April 18, 1945

An explosion lit up the sky over 50th and Underwood in Dundee on the night of April 18, 1945. A Japanese balloon bomb, built for the Fu-go Project, detonated an incendiary bomb.

The balloon started on the coast of Japan, where it took between thirty minutes to an hour to fill the balloon with hydrogen and launch it. Most likely, it was launched on April 16, and then spent thirty hours crossing the Pacific Ocean. It arrived in Dundee in the late hours of April 16, detonated, and left “a ring of fire.” Residents rushed outside, including Mary Holyoke.

When Mary told others about the incident, she was met with skepticism. The military had requested secrecy about the balloon bombs, in order that Japan not gain valuable insight into the success or failure of the Fu-go Project.

Hal Capps was nine years old when the bombing occurred, and lived in Dundee. His father, who worked at the Buffett Grocery Store, heard about the incident at work.

The bombing caused no damage or injuries. The bomb continued drifting eastward, and reportedly landed in Ottumwa, Iowa. The military investigated, but were unable to find the balloon bomb.

The intersection of 50th & Underwood was the site of a bombing by a Japanese balloon bomb in WWII. Photo courtesy of the John Savage/Omaha World-Herald Photography Collection from The Durham Museum Photo Archive50th and Underwood, 1954.
Photo courtesy of the John Savage/Omaha World-Herald Photography Collection from The Durham Museum Photo Archive50th and Underwood, 1954.
The Dundee-Memorial Park Association dedicated a bronze plaque at 50th and Underwood, the location of the bombing.
Bronze Plaque - 50th and UnderwoodThe Dundee-Memorial Park Association sponsoered brinze plaque at 50th and Underwood. Photo by Marcia Bennett.
Bronze Plaque - 50th and UnderwoodThe Dundee-Memorial Park Association sponsoered brinze plaque at 50th and Underwood. Photo by Marcia Bennett.