Copyright 2015 by M. D. Vaden
Nobuo Fujita - 1911 to 1997 - his ashes rest with the redwoods
Not many people realize that Japan bombed the United States during World War II. It happened September 9, 1942 near Brookings, Oregon, north of Jedediah Smith redwoods and Crescent City, CA. The Japanese pilot was Warrant Officer Nobuo Fujita, flying a Yokosuka E14Y1 seaplane launched from a submarine. In an attempt to start a forest fire, Fujita dropped incendiary bombs over coast redwood forest at Wheeler Ridge.
The I-25 submarine was one of the largest in the Japanese fleet, 357 ft long and carried the stowable Yokosuka aircraft which could be disassembled and stored in a special deck hangar in front of the conning tower. The bombing was not successful as the forest was too damp for a fire to get a foothold and the mission failed, but there was enough fire to require extinguishing. I can't imagine the mission being a complete failure because it must have left its mark that Japan reached the mainland and targets remained vulnerable.
Following this attempt the submarine was attacked by US aircraft but escaped and remained submerged on the ocean floor to avoid further detection. Then September 29th they attempted another mission to start a fire further North near Port Orford, Oregon. Again the mission was unsuccessful.
Fujita's actions didn't sit well with him after the war and he had remorse and shame. In 1962 he was invited to Brookings, Oregon and gave the City his family's 400-year old samurai sword, as a token of friendship. Fujita was going to commit seppuku (hara-kiri) with the sword if the town of Brookings didn't forgive him. But the town treated him with respect.
Today the plaque and sword are at the Chetco Community Public Library with an inscription "The only enemy to bomb the U.S. from the air" Later, Nobuo took part in tree planting in the forest he partly damaged in 1942. Just before his death he was made an honorary citizen of Brookings in 1997. His daughter placed some of his ashes at the bombing site or Wheeler Ridge.
In August 1943 the I-25 submarine was detected and destroyed by the USS Patterson using depth charges near Vanuatu in the Pacific Ocean. Otherwise, in 1944 Fujita became a trainer of Kamikaze pilots, followed by a good number of years and a chance to visit the redwood coast.
Images: Warrant Officer Nobuo Fujita and Yokosuka aircraft