~ Hi-Liting Mountain Home ~
Mountain Home originated as a stage stop (Rattlesnake Station, founded in 1864) for the famous Overland Stages eight miles from its present location. When the railroad (Oregon Short Line) came through in 1883 it brought with it a new mail delivery service. The postmaster and stage agent, Jule Hage, packed up the post office and moved it down the hill to the railroad. Along with him came the name and settlement of Mountain Home.
Rattlesnake Station, a stagecoach
station, was established in 1864 by Ben Holladay as a stop on his new Overland
Stage Line between
Rattlesnake Station approximately seven miles northeast from exit 95 on Interstate 84, a historical marker located at milepost 102.7 on U.S. Route 20 commemorates its location.
The Overland line was acquired by the
Northwestern Stage Company in 1870, which made the station a stop for its
weekly stage line from
Chapter of Oregon-California Trails Association
for more information on the
In 1876, a post office named "Mountain Home" was established at Rattlesnake Station. Fire destroyed several station buildings on October 12, 1878, but were rebuilt and continued to serve stages until 1914, when the route was abandoned. The post office was moved down, dragged by mule teams, to the present location of Mountain Home in 1883 to be closer to the recently completed railroad, the Oregon Short Line.
Mountain Home Railroad Depot
Mountain Home was incorporated as a village in 1896. The initial village board consisted of A.B. Clark, R.F. Whitney, W.J. Turner and G.F. Mahoney.
Mountain Home became a shipping and distribution center for the livestock, mining and logging business.
Mountain Home Air Force Base, located 10 miles from Mountain Home, was established during the early stages of World War II. The Air Base would become one of the major life lines for Mountain Home.
When irrigation systems were built, with the help of high-lift pumping and the construction of irrigation dams, the agricultural industry became stronger and much of the desert land was opened to farming. Thousands of acres of land could now produce grain, hay, sugar beets, potatoes, and beans.
Livestock production and, more recently, the dairy industry have also made a considerable contribution to the local economy.
Mountain Home has a current population of approximately 14,600 and is a community of diverse cultures. It sets at an elevation of 3,143 feet. The hottest month is July and the coldest is January. Average annual precipitation is 10.7 inches.
Mountain Home is especially proud of its parks, visitor’s center, golf course, and museum.
centrally located in
by Tomas Hiler
Commodore George Jackson was a true
The stage stations were located 12 miles apart where the horses were changed. At each 50 miles, a home station was located where travelers as well as drivers could find refreshments and lodging.
In 1872, Mr. Jackson bought a quarter of land section 8 miles north of the present site of Mountain Home. He operated a stage stop known first as “Rattle Snake Station”, later changed to Mountain Home, as it was located at the foothills of the mountains. Postal service was delivered to this site. Under the desert-claim act, he also took up land where Mountain Home currently stands; part of which he sold to the railroad and another part to a land company. The land that he first purchased, where present day Mountain Home is, was a large ranch that he and his family operated.
Oregon Short Line Railroad came to the area in 1883, they established a
stopping place here for replenishing their water. Access to water near the
surface made Mountain Home an ideal place to put a train station so that the
steam engines could easily access the water. Since the mail would now be coming
via the railroad,
Shortly after the Oregon Short Line Railroad arrived in Mountain Home, another prominent citizen arrived. David Dodge, a Civil War Veteran, had married Jennie Steers in 1872. She taught David how to read, write and figure. They had four children, Willis, Frank, Mamie, and Lillie.
did farming, well digging, and operated sawmills, building his own mill in
wife Jennie died in 1892 and with his wife’s death, David felt his world
crushed. He resigned from the railroad
and turned to his faith. He did extensive missionary traveling for the
In August of 1962 our local government became very familiar with the wishes David Dodge had for his land that was donated for our present day cemetery. The City was clearing additional land to expand the cemetery and was forced to acquire the whereabouts of their deed for the property in that area. The deed was granted officially to the City of Mountain Home providing that the heirs of David Dodge would receive 10 cemetery lots for their descendants.
