This holiday week seems a good time to remember one of the biggest BOOM! BOOM! boo-boos in our region’s history.
The U.S. Army accidentally bombed Boise City, Oklahoma, on July 5, 1943.
The Dalhart, Texas, Army Air Base, which was about 90 miles northeast of Tucumcari, was responsible for the oops.
It’s funny today because nobody got hurt. It was kinda funny then, except to those in the B-17 who missed their training target by about 20 miles.
They dropped six shells — each containing four pounds of explosives and 90 pounds of sand — on the town square near the Cimarron County Courthouse.
The courthouse was the only thing with lights on it in the area that night … except for the target on their bombing range near Beaver River on the Texas-Oklahoma line, of course.
The first bomb crashed through the roof of a garage near the Boise City Baptist Church; the next hit the church. The others landed on the sidewalks and streets around downtown. None hit the targeted courthouse.
Norma Gene Young told the best stories about the incident.
She was the 18-year-old daughter of the Boise City newspaper owner and lived a few blocks from downtown in 1943.
The garage, she said, was part of the church parsonage. The preacher’s son had stashed some girly magazines in there and they were discovered during the cleanup after the explosion.
Another of her favorite stories she shared with Rich Tosches of The Denver Post in 2007:
“There was an oil truck pulled off the road, and the driver was checking some mechanical problem,” she said.
“He heard the plane, and he looked up and a bomb fell way too close to him and his oil truck to be funny at all.
“He jumped into his truck and drove off and said to hell with whatever was wrong with that truck. They say he never came back through this way. That was the last of that fella.”
Young died at age 85 in 2010. Her stories remain alive and well and still told in the community that has since erected a memorial to the bomb site.
One more good story comes from the late Texas Panhandle newspaper columnist Dave McReynolds, who wrote about the Boise City bombing for the Amarillo Daily News in 2000.
A Boise City resident stationed at the Dalhart base told McReynolds, “for some time following the incident there was a notice on the base bulletin board which read: ‘Remember the Alamo, Remember Pearl Harbor and for God’s sake — Remember Boise City.’”