OMAHA, Neb. — The Lohmans’ house is hard to miss.
“We’re the corner house with the bomb,” said Mike Lohman, a Kansas native who’s lived in Omaha for 30 years. “It definitely helps when you’re giving directions.”
For more than 20 years a World War II-era practice bomb has stood in the yard of Lohman’s Morton Meadows home. It’s currently painted silver, with the orange-painted bristles of a street sweeper brush poking out the butt of the bomb to look like a trail of fire.
At night, landscaping lights illuminate the bomb. There are no explosives — we repeat: no explosives — in the bomb.
Over the years, Lohman, 64, has painted his unusual lawn art Husker red, decorated it for Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day and, ahead of Y2K, painted the message “THE END IS HERE” across the bomb; that last adornment concerned the neighbors. His family has included the bomb in its annual Christmas card.
Lohman calls it his “giant yard dart.”
The Omaha World-Herald (http://bit.ly/2cBBllv ) reports that Lohman bought the bomb in the mid-1990s from a welder near Norfolk, Nebraska. The welder made the stand that keeps the shell upright at a Strangelove-ian angle. The welder told Lohman that the bomb and its stand weigh 2 tons altogether.
The welder’s price was originally $800. By the time it was down to $200, Lohman told the welder he had a deal — as long as he could deliver the bomb to his Omaha home. Lohman recalls the truck and crane straining with the weight of the bomb.
Lohman didn’t tell his wife, Helene Lohman, that he had bought the bomb until the bomb showed up.
“She was, like, ‘Well, this is my house, too,’ ” Mike Lohman said. “But I said, ‘It’s wonderful. It’s World War II.’ “
Two decades later, Helene hasn’t exactly learned to love the bomb, but she has stopped worrying about it as much. She said it’s not a big deal. Though it’s a little weird when strangers stop to take selfies with it. And when the Lohmans host Rosh Hashana dinners, she asks Michael to turn off the landscaping lights lest the bomb weird out their guests.
Their now-grown sons, Ben and Lee Lohman, thought the bomb was neat when they were kids but embarrassing by the time they hit high school. “The boys are older now,” their dad said. “They’ve grown used to it.”
This is the story of the bomb as Mike Lohman knows it:
The bomb was discovered in a field that either used to serve as a practice range or a field near a practice range. Pilots would drop such bombs onto targets on the fields. The bombs’ noses, filled with flour, would explode on contact, letting the pilots know the accuracy of their drop.
That’s as much as Lohman knows about his bomb.
A search in The World-Herald archives shows that thousands of Nebraska acres were used as practice bombing ranges during WWII. Land in Knox County, Nebraska — north of Norfolk — was condemned by the government in the ’40s for range use. In 1943 Tarnov, Nebraska — located about 30 miles south of Norfolk — was accidentally bombed by two practicing B-17 bombers. Several bombs near Tarnov had overshot their practice fields.
It was one of these such fields where Lohman’s bomb landed, resting for who knows how long before fulfilling its true destiny: lawn art.
Lohman doesn’t have a house full of WWII memorabilia or anything, although he has a natural interest in the war, given that his father was a veteran and a prisoner of war.
Lohman’s dad, Benedict Lohman — who died this year at 97 in Topeka, Kansas — served in the Marine Corps during the war and was sent to the Philippines shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The following year he was taken prisoner by the Japanese and sent to Osaka, Japan, to grow rice and work in copper mines and on oil tankers. He was a POW for more than three years, until the end of the war.
This spring, shortly before his death, Benedict Lohman threw out the first pitch of the Kansas City Royals’ season. The crowd cheered when Lohman rose from his wheelchair at the pitcher’s mound, the Kansas City Star reported.
Mike Lohman said his father had good memories of the Air Force when he was a POW. For him, the sound of falling American bombs meant that he would get to go home again.
“Even though his copper mine got bombed a lot,” Lohman said, “he knew it meant the Americans were coming.”
The family’s connection with the Air Force goes deeper still. Mike’s sister, Carol Lohman, is a retired Air Force colonel now living in Minneapolis. And, Mike said, “she really likes the bomb.”
While Lohman’s bomb is eccentric yard art, for sure, it’s also a tribute to the family’s service.
And neither it nor the Lohmans are going anywhere any time soon. The Lohmans have lived at the same house for 30 years, but if they ever did move, Mike supposed, the bomb would have to come with them.
“I don’t know how much it would be to move the bomb,” he said. “But I don’t know that anyone but me would want it.”
Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com