Tag Archives: World War II

Fu-Go, or How Geologists Fought off the Japanese Attack on North America, although the Threat Remains

The tail of an unexploded Japanese balloon bomb protrudes above the mossy forest floor near Lumy, British Columbia.

The tail of an unexploded Japanese balloon bomb protrudes above the mossy forest floor near Lumby, British Columbia. This photograph is courtesy of Infonews.ca, which published a story about the bomb on October 10, 2014.

On November 3, 1944, the Imperial Japanese Army attacked North America, and they did it from three Honshu beachheads. It was on that date that the first of some 9,000 balloons, fitted with incendiary and high explosive bombs on a three-day timer, were lofted into the recently-discovered jet stream. The innovative form of aggression spread dangerous explosives across a huge swath of North American territory, from Alaska to Mexico, from the Pacific Coast to Detroit, Michigan. Fewer than 250 of these balloons have been accounted for, although an estimated 1,ooo balloons may have made it across the Pacific. While most of the 9,000 probably failed to reach American shores, those that made the crossing and went undiscovered might still pose risks to the unsuspecting.

Foresters working near Lumby, British Columbia, made the most recent discovery of unexploded Japanese bombs in October of last year. Hikers and people who work in wild places should be wary of undiscovered explosives from these balloons.

When Japanese balloon bombs, known as Fu-Go to their makers, first began to arrive in America, authorities mistakenly thought that the devices were being launched from submarines surfacing near our coasts or that they had been built in Prisoner-of-War camps along the coast. Continue reading

What We Later Learn

Oblivious to the true history of the site, my Whitworth College tour mates and I clambered through preserved battle lines at Babi Yar.

Oblivious to the true history of the site, my Whitworth College tour mates and I clambered through preserved battle lines at Babi Yar.

In the Spring of 1978 the Whitworth College study tour of the Soviet Union made the last major stop on our visit, at Kiev. As usual, our group was posted to a tourist hotel, provided with buses and a suave trained tour guide, and directed to all the major tourist sites in the area. Having spent the summer before reading some chronicles of ancient Russia in which the origins of the empire of the Rus were placed at Kiev, this was one of the places I most looked forward to seeing.

From the bluffs above the river outside the walls of the medieval Kiev Pechersk Lavra monastery I looked down on ragged forests that I was sure concealed the remains of the Viking camps that became Kiev’s first royal halls. But the tour guide had a schedule to keep and he herded us all inside the church hall. It was somewhat disconcerting to find Ukrainian peasants inside the church, gamely trying to worship while the guide led us from icon to icon, pointing out the hollow jars buried inside the heavy columns with their mouths exposed to provide reverberation. As I stood gape-mouthed and amazed at the intricate details of the church an old woman in a head scarf and a brown apron shifted past me, muttering the warning, “Ne smeyatsia!” She had mistaken my appreciation of the building for mockery of the worshipers. Continue reading

Then & Now

I published this photograph of the Lower Crab Creek Valley as viewed from the Taunton townsite in “Another Flood.” On a recent visit to the same spot I took the following photograph.

This summer I took a hurried trip through Eastern Washington, photographing sites I have written about. In this article I try to post old photographs alongside more recent ones. In some cases I have also provided views of places previously mentioned in my posts, although no older photographs are available to compare them to.

A view of the Lower Crab Creek Valley in 2012, more than fifty years after the previous photograph was taken, reveals the changing ecology of the formerly arid landscape. Irrigation and invasive species have radically altered the local habitat.

There is definitely an article to be written concerning the environmental changes that have taken place in the Lower Crab Creek Valley over Continue reading

Waiting for a Train

Taunton’s red brick substation from the middle of the abandoned Milwaukee Road main line, looking west in July, 2012.

In the 1940s the Milwaukee Road provided an important means of transportation in Central Washington. Gasoline rationing meant that much travel took place by train.Whether they were traveling out of military duty or seeking work on farms or at the burgeoning Manhattan Project south of Saddle Mountain, travelers might at some point be stranded in the middle of nowhere, waiting for a train.

I grew up near the red brick substation of Taunton, a minor stop on the line. It’s hard to imagine why strangers from Virginia or Ohio might find themselves waiting for a train at Taunton. Perhaps their train had to pull onto the siding to get out of the way of another, more important train. Nonetheless, in my intimate knowledge of the Taunton substation, I knew of several occasions when stranded travelers left evidence of their visit in the form of scrawled pencil lines on the red brick.

Travelers’ graffiti that remains of the walls of Taunton’s substation is usually found on bricks that would be in shaded areas in the heat of an afternoon. With no air conditioning, it would quickly become unbearably Continue reading

The Pass

Skiers dressed more casually in the late 1940s. A line forms for the rope-tow to the top of the Snoqualmie Pass ski hill in the background.

