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Northern Michigan in Focus: The Japanese Balloon Bomb That Hit Meauwataka in 1945

It’s not a very well-known story, but a small town north of Cadillac was the victim of a Japanese attack during World War II.

Corey Adkins sat down with Nancy Sanders of the Mesick Area Historical Museum, and she told us the story for this week’s Northern Michigan in Focus.

“When that happened, I was only 4-years-old and nothing was ever mentioned in our home about that,” she said.

Nancy Sanders is talking about a Japanese attack that happened in 1945 in a town that thousands drive by everyday…Meauwataka.

“I had never heard anything about balloon bombs,” she said.

Near the end of World War II, the Japanese launched one of the first intercontinental weapons created. They were call Fu-Gos, or balloon bombs. They launched over 9,000 of them into the jet stream hoping they would land all over the United States.

Each balloon was loaded with four incendiaries and one 30 pound high explosive bombs. Their purpose: to land in cities and forests to cause damage and cause panic across our country.

One of those balloon bombs landed in Meauwataka…But not before being spotted in Cadillac first.

“Two men that were playing on the roof over building down in Cadillac on and they seen these balloons go over. They wanted to find out what it was so they got into the family car and they headed out to look to where the balloons we’re going to going to land and interesting enough, it came to Meauwataka.”

Right by the general store.

“By the time they had gotten there, the balloon had landed and it made a deep hole about 12 inches deep and 6 feet wide and had detonated and burned the faces of a lot of those people who were there at the time.”

Though the folks there that day did get hurt, they didn’t lose their lives.

From the over 9,000 balloon bombs launched, only about 300 made it across the Pacific Ocean. Six people did die when one exploded in Oregon.

Back then, there wasn’t much news on these weapons. The military and FBI told anyone who came in contact to not talk about them, at all.

“Because they didn’t want the Japanese to know that the bombs had actually reached the United States. So it was never talked about until about 15 years later.”

And because of that, maybe that’s why the balloon bomb that landed in Meauwataka isn’t a very well-known story.

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