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Oregon Coast During World War II, History With More Lessons to Teach

Published 12/20/20 at 5:35 PM PDT - Updated 12/21/20 at 3:45 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Oregon Coast During World War II, History Still Haunts These Shores

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(Oregon Coast) – World War II is something the vast majority of us living now can only vaguely imagine. True, this cross-section of humanity is going through the entire COVID crisis and making our own sacrifices, but it still pales compared to what all parties involved (ally or foe) were forced to deal with around the world, including the average civilian. (Photo above: Battery 245 at Battery Russell, Warrenton).

Along the Oregon coast, the story was the same as the nation: shortages of food and travel necessities like tires, rations of stockings for women, etc. Yet the coastlines of America had to deal with other issues. Beach towns from Astoria to Brookings had lights out / blackout laws prohibiting any light showing from your home, lest it give away locations to incoming invaders by sea or air. Lookouts and troops were stationed in more ominous ways out here. Such sacrifice provides a lesson for us today that, sadly, does not seem learnable by so many in this country now. Not to mention those who now sympathize with the enemy at the time: the Nazis.

Meanwhile, the war had killed most of the tourism biz along these beaches, although some areas – like Seaside – still saw plenty of summer visitors.

Along the central central Oregon coast, those lights out laws reached a boiling point one year. According to Lincoln City’s North Lincoln County History Museum, patrol vessels would wander the seas at night to check if all home lighting was indeed blocked. Some areas around Lincoln City (this was when the town was actually five different little communities) weren’t complying well. The army official in charge of the area wrote an op-ed in the local newspaper threatening martial law if residents didn’t get it together.

OTHER WORLD War II / OREGON COAST FINDS. This is Just a Sampling

Military Forts and Radar Stations. The Oregon coast was dotted, perhaps even shaded, with hordes of little installations here and there. There were radar stations at Cape Arago, Siletz Bay, Cape Meares, Cape Perpetua and one above the cemetery at Yachats, and many more. There are still now-crumbling remnants of radar bases near Oceanside and atop Tillamook Head.

Military bases abounded. They were at Tillamook, Myrtle Point, Bandon, Charleston, Newport, Siletz and dozens more.

Brookings. In 1942, a small enemy plane was catapulted off a Japanese submarine and dropped a few incendiary bombs to try and start forest fires. It didn’t work. Later, the Japanese launched thousands of bomb-laden balloons from their homeland, and some made it to the States. One went off in southern Oregon near Bly and killed a family.

Bandon / Coos Bay. Many beaches were closed off to the public around Charleston, according to the Coos Bay History Museum. War plane bombing exercises were conducted in some of the dunes areas, and there were Navy installations / lookouts at places like Shore Acres, Coos Head and North Bend. There was even one constructed on top of Bandon’s high school.

There were two U.S. ships torpedoed by the enemy off this part of the southern Oregon coast.

Near Yachats. The New Deal in the ‘30s may have constructed the beautiful lookout atop Cape Perpetua, but it was used by the U.S. Army to look out for invading forces.

Waldport. This was the location of Civilian Public Service Camp No. 56, where conscientious objectors were relocated during the war years.

Lincoln City. Various troops were stationed all around the central coast, and there was one Roads end home built by a famed radio talk show host in the ‘30s that became a lookout for Japanese subs. There are no pictures of this and most World War II installations on the coast because taking photos of all this secret stuff was a no-no.

However, the home is now a vacation rental run by A1 Beach Rentals, called the “Submarine.” You can see it.

Oregon Coast During World War II, History Still Haunts These Shores

Tillamook. The town contained the U.S. Naval Air Station, which housed the massive blimps that patrolled the skies and beaches from Neskowin up through Seaside. You can still visit this facility, as part of the Tillamook Air Museum. (Photo courtesy Seaside History Museum)

Cape Lookout. A startling incident occurred here where a bomber exercise went horribly wrong in 1943 and the aircraft crashed into the headland near Oceanside.

Warrenton. Fort Stevens is the crowned king of World War II attractions on the Oregon coast, where you can still visit Battery Russell, with the fort built in the Civil War and the guns later, both used especially during World War II to guard the Columbia. It was fired upon by the same submarine that launched the aircraft near Brookings, and the shells left a few craters around the beaches and swamps here. One nearly hit the wreck of the Peter Iredale.

Also see Remnants of WWII on Oregon Coast You Can Visit

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