The Silencing of Balloon Bombs in the Government - Commentary by MTSU Professor Larry Burriss

Nov 01, 2022 at 01:16 pm by WGNS News

Have you ever heard of “Balloon Bombs” and government cover-ups? Most people have never heard of the Balloon Bombs of 1944. With today’s media commentary, here is MTSU Professor Larry Burriss…


Verbatim of Above Audio: “Starting in November 1944, the Japanese launched some 9,300 balloon bombs against the United States, of which about 300 made their way across the Pacific Ocean.

Eventually, the bombs caused six deaths in Oregon, and minor damage elsewhere.

Nevertheless, the bombs led to one of the more ludicrous media-government collaborations during World War II.

First, reporters were told they could do stories about the bombs, and a one-edition sensation followed, complete with pictures and text.

Then, however, the Office of Censorship told reporters not to mention the balloons in their news stories, although both President Roosevelt and FBI Director Hoover had talked about them in press conferences, But, when the deaths occurred in Oregon, reporters were asked not to mention the cause.

There was concern, however, if more bombs were found, people would have to know what they were, and how to avoid them.

So, the Army decided to conduct a “secret” educational campaign for people west of the Mississippi River, the farthest eastern point of the bomb’s trajectory.

The Army prepared lesson plans for schools, and school-aged children were told about the bombs. However, when parents began calling radio stations and newspapers about the bombs, they were told the media could not say anything.

Finally, the head of the censorship office, Byron Price, pointed out if the Army was going to tell 30-million people west of the Mississippi River about the bombs, they might as well tell the news media.

But again, someone goofed, and a program by the U.S. Forest Service somehow slipped past the censors, and told where the bombs had come from. Then worked leaked out a bomb had gotten as far east as Michigan.

As the war was drawing to a close, more and more information about the bombs, their launching sites, and the deaths in Oregon was given to the public.

These incident again points out the futility of trying to keep information away from the public. Events continually show there are faceless government officials who strongly believe in the right the public to know what the government is doing, and more tightly the government tires to squeeze the media, the more information will slip through their fingers and into the public view. - I’m Larry Burriss.”


About Dr. Burriss - Larry Burriss, professor of journalism, teaches introductory and media law courses. At the graduate level he teaches quantitative research methods and media law. He holds degrees from The Ohio State University (B.A. in broadcast journalism, M.A. in journalism), the University of Oklahoma (M.A. in human relations), Ohio University (Ph.D. in journalism) and Concord Law School (J.D.). He has worked in print and broadcast news and public relations, and has published extensively in both academic and popular publications. He has won first place in the Tennessee Associated Press Radio Contest nine times. Dr. Burriss' publications and presentations include studies of presidential press conferences, NASA photography, radio news, legal issues related to adolescent use of social networking sites, legal research, and Middle Earth. 

Dr. Burriss has served as director of the School of Journalism, dean of the College of Mass Communication and president of the MTSU Faculty Senate. He was appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen to serve on the Tennessee Board of Regents. He was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and served on active duty in Mali, Somalia, Bosnia, Central America, Europe and the Pentagon.

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