How the Man Who Bombed Oregon Became an Honorary Citizen
Most people think the only attack on United States soil during WWII happened on December 7, 1941—Pearl Harbor. Actually, the U.S. was hit again, less than a year later ... to much less drastic effect.
In September 1942, a Japanese navy pilot named Nobuo Fujita dropped firebombs over a forested area near the small town of Brookings, Oregon. By dropping incendiary devices and starting massive forest fires, the Japanese believed they could divert U.S. resources and potentially cause panic.
Luckily, the plan didn’t really work. Despite being spotted by a fire lookout, Fujita managed to drop two bombs—but due to light winds, rain, and speedy firefighters, the fires were quickly contained. The pilot eventually returned home, but what he had tried to do never left him.
In 1962, Fujita came back to Brookings to make amends, toting a family heirloom—a 400-year-old samurai sword to give to the town. If they refused to forgive him, the pilot intended to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) with it. “I was quite sure that once in Brookings I would be beaten up, people would throw eggs at me and shout insults at me,” he later admitted.
To Fujita’s surprise, the people of Brookings welcomed him with large crowds, a special reception, and a key to the city. He later returned the favor, footing the bill for three Oregonian teenagers to visit Japan. He also gave $1000 to the local library to purchase books for children to learn about his country, hoping that understanding each other would prevent more wars from happening. Fujita made another three visits to Oregon throughout his lifetime, even planting trees on the spot where he dropped the bombs.
Shortly before his death in 1997, the town of Brookings made their onetime attacker an honorary citizen. The following year, his daughter visited the town to honor her father’s last request: to have some of his ashes buried at the bomb site.