KOB-TV.com - By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - Tolar, New Mexico has the distinction of being the only town in the US to be bombed out of existence in World War II. This week, 70 years later, the state will install a historic marker on a lonely stretch of US 60 between Fort Sumner and Clovis where the little town once stood.
It wasn’t the Germans or the Japanese who bombed Tolar. In fact, there wasn’t even an airplane involved. It was an all-American self-inflicted railroad disaster – an accident that miraculously killed only one person.
Even before the blast, there wasn’t much to see in Tolar, but after 160 bombs went off in a freight train fire, the town was pretty much obliterated. We’re talking big bombs here - 500-pounders - enough to fill four B-29 bombers.
Railroad historian Randy Dunson grew up nearby. He’s the one who convinced the state Transportation Department to put up a marker for Tolar. “The train derailed right in the middle of Tolar,” Dunson said. “The cars in those days were mostly wooden and the wreckage caught on fire. I do know there was a tank car of naphtha involved in it. The fire reached this boxcar that was loaded with these 160 or so 500-pound bombs.”
They blew up. Shrapnel killed a local man named Jess Brown, but the train’s rear brakeman was even closer. “He was about somewhere between two and six cars from the fire when this explosion went off and it blew him under the train,” Dunson said. “He was okay – he didn’t break a bone!”
The explosion left a crater about 20-feet deep and 60-feet across. The town of Tolar was pretty much toast. The dedication for the historic marker is scheduled for 2 p.m. this Friday, at mile marker 344 on US Highway 60, way out on the prairie between Fort Sumner and Clovis. More