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Radar Bunker at Coos Bay's Cape Arago: Living S. Oregon Coast History

Published 07/01/21 at 6:45 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Radar Bunker at Coos Bay's Cape Arago: Living S. Oregon Coast History

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(Coos Bay, Oregon) - World War II along the Oregon coast meant some vast changes for everyone – just as throughout the United States. But here, it meant people guarding the shores, often quite literally, with soldiers patrolling beaches on foot and various aircraft keeping an eye on things. It also meant secret or semi-secret installations all over the coastline. Patrol base camps, runways, forts of one kind or another and actual radar stations housed in secret bunkers dotted the region. (Photos Steven Greif, Coos HIstory Museum)

Tracking down this kind of history isn't always easy, and photographs are downright rare in many cases. No one was allowed to take photographs of installations or bases, such as the case of the submarine lookout house in Lincoln City. Now a vacation rental, at the time it housed a group of army men keeping an eye on the seas for invaders, but no pictures exist of this because of such restrictions.

Those bunkers were an especially touchy subject – and there were many along the coastline during World War II. Even now these are in remote places or hidden by brush and virtually unknown, like the radar bunker at Oceanside or far into the woods at Tillamook Head. (The Mysterious World War II Bunker Atop Oregon Coast's Tillamook Head)

Near Coos Bay, however, one radar bunker is still found at Cape Arago and it's not far from the main parking lot of the southern Oregon coast hotspot. This one was called Station B-28, utilizing the SCR-270 radar equipment technology at the time. The mission was to not just look for incoming enemy aircraft but also to assist U.S. planes in their patrols and maneuvers.

These days, it's lit up and splattered in colorful graffiti and showing only empty concrete rooms that are now without roofing, including two vent towers for the generators. It's about a quarter mile from the main road, with the remainder of the Cape Arago trail beyond that.

Steve Greif of the Coos Bay History Museum provided photographs and information on the old Cape Arago bunker, and said it is east from the Cape Arago Highway and just beyond the Shore Acres entrance.

“Very overgrown now but in the 1940s would have been a good lookout,” Greif said.

It all started with Louis J. Simpson, who built the mansion atop Shore Acres after getting quite wealthy. He was instrumental in bringing about Highway 101 in the 1910s, originally called the Roosevelt Military Highway as World War I and defensive preparations were part of the reasoning behind the roadway.

His mansion and his land joined the war effort in the ‘40s.

“The military took over Simpson's Shore Acres during WWII (he had granted it to Oregon for a state park) and used the home on the cliff as a lookout for possible Japanese submarine, ship, or aircraft activity,” Greif said.

The bunker, having started in 1942, had a load of cables running throughout, and you can still see the spaces in the floor where those were laid. The massive antenna was on the side of the hill, and in fact much of the operations were built into the hill to protect it from the elements as well as any attack.

Some amount of natural camouflage was there in the form of a large tree, providing cover for even much of the antenna and those towering exhaust structures – according to FortWiki.

To this day those four operations rooms remain largely intact, which included an officer's room, the room for the equipment itself, and operations rooms for those keeping watch.

Down on Shore Acres, the Simpson Mansion (photo at bottom) housed as many as 50 men, which was about half the size of the radar station at Tillamook Head by Seaside, which utilized almost 100.

Station B-28 was shut down in 1944, and by 1946 that technology was declared obsolete.

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Shore Acres photos below courtesy Oregon's Adventure Coast / Steven Michael Photography

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