Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What-I'm-Reading-Wednesday: Red Rain by Timothy L. Wendel

Tim Wendel, Writer in Residence at Johns Hopkins, gives the reader Red Rain.   Wendel writes about a little known military tactic used by the Japanese late in World War II.  The Japanese designed a balloon with an incendiary device capable of flying across the Pacific Ocean to wreak havoc on the West Coast of the U.S.  It is estimated that nearly 10,000 devices were released, landing in 16 states in the west and Midwest.  The concept was the brainchild of the Imperial Japanese Army's Ninth Army's Number Nine Research Laboratory, under Major General  Kusaba, with work performed by Technical Major Takada and his colleagues. 

With advice from MacArthur the President made the decision to keep the balloon landings from the population surrounding the landing areas.  When the Japanese realized that no word was coming from the U.S. about the effects of the balloon flights, Japan made the incorrect assumption that their plan was not working and stopped the project.  As more information was learned after the war ended, it was discovered that the Japanese were making plans to use the balloons for biological warfare.

Wendel draws his characters from those who were involved with the fire balloon project, the Japanese internment camps in the U.S., and the fire fighters of Arizona who fought the fires.  Yoshi Minagi, a victim of the Civilian Exclusion Order, was sent to the internment camp at Manzanar, California.  While there, she and her family learn to adjust to imprisonment.   The military soon discover that Yoshi can speak English and Japanese.  Lt. Starling gives her the training and briefs her on what she needs to learn.  She leaves her family at Manzanar goes to Japan to get the intelligence needed about the fire balloons. 

Yoshi makes the trip to Japan in a submarine and meets her contact on shore.  From the beginning, Yoshi finds it difficult to separate herself from the Japanese.  Her job in a factory enables her to meet Takata, the genius behind the balloons.  As she spends time in the factory and talks with Takata, she realizes she is making the material for the balloons.  Yoshi and Takata begin to become attracted to each other which makes Yoshi’s decision even more difficult.  Does she provide the information needed to the U.S. or does she protect Takata?

While Yoshi is in Japan gathering what she needs on the balloons, Lt. Starling is in Arizona fighting the fires with the local firemen.  He knows that he cannot divulge the cause of the fire even when a damaged balloon is found.  The tension among the firefighters battling the blazes and their differences adds to the reality of the story.

For an exciting read on the Japanese in the U.S., the incendiary balloons launched by the Japanese, and firefighting scenes, turn to Red Rain.  Wendel keeps your interest and add to the history of Japan and the U.S.

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