9/11 Was Not the First Aerial Attack on the US Mainland
By David E. Hubler
Contributor, In Military
Monday, September 9, passed without much fanfare in the United States. The only historic date that was on anyone’s mind was the fast-approaching September 11, or 9/11.
On that date in 2001, 19 Al-Qaeda airline hijackers brought down the World Trade Center twin towers in lower Manhattan by crashing two passenger jets into them. A third plane struck the Pentagon, killing 184 civilians and military personnel.
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A fourth plane was prevented from striking the U.S. Capitol when the doomed passengers wrested control of the aircraft and crashed it in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing the hijackers and all 40 passengers and crew on board.
In all, the coordinated attacks killed 2,977 victims and the 19 hijackers.
It was the largest enemy attack on the U.S. mainland in history. But it wasn’t the first.
Lone Japanese Airman Attacks Oregon Forest
A strange, virtually unknown incident involving a lone airman occurred some 77 years ago. It was, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, of little note nor long remembered.
The United States had been at war with Japan for nine months, following the December 7, 1941, horrific attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
On September 9, 1942, a Japanese floatplane launched from a submarine and piloted by Nobuo Fujita dropped incendiary bombs on a forest in Oregon. “While there was very little damage done by the bombing, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called for a news blackout of the event ostensibly to protect morale,” the Voice of America explained.
“Fujita played the key role in a quixotic plan by Japanese military commanders to put pressure on America’s home turf in World War II,” The New York Times said in a 1997 article marking Fujita’s death from lung cancer at age 85.
“The idea was that the United States Navy would then be obliged to retreat from the Pacific to protect the West Coast,” The Times explained. Brookings, Oregon, a small logging town, was in the midst of the forest but apparently sustained no damage from the bombing.
For Years Afterward, Fujita Regretted His Aerial Attack
Nevertheless, for years afterward, Fujita was deeply ashamed of what he had done. As atonement, he “eventually forged a remarkable bond of friendship with the people of Brookings,” the Times reported.
When Fujita made his first visit to Brookings in 1962, he brought with him a 400-year-old samurai sword that had been in his family for generations and which he had carried throughout the war.
Fujita had two goals in mind for the sword. He planned to give it to Brookings “as a symbol of his regret.” But his daughter, Yoriko Asakura, told the Times that her father was deeply concerned about how the town would receive him.
”He thought perhaps people would still be angry and would throw eggs at him,” Asakura recalled, adding that ”if that happened, as a Japanese, he wanted to take responsibility for what he had done.”
But the 5,400 residents of Brookings bore him no ill will. They “treated him hospitably, showered him with affection and respect that he felt he did not deserve,” Asakura added.
If necessary, she said, “He could appease their fury by committing ritual suicide, disemboweling himself with the sword in the traditional Japanese method known as seppuku.”
Fujita donated $1,000 to the local library to purchase books about Japan, so the two nations would never go to war again. As then-mayor of Brookings Nancy Bredslinger told the Times, “He was always very humble and always promoting the idea of peace between the United States and Japan.”
As Fujita lay dying, the town council of Brookings hailed him an ”ambassador of goodwill” and proclaimed him an honorary citizen of the town.
As for his samurai sword, if you want to see it, just visit the Chetco Community Public Library in Brookings. The sword rests in a display case “as a symbol of his regret.”