In February 2017, WZZM aired a special report entitled, "When the War Came to Dorr," which detailed the history of when a Japanese Fu-Go balloon landed in a Dorr, Mich., farm field in 1945.
The balloon was discovered by three pre-teen boys -- brothers Bob & Ken Fein and their friend Larry "Buzz" Bailey, and less than 24 hours later was confiscated by federal government officials.
While conducting research during the production of the story, WZZM 13 discovered that the Fu-Go balloon that was discovered in Dorr still existed and was owned by a Minnesota man by the name of Don Piccard, who had been storing it inside a drum in his garage in Minneapolis.
Two days after the WZZM 13 piece aired, members of the Byron Center Historical Society called an impromptu meeting where they began brainstorming ways they could somehow get that balloon back to West Michigan and displayed at the Byron Township Museum.
"We've been working on trying to secure a donor and generate the funds for three months," said Theresa Kiel, who is a member of the Byron Center Historical Society. "I'm so excited it's finally happened."
Kiel says she took a phone call late last Thursday evening, from an anonymous donor, who agreed to cover the $10,000 cost to being the balloon back to West Michigan.
"If it wasn't for the WZZM story back in February, this wouldn't be happening," Kiel said."That story generated a lot of buzz for our community, which led to this generous donation."
Kiel called Piccard this past weekend and informed him that a donor has come forward.
"It's nice to have the balloon go to that museum," said Piccard, during a phone interview with WZZM. "The location of that museum is very close to where the balloon was discovered, so it's the perfect tie-in.
"After 70 years, it's going to be had to watch that balloon leave my driveway, but it will serve as a very good educational implement for that museum, so I'm pleased it will be going to a good home."
Piccard, 91, served as a Navy balloon and airship rigger in World War II. He was stationed in New Jersey and was placed in charge of the Fu-Go balloons that were recovered. After the war ended, Piccard was told to destroy all the balloons.
He was given permission to keep one of the balloons, and it happened to be the one that was discovered in Dorr.
In 1947, Piccard used the envelope of the Dorr Balloon to make his first solo flight over downtown Minneapolis.
Kiel is preparing to travel Thursday, May 25, to Minneapolis to get the balloon from Piccard and bring it back to Byron Center.
"We will be creating a very special exhibit for this amazing artifact," Kiel said. "We'll be spending the remainder of this year putting it together, and hope to welcome the public to come see it sometime in early 2018."
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