Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012
 
The worst massacre of children in modern US history: Bath School, Michigan, 1927

I find it strange that this dreadful crime is so little known; I first read of it only within the last few years. Perhaps this is because Wikipedia and many other sources refer to it as the "Bath School Disaster", as if it were a natural catastrophe, rather than what it was, a mass murder. Worse may have happened in the Indian Wars, or in the various other conflicts during the early history of the European presence in what is now the United States, but the premeditated murder of the children of Bath Consolidated School was the worst such killing in the US in time of peace.

From the Wikipedia article Bath School Disaster:

The Bath School disaster is the name given to three bombings in Bath Township, Michigan, on May 18, 1927, which killed 38 elementary school children, two teachers, and four other adults; at least 58 people were injured. The perpetrator first killed his wife, and committed suicide with his last explosion. Most of the victims were children in the second to sixth grades (7–14 years of age[1]) attending the Bath Consolidated School. Their deaths constitute the deadliest mass murder in a school in United States history.

The bomber was the school board treasurer Andrew Kehoe, 55, who was angry after being defeated in the spring 1926 election for township clerk. He was thought to have planned his "murderous revenge" after that public defeat; he had a reputation for difficulty on the school board and in personal dealings. For much of the next year, a neighbor noticed Kehoe had stopped working on his farm and thought he might be planning suicide. During that period, Kehoe carried out steps in his plan to destroy the school and his farm by purchasing and hiding explosives.

Kehoe's wife was ill with tuberculosis and he had stopped making mortgage payments; he was under pressure for foreclosure. Some time between May 16 and the morning of May 18, 1927, Kehoe murdered his wife by hitting her on the head. On the morning of May 18 about 8:45, he exploded incendiary devices in his house and farm buildings, setting them on fire and destroying them.

Almost simultaneously, an explosion devastated the north wing of the school building, killing many schoolchildren. Kehoe had used a timed detonator to ignite dynamite and hundreds of pounds of incendiary pyrotol, which he had secretly planted inside the school over the course of many months. As rescuers gathered at the school, Kehoe drove up, stopped, and used a rifle to detonate dynamite inside his shrapnel-filled truck, killing himself, the school superintendent, and several others nearby, as well as injuring more bystanders. During rescue efforts at the school, searchers discovered an additional 500 pounds (230 kg) of unexploded dynamite and pyrotol planted throughout the basement of the south wing. Kehoe had apparently intended to blow up and destroy the entire school.

In the aftermath of the mass shooting of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newton, there have been widespread calls for gun control. It is worth noting that two of the most deadly massacres of children in the US, the Bath School massacre and the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, among the 168 victims of which were nineteen children under the age of six, were carried out with explosives.