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ILLINOIS STATE ARCHIVES


Illinois at War, 1941-1945

A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives


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DOCUMENT 6
THE MAGNESIUM BOMB
1942





Explanation

This document was taken from the same U.S. Office of Civilian Defense (OCD) publication that contained document 5. Both reflect a preoccupation with enemy aerial bombardment and both documents identify with the English experience in the Battle of Britain.

The OCD became involved in some controversy concerning its instructions as to how to fight incendiary bombs. In December 1941, it originally advised citizens to coat the fire bomb with a spray from a garden hose and warned that a sudden rush of water upon it could cause an explosion. Later it was found that the Germans were not using pure magnesium in their incendiary bombs and that a steady stream of water was more appropriate. Smothering the burning devices with sand was advocated for a time but this defense was dropped later when it was learned that the Germans were arming incendiaries with delayed action grenades which were designed to kill anyone who tried to extinguish them. The final method arrived at was to train a steady stream of water onto the burning bomb from behind a substantial shield a good distance away.

Points to Consider

If a fire bomb fell through your roof, what would be your reaction?

How would your local fire department regard the instructions outlined in this document?

If an enemy bomb exploded in your community today,

    what kind of bomb would it be?
    who would have set it off?

See Related Document: 7


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