Three former students who were involved in making paper balloon bombs at a Nagoya school during the war saw and touched the “washi” (traditional Japanese paper) used to make the balloons for the first time in 68 years on Feb. 16.
The paper used in the construction of the balloons has been turned into book covers.
“It’s hard to believe that we can actually see the paper after all these years. All these memories are rushing back now,” one of the women, who attended Sugiyama Girls’ School in Nagoya, said as she touched the paper again.
The three Nagoya residents, Hiroko Inoue and Sumiko Horii, both 82, and 81-year-old Yuriko Tokuda were in the graduating class when they started making the balloons that would carry the attached bombs across the Pacific Ocean to the U.S. mainland.
Balloon bombs were a type of weapon used by the Japanese military during World War II. Hydrogen was pumped into the balloons before they were released and carried aloft. During the war, the bombs were built in military facilities and on school grounds.
According to the Noborito Institute Peace Education Resource Center at Meiji University, making balloon bombs was classified work, and nothing was allowed to be removed from the facility.
Finding materials used to make the balloons still in existence is extremely rare.
The papers were used to print the special edition of “Shunso Zakki,” a collection of essays written by the late Ukichiro Nakaya, a physicist known for his work in glaciology. The 400-page book was published by Seikatsusha in 1947.
When he was still alive, Nakaya revealed that the paper on which his special edition book was printed was the same as that used in the making of the balloon bombs, but he did not indicate the reason why that kind of paper was used.
It is also unknown if it was the same kind of paper used by the students to make balloon bombs at Sugiyama Girls’ School.
The book belongs to Isao Yamada, a former high school teacher from Kita Ward, Nagoya, who is researching Nakaya.
He read in an article that Takio Nakamura, a former principal of the elementary school affiliated with Sugiyama Jogakuen University, is studying the history of balloon bombs and decided to offer Yamada his help.
Nakamura then came up with the idea of asking the people who were involved in making the balloons toview the book.
The three women met up with Nakamura and Yamada at Sugiyama Girls’ High School, along with eight first-year and second-year students from the broadcasting club who are creating a radio program on the topic, and looked at the book together.
The memories flooded back.
“My heart is pounding,” one woman said. “The paper was slightly softer to the touch. It must have hardened over the years,” said another.
About 120 students from Sugiyama Girls’ School were involved in creating balloons to carry bombs from December 1944 until the end of the war. The girls glued sheets of paper together with a type of paste made from the “konnyaku” (devil’s tongue) plant and then created semispherical shapes using the paper.
Asked by Risa Okaji, the 17-year-old head of the broadcasting club, about how they feel, one of the women answered, “I think it’s impressive that the paper has been preserved. I want the young people now to know how we spent our youth back then.”
This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Feb. 17.