Nobuo Fujita : biography
Early life and military career
Nobuo Fujita joined the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1932 and became a pilot in 1933. Fujita also had a younger brother who was killed in the war.
Pearl Harbor and U.S. West Coast
Fujita was on board I-25 during the attack on Pearl Harbor, where the I-25 and three other submarines patrolled a line north of Oahu. Fujita’s plane, a Yokosuka E14Y "Glen" seaplane, did not function properly, and he was unable to participate in the reconnaissance mission planned before the attack.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, I-25 patrolled along the West Coast of the United States with eight other submarines. They attacked U.S. shipping before returning to their base in Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. They arrived there on January 11, 1942 to refuel and be refurbished.
I-25s next mission was to reconnoitre the Australian harbours of Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart, followed by the New Zealand harbours of Wellington and Auckland. On 17 February 1942, Nobuo Fujita took off in the "Glen" for a reconnaissance flight over Sydney Harbour to examine the city’s airbase. By 07:30, he had returned to I-25, disassembled the "Glen" and stowed it in the water-tight hangar.
The next mission was a similar flight over Melbourne, Australia. Fujita took off from Cape Wickham on King Island at the western end of Bass Strait, about halfway between Victoria and Tasmania. The floatplane was launched on 26 February for its flight to Melbourne over Port Phillip Bay.
Fujita’s next reconnaissance flight in Australia was over Hobart on 1 March. I-25 then headed for New Zealand, where Fujita flew a reconnaissance flight over Wellington on 8 March. He flew over Auckland on 13 March, followed by Fiji on 17 March. The submarine returned to its base at Kwajalein on 31 March.
On 28 May, Fujita performed a reconnaissance of Kodiak, Alaska in preparation for the invasion of the Aleutian Islands. On 21 June, I-25 shelled the U. S. base of Fort Stevens, near Astoria, Oregon. Fujita was on the deck of I-25 during the attack.
Bombing of continental United States
Fujita himself suggested the idea of a submarine-based seaplane to bomb military targets, including ships at sea, and attacks on the U.S. mainland, especially the strategic Panama Canal. The idea was approved, and the mission was given to I-25. Submarine aircraft carriers such as the giant I-400-class submarines would be developed specifically to bomb the Panama Canal.
At 06:00 on 9 September, I-25 surfaced west of the Oregon/California border where she launched the Glen, flown by Fujita and Petty Officer Okuda Shoji, with a load of two incendiary bombs. Fujita dropped two bombs, one on Wheeler Ridge on Mount Emily in Oregon. The location of the other bomb is unknown. The Wheeler Ridge bomb started a small fire due east of Brookings, which U.S. Forest Service employees were able to extinguish. Rain the night before had made the forest very damp, and the bombs were rendered essentially ineffective. Fujita’s plane had been spotted by two men, Howard Gardner and Bob Larson, at the Mount Emily fire lookout tower in the Siskiyou National Forest. Two other lookouts (the Chetco Point Lookout and the Long Ridge Lookout) reported the plane, but could not see it due to heavy fog. The plane was seen and heard by many people, especially when Fujita flew over Brookings in both directions. At about noon that day, Howard Gardner at the Mount Emily Lookout reported seeing smoke. The four U.S. Forest Service employees discovered that the fire was caused by a Japanese bomb. Approximately of fragments, including the nose of the bomb, were turned over to the United States Army.
After the bombing, I-25 came under attack by a USAAF aircraft on patrol, forcing the submarine to dive and hide on the ocean floor off Port Orford. The American attacks caused only minor damage, and Fujita flew a second bombing sortie three weeks later on 29 September. Fujita used the Cape Blanco Light as a beacon. After 90 minutes flying east, he dropped his bombs and reported seeing flames, but the bombing remained unnoticed in the U.S.