"Miles City Bombed"
Posted by Jeri Dalbec (+3261) 9 years ago
I received this bit of history today and thought I would share it. Probably some of you remember it?

The Only Bombing of theContinental U.S.
By Robin Schneider, The North Platte Telegraph 1/29/2005
Earl Tagge looks at pictures in his scrap- book of Miles City, Mont., in 1944. Tagge, along with a pilot and crew of eight, used 250-pound bombs launched from a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress to clear an ice jam on the Yellowstone River, saving the town from flooding.
On a cold March morning in 1944, Miles City, Mont., Mayor L.S. Keye put out an urgent and unique request through the governor’s office: Send in the bombers. What would happen next would be reported as the only aerial bombing of a community during wartime on U.S. soil, a mission that would involve North Platte resident Earl Tagge.
On March 21, the residents of Miles City, located where the Tongue River enters the mighty Yellowstone River, awoke to find their quaint little town in danger of being completely submerged under frozen water. Ice jams were backing up on the Yellowstone River, and the flow from the Tongue River raised the ice packs even higher until the rivers overflowed their banks.
The reading at the city’s pumping plant was reported as being 16.3 feet on Tuesday morning, according to the day’s issue of The Miles City Star. Normal flow for that time of year was usually in the 4.3-foot range. Freezing water and large chunks of ice were filling the town, forcing people to evacuate their homes. Keye called in explosives experts from a nearby town to drop several 50-pound homemade bombs on the frozen Yellowstone River in an effort to break up the ice, but to no avail. Keye’s only other option was to contact the military in hopes they could find a solution.
Back in Rapid City, S.D., 20-year-old Army Air Force Staff Sergeant Earl Tagge was sitting in his barracks marking time following training for high-altitude bombing and gunnery practice. He was scheduled to ship out to New Guinea in a matter of days.
When officers approached the troops asking for volunteers to aid in the unusual mission, Tagge accepted and was quickly at work fusing and loading the 250-pound bombs onto the World War II B-17 Flying Fortress.
Within a matter of hours, Tagge, along with pilot Richard F. Ezzard and a crew of eight, flew the B-17 in the middle of a blizzard headed for Miles City. “We had to fly by instruments for about the first half hour because we couldn’t see out of the cockpit,” Tagge said. The original plan was for the group to take the bombs to Miles City, where they would be transferred to a dive-bomber, who would then drop the bombs.
“After we landed in Miles City, the ceiling was too low, it was 1,000 feet. They changed the plan and we dropped the bombs,” Tagge said. Ezzard had planned on dropping the bombs at an altitude of 10,000 feet, but was unable to get that high because of cloud cover. Instead, Ezzard was forced to fly at 2,600 feet.
At 7:30 p.m., the crew, with the addition of a local man who knew the area well, went back up to begin the mission. The crew could see from the air that the Yellowstone River was jammed for at least two miles on each side of the river’s bend. After a few initial passes, the crew released a test bomb.
“It seemed to go in the right place, but you couldn’t really tell it did anything,” Tagge said. The crew made two more passes over the river, dropping six bombs
on each pass. Hundreds of onlookers stood by hold- ing their collective breath in suspense, waiting for the inevitable loud blasts they had assumed would come from the bombs. “People thought they would make a lot of noise,” Tagge said. “We had them triggered to detonate underwater.”
What happened instead was a tornado- like effect that swirled upward, carrying mud, water and ice 150 feet into the air, as reported in the Miles City Star. Within an hour, Tagge said, the ice loosened up and the water began to flow down. The mayor and several other dignitaries stood on the Seventh Street Bridge, watching the improving flow.
“There were big pieces of ice hitting the bridge,” Tagge said, with a chuckle. “I guess it was pretty shaky, and they got off it real fast.” The reading at the pumping plant on Wednesday morning was 6.3 feet, a drop of 10 feet from the previous day.
The crew was put up in a local hotel for the night and fed steak dinners in appreciation for their efforts. The next day, as the crew began their flight home to Rapid City, Ezzard flew over Miles City at 50 feet, tipping his wings from side to side, a gesture that everything was well.
Posted by David Schott (+19063) 9 years ago
Thanks for posting this story, Jeri.

I find it interesting that this is referred to as the only bombing of the continental United States. On May 5, 1945, a woman and five children in Oregon were killed by a Japanese-launched balloon bomb.

Posted by Dorothea Dyba Sturges (+57) 9 years ago
That is the romantic version... .I was there, a freshman in high school. The weather was clear and sunny the day of the bombing. We were told to go down in our basements and wait. We could see the bomber make a couple of passes, from high altitude, and the bombs were set to explode after they penetrated the ice. By the next morning the water was down, but our houses were a muddy mess! There was no blizzard,; that is the figment of the writer's imagination! Our family lived at the end of Knight St. , before you crossed the slough toward the Island....the water actually came up on a Sunday evening after it got dark, and we made a fast evacuation.....The story made the military paper, The Stars and Stripes, and my brother, Richard who was with the 8th Air Force in England, read about in that paper!
Posted by Fred South (+163) 9 years ago
Th pilot who flew that B-17 told me he took off from Rapid City in a blizzard.
Posted by Bob Wildrick (+65) 9 years ago
Here is a link to MT National Guard magazine Big Sky Guardian with an article on the bombing of Miles City.

Bob Wildrick


[This message has been edited by Moderator - added tags to link. (3/1/2014)]
Posted by MRH (+1576) 9 years ago

[This message has been edited by MRH (3/1/2014)]