, 1942: Lookout Air Raid
One of the more daring air raids of World War II, on September 9, 1942 a Japanese float plane piloted by Warrant Office Nobou Fujita took off from the I-25 , a Japanese submarine, that was off Cape Blanco on the southwestern Oregon coast. The intention was to drop two incendiary bombs to start forest fires. Fujita dropped both bombs, one of which exploded, in the Siskiyou National Forest. The ensuing forest fire was minor and easily put out, the forest being damp from recent rains, and Howard “Razz” Gardner manning a fire lookout tower having spotted the plane as it conducted the bombing. Fujita flew back to the I-25. On September 29 Fujita made a second attack which caused only negligible damage.
Although one has to appreciate the daring of the Japanese involved, this operation barely deserves footnote status as the only time the continental United States has been bombed by an enemy power. What is more interesting, and encouraging in what it says about human nature, is that twenty years after the bombings, in 1962, Fujita was invited to Brookings, the town nearest the bombings. After the Japanese government ascertained that there was no intention of attempting to try Fujita as a war criminal, Fujita went. He was made Grand Marshal of the local Azalea Festival. Fujita gave the town a 400 year old samurai sword from his family as a token of regret. ( He had intended to commit seppuku with it if his reception had been unfriendly.)
Fujita was overwhelmed by the warmth of his reception at Brookings and traveled to the town many times in the years to come, serving as an informal ambassador of good will. In 1985 he sponsored three female students from Brookings on a trip to Japan and received a letter from President Ronald Reagan thanking him for his efforts in healing the wounds of war. He was made an honorary citizen of Brookings several days before his death on September 30, 1997 at age 85. In October of 1998 his daughter Yoriko Asakura buried some of his ashes at the bomb site.