As most of us are aware, America’s predominant involvement in World War II occurred outside of its borders.
While American troops were sent to the front lines of battle torn Europe, and fighting raged in the Pacific, the continental United States was almost entirely untouched.
However, a little known attack (that later became known as the ‘Lookout Raids’) did occur on American soil.
On September 9, 1942, a Japanese I-25 Submarine surfaced close to Oregon’s Cape Blanco. A Japanese Yokosuka E14Y floatplane named The Glen, piloted by a Nobuo Fujita, disembarked from the sub and made its way over to the mainland, circling over Mount Emily, just north of Oregon’s California border, near Brookings, Oregon.
Assisted by Petty Office Okuda Shoji, Fujita deployed the Glen’s payload — two 170 pound bombs. The purpose of the mission was to start a forest fire on the Pacific coast.
Nobuo Fujita piloted a floatplane that dropped bombs over Oregon during WW2
In general terms the attack was a failure. The bombs were not dropped at the correct height and recent rainfall in the area had made the forest damp and less prone to catching fire.
Furthermore, while some trees did start to burn, thanks to a patrol of fire lookouts, the U.S. Forest Service was able to react quickly and extinguish any blaze before it had a chance to rage out of control.
And here the attack could have disappeared into the lesser-known pages of history. In many ways it has. However, twenty years later in 1962, an unusual visit that serves as a small symbol of the nature of American / Japanese relations at the time, the floatplane’s pilot was invited back to Brookings.
In a poignant ceremony upon his arrival, Nobou Fujita presented his family’s 400-year-old samurai sword as a symbol of regret.
In a 1997 article in the New York Times, it was reported that Fujita had also brought the sword with him in case he was met with a hostile reception. The Times said:
“Mr. Fujita’s daughter, Yoriko Asakura… recalled that her father had been very anxious before that visit, fretting about whether Oregonians would be angry at him for the bombing, and so he had decided to carry the sword so that if necessary he could appease their fury by committing ritual suicide, disemboweling himself with the sword in the traditional Japanese method known as seppuku.”
Such macabre remonstrations were not required of course. Fujita received an extremely warm welcome from the residents of Brookings.
In fact the former pilot was deeply moved by the way the people of Brookings treated him. He was showered with affection and respect that he felt he did not deserve.
Years later in 1985, Fujita invited three students from Brookings to Japan.
The Fujita family sword housed in a display case in Brookings library
During the visit he received a dedicatory letter from an aide of President Ronald Reagan “with admiration for your kindness and generosity”.
The close relations continued with Fujita returning to the United States in 1992. As a gesture of peace he planted a tree at the bomb site.
In 1997 Nobou Fujita was made an honorary citizen of Brookings. He died just a few days later at the age of 85. As a fitting end to his relationship with the town, Fujita’s daughter returned to the bomb site a year after his death to scatter some of her father’s ashes.
The 400-year-old plus samurai sword that belonged to Fujita’s family can still be seen on a trip to Brookings. It is housed in a display case of the local library.