Military-related Newspaper Stories of Iroquois County, IL
The Milford Missile
The story has its beginning at the end of World War II when the young men were returning home and many were seeking to do something for their communities.
Gene Seaman, Commander of Forrest Ballard American Legion Post No. 723, Milford, Illinois, has joined his many counterparts throughout the nation in applying for a souvenir of the war which could be placed in the village park. The day finally arrived when the word was sent for members of the post to pick up their souvenir at Chanute Air Force Base at Rantoul.
A group of members of the post borrowed a farm implement truck and, as one of the men remembers, "we gasped in amazement as an officer proudly pointed to a huge bomber and told us that was our prize."
After considerable jawing, the officer shrugged towards a much smaller piece of equipment and told us there was the only alternative, "take that piece of junk or nothing."
the missile was loaded on the truck and transported to Milford, where it was painted and given insignia of the United States Air Force and placed on a concrete base in the township park in the village.
The once-awesome instrument of death rested quietly in its new home until one day a traveler passing through the village spotted the missile. Excited inquiries took him to Richard Barker, the president of the Milford Township Park Board. He identified himself as an officer of the Air Force and told Barker that the missile was indeed a rarity and there are very few of them preserved in the world today. He deplored what he said was the lack of interest in the condition of the weapon and asked that it be donated to some museum where it could be properly displayed. Barker replied that he did not have sole authority to make such a decision and that he would talk to other members about it and also find out the feelings of the people of the village.
At about that same time, interest was in fact building in the area about the condition of the missile and one member of the board had written to the Air Force to see if it was possible to have the missile restored to its original state and returned to Milford for better display than it had received in the past.
It was not altogether a surprise when, in late August, two men with papers declaring them to be from Wright Peterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, showed up with orders to take the missile to the base for restoration. They promised that the missile would be back in place by the time the following year's "Fun Days" celebration and even talked of timing its return so it could be in the big parade before it was mounted on a pedestal.
As time neared for the celebration of 1976, some people began to think about including the missile in the calendar of events and inquiries were made to the Air Force Base in Dayton. When a telephone and written inquiries began to get referred to other area, suspicions were aroused and an investigation was begun in earnest.
A letter from Mrs. Max Crawford to the Air Force Museum at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio brought a reply that a Mr. Bradley was unknown and that there was nothing the Air Force could do to assist in obtaining the return of the missile.
A letter from the editor of the Milford Herald-News to the commander of the Air Force Base merely brought the reply that the matter was being referred to the Office of Special Investigation for they were already looking into the matter.
George M. O'Brien, congressman from the 17th District of Illinois, began looking into the matter and asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation about it. He received a reply that their investigation showed that John L. Koontz, Lebanon, Ohio, learned of the existence of the buss bomb from a Thomas Bradley after Bradley had discovered the bomb while making a visit to relatives in the State of Illinois.
The report to O'Brien went on to state that "assistant United States Attorneys in Dayton, Ohio and Danville, Illinois, have been presented with the facts as they involved Thomas H. Bradley and John L. Koontz and both have declined any prosecution in Federal Court of either of these individuals.
In May, word was received that the missile was in a museum in Harlingen, Texas. An article in the Valley Morning Star, prompter by an inquiry from the Herald-News showed the missile in pieces on a trailer in that facility.
The Harlingen facility, located at Rebel Field, is operated by the Confederate Air Force, a non-profit organization composed mostly of former air-force men who are dedicated to the preservation of World War II Aircraft.
The CAF stated that during an airshow at the their home field , an annual event, a person, or persons, shoed up at the warehouse area with the missile on a trailer and told them that he was to leave it there. No one questioned him and no one knows who the person was.
The FBI report state: "...authorities at this museum area currently aware as to the situation at the time they obtained it from Koontz."
A letter form Col. L.P. Nolan (all members of the CAF are Colonels) in May 1977, stated: "However, we would like for you to assure the citizens of Milford that , under the circumstances, we feel the V-1 does belong to them and that they should have it back."
Correspondence was kept up between the CAF and Milford in an effort to either return the missile or to come up with an appropriate substitute to take its place, one that would meet the approval of the citizens of Milford.
The time finally came when the citizenry of Milford got fed up with the run-around they had received by the Justice Department, Air Force, and the CAF, and they wanted to get their missile back in the park.
Early in the spring of 1979 the Milford area Jaycees were asked to go after the missile as a civic project. They agreed and the Village Board funded the project. Five men, a truck and trailer left town with an uncertainty as to how they would be received. Ironically enough members of the CAF were equally apprehensive and the Milford group were given "red carpet treatment". After a lengthy "pitch" on how the missile would be more appropriately honored at the museum rather than being returned to Milord, they were kind enough to help load it and sent the group off with a standing invitation to come pick the missile up if the town ever decided to give it up.
Plans of restoration are now underway and hopefully will be complete in time for the Sesquicentennial Parade. The missile will then be remounted in the Village Park--hopefully to stay!
written by: Lewis Mitchell and Andrew Adsit
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