The long, proud history of the Texas State Guard: Balloon Bombs in WWII

Photo Courtesy of The Texas Guardsman, June 1943 issue
Photo Courtesy of The Texas Guardsman, June 1943 issue

Story by: Chief Warrant Officer 4 Thomas W. Dodd

In November of 1944, Japanese forces launched a series of incendiary balloon bombs targeted for the west coast of the U.S.  Of the 9,300 balloons launched from Japan, only about 300 reached the U. S. – with two of them finding their way to Texas. 

One of these bombs was sighted by schoolboys in Desdemona (Eastland County), who made quick work of the balloon with their pocket knives.  Fortunately for them, the balloon had lost its payload before making landfall.  The next day Army personnel from Abilene confiscated all the pieces the boys had collected.

 The other device found its way to Comyn in Comanche County, which was located by members of Company  D  of the Texas State Guard.

 “The balloon was about 30-feet high when extended and carried five metal canisters,” said Wade Cowan, a member of the squad that located it. “Four were incendiaries and one was a fragmentary, or anti-personnel bomb.”

 Cowan remembered that people who knew about the bombs at Desdemona and Comyn were very excited, thinking that the Japanese were about to invade the country.  When they realized that people could not survive at the altitudes where the balloons drifted, they relaxed a little.

 “Government censorship of the press kept panic down,” said Cowan. “Still it was a time to be watchful and alert.”

 Cowan and his squad members secured the area until Army ordnance personnel arrived on the scene.

World War II brought on many challenges for the U. S. and its allies.  The Texas State Guard played a part in providing the state and the citizens of Texas security when called on.

To learn more about World War II and the history that the Texas Military played in it, visit Campy Mabry in Austin, Texas and explore the Texas Military Forces Museum.