Japanese women apologize for sending balloon bombs

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. -- A group of Japanese women have sent an apology and a gift of two dolls to the relatives of a group of Oregon children, the only known victims of a Japanese balloon bomb during World War II.

Dottie McGinnis of Klamath Falls received two lacquered Ouchi Dolls from women in Yamaguchi, Japan, who helped make the 9,000 bombs that were sent aloft to drift across North America in 1945.


On May 5 of that year, a pastor's wife and five children were killed when they discovered one of the bombs while on a church picnic on Gearhart Mountain near Bly. The bomb exploded when one of them tried to pick it up.

Some of the bombs drifted into the midwestern states. But the bomb near Bly caused the only known fatalities. The six victims were also the only people killed on the United States mainland during the war as the result of an enemy act.

Dottie McGinnis is the sister of Dick and Joan Patzke, ages 13 and 11, who were killed by the bomb. The other victims were Eddie Engan, 13, Jay Gifford, 12, Sherman Shoemaker, 12, and Mrs. Elsie Mitchell, wife of the Rev. Archie Mitchell of the Christian Alliance Church of Bly.


The apology was sent on May 5, Children's Day in Japan and the 44th anniversary of the incident near Bly.

The Japanese women learned the identities of the victims in 1987 from John Y. Takeshita, a professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who as a teenager had been placed in a Japanese Relocation Center at Newell, Ore., during the war -- about 70 miles from Gearhart Mountain.

The women earlier sent 1,000 paper cranes to offer their condolences and apologies for the their role causing the children's death. As high school girls, they had been required to help make the balloons to which clusters of bombs were attached.

The dolls are traditional Japanese art objects named after the Ouchi Family of antiquity under whose influence they were made. They have been placed on exhibit in the Klamath County Museum.

Accompanying the dolls was a children's book in Japanese relating the tragic incident and a letter.

'We the undersigned, humbly offer our prayers from the bottom of our hearts for the souls of the six who lost their precious lives due to one of the balloon bombs we helped to build.

'On the 44th anniversary of the tragic event that took the lives of your loved ones, we send to you these dolls from Yamaguchi as a symbol of our earnest resolve never againt go to war and our fervent hope to bring the people of the world together in genuine love, to live in peace and friendship among us all.'


McGinnis said she had forgiven the Japanese long ago. 'We must all learn to forgive and forget,' she said.

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