David and Jennie Dodge’s Headstone is very visible in the cemetery. Descendants of David and Jennie replaced the original headstone with a new one in 1993. The following is in-scripted on the back of the headstone:
“David and Jennie homesteaded 161 acres in Mountain Home in 1885. Their property included the area of this cemetery to which they donated 5 acres.David was a pioneer who wore many hats. Farmer, sawmill operator, Civil War Veteran, railroad worker and missionary. David planted the first trees in this city. His own roots must have went very deep as six generations of direct descendants have lived here as of 1993”
very probable that the reason David Dodge and his family planted the first
trees in Mountain Home was due to the terms of the pre-emption act that they
filed on in Mountain Home. The act
states, the settler had to move onto the land, build some kind of residence,
break at least ten acres of sod, and plant a crop. After five, but no more than
seven years, the homesteader received title to the land with the payment of
small fees. In 1873 Congress passed the Timber Culture Act that provided an
additional free 160 acres provided that the farmer planted ten acres in trees.
After eight years, if the trees survived, a title would be granted. Free land
was a powerful incentive to come to
the more popular men buried in the cemetery is that of John McKeown
better known as “Johnny-Behind-the-Rocks”. He was originally a placer miner by
trade. Before coming to the Mountain Home vicinity, he was in
He was a
very dirty man at the time of his last sickness. When brought to town, he had
on parts of 6 suits, several pair of underwear and approximately $1500 was
found in his pockets. He was brought in
for medical care, but since his first order was to be bathed and cleaned up,
the story goes, “He just couldn’t take a bath after so many years without
one.” He was buried in
Charles Sprittles was an Idaho Pioneer who lived in the Rocky Bar
and Featherville area. He was born in 1881 and died in 1964. Charlie
would deliver the
Army Air Corps Come to Mountain Home
10th 1938 Howard Hughes took off from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn
Howard Hughes "standing in front of his new Boeing Army Pursuit Plane"
Hughes was a
The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engine heavy bomber aircraft
developed in the 1930s for the then-United States Army Air Corps (USAAC).
B-24s under construction at Ford Motor's
Hughes, who for all his eccentricities, was a visionary when it came to air travel. He flew planes, made movies of planes, (Blue Angels) built planes, (Hughes Aircraft) started airlines, (Hughes Air West) and built and flew the biggest airplane ever (Spruce Goose). The effects Howard Hughes and his pioneering in aviation are still being felt in the world today.
September 1939 Hitler invaded
world war exploded in Europe as Hitler attacked
of Howard Hughes, Glen Curtis, Generals Billy Mitchell and Hap Arnold and many
others like them the American Aircraft industry had become the leader in
airplane innovations. In 1940 there were several multi-engine bombers on the
drawing boards. The B-17 and the B-24 were already flying and the B-29 was
being planned. The main drawback in warplane design was the lack of power
plants capable of lifting the massive weight of the drawing board planes.
27, 1941 President Roosevelt broadcasting by radio from the East Room in the
Whitehouse before representatives of all the countries in North and South
America, on all the American networks and via short wave to an estimated eighty
five million people around the world. It was then that all Americans realized
that it was only the
by Life magazine in its June 9. 1941 issue, this declaration brought the
defense industry transportation, resource production and agriculture into the
national defense system. Aircraft production expanded dramatically as
Dec. 7, 1941 the Japanese Imperial fleet launched its surprise attack on the US
Navy base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands, then a
to December 7th the War Department had begun building Army Air Fields and
Camps. With the beginning of the war the schedule was accelerated and suddenly
many small towns found that they were to be the host of a large military
establishment. This is exactly what happened to a little town with a `940
population of 1,163,
in 1942 the base establishment commission began looking at southern
Another asset that Mtn. Home had that is not so well known is an abundance of high-grade gravel that is in a clay mix. This gravel mix was absolutely essential to building the thick, heavy runways necessary for the big planes to come.
John Moyer recently told me about his dad coming to Mtn. Home to build the base. He worked for Terteling Construction (also Ray Harris) and drove his truck to the site of the base. It was a vast field of sagebrush at the end of a dirt road. They unloaded their International crawler tractors and began pushing away the brush just behind the surveyors and engineers who were laying out the runways. Soon there was a railroad built to the site from the U.P. main line and then a spur was run through the gravel pits just north of the base tracks. A line was run around the middle of the gravel pit and soon big draglines were loading long trains of gondola cars full of the pit run gravel and tit was going to the construction of the runways.
