A brief history of weaponized balloons

Originally published at: A brief history of weaponized balloons | Boing Boing


Sorry, @thomdunn, but I don’t have time to read the whole article about killer balloons right now (may try to get to it this evening) but this comment suggests you found it very unconvincing

It’s worth reading the whole weird history, if for no other reason than so you can join me in now being skeptical about the deadly potential of every balloon you see.

Saying you are skeptical implies you are doubtful about balloons having any deadly potential. But the tone suggests you are not doubtful. Did you mean ‘suspicious’ rather than ‘skeptical’? Or something else? Or is the article so very unconvincing despite your write-up?

(Pedant Pendant in operation, by the way.) :wink:



Ninety-nine red balloons
Floating in the summer sky
Panic bells, it’s red alert
There’s something here from somewhere else
The war machine springs to life
Opens up one eager eye
Focusing it on the sky
Where ninety-nine red balloons go by


The article was well worth the time. One of those Fu-Go bombs from WWII actually hit a critical infrastrucure target. All you usually hear about are the 6 civilians that were killed by one in a forest.


Futility Closet had a great episode about the fugo bombs.

I hadn’t made the connection between the climate change driven drought stricken west and incendiary balloons, but if North Korea wanted to cause a world of hurt to the US, this would be a cheap way to do it. :sweat:

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Yes, exactly!


The US bat bombs were even crazier:


One of the fascinating bits about the Fu-Go bombs is that initially the US government did not believe they could have come all the way across the Pacific. The Japanese had identified the jet stream and that it could take balloons huge distances, the US was much less aware of its presence and predictability. A great deal of effort was spent looking for submarines launching them from just offshore or even enemy agents inside the US.

Their launch site was actually determined by of all professionals - geologists. Samples of ballast from the balloons were analysed under a microscope and the mineralogy and diatoms narrowed down the launch site to the islands of Japan.

Also, until the UK bombed Argentinian positions in the Falklands in 1982, these balloons were the longest-range attack in wartime.


And anti-Nazi balloons.

The free flying balloon attacks were highly successful. Although difficult to assess exactly, they had an economic impact on Germany far in excess of the cost to the British government.


GPS to determine point of closest approach and pop the balloon.

Oh, well, that’s completely clarified matters. :wink:


In 1849 Austria attacked Venice with incendiary balloons, created by Franz Uchatius, it was not a resounding success.

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my old man (rip) was absolutely fascinated with Fu-go, and other “oddball” weapons of war.

we discussed the fire balloons over dinner one night. 12 year old me scoffed and told him there as no way, etc…

Pops ordered a “build your own hot air balloon kit” from Edmund’s Scientific, back when they still sold super cool kits to help kids learn awesome things.

We built the balloon, while he had me researching military attack balloons, manned and unmanned. He also had me research Prince Rupert Drops

we built the balloon to be controllable with 2 strings, one for height, the other to tip a basket and melted glass to form 2 large Prince Rupert Drops - launched early early on a saturday morning, flew it downwind about 50 yards, crouched behind some plywood, and released the drops…

glass everywere - super awesome devastation. I was amazed.

You can purchase a very close ballon kit from PITSCO

I do not recommend making Rupert’s Drops

Fire Fire Fire — alwasy cool.
using fire to terrorize/hurt people? less cool.


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