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Axis Pilot Became the Only Man to Bomb Contiguous US, Years Later He Gets a Message from the Town He Targeted

  The date was Sept. 9, 1942. Less than a year earlier, imperial Japan launched a surprise attack against Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, a major Amer...

 The date was Sept. 9, 1942.

Less than a year earlier, imperial Japan launched a surprise attack against Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, a major American naval base. Instead of crippling the United States, this attack only awakened the giant. The war was now in full swing, and with U.S. bombers touching the Japanese home isles under Col. James Doolittle’s raids, the reality was setting in for the Pacific empire.

Amid this chaos, a Japanese submarine quietly surfaced off the Oregon coast.

Nobuo Fujita, a Japanese naval pilot, waited as a seaplane was pieced together by the empire’s sailors and loaded onto a deck-mounted catapult.

Finally, it was ready to launch. Fujita climbed aboard and was thrown into the air. Armed with two thermite firebombs, he set a course for the wilderness near the sleepy town of Brookings.

The seaplane wasn’t quick or powerful enough to take on a major target, so the Japanese military command instead aimed to spark wildfires in rural areas. The hope was that these blazes would destroy material, siphon war resources and generally damage American morale.

Fujita made it to his target and dropped the firebombs. The Japanese didn’t expect what happened next.

“It was too wet and it just stopped raining,” retired Brookings librarian Brenda Jacques told Oregon Public Broadcasting. “He dropped these thermite bombs and they just fizzled. They created enough smoke so the forest service saw them.”

A second sub-launched firebombing mission in the following days also failed. Defeated, the sailors packed the seaplane up and headed home.

The war in the Pacific ended years later with the total capitulation of Japan.

Pacified by a brutal island-hopping campaign and two nuclear bombings, the island nation surrendered in 1945. Two years later, a major constitutional change would dissolve the empire, replacing it with a constitutional monarchy and creating modern Japan.

Two decades after the bombing of Oregon and the end of the war, members of the Brookings Junior Chamber of Commerce were sitting around drinking beer. Together (and possibly fueled by their drinks), they came up with a wild idea: They would find the Japanese pilot who tried to burn down their world and invite him to town.

The town was split on the idea, with over 100 signing onto an Op-Ed in the local paper lambasting the scheme. This man, they argued, was an enemy combatant who attempted to kill defenseless Americans.

Sensing they opened a can of worms, the young men responsible for the idea called a vote. All were in total agreement — Fujita would be invited to Brookings as a guest and friend.

Fujita and his family were found living in Japan and brought to stay with a family in Brookings.

When he arrived, the former imperial pilot offered a major show of humility and gratitude to the town with the submission of the Fujita family’s katana, a 400-year-old heirloom sword that accompanied him on the Brookings bombings.

Brookings responded in kind, giving Fujita the key to the town and allowing him to fly a plane over the bomb site. The former enemy was also made an honorary citizen of Brookings.

Fujita’s katana now sits on display in Brookings’ Chetco Public Library, a silent testament to the power of healing and friendship in the wake of a deadly war.

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