The little town exploded as workers flocked to the base construction. Everyone who had a spare room was urged to rent it. Basements, attics, chicken coops and barns were hurriedly renovated for housing. As the President had said everyone should do they’re duty. Mountain Home Army Air field was put together with almost lightning speed – the surveyors and engineers laying it out just in front of the tractors in November of 1942 and planes flying off the runways in July 1943 – almost unbelievable today.
This is an aerial photo of Mountain Home Army Air field taken in 1945.
The Base was a training center for B-24 Liberator bombers and looking at the Lockheed 14 that Hughes flew in 1038 you will immediately see the resemblance between it and the B-24. There were also P-38 Lightning’s stationed at Mtn. Home along with various and sundry transport DC-3s and little piper trainers. Mountain Home and Gown Field were tied together in training and within weeks there was a shuttle of 24 bus’s a day between the two fields, a bus every hour each way, all of them coming from or going to the base stopping at the Mellen Hotel downtown were Gwen Watson kept the Bus Depot and the Café and hotel running on a tight schedule. By this time in the war there was rationing of almost everything, food, shoes, clothing, tires and especially gasoline – about 5 gallons a week. So everyone rod buses and trains and almost all the GI’s coming and going by troop train. (History Note: The term “GI” was an acronym for “Government Issue” or “General Issue” and denoted almost everything military, becoming famous when Bill Mauldin the renowned WWII cartoonist’s ‘Willie and Joe’ GI characters reflected the foxhole commentary of the American fighting men and women.)
Liberator Bomber, built by Consolidated, Ford,
more than 18,300 were produced. It had a top speed of 303 mph and 8,800 pound bomb load.
A Lockheed P-38 Lightning. This twin-engine fighter-bomber
would out fly just about anything in the world in its day.
P-38s were stationed at Mountain Home in ‘43-44’.
The DC-3 first flew on December 17, 1935
was wide open for gambling in those days, slot machines everywhere, crap
tables, (History Note: The type of crap table used today by all the casinos in
Nevada and elsewhere was supposedly invented at the “30 Club” in Mountain
Home.) and roulette, 21 and poker and Mtn. Home was no exception. The workers
who poured in to build the base had lots of money in their pockets and were
prime customers. At first there wasn’t much (any?) recreation at the new
airfield and so town became the outlet for ‘far from home fly-boys.’ Most were
just kids and underage so the local USO soon became a favorite stop for
lonesome soldiers, a place where they could hang out, get a Coke and dance with
a girl to the sounds of Benny Goodman, Glen Miller or most assuredly the
rumba-like dreamy confection of Artie Shaw’s clarinet in “Begin the Beguine.”
Saloons and bars proliferated along
Jerry and Sam Carrico were sleeping out the night of May 3rd, 1943. The two boys, ten and twelve years were in their blankets under the apple tree in the Carrico back yard about a block south of what is now American Legion Blvd. Jerry vividly recalls what happened early in the morning of may 4th. “Sam and I were asleep when I was woke-up by the sound of a big airplane. It was sounding like an old Model A hitting on two and then four cylinders – as you know, kinda like it was running out of gas. I looked up and saw this plane coming right over us and it looked like its engines were on fire, then there was a big boom as it exploded and fell straight down to the ground over by where the Beaches lived. It hit the ground and blew up. I think it broke all the windows in Beaches house and the top turret and guns fell through the roof of Kenny Pearce’s barn. Sam and me jumped up but were too scared to go over there and mom called us from the door to come into the house. In just a little while we heard the fire siren and the fire truck was there. Then some trucks came from the base. Next morning they had guards all around the crash and lots of soldiers were picking up pieces of the plane. One officer came around and asked us what we had heard and seen and wrote it down. Later we heard that Jimmy Stewart, the movie actor who was stationed at Gowen field came over. He was part of the investigation team that was looking to find out what caused the crash. Some of the guys in town had breakfast with Capt. Stewart that morning.”
These photos, taken on May 3rd, 1943, are from the actual crash site.
