Monday, March 02, 2009

Fugo And Cymbals Of Fear

(A continuation of my fugo series. Links to previous posts: Part 1. Part 2.)

Fugo balloons. JFK assassination. UFOs.

What’s the connection?

Over at there’s an article by Joel Carpenter that shows the threads between these apparently diverse topics.

In the article, Paper Threat - The first intercontinental weapon system: Japanese Fu-Go balloons, Carpenter provides an interesting take on the World War II Japanese bomb-balloons. (He prefers the spelling fu-go. For consistency in my posts I’ll use “fugo” instead.)

The US government was worried that the Japanese might start sending balloons laden with germs, causing crippling outbreaks. A newspaper article dated February 9, 1946 that appeared in the Seattle Times revealed that during WW II the government feared the balloons might be used to wage bacteriological warfare, delivering anthrax and other such diseases.

In some cases when a fugo was found, government agents showed up wearing full protective suits –- what I would guess were the early versions of hazmat suits.

Civilian spotters – members of the Ground Observation Corp -- were trained to look for any unusual objects in the heavens. But the usual problem would crop up: some skywatchers would overreact, mistaking the planet Venus or a weather balloon for an enemy airborne device. As ufologoical researchers know, Venus and weather balloons are two favorite explanations used by skeptics to debunk some UFO sightings.

And meanwhile on the ground, fugo discoveries were quickly covered up. An FBI agent named W.G. Banister investigated the scene of a downed fugo in Montana in December 1944.

Years later Banister would investigate a different type of downed object: a “flying disc” found on someone’s lawn. On December 11, 1947 he checked out a strange object in Twin Falls, Idaho that measured about 31 inches in diameter. In his report Banister that the “saucer” was later determined to be “two cymbals used by a drummer in a band, placed face to face.” Domes were added on each side of the construct to give it that iconic saucer appearance, plus some burned wires and radio tubes were added for extra effect.

Four local teenagers had planted the hoax disc at night, creating two strips of torn up lawn as if the small saucer head crashed there.

But until it was determined to be a hoax, I can imagine Banister and other officials were wary of any odd objects after the WWII fugo scare. A newspaper article in the Lewiston, Idaho Daily Tribune (12/12/47) treats the incident with humor, but maybe that tone was taken to downplay the response by the Banister and military. Banister, thinking the object was real, contacted his district office in Butte, Montana and “three army officers came post haste from Fort Douglas, Utah” via a military plane.

The name W.G. or Guy Banister might sound familiar to you. He’s one of those shadowy characters on the fringes of the JFK assassination whose name pops up in various conspiracy theories.

An anti-Communist activist, Banister claimed that the Soviets were behind some outbreaks of cattle and crop diseases in the US. The fugo germ scare scenario could be attached to another enemy. During the paranoid Cold War era random events could easily represent sneaky Commie attacks, if you had the right (wing) frame of mind.


Doug said...

Ground Observation Corp: GOC.

Motto: The GOC likes to gawk.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I ate some bad fugo and need to get some antacid.

Ray said...


You GOC to be kidding...


Middle Ditch said...

An interesting read alright

Ray said...

Middle Ditch:

ThanX. You must be a student of cymbalogy.


X. Dell said...

Gary Buell posted an article some time back about Guy Bannister's involvement with UFO-recovery, but mentioned nothing about the fugo angle. My thinking is that perhaps J. Edgar trusted only a few select personnel to investigate what might turn out to be dicey matters. Which makes his role in the JFK assassination (as described by his employee, Jack Martin) all the more interesting.

X. Dell said...

BTW, I took a crash course in cymbology as an undergrad--right before they drummed me out of school.