Residents pitch in to find survivors after the Bath (Mich.) Consolidated School was dynamited by school board member Andrew Kehoe on May 18, 1927.AP Photo
On May 18, 1927, a man named Andrew Kehoe blew up the school in Bath Township, Mich. Most of the 44 killed were children. It remains the deadliest attack on a school in U.S. history. It is also regularly left out of accounts of terrorism in America.
Kehoe, an electrician, had previously worked on the school and had rigged explosives through the buildings in the weeks leading up to the attack. His timer device in one part of the building failed, so children in those rooms survived. In the immediate aftermath of the school explosion, Kehoe set off another bomb in his car, killing himself and several others nearby. Prior to the school explosion, he had murdered his wife and set his own farm on fire. His motive was anger at a foreclosure on his farm, and the taxes levied by the township to pay for the new school.
Part of the reason Kehoe’s crime was forgotten was that he just did not fit most people’s ideas about terrorists.
In the 1920s, the terrorists whom most Americans feared were anarchists. Newsreels regularly reported anarchist-related bombings and attacks in the U.S. and abroad. Anarchists were scary—but they were also characterized as shady foreigners. When people thought of anarchists, they thought of men like Sacco and Vanzetti, whose final appeal against death sentences had failed a few weeks before Kehoe’s attack. (They would be executed in August.) White men in small towns did not fit the mold.