The Boise Statesman newspaper for the morning of Tuesday, May 4, 1943 reiterates Carrico’s account and goes on to say that the wreckage was strewn over a half mile of the Morfield farm, that many residents had hurried to the crash and tried to get the men out. The story went on to say that only three bodies were recovered and the rest were “blown to bits” and lists the names and addresses of the eight airmen who were killed. Jerry kept the newspaper article and some pictures of the wreck.
McGovern, later a U.S. Senator, was just a young guy training to fly B-24’s, a
plane that he would later fly from Italy across the Alps to bomb the
fanatically defended Ploesti oil fields in Rumania, major oil supply for the
Nazi Germany. The eminent author Stephen Ambrose in his book ‘The Wild Blue,
The men and boys who flew the B-24s over
McGovern related much of his training time at Mtn. Home to Ambrose
including the following story on page 100 of “The Wild Blue”. “Once while
flying in formation, McGovern’s squadron was practicing warding off attack. A two-engine B-25 (Could have been from Gowen
Field?) dove on the B-24s. The B-24 pilot expects the B-25 to go under
their formation, but instead the plane keeps coming and collided head-on with a
Liberator. There was an explosion that took out two other B-24s. Four bombers
were just gone. Fortunately they did not have full crews- only the gunners and
the pilot – but twenty-four men were dead.” Local lore says that the planes
fell on the desert southwest of the field, that bulldozers were sent out from
the base to simply cover them over with dirt and that they are still there. (I
heard many conflicting stories about this burial.) McGovern went on to tell of
the anguish when the Base Chaplin went to the married men’s quarters with the
list of those killed. The wives, already having heard of the catastrophe, and
hearing the knock at her door would cry or scream when she saw the Chaplin
standing there. The B-24s from Mountain Home went to
1945 B-29s finally began using the long-thick runways at Mountain Home but the
war was ending and by August ’45 it was all over. In just months the base was
mostly de-activated with only a tiny crew to look over the tarpaper barracks
and hangers and soon tumble weeds were the only thing rolling down the runways.
In 1948 the base was again activated with the 5th Reconnaissance Group and on
through the 50s the base had many Air Force missions including the Air
Re-supply and Communications. It closed again and Bruce Hicks (who may have
been the McGovern’s paperboy in ’44) said, “In ’53 I got a job hauling spuds
from railcars in town and dumping them on the runways for Simplot to crush for
cattle feed. We made sure that we cut only the strings and not the bags which
were worth more than the spuds.” Bill Trueba was the
first plane that landed before the Strategic Air Command arrived in May, ’53.
Bill says, “We landed on the runway and taxied in and the first thing I
remember about the base is that the tumble weeds had blown up in piles higher
than the hangers and the tarpaper was flapping off all the building.” SAC
brought back the B-29s but soon converted to B-47 Stratojet
bombers with Atom Bombs. In 1959 during the very height of the Cold War the
base became the headquarters for the 569th Strategic Missile Squadron, with
three Titan missile sites, one south of Bruneau, one
The B-29 Superfortress is a four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber designed by Boeing
that was flown primarily by
through the Korean War.
above is of a B-47 Stratojet as it sits on the ramp
A true jet
bomber it changed
(photo courtesy Mountain Home Air Force Base)
A B-47 Stratojet taking off at
Tactical Air Command took over the base, the B-47s were gone, replaced by
RF-4Cs and in ’66 the Titans were gone too. In 1970 TAC brought in F-111fs that
stayed at the base until about 1991 when Mtn. Home Air Force Base became the HQ
for the new Air Intervention Wing with F-15s and 16s. Then in 1996 the base got
back to its origins with the stationing of B-1 bombers. Today the 366th
Tactical Fighter Squadron is one of the most diverse with its mix of F-15s and
16s standing ready to defend
F-111F at Mountain Home Air Force Base
F-16 on a mission over
An Air Force B-1B Lancer makes a high-speed pass. The pressure produced
by the aircraft's speed caused the water vapor around it to condense into a cloud.
