Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 31, 2010

Keep folding the cranes

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on August 31, 2010

September 2nd — this Thursday — marks the 65th anniversary of World War II’s end.  Japanese officials signed the surrender papers aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, docked  in Tokyo Bay.

I thought about this a few nights ago, when I found my 9 year old son — who should have been in bed — standing at the bottom of the stairs outside his bedroom.

He had tears in his eyes.  He wasn’t crying.  But it was close.  Like he was waiting for one more thought before the tears spilled out.

“What’s up?” I asked.

It was his first night home after he, his brother and my wife took a three day driving tour of southern Oregon.

“It’s not fair,” he said.  “They were just children and they were just on a picnic.  And they died. That’s just not fair.”

He started to cry.

It took some time and some hugs, but eventually I was able to piece together what happened.


My wife and sons stopped for a few hours in Bly, Oregon.  It’s a town of about 500 people in the central part of southern Oregon, fairly close to the California border.  Here’s what they learned about Bly:

On May 5, 1945, Reverend Archie Mitchell of the Bly Christian & Missionary Alliance Church took his expectant wife and 5 Sunday school children on fishing trip and picnic. Finding the main road blocked by equipment, he pulled off to a spot where the creek was accessible. As he got the food from the car he heard one of the children say “Look what I found!”. As his wife and the children ran to see what was found, there was an explosion. The 5 children and Mrs. Mitchell were killed instantly.

What the children had found was the remains of balloon bomb. Thousands of these balloons were launched from Honshu, Japan during a 5 month period that ended in April 1945. The hydrogen-filled paper balloons were 33 feet in diameter and carried 5 bombs – 4 incendiaries and one antipersonnel high explosive. The balloons … could be carried by the jet stream from Japan to North America in 3 days. More than 350 balloons were documented as having reached [the United States.]  Some were found as far east as Michigan.

A U.S. Forest Service employee (Jack Smith) was one of the first people on the scene that day in 1945.  He wrote about his experience:

Spike [Armstrong] and I happened to be at the ranger station in the morning of May the 5th when Jumbo Barnhouse, the forest road grader operator drove hurriedly into the ranger station and bailed out of his pickup.  He said, “There’s been an explosion on Gearhart Mountain and several people are hurt.”

Spike and I gathered up sheets, blankets, and first aid kits, and notified the supervisor’s office that we were headed to the site.  The accident scene was on the shoulder of Gearhart Mountain, perhaps five miles or so from Bly.  As we approached, Reverend Archie Mitchell pointed the way for us to hike to the site that was a short distance off the road.  The balloon canopy was mostly deflated and partially covered by a snowdrift.  It was white.  Near the canopy were six bloody bodies on the ground, somewhat like spokes of a wheel.  There was little brush, but a fair stand of mature Ponderosa Pine timber.  Everything was quiet; the bodies were close together.

Spike said to me, “Can you check their pulse?  I don’t think I can handle it.”  So I checked for pulse and breathing.  Mrs. Mitchell and the five young people were all dead, No one was breathing and I could feel no pulse.  The bomb that killed them was attached to a Japanese Hydrogen balloon that had come over the Pacific Ocean on the jet stream.  Forest Service employees were aware that these balloons were coming and we had been instructed how to report them by code to the military if we saw one in the air.

One of the victims was Jay Gifford, about a 12-year-old boy, whose father owned the Standard Oil bulk plant in Bly.  A couple of weeks earlier, Jay had found a weather balloon and had been praised by the weather bureau for returning it to the weather station in Klamath Falls.  Apparently one of the group must have touched something that caused the personnel bomb explosion.  Nothing could be done and so Spike and I waited.  I didn’t see Reverend Mitchell after we left the road ….  Apparently Reverend Mitchell had ran to the sound of the explosion and knew that he could do nothing for the victims.  He heard the Forest Service road grader and intercepted Jumbo to tell him of the accident.  Rev. Mitchell indicated that the group had planned to picnic and do a little fishing in a branch of the Sprague River.  He had gone back to the car to get picnic supplies when the group found the balloon and the explosion occurred.

