75 years ago, Tarnov was bombed in World War II accident
TARNOV — It didn’t feel like an accident to the people of Tarnov.
On Aug. 19, 1943, the United States dropped seven bombs on the Northeast Nebraska community, mistaking it for either the Stanton Bombing Range, which was located 25 miles to the northeast, or a bombing range to the southwest, near Silver Creek.
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the event — which put Tarnov on the map while, ironically, almost wiping it off the map — the “Bomb Blast” will be marked Sunday, Aug. 19, with a variety of activities.
A Roman Catholic Mass will take place at 10 a.m., followed by Kory Vering Husker Chops at 11 a.m.; the Tarnov Heritage Museum will be open from noon to 3 p.m.; with a presentation at 1 p.m.; and live music by Urkoski will be at 1:30 p.m.
Also, there will be a beer garden, Vietnam Wall display, raffles and games, quilt show and scavenger hunt.
According to the Aug. 19, 1943, edition of the Humphrey Democrat, “Folks at Tarnov, Nebraska, last Monday morning received a sample of what happened to Tarnov, Poland, when German planes swept over the latter city and dropped bombs among its inhabitants.
“However, the bombs dropped in the little city four miles south of Humphrey were only practice bombs, for if they had been the kind that the Germans dropped on the Tarnov in Poland, the Platte County Tarnov would have been blown off the map.”
From accounts at the time, the bombing took place between 4 and 4:30 a.m. and were dropped by B-17 planes that took off from the Sioux City Army Air Field
The southern portion of Tarnov was hit, with three bombs falling on the business district.
One bomb also came through the porch roof of a house owned by Joe Ciecior. Upon entering the house, the bomb angled into the pantry and went through the floor lodging itself in the dirt below. Six people were in the house, including two small children who were sleeping in their bedroom but were unharmed.
The Platte County sheriff was immediately notified who, in turn, called members of the local civil defense team. The area of town where the bombs landed was evacuated until military officials arrived at the scene and took over the investigation.
By noon, six bombs had been found. Besides the one that had struck the house, another bomb narrowly missed another house, one struck a sidewalk, one struck a street, and two fell east of the school. Two days later, a young boy discovered a seventh bomb in a potato patch.
The practice bombs were filled with sand and a small explosive charge, but apparently none detonated.
The military later investigated and placed a white sheet in the location where each bomb was found and then photographed the site from the air.
The area where the bombs were dropped was evacuated and residents were not allowed to return during the investigation.
The Democrat also reported that witnesses claimed the planes circled Tarnov about 15 times in dropping the bombs.
Although the bombing was investigated by the U.S. Army, Tarnov residents never received a formal explanation for the mistake.