TOKYO - Nobuo Fujita, the only Japanese pilot to drop a bomb on the U.S. mainland during World War II, has died, a family member said yesterday. He was 85.
Mr. Fujita died Tuesday of lung cancer, his granddaughter, Mina Yanagihashi, said from his home in the city of Tsuchiura, northeast of Tokyo.
On Sept. 9, 1942, Mr. Fujita took off in a single-engine float plane from a submarine surfaced off Oregon's Cape Blanco. Flying 50 miles southeast, Mr. Fujita and Petty Officer Second Class Shoji Okuda dropped two incendiary bombs outside Brookings, Ore.
The raid was intended to start massive forest fires that would strike panic, and serve as a counter strike to Col. Jimmy Doolittle's April 18, 1942, bombing raid on Tokyo.
But rain and fog enveloped the Oregon Coast that morning, preventing the flames from spreading. A fire lookout spotted the smoke and alerted a fire crew, which easily put out the flames.
Mr. Fujita launched another attack three weeks later on Grassy Knob outside Port Orford, Ore., but it also fizzled.
In 1962, the city of Brookings invited Mr. Fujita to visit as part of its Azalea Festival. He made a total of four visits to the small coastal city and invited American youngsters to Japan and worked through other exchanges to deepen relations between the two former enemies.
Mr. Fujita's family members told Mainichi newspaper that Mr. Fujita was happy about serving as "a bridge between Japan and America."
The retired owner of a metal fabrication factory outside Tokyo, Mr. Fujita said when he was first invited to Brookings, he thought people wanted to put him on trial for attacking the United States.
Impressed by the friendship he found in Oregon, Mr. Fujita left behind the 400-year-old samurai sword he had carried on the raid as a gesture of peace. He later attended a ceremony in 1995 to install the sword in a special display at the Chetco Community Public Library in Brookings.
In 1992 he planted a redwood tree in the Siskiyou National Forest where a trail now leads to the place he dropped his first bomb.