Spike and I were there alone for a short while until the sheriff arrived.  Then the forest supervisor … arrived, and then the coroner showed up.  So there were four or five of us there for perhaps an hour.  Nothing could be done.  Larry Mays informed us that we had to wait for the Navy people to come from Whidby Island in Washington State.  This was enemy action.  The Navy people needed to inspect and make sure there were no radiological, biological, or chemical contaminants before anything could be handled or moved. [CBRNE 65 years ago]

The sheriff had duty elsewhere; Larry, the supervisor had duty elsewhere; the coroner had duty elsewhere; Spike had duty elsewhere; so I spent several hours alone, safeguarding the corpses….

Mrs. Mitchell was a few months pregnant and the youngsters were 12 – 15 years old and they were local neighbor kids so this was hard to take.  It was a great shock to the Bly Community.  We had held community meetings in Bly to inform the citizens.  This was war time, so it was hush, hush to keep the news from getting back to Japan that the bombs were getting to America.

The people who died were Richard Patzke, Joan Patzke, Jay Gifford, Edward Engen and Sherman Shoemaker, as well as Mrs. Elsie Mitchell.

More than 400,000 Americans, mostly military, died in World War II.  These six fatalities were the only civilian deaths directly attributable to enemy action in the 48 contiguous United States.

In a tragically romantic irony just begging for more details, Reverend Archie Mitchell eventually married Betty Patzke, sister of two of the victims.


According to another report about the World War II balloon attacks:

Many of the balloons had been made by patriotic Japanese school children as a part of the war effort. In 1987, several tried to atone. They folded 1,000 paper cranes, a Japanese symbol of healing and peace, and sent them to the families of the Oregon picnickers. Here is an excerpt from one of the accompanying letters:

“We participated in the building of weapons used to kill people without understanding much beyond the knowledge that America was our adversary in a war. To think that the weapons we made took your lives as you were out on a picnic! We were overwhelmed with deep sorrow.”

If my son’s sensitivity to this random tragedy is any example, it — and what it symbolizes — is also a timeless sorrow.


However, like one more folded paper crane, life continues.

Reverend Mitchell and his wife went to Vietnam in 1962 to work at a leprosarium.  Archie Mitchell was captured by the Viet Cong and was never seen again.

Bly’s path from World War II to Vietnam continues into to the Terrorism Wars.

In 2007, James Ujaama pled guilty to trying to set up a terrorist training camp at a ranch just outside Bly.

Keep folding the cranes.

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August 31, 2010 @ 2:30 am

Bly. Population 486. Nobody will notice if we set this camp up. We’ll fit right in.

Support your county sheriff.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 31, 2010 @ 3:12 am

We are our “memories”!

Apparently a rather amazing piece on Haiti about to appear in September 6th New Yorker with Amy Wilentz [?] author. Documenting US maniupulation for last century of Haitian politics even as new Presidential election faced by Haitian people.


August 31, 2010 @ 3:19 am

The judge says police ignored ‘no trespassing’ signs.

The Daily Courier reported that Grants Pass and Oregon State Police officers acting on a tip went past “no trespassing” signs posted on property that was fenced. All four officers claimed they did not see the signs.

Make them like targets. Can’t miss missy. Home on the range. If you can read this, you’re in range is a funny sign. Miss Shotgun, got shells. Worthless SOB’s.


August 31, 2010 @ 4:13 am

“Witnesses said some truckloads traveling from Laredo to Atlanta carried more than 650 pounds of cocaine. The workers sent shipments of money, often containing several million dollars in cash, back to Mexico in tractor-trailer trucks, according to the court records.”

