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Aerial bombing breaks Susquehanna ice jams

During the last week of February 1945, a large ice jam in the Susquehanna River caused large chunks of ice, some over 6-feet thick, to smash into bungalows along the river’s edge in Hellam Township. These photos show one such massive chunk of ice, which came to rest on River Road, stopping only inches short of hitting the IVA-LU; the Luther S. Smith bungalow located 5/8-mile west of Accomac.

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In the photos, Luther S. Smith (in the long overcoat) is with grandsons: Gary Raffensperger (plaid coat) and Ronald Strickhouser. In the lower photo, John Raffensperger stands atop the chunk of ice, which blocks River Road; running immediately in front of the bungalow.

In 1920, Susquehanna River ice jams were much worse; so much so that several days of aerial bombing were conducted to break up the jams, which contained chunks of ice up to 16-feet thick. The thaw of 1920 followed 83-straight-days of a frozen Susquehanna River, which resulted in massive ice jams during early March.

The March 10, 1920 issue of The Carlisle Evening Herald reported, “TNT bombs, dropped from army airplanes, have partially broken a serious ice jam in the Susquehanna River. Flying like air raiders on the French front, army aviators dropped about thirty 112 and 230-pound bombs into the frozen river above Havre de Grace, Maryland.”

These bombs only caused a little movement before the ice, once again, jammed up. As a result the army decided to use bigger bombs. The next day issue of the same newspaper reported, “Four giant 500-pound TNT bombs, dropped into the ice gorge on the Susquehanna River four miles below Port Deposit has started the jam moving.”

“Satisfied with work of the bombing squad, arrangements have been made to have airmen bomb the ice-choked sections further up the river. Permission has been granted the airmen to visit Columbia, Safe Harbor, Washington Boro and Holtwood Dam.” “The idea of using air bombs on the ice gorge was presented by Colonel H. W. Scull, of the army proving grounds, Aberdeen. Colonel Schull received permission to make the experiment and the efforts were gratifying.”

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