Wilderness skiing at Snoqualmie Pass began in the 1920s, and as it gained in popularity, the Seattle Parks Department sought a permit to open a designated ski hill at the summit. Tourists took the Milwaukee Road trains to the summit for picnics and hiking in the summertime, and the railroad provided transportation to the ski slopes in the winter. The convenience of automobile access to the summit led to a decline in reliance on the train for transportation. A private enterprise applied with the Forest Service to construct a rope-tow, and by 1937 the Snoqualmie Summit Ski Resort was in operation.

Walls of snow line the shoulders of the highway at the summit of Snoqualmie Pass. The state rest area and the ski areas were constructed in the 1930s.

The pass got a lot more snow in those days. Plowing the highway created canyons of icy snow. Intrepid skiers lined up shoulder to shoulder as they waited for the rope-tow to the top of the slopes. Continue reading

A Fuller Picture

In my last post I analyzed the crashes of Army Air Force P-39s based at Moses Lake and Ephrata in 1944. The crash record was alarming. Several of the comments I’ve had either through the site or by other means inquired about other aircraft, particularly the P-38. This morning I went through the records again and updated the Google map of crash sites to include all of the recorded crashes from those two bases (except for one Ephrata crash that took place in Sandpoint, Idaho and another that took place in California). I do not have confidence that all of the crashes that actually occurred show up in this data.

In the updated version of the map, I have color coded crashes. Blue remains P-39 crashes, which were the most numerous wrecks; green markers indicate P-38 crashes, which were the second most common. Rather than come up with too many colors, I used yellow to indicate all other aircraft, from single engine spotter planes to heavy bombers.

I have included the sparse data from Ellensburg AAF, which existed for part of 1943 and part of 1944. Most of the wrecks from that field occurred at the airport. Note that the army airfield in Ellensburg is not the same as today’s airport. The abandoned army field is visible in the Google map as traces of the runways in an uncultivated area north of town.

I can’t help but wonder what emotional strain the pilots were going through that summer. In two instances I found pilots who suffered a fatal crash who had previously crashed and survived. One of these, Richard C. Livingston, died in a P-38 crash near Potholes Reservoir a little more than a month after crashing a P-39 at Moses Lake AAB. Another, Glenn W. Ingersoll, first crash landed his P-38 at Moses Lake, then died three days later when his P-38 had a structural failure. For the pilots around them terror of such disasters must have been almost overwhelming. For the residents of the area, a similar fear must have grown as they witnessed these crashes so frequently. Army policy of not allowing journalists to record them could not have curtailed the word-of-mouth distribution of news about the plane crashes.

My thanks to Jim Huffman and Clint Bridges for giving me some guidance in updating this article. It was interesting to read Clint’s conversation with my dad about the day Gene Dyer’s crash took place. There is a link to that discussion in the comments to my last posting.

Another Flood

“The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Department of Ecology have completed an appraisal level study of potential Columbia River mainstem off-channel storage sites…The appraisal study determined that the Crab Creek site represents a potentially viable reservoir location. This site appears to be preferable to the Hawk Creek site based on both cost and technical feasibility criteria.” From Columbia River Basin Storage Options – Columbia River Mainstem, Department of Ecology web page.

A brief stop on a car tour of the Crab Creek Highway in the late 1940s. This is near the location where the Department of Ecology and the Bureau of Reclamation would like to place a dam 250 feet high and a mile and a half wide.

The government is back in the dam building business. This time it looks like they’re going to dam Crab Creek! There are only two sites currently under consideration for a new water storage (and possible power generation) facility off the main channel of the Columbia River in Washington State. The results of the preliminary study favor damming Lower Crab Creek to create a reservoir that inundates the entire valley, from an earth core dam 250 feet high near Beverly to high water shorelines near Taunton. If you’ve spent any time on this blog, you can be sure I have deep reservations about building such a dam and flooding what I consider to be unique historical, cultural and environmental landscapes.

My family is perhaps lucky in this situation. Although the new lake created by the Crab Creek Dam would cover our ancestral homestead and the ranch that succeeded it, the more recent Danielson spread appears to be right about at the shoreline. But when the new lake is created, other infrastructure will have to be altered. It looks as though a massive power line will cut down Danielson Road, looming over the house I grew up in.

This view of the Lower Crab Creek valley, taken in the early 1950s (as my father notes: before irrigation), shows what will be a lake if the dam is built.

Will it happen? I don’t know. In this day of budget crisis funding may be difficult to pry out of the government. But who knows whether a Roosevelt-style public works program might not use the dam project as a solution to the economic slump. It’s the type of program that stands a chance of succeeding: employment of a vast range of professional and working types, new power generation, new irrigation storage, amelioration of a certain habitat (albeit at the cost of destroying other more unique habitat), benefits to local industries and those further afield. It might even help to restore the aquifer depleted by injudicious permission to pump water for irrigation circles. Continue reading