I guess nobody saw nothing. You could put 650 pounds of explosives in a truck and they’d be just as clueless. Send me a tractor-trailer load of cash and maybe I won’t kill you. A fool you can’t bend or break. They are fooling themselves, but the money is good. We’re going to need tractor-trailers to haul the bodies away. You wanted war, you got it. The enemy isn’t just dangerous, the enemy is dumb and dangerous and hopefully dead, dumb and dangerous. They can afford a nice case. I can’t.


August 31, 2010 @ 4:29 am

Court records would of helped with the GM fraud case. Instead it was fraud, what fraud? Here’s tens of billions of dollars, you guys do what you want. Here’s $4,500 for your junkyard car you stupid sheep. Here’s a shovel, dig your own graves. Keep folding up dealerships and build more funeral homes. Go to church in a hearse. You’ll get an escort and a free case. It’ll be a big economic hit. I’m sweating bullets here. You got your own little problem, I know.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

August 31, 2010 @ 5:47 am

I am sitting thirty feet above the water
with my hand at my throat,
listening to the owls go through the maples
and the seaplanes go up and down like cracked buzzsaws.

I am finding my own place
in the scheme of things
between the nation of Reuben half drunk on twisted coneflowers
and the nation of Dan all crazy for weird veronica.

I am paying attention to providence,
the silver hordes this time,
the mud up to my knees,
the glass on my fingers.

I am studying paradise and the hereafter,
a life beyond compare,
a great log thrown up for my own pleasure,
an unbelievably large and cold and beneficent sun.

I am lifting a blade of grass to my wet lips
for music;
I am trying a dozen fruits and flowers
to get one sound;

I am twisting my head around, I am slowly clapping
for harmony;
I am raising my eyes, I am listening to the worms
for song.

(A poem by Gerald Stern)

Comment by Dan O'Connor

August 31, 2010 @ 7:17 am

This was on the wall of the house I grew up in
If A Child Lives With, by Dorothy Law Nolte
If a child lives with criticism. . . . . . . .he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility. . . . . . . . he learns to fight.
If a child lives with fear. . . . . . . .he learns to be apprehensive.
If a child lives with jealousy. . . . . . . .he learns to feel guilt.
If a child lives with tolerance. . . . . . . .he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement . . . . . . . .he learns to be confident.
If a child lives with praise. . . . . . . .he learns to be appreciative.
If a child lives with acceptance. . . . . . . .he learns to love.
If a child lives with approval. . . . . . . .he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with recognition . . . . . . . .he learns that it is good to have a goal.
If a child lives with honesty. . . . . . . .he learns what truth is.
If a child lives with fairness. . . . . . . .he learns justice.
If a child lives with security. . . . . . . .he learns to trust in himself and others
If a child lives with friendliness. . . . . . . .he learns the world is a nice place in which to live.

Combined with this;


by Robert Fulghum
• Share everything.
• Play fair.
• Don’t hit people.
• Put things back where you found them.
• Clean up your own mess.
• Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
• Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
• Wash your hands before you eat.
• Flush.
• Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
• Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
• Take a nap every afternoon.
• When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
• Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
• Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
• And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

Unfortunately, life has rules too, some by evolution, others by revolution… in the end, what makes us human also destroys us. The irony of the story is children thinking they’re doing good ends up killing children thinking they’re doing good…

Compassion is timeless as is tragedy and inequity. Maybe we should spend more time seeing the world through our Children’s eyes than our leaders…

“The innocent and the beautiful have no enemy but time” William Butler Yeats


September 3, 2010 @ 11:52 am

USA turning into Afghan nightmare with acid attacks on women. The fools made believe Afghan subhumans would become like USA. The whole military is looking like suicidal tendencies from top to bottom. Low water pressure in Washington. The only thing left will be a monument and a fortification to the stupidity of man. Keep folding the paper fools. The federal government of the world has failed. Didn’t the Russians already try that? We have hells embassy in Iraq and more bad intel than Iran has religious nuts. Now were getting a $100 million mosque. Put up Welcome Taliban signs too. Send another billion to save suicidal pakirats.

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