In August of 1944, two B-17 bombers crashed and killed 17 people near the community of Laurel. The event is still remembered today.
We visited Laurel, and talked with a man from the community who actually witnessed the crash 75 years ago. His name is L.J. "Ole" Mallatt. "They were flying over in a formation of 18 airplanes, and I happened to step outside of a building downtown to do some work. I noticed a large number of planes," Mallatt said. "I stopped to watch them, it was quite a sight. And while I was watching, it looked like two planes hit each other." Mallatt says it was not long before both bombers went down in a farm area and killed all the people on board except one. Mallatt says the pilot of one airplane got out of it alive. "It was five minutes to Noon when it happened."
The 18 bombers were on a training flight from Sioux City, Iowa to Rapid City, South Dakota. On their return to Sioux City, they were passing over Laurel, when it's believed that two of the bombers' wings hit. According to a marker at the memorial to the crash just outside of town, one bomber came apart in the air, and the other bomber nose-dived to the ground two miles east of Laurel.
In the Legion Hall in Laurel, there are 12 pictures on the wall of the victims. The other five photos are not shown as the community has not been able to reach family members or get a picture. But an effort is made in the community to remember this crash. Residents say it's important to remember. "I think what we do is we go back in our minds to the war years, and we think about what these people went through," Mallatt said. "These 17 people gave their lives for our freedom. Even though it was right here on American soil, in Laurel, Nebraska, those boys gave their lives for us."