(History Note: Over the years there have been several ideas about renaming Mountain Home Air Force Base. The first was to name it “Richard Aguirre Air Force Base’ for Richard Aguirre, a local boy who was killed early in WWII. (He was the older brother of Domingo and Felip.) Later there was talk of naming it ‘John Kennedy Air Force Base’ after the assassinated President. It was only changed from Mountain Home Army Air Field to Mountain Home Air Force Base. JH)
Copyright 2004, John Hiler - September El-Wyhee Hi-Lites
Sources: Ambrose, The Wild Blue; Mountain Home Air Force Base History Section’ Life Magazine, July 25, 1938 and June 9, 1941; Hiler, Idaho Magazine; Statesman newspaper; Personal interviews, Jerry Carrico, Stephen Ambrose, Max Boesiger, Carol Mellen Mooney, Fred Latimore, Domingo Aguirre, John Moyer, Bruce Hicks, Bill Trueba.
Carl Ansel Miller and His Park
By Tomas Hiler
His feet were soaked
from the heavy rain the night before. Trenches and French roads torn to nothing;
they were grateful to the artillery for two miles; the sun burned away the fog
as the war began again. It is now the
morning of September 27th, 1918 and Captain Cornell leads Carl and
Company D to a crossroads south of Mont Blainville.
They looked up at the village perched on the bluff of the hill pointing like a
finger toward the
No man wanted to walk into their range, no man wanted to be skewered by their long bullets. Concentrating on staying low, their concentration was their prayer. Suddenly they were on the road that came from the east and headed up the bluff to the village. Lt Flinn took his most trusted platoon; they eased up behind the last three Boche dugouts. The American soldiers through their hand grenades into the nests, the grenades were like baseballs and boy could they throw strikes.
Lt. Flinn opened a huge hole in the German lines at Mont Blainville in the
began thinking more and more about his Mom and Dad back in Mountain Home and
about all of those basketball games that he played in high school. In the wee hours of the morning of September
28th, 1918, Company D of the 158th waited to advance on
the rosy fingers of dawn that greet the battle. It was hard going all morning,
one kilometer across the Mont Blainville Plateau to
the ravine that separated the hills that pointed like bloody fingers to the
river. It was almost noon and Lt. Flinn was coming up out of the ravine to begin the battle
for the Apremont Plateau at the head of the American
First Army advancing in the
Carl Ansel Miller, the youngest of three sons of Adam M. and Anna Bell (Guy) Miller of Mountain Home, was the first soldier from Mountain Home killed in the “Great War” (WWI).
the railroad came in 1883
was a war unlike any other, a slaughter that was on a scale unimaginable to
this day. The conflict had eradicated an entire generation of European
men and devastated the land for decades. At the beginning of the 20th Century,
the world was in a period of prosperity. Military alliances began to
stretch across the globe as the empires of
the first day of the War Elmore County men volunteered. Bennie Bruce was first,
Harry Isaacs second. Then Charley Maxwell and Medric Labbee. Within a week more than a dozen. “In Camp and Trench”, the narrative journal of men and women of Elmore
County who were in the service, lists 389 men and women who were in military
service between 1917 and 1918. This is an amazing ten-percent of the total
population of Elmore county. A biographical sketch of
the person, where they are from and where they served follows many names listed
in the journal. A copy of the journal is available for review at the
The Meuse-Argonne (
The combined Franco-American attack began on the morning of September 26th,
1918. Over the first five days the soldiers advanced nine miles, penetrating
deeply into the German lines. It was during this time that Carl Miller lost his
life. Carl was a “stretcher bearer” and would stand at the back of the field
and then when signaled, would run with another soldier to the injured person,
lift him onto it and then carry them back away to safety. Stretcher-bearer’s
were often targeted by the Nazzi’s. Carl was
instantly killed on September 28th, 1918 near the town of
letter from his captain in
(Found in Trench and Camp, 1920.)
It is with sorrow; yet again it gives me pleasure to tell you that your son died a hero, in attempting to rescue a fallen comrade, after three other men of our company had been wounded trying the same. Carl had been with us a short time and I had detailed him as a “stretcher-bearer”. He was faithfully executing his duty, when instantly killed September 28th, 1918.
I myself was wounded September 28th and the lieutenant commanding the company at that time has given me all details and has also sent recommendations to the general about Carl’s bravery in action.
