The Time Capsule: Historic Montgomery County bombing

 A couple of recent columns on long-ago aviators and the machines they flew prompted a call from a reader asking if I was aware of the World War II bombing mission that targeted Montgomery County.  

Yes. I’d been told something about that particular raid a couple of years ago when, following a program, a lady of maturity approached to share a memory. She’d been six or seven years of age, living on a farm near Hawthorne.  Her father was away, she and her mother in the garden. They heard the drone of planes, looked up to see a squadron descend from the clouds, leveling off, she said, throttles open, flying low and coming straight at them.  Mother and daughter dashed to a cellar, pulling the door shut only moments before bombs rained down.   

Her story sent me to our 1942 newspapers.

During the months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Express was full of bad news.  Overwhelmed American forces surrendered at Bataan. German soldiers marched into Sebastopol. Much of North Africa fell to Rommel. The Luftwaffe was bombing British cities. In the month of July, 1942, German U-boats sank 96 allied ships. And even as Hitler’s troops were storming the gates of Stalingrad, a Japanese fighter plane exposed our vulnerability at home by dropping incendiary bombs on Oregon.           

The attack on Montgomery County was carefully planned. Five pilots, trained and dedicated to a cause, were matched with finely-tuned aircraft. The men had prepared, studied maps, knew their targets and understood their objective. On the morning of Aug. 26, 1942, all was ready. A final inspection was completed.  Fuel tanks were topped off, bombs loaded, last-minute instructions given the bombardiers.  Engines roared to life and the mission, after much preparation, was underway.        

A day earlier our editor, certain an attack was imminent, alerted the community with the following front page article:

Montgomery County Farms Will Be Bombed This Wednesday!

Five pilots from Red Oak will cover the entire county dropping 8-ounce bags of flour to which will be attached streamers bearing the following message: “Please get in your scrap iron this week and help smack the Japs.”  

Earl McQuown, area Civil Air Patrol flight commander at Red Oak, will lead the five-plane squadron along with a number of licensed pilots and student fliers in an effort to insure bringing the salvage drive to a roaring finish by September 1.  

At the present time the collections at Red Oak and Villisca add up to 1,827 tons. A farm to farm canvas is being made throughout Montgomery County. Grant and Stanton business places will be closed all day Friday while the people of those towns are doing their bit for the drive. This weekend volunteers with trucks will be sent over the county to pick up the metal which will have been piled along the roadside by area farmers.    

While the raid was for a worthy cause, there were unintended consequences. The lady who recalled that long-ago event said either flour bombs or low-flying airplanes traumatized her mother’s chicken flock. Egg production fell off sharply. Several hens, she laughed, went into early molt and her mother felt they were never quite the same.  

Roy Marshall is a local historian and columnist for the Red Oak Express. He can be contacted at

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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