by Norma Jean Young
There was an interesting show on OETA last week concerning some of the World War II bombers that are still able to fly around. There are eight of the B-l 7s left today, making it through the air, but only one B-24. Those planes are today worth four to five million dollars. The guys who flew them were brave. There was the 80 percent chance of being shot down during the war against Germany.
There was no mention that it was a B-17 Flying Fortress that tried to wipe out Boise City, July 5, 1943. In observance of that event, which was not so funny at the time, but is now fondly recalled, here is a reprint of the occurrence from my book “Still Not a Stop Light In the County”.
BOISE CITY BOMBED!
July 5, 1943, was a night that Boise City residents would remember for the rest of their lives. Most of them had celebrated the Fourth of July the previous day and were in bed sound asleep when a B-17 bomber, based at Dalhart (Texas) Army Air Base 50 miles to the south, dropped six 100-pound practice bombs on the sleeping town, scaring most of the citizens straight up out of their beds. None of the bombs (three or four pounds of powder, the rest sand) scored a direct hit, and nobody was hurt.
The closest they came to what they thought was their target (the courthouse!) was about 200 feet. The first bomb hit at the north-south alley directly northwest of Court Avenue, near an apartment where eight adults and children were sleeping. It ripped through a frame garage at that location that belonged to F. F. Bourk, leaving a crater 20 by 40 inches. The bomber then circled and made another run aiming for those four lights around the courthouse. This time their missile landed north of the demolished garage by half a block, and missed the west wall of the [then] frame First Baptist Church by about a foot, punching out a hole more than three feet deep.
Shortly, a third bomb struck the sidewalk on the east side of North Cimarron Avenue, about 200 feet north of the courthouse, making another of those gaping holes. The fourth one may have been the most exciting. It hit the ground only a few yards from the McGowan boarding house five blocks north of the courthouse, narrowly missing a fuel transport truck parked at the side of the road. The driver screeched out of there instantly, and as far as is known, has never returned.
The next explosive fell about 80 feet from a small house owned by Glenn Steinberger, and the last (thankfully) fell near the southeast edge of town, some distance from any buildings.
Sheriff Harris “Hook” Powell and his family lived on the top floor of the courthouse. They heard what they thought sounded like bombs (but couldn't be!). Hook grabbed his pants and took off for the telephone office. As he arrived there so did Hurley Reed, who lived only about a block from the courthouse. He said he'd never been in the Army, but he was smart enough to recognize a blitzkrieg when he was in one. And when he yelled “Hit the dirt!” his wife and child did. Also arriving at that popular place, the telephone office, were a couple of GIs from Dalhart who were returning to town from a picnic with some local girls when they heard and saw... .uh... .what they heard and saw. (It was never made clear how those soldiers managed to be away from their base after hours.) The boys, however, knew whom to call to let them know that Boise City had surrendered.
During the hubbub, Frank Garrett, an employee of the electric company, was using his head. He rushed to the plant and turned off the electricity, plunging the city into darkness, which probably made those guys in the B-17 think they had scored a direct hit. Shortly, authorities at the base got their message across by radio: “Cease bombing! Return to Dalhart!” And they did.
The following day was interesting. Major C. E. Lancaster, Dalhart Army Air Base commanding officer, came to Boise City to survey the damage. Accompanying him were five other grim Air Force officers from Dalhart and an agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. At last—Boise City had recognition, even as those bozos were trying to destroy it.
Major Lancaster explained that the planes had been assigned to drop bombs on a range near Conlen, Texas, about 30 miles south-southeast of Boise City, but somehow got off their mark and mistook the four street lights around the courthouse for the lights of their target.
In addition to expounding for several columns on his horror and mortification, Fred Kreiger, who was editing The Boise City News at the time for his brother, Roy Butterbaugh, who was in the Army (not stationed at Dalhart), had a recommendation: “There are many things Boise City needs, among which I could suggest some searchlights and anti-aircraft guns.“
The Boise City “survivors” calmed down after a few days, the boys were reprimanded severely, and according to Robert Young [my late husband, who was stationed at Dalhart at the time but swore he had nothing to do with the raid], said that for some time after the incident a notice was prominently displayed on a bulletin board at the base:
“Remember the Alamo, remember Pearl Harbor, and for God's sake — remember Boise City!”
Boise City News