Cora Conner, 87, witness to history, dies
Played a role in Mitchell-Japanese bombing
by Lee Juillerat, Herald and
Conner, a longtime Klamath Basin resident, died Wednesday at
her Klamath Falls home. She was 87.
active member of the Klamath County Historical Society,
Conner was involved in one of the region’s most significant
16, she was on duty at the Bly telephone office on May 5,
1945, when it was learned six people — a minister’s pregnant
wife and five young teenagers — were killed when they
accidentally detonated a Japanese balloon bomb. The deaths
were the only ones caused by enemy action in the United
States during World War II.
was forbidden to make any comment as rumors and news about
the deaths filtered through town.
“Service and Sacrifice,” the 2003 Shaw Historical Library
Journal, Conner told about the incident and
government-imposed information blackout.
“Everyone was angry,” Conner remembered of the frustration
that resulted from the censorship. “They knew something had
happened to the kids.” According to Conner, she suffered
from nightmares for years after the incident.
2016 Shaw Journal, “From Fremont to Kingsley: The Military
in the Land of the Lakes,” Conner said she had declined an
offer to join the group for the planned picnic because of
her work commitment.
that morning a Forest Service ranger stopped at the
(telephone) office and said there had been a fatality. She
learned her friends and others had been killed by a bomb
explosion. ‘He said to keep really quiet, and keep the lines
open. They told me again I couldn’t tell anybody and to stay
there and not let anyone make phone calls,’ Conner
remembered. They put a zipper on my mouth that day. I
couldn’t talk to anyone, not even my Mom, and when I did, it
was months later.”
after the deaths became public, “I just could not talk about
it. I still don’t like to talk about it.”
According to the article, angry townspeople gathered in
protest. She said it took decades before she and some people
resumed cautious friendships. But, she said, “My nightmares
are basically all gone,” although, “I don’t know if I’ll
ever outgrow my big upset.”
the years, Conner was frequently asked to tell her story. In
recent decades she had been a fixture at events remembering
the event, including many at the place where the deaths
occurred, The Mitchell Monument Historical Site 13 miles
northeast of Bly. A stone monument with a brass plaque
listing the names of the victims, most who were Conner’s
friends, was dedicated in 1950.
Kepple, Klamath County Museums manager, regards Conner as
“an avid student of history and seeker of adventure” and as
“a living connection to the Japanese balloon bomb incident.”
is survived by three children, Kathy Thomas, Paul Conner and
Tim Conner. She was preceded in death by her husband, P.
services are currently planned.
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