In the waning months of World War II, as the likelihood of a land invasion of the Japanese home islands loomed, the United States’ Joint Intelligence Center, Pacific Ocean Areas (JICPOA) instituted a new psychological warfare unit under the command of Colonel Dana Johnston.
While psychological warfare—propaganda broadcasts, leaflet drops and the like designed to demoralise enemy soldiers and civilian populations, played an important role in the war effort, the occasional head-scratcher of an idea emerged from the murky world of “psy-ops.” In the case of JICPOA’s newly-formed psychological warfare unit, perhaps the most audacious—if not quirky—campaign considered was a mission to dye the revered Mt. Fuji as a psychological blow against the Japanese.
Aside from serving as an unmistakable point-of-reference for American bomber crews, Japan’s iconic Mt. Fuji was frequently invoked in both Allied and Japanese propaganda efforts. An ingrained symbol of Japanese culture with deep spiritual and historical meaning, the image of Fujiyama was seen as a potent tool by propagandists.
That Mt. Fuji would then become a physical target of Allied psy-ops is not surprising. As detailed in a declassified 1945 memo from Col. Johnston to JICPOA’s commanding officer, General Joseph Twitty, the proposed operation would “give Fujiyama with some color other than that seasonably endowed by nature.” In other words, the plan called for the marshaling of considerable manpower and equipment to dye Mt. Fuji black.