Nebraska March 09, 2016
This Is The Single Craziest Thing You Never Knew Happened In Nebraska
Nebraska played a pivotal role in WWII by making high-quality aircraft and munitions right here at home. Nebraskans even warmed the hearts of servicemen at the North Platte Canteen, where volunteers provided them with home-cooked food and creature comforts as they shipped off to the war. And we certainly saw our share of brave service people go off to fight in that war as well. You might think that’s where Nebraska’s part in WWII ended…but you would be wrong.
Nebraska was bombed during WWII – several times.
Being thousands of miles away from the battlefront, it might seem that Nebraska would be safe from wartime bombs. But on April 18, 1945, a Japanese bomb exploded brightly in the air over the Dundee area of Omaha.
Thankfully, no one was hurt in the explosion. In fact, the balloon bomb caused no damage at all.
The bomb had floated all the way across the Pacific Ocean from Japan. It was part of a widespread experiment to see how effective the remote weapons were. The Japanese believed that when the bombs exploded, local press (wherever they were) would report on the incidents and thus the course of the bombs could be charted. Then, future bombs could be more carefully aimed. However, America put an end to the research by refusing to publicly release any details about the balloon bombs.
When the bomb exploded over Dundee, residents were told what it was, but were instructed to keep quiet about it. Keeping information about the bomb a secret was one more small thing Nebraska could do to help the war effort.
That doesn't mean that the entire war went off without a hitch in Nebraska, though. Very early in the morning on August 19, 1943, two B-17 bombers circled the tiny town of Tarnov at least 15 times. All the while, they were dropping 100-pound practice bombs filled with sand and a small explosive charge meant to provide a visual confirmation of impact. Seven total bombs were dropped on Tarnov, one of them crashing into a family's home just feet away from where children were sleeping. There were no injuries, but it's safe to say the people of Tarnov were a little shaken up after the incident.
A very similar incident happened in the even tinier town of Dickens. It's hard to say exactly when the Dickens bombing occurred; some say it was late 1942 and some say it was a year later. There were no newspaper headlines about the incident because the US military didn't want to reveal the locations of its bombing practice ranges - and since this was a case of missing the practice range mark, it wouldn't be difficult for enemies to figure out that such a location was nearby. Ten practice bombs fell in Dickens, some of them causing property damage but no injuries. In both Tarnov and Dickens, military personnel arrived soon after the incidents to collect the bombs.
In both practice bombing incidents, the bomber crews believed that they were dropping their payloads onto practice ranges nearby. The town lights resembled the light patterns at the practice ranges, and the airmen were probably trained hastily and so did not know how to tell the difference. We can bet that the trainee bomber crews were much, much more careful with their targets after these occasions.
Did you know about Nebraska’s history of being bombed during wartime? If you lived in one of the affected areas at the time, tell us about your experiences with the one real bomb and the several fake bombs.