All soldiers of the A.E.F. who died here
are now buried in the same cemetery and each grave definitely marked, so that
there will be no trouble in identifying and sending back home the bodies of
those who paid the “Supreme Price.” On
September 28th, we were fighting in the
I am very truly yours,
Capt. Joseph P. Cornell
Mountain Home was greatly stirred by the news of Carl’s sacrifice and resolved
that it should not go unhonored. On July 7th,
1919, less than a year after his death, Mountain Home let out bids for the
purchase of $10,000 in bonds to finance the establishment of a
Two days later a meeting of the village board was called to appoint three park commissioners who, in turn, appointed two additional ones. The board named Will H. Gibson to serve for three years; J.D. Whitson, for two years; and W.H. Wilson, for one year. Mrs. Watts and Mrs. John Caldwell were the other two pointed. This park board had its own meetings, but the record book cannot be found.
In March of 1920 W.R. Filley took the contract to plow and clean up the park site. Lars Rasmussen had charge of additional cleaning up in July, and in August Joe Sulloway, Lars Rasmussen, and Joseph Zabriskie did more work; Lars Rasmussen continued in charge of the park for the summer and fall. On February 3, 1921 W.H. Wilson was appointed for three years to succeed himself.
On April 5th, 1921 Will Gibson, who had drawn up the plans for the gravel walks, drive, bandstand, and rest room, submitted blueprints to the village board, which were accepted. One hundred and twenty dollars was spent for shrubbery and trees. The trees were from as many of the different states in the union as was possible. Of course, many did not live.
C.A. Carlson was given the contract to build the bandstand and rest rooms in the spring of 1921. Twenty-two dollars more was spent for the shrubbery and trees then. In June considerably more work was done to the gravel and cement walks on the outside of the park. Next came the installation of plumbing and a water foundation. Finally the park plaque was engraved and a five-acre water right purchased from the Elmore Irrigation Company.
June 15th, 1921, Mrs. Will H. Gibson was sent to represent Mountain
Home at a park convention in
O.P. Hopson was given the task of being park caretaker in the summer of 1921 when seed purchased from Bennett Brothers was sown for the lawn.
The tourist park ended its existence in November of the year it was inaugurated. The following year, in May, William Gastel became park tender, and more seed was purchased from the Bennett Seed Store for reseeding part of the park where the tourists had trampled down the young lawn. During July of that year swings and slides were purchased for the use of children visiting the park.
On June 5th, 1923 J.W. Morton was appointed for a one year term expiring on October, 1924; R.R. Osborn, for a two-year term expiring October, 1925; and Mrs. J.W. Caldwell, for a two-year term expiring October, 1925. In May, 1925 J.W. Morton was reappointed for three years, dating from the expiration date of his former appointment, October, 1924. In 1928 the curbing was put in around the park.
During the mid 1940’s the city pool was completed at
October 9th, 1961 Myrtle Prentice the Secretary of the Elmore County
Historical Foundation sent a letter to the Mike Kosmata
(City Clerk) and Mayor Philip W. Gridley requesting permission to erect a sign
Saturday November 13th, 1961 members of the Elmore County Historical
Foundation, Inc., gathered at
State Senator R.M. Wetherell was introduced by Foundation President Mrs. Ott Mertz. In Wetherell’s talk he had this to say about Miller:
“Today we are assembled here to again pay tribute to a young man who
gave his life for his country. The Elmore County Historical Foundation became
aware that there was no proper marker indicating in whose name this park was
dedicated. Through efforts of Mrs.
Mertz, its capable president, the foundation vowed that proper identification
be placed for all to see. For just a
moment I would like to give you a short history of this park and the man in
whose honor it was named. Carl Miller gave his life for his country during the
Remembering a Local Hero
by Tomas Hiler
Richard U. Aguirre was born in
War II began with the Japanese bombing of
Second Lieutenant Richard Aguirre was a Navigator and volunteered on the B-17E “Honi Kuu Okole” #41-9244 when that group was sent to the South Pacific on a night bombing flight. Night missions of this type were not unusual. For the first hour, as the B-17 bomber droned toward the target, the mood was somewhat relaxed. The only task for the crew was to stay alert for surface craft. The bombardier, M/Sgt. Gordon Manuel, had the best vantage point through the clear glass nose, while 2nd Lieutenants John S. Rippy, copilot, and Richard U. Aguirre, navigator, watched with major Williams from the flight deck.
final hour before reaching Rabaul put them within
range of Japanese fighters, and the gunners readied their weapons. Sergeants
Larry L. Rexroat and Robert A. Curry watched from
their waist-gunners’ positions, to the sides and slightly upward in the area
where an attacking fighter often began a pass.
