US Navy divers are currently trying to recover the remains of the Chinese spy balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina.
The balloon was brought down by a missile fired from an F-22 fighter plane at a distance of around six nautical miles from the shore near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
General Glen VanHerck, commander of the North American airspace defense command and US northern command, said that the US Navy is attempting to retrieve the balloon and its payload while the Coast Guard is ensuring the operation’s security.
Civilian authorities in Horry County, close to where the balloon was shot down, advised locals that while US Military personnel work together to recover debris, fragments may still make it to the coastline.
The debris is dispersed over a seven-mile stretch, and recovery ships are being utilized to collect it. The Pentagon is employing the expertise of Navy divers to search the chilly waters in an apparent attempt to collect every piece of the balloon.
According to the New York Times, recovered debris would be delivered to law enforcement and intelligence officials for analysis.
The Department of Defense stated that several US Navy and Coast Guard warships are establishing a security perimeter around the region where the balloon landed on earth.
The operation was described as “fairly easy” by a military officer who did not give a completion date. The Navy has sent numerous ships, such as the destroyer USS Oscar Austin, the cruiser USS Philippine Sea, and the amphibious landing ship USS Carter Hall, to aid recovery efforts.
The Times reported that the US officials considered deploying a big net or hook to retrieve the balloon before opting to down it with a missile.
However, military brass advised US officials that attempting to capture the balloon while it was flying at 60,000 feet in the sky was not a good idea.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin said that the decision to shoot the balloon down once it was over water shows that President Biden and his national security team will always prioritize the security and safety of the American people while taking effective action in response to China’s unacceptable violation of USA’s sovereignty.
However, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly objected to the USA’s use of force in attacking the unmanned civilian airship and voiced its strong dissatisfaction.
The ministry said, “the United States insisted on using force, clearly overreacting.” The statement said China would steadfastly protect relevant enterprises’ legitimate rights and interests and retain the right to take additional necessary measures.
Chinese balloons had previously been sighted over nations on five continents, including East Asia, South Asia, and Europe, over the past several years.
Despite not being the first time in recent history that such an airship has crossed US territory, a senior defense official said this was the longest time one had ever spent there. During Donald Trump’s presidency, three balloons were reported, while one was discovered earlier during the Biden administration.
Meanwhile, Republican Mike Turner, the chairman of the intelligence committee in the House of Representatives, argued that China utilized the balloon to devise a strategy to counter US missile defense and nuclear weapons systems.
That being said, the US is interested in recovering the Chinese spy balloon’s wreckage because it may provide information on the precise mission of the balloon and Beijing’s spying capabilities.
How Japanese Balloons Posed A Menace To American Airspace
Following reports that a Chinese spy balloon had flown above US territory, the US Navy had a similar experience decades ago and fired at what they thought was a spy balloon.
The US Naval Institute recounted the event on its official account on February 2. During World War II, in 1945, the USS New York (BB-34) observed a silver sphere circling the sky above them, believing it to be a Japanese balloon bomb.
The ship’s captain gave the crew the order to shoot it down, but none of the guns could bring it down. Soon after, a navigator realized they were attacking Venus. Online users were somewhat stunned by the news but immediately began making jokes about the incident.
“Evidently with total success, since Venus has never entered US airspace since,” one user said.
Another Twitter user commented, “First inter-solar engagement by the US military.”
Since "Chinese Spy Balloon" is trending: In 1945, the crew of USS New York spotted a sphere that they thought might be a Japanese balloon weapon. The captain ordered it shot down but none of the guns could score a hit. Finally, a navigator realized they were attacking Venus. pic.twitter.com/aKwedtrr2G
— U.S. Naval Institute (@NavalInstitute) February 3, 2023
Even so, the information highlighted Japan’s employment of balloon bombs above American skies during World War II.
In fact, in December 1944, a balloon with a small incendiary bomb attached was discovered in the skies over Montana, the same place where a Chinese spy air balloon was recently discovered.
When the balloon touched down, the FBI and Army Air Force confiscated it to investigate the peculiar contraption, 33 1/2 feet wide and composed of laminated paper. The balloon’s markings informed them that it was Japanese and had been produced in a Japanese factory a few weeks ago.
In the same timeframe, a bomb crater was found close to Thermopolis, Wyoming. Another balloon was later discovered close to Estacada, Oregon.
According to Robert Mikesh, who authored a book about Japan’s balloon bomb program for the Smithsonian Annals of Flight Series, “it’s the only thing that they had that was capable of reaching the United States — and even that was a long shot.”
At that time, balloon incidents became more frequent. Farmers started hearing explosions, discovering small holes in the ground filled with metal fragments, or discovering partially inflated balloons in the scrub brush.
It is said that Japan was trying to bring the conflict to the US mainland by sending bomb-carrying balloons onto the Pacific jet stream. Japan reportedly released nearly 10,000 such balloons between November 3, 1944, and April 1945.
Approximately 300 of them reached America. Each balloon carried two incendiaries and a 33-pound antipersonnel bomb.
The balloons were manufactured by adhering layers of tissue paper made from mulberry tree fibers. Interestingly, these balloons were unexpectedly difficult to intercept.
In 1944 and 1945, about 500 American aircraft flew over North America in search of balloons, but only two were ever shot out of the sky.
The US requested that media outlets refrain from covering the balloon bomb events so that the Japanese would not be aware that they had successfully entered the US mainland.
But six people were killed in Southern Oregon due to a balloon bomb. Following the fatalities in Oregon, the War Department released a statement explaining balloon bombs so anyone who came across wreckage would know not to touch it.
The Japanese were unaware of the outcomes of the balloon strikes due to the press blackout in the United States. They eventually stopped launching these balloon bombs.