The Day World War II Literally Hit Home For the People of Omaha, Nebraska

By | June 29, 2022

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Japanese fire balloons were bombs affixed to hydrogen balloons and launched across the Pacific Ocean to the United States. (

Omaha, Nebraska, located nearly smack in the middle of the United States, seems like an unlikely place for an attack by the Japanese during World War II, but that is exactly what happened on the evening of April 18, 1945. On that quiet evening, an explosion rocks the skies above the Omaha neighborhood of Dundee, the shock of the area residents. The explosion was caused by a Japanese fire balloon, an airborne bomb filled with hydrogen. As it turned out, Omaha wasn’t the only target of these Japanese bombs.

World War II

With, of course, the notable exception of the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the United States saw very little fighting on its own soil during World War II. By 1945, the tide was turning, and the Japanese military was beginning to sense that the end was near. As a last-ditch effort to cause chaos, fear, and destruction, the Japanese launched about 9,000 balloons over a six-month period of time. The balloons each carried a bomb, ranging in size from 11 to more than 30 pounds. For the Japanese, this was an experimental maneuver. They were not sure how far the winds would carry the balloons, nor when or if the bombs would explode. 

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The balloon attack was an experimental technique designed to create fear and chaos. (Wikipedia)

Hoping to Incite Fear

Military leaders in Japan had high hopes for the fire balloons. They did not know for certain where the various balloons would end up. They wanted to feed into the fear of the randomness of foreign attacks. Additionally, they hoped that the news coverage of random fire balloon explosions would create widespread panic and terror among civilians, which in turn, would help their cause. That plan, however, backfired on the Japanese. The United States Office of Censorship caught wind of Japan’s fire balloon plan and sent a memo to every newspaper and radio station in the country. The memo asked them to refrain from reporting on Japanese fire balloons should one of them explode or land in their community. The media outlets in Omaha did not report on the fire balloon incident in Dundee until after the war was over.