Sgt. Joe Murray, in the tail-gunner’s compartment, watched closely to
catch a reflection that might come from a fighter closing in from behind. Pfc. Bill M. Smith in the belly turret
watched to all sides as he had learned that the most difficult location in
which to spot another aircraft at night was against the Horizon, the darkest
part of the sky. So far, the sky seemed
clear of fighters. Their mission was to bomb the Japanese planes dispersed over
The Americans had no idea that the Japanese had secretly developed the J1N1 Night Fighter and its attack came as a complete surprise to the Americans. They knew they would be tracked from the ground by radar, but the J1N1 caught them unaware. These new planes could fly in the dark of the night, sneaking in underneath the B-17’s and fire straight up into the planes. The B17’s were defenseless because they could not shoot what they could not see.
3:48am May 21st, 1943, Richard Aguirre’s B-17 along with 7 others that were
staggered 20 minutes apart arrived at its initial point over the
The plane then let out a big “sigh” and started to nose dive at a 45-degree angle. One member of the crew (John S. Rippy) parachuted out at 5,000 feet and Master Sergeant Gordon Manuel didn’t parachute out until about 500 feet but his parachute didn’t open until about 200ft above the water. Richard Aguirre either died from his wounds from the incendiaries or was too injured to put his parachute back on when the plane started to nose dive at 5,000 feet making a water landing was no longer possible. All other members of the flight perished under the waters of the South Pacific when the plane hit the water, the tremendous force ripping the tail and wing off and it immediately sank.
Gordon Manuel who had parachuted out at 500 feet and landed in the sea, made it
to shore north of Induna Island near the mouth of the
Kambubu River and Matala
Plantation and was able to evade capture and, with the help of the local
natives who were allies of the Americans, survived behind enemy lines in the
Put Put area. Later, Manuel joined a group of
Australian Coastwatcher’s and other downed Allied
aviators. They were rescued at
Lt John S Rippy who parachuted first and landed in
the seas, made it to shore south of
Lieutenant Richard Aguirre was listed as MIA (Missing in Action) on May 21st,
1943 and his body was never recovered. Richard received the Distinguished
Flying Cross, Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters & the Purple Heart for his
many missions and for his bravery in WWII. The entire crew, including Richard
Aguirre (aside from Manuel who survived) is memorialized on the Tablets of the
Missing at the
Although Richard, Domingo and Felip
practically grew up on the Prairie Ranch, their home ranch was just north of
town and their original family home was located near the present
On Thursday May 27th, 1943, Richards name appeared on the front page of the Mountain Home Republican Newspaper as “Missing in Action”. No details were added about his mission or how he was killed. This newspaper article that you are now reading could be the first one written since his death and outlining the details of our heroic local resident who was the first person from Mountain Home killed in World War II.
August 17th, 1961 it was announced in the Mountain Home News, by then Mayor Phil
Gridley, that a new 12-acre, much-needed city park for Mountain Home would be
put in due to the efforts of the Mayor and City Council. Options on the
property of Walt Kunneke, Ralph Pierce and Fae Brines were taken in exchange of deeds made with Royal
Cochran, and property was purchased for them from Max Boesiger
and Florence Conboy. Mayor Gridley said that the
present water main ran through the proposed park. Mayor Gridley asked for
assistance of local contractors, as well as the Army Reserve unit, for help in
the leveling of the property and road building that was necessary. This park
provided an opening of East 10th North from North 14th East through to the
the progressive citizens of Mountain Home passed a bond issue and the present
swimming pool was built, recreation equipment was installed and the park was
completed with a Bureau of Outdoor Recreation Grant and City of Mountain Home
funding and ‘in-lieu’ matching work by City crews. As a stipulation of the BOR