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Bombing the Big Bog : Bunyans Boys

Discussion in 'Military Training, Doctrine, and Planning' started by Biak, Jan 31, 2016.

  1. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    We'll be doing more investigation on this later this Summer. Road Trip !

    In 1941 the U.S. Army sought to establish the Upper Red Lake Firing Range to be used as a bombing and anti-aircraft range. Reserve pilots from the Twin Cities Naval Air Station used the range from 1947 to 1952. These "Bunyan's Boys," as they were sometimes called, would arrive for three-day cruises to do bombing and gunnery training in the bog. Planes like the Hellcat, Corsair, and Grumman TBM Avenger streaked across the sky. Pilots pounded targets from early in the morning until late at night with miniature MK23 Navy practice bombs; 100-pound, water-filled bombs; and sub-caliber aircraft rockets.
    From 1949 to 1951, the Naval Reserve entered into a cooperative project with the Minnesota Department of Conservation. The goal of this project, known as Operation Woosh, was to produce wallowing holes for some 5,000 moose to help them find refuge from biting insects. The military dropped more than 50 live bombs, ranging in size from 500 to 2,000 pounds. As each bomb dropped, peat sprayed high into the air, instantly opening a pond up to 30 feet deep and 100 feet wide.
    Not long after World War II, fear of a Russian attack on our country took hold. At an organizational meeting at Camp Ripley, Gen. Joseph Nelson announced that the Duluth area was the 11th-most strategic air target in the United States. As a result, all National Guard units assigned to the Duluth area became anti-aircraft artillery units. At the time, inadequate range facilities for the 40 mm howitzer artillery weapons at Camp Ripley required them to train in a more expansive location. In the summer months from 1948 to 1953, huge convoys of National Guard trucks rolled northward through small towns, hauling soldiers and pulling howitzers to the bog.
    During weeklong encampments, brave pilots in B-26 bombers flew over the bog, towing targets for guard units to fire at. An Air Force accident report described a .50-caliber round striking a B-26 bomber over the Upper Red Lake Firing Range. That flight originated at Steward Air Force Base in Tennessee. F-51 Mustang fighter planes stationed in Minneapolis would rip through the sky to catch B-26s and pepper the targets they towed. Radio-controlled, 8-foot-long unmanned planes darted across the bog as men on the ground tried to shoot them down.

    Operation Deep Freeze.
    Even the coldest winter months provided no reprieve from weapons tests. Bone-chilling temperatures lured the military to northern Minnesota. The Cold War had intensified after the Soviet Union successfully detonated its first atomic bomb in 1949. The United States, in turn, wanted to improve its arsenal. The Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico was refining nuclear bombs. It needed to test a new barometric fuse in extreme cold, since frigid regions of the Soviet Union may have been likely targets. The deserts of the Southwest didn't match that climate well, but the cold skies over Upper Red Lake in January did. From 1951 to 1955, Sandia and the U.S. Air Force set in motion Operation Deep Freeze.
    Huge B-36 Peacemakers and B-47 Stratojet bombers soared across the Midwest toward Minnesota from bases in New Mexico and South Dakota. Their payload in 1951 was the Mark IV bomb without its nuclear core. Weighing nearly 11,000 pounds, it was modeled after the Mark III Fat Man atomic bomb, dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, near the end of World War II. These bombs would detonate about 3,000 feet above a lighted target on Upper Red Lake's thick ice.
    People who lived closest to the bog remember hearing the explosions. Nearly 60 years later, many still have the bright flash in the night sky etched in their mind's eye. That's not surprising. Imagine the shock wave of a blast so intense that it broke windows and threw open doors in the town of Kelliher, 25 miles away. Area newspaper correspondents at the time reported hearing the burst and seeing the sky light up 60 to 70 miles away in Bemidji and International Falls.
    As 90 mm howitzers replaced 40 mm ones, even the big bog became too small for safely firing them. The operations then moved to Camp Haven in Wisconsin and began blasting over Lake Michigan. By the time the ice thawed in spring 1957, the howitzers had disappeared, and the bombs quit falling.

    http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/mcvmagazine/issues/2016/jan-feb/big-bog-SRA.html
     
  2. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    An interesting history that I hadn't heard of before. Thanks for posting it, Rog. Not sure the "Bombs for Bogs" idea would fly these days, but it was an interesting solution to the problem.
     
  3. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    I'd pay good money, very good money, to stand back and watch a 2,000 lb bomb explode 3000 ft above a lake. As long as it ain't My Lake!
     
  4. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    Finally made it to the Big Bog. Sadly there is nothing related to the article. However! The author of the article is continuing his research and we were told there may be something forthcoming in the future.

    Could see quite a ways but still six miles south of the bombing area. It's a BIG BOG.

    [​IMG][​IMG]
     
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  5. YugoslavPartisan

    YugoslavPartisan Drug

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    Interesting read and great pictures Biak!
     
  6. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    Thanks ! The picture is looking South and you can see the Eastern edge of Upper Big Lake. The Big Bog is actually North of here. The lake is 120,000 acres so it's kind of large also :) A Surprising thing is the lake is only 15 feet deep. Also shows how flat the land is!
     
  7. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Nice, but you couldn't get me to climb that tower for love or money. My rule is never be further off the ground than you'd like to fall. For me, that's about 6". :D
     
  8. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    Lou, when I was younger I was fearless. Climbing to the tops of trees while they swayed in the wind didn't faze me at all. Once I hit the Mid Life years I became much more cautious and stayed nearer the ground. Vertigo seems to grow stronger as we grow older.
    When we started up the tower I counted the first flight at 9 steps. No Problem. Next flight of steps was 17 steps. Okay, .... until I looked up at the number of turns/levels and you get that little rumble in the stomach. But, I figured What the Hell, If I die today I've lived a good life. Don't know how many steps to the top. In excess of 100 but the view was great.
     
  9. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    When I was younger and healthier, I climbed to the top of the Statue of Liberty and climbed to the top of the Cape May lighthouse (twice). Today I just watch. I admit the views were great, but not great enough to do it again.
     
  10. mac_bolan00

    mac_bolan00 Member

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    wonder if one can map.google. the place and find the 50 bomb craters mentioned. i don't quite get the the benefits it's suppose to give the moose population though.
     
  11. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    Over the years the growth has covered over most of the bomb craters but Google Waskisk Minnesota ( https://www.google.com/maps/place/Waskish,+MN+56685/@48.2795257,-94.5797816,16144m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x52b96d7b8bfa2fd3:0x8af4652d7ab0e904!8m2!3d48.1619921!4d-94.5126038 )
    and follow Rte. 72 about six miles. There are a couple of small lakes/ponds and just to the North of there you can barely make out what appears as a bunch of depressions. I think this is where the impact area was.
    The benefit for the Moose was it gave them a wallow to get away from the bugs and provide better vegetation. The entire area is several hundred square miles of peat bog.
     

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