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Dark Destinations > Locations - O > Oregon WWII Shelling Historical Landmark

Oregon WWII Shelling Historical Landmark Other destinations within a
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Availability: Open to the Public
Filed Under: Historical Locations > WWII
Added By: TheCabinet
Added On: September 11, 2008 - 12:17 AM UTC
Last Modified: September 13, 2008 - 04:31 PM UTC
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Delaura Beach Ln, Warrenton, OR 97146, USA (Hammond, Oregon)
Oregon WWII Shelling Historical Landmark
This memorial commemorates a generally forgotten incident of the shelling of Fort Stevens on the United States mainland by a Japanese submarine during World War II. Members of the American Legion District 1 of Oregon dedicated the memorial on June 21, 1970 near Fort Stevens State Park.

The memorial reads:
"On June 21, 1942 a 5.5" shell exploded here, one of 17 fired at Columbia River Harbor Defense Installations by the Japanese submarine I-25. The only hostile shelling of a military base on the U.S. mainland during World War II and the first since the war of 1812."

Leading Up to the Shelling
Following the successful Doolittle Raid that showed that American forces could strike mainland Japan, Japanese high command was reportedly caught completely off guard and was "deeply embarrassed" by the American success. They decided that the best form of retaliation would come by striking back on mainland United States. The military then launched a series of operations to achieve this goal.

The first attack occurred on February 23, 1942 when the Ellwood oil production facilities near Santa Barbara, California were shelled by the Japanese submarine I-17. There were no casualties and the total amount of damage was estimated at only 500 to 1000 dollars.

However, the true effect of the shelling was that it generated a widespread panic up and down the West Coast that the Japanese might be planning an invasion. President Franklin Roosevelt had signed Executive Order 9066, which designated "military areas" as "exclusion zones," only four days prior to the shelling. The order empowered the concerned authorities to "exclude" anyone of Japanese ancestry from the Pacific coastline, which encompassed California, Oregon, and Washington. As such, all Japanese-American civilians up and down the West Coast were transferred to internment camps or so-called "War Relocation Camps" for the entire duration of the war.

The Shelling of Fort Stevens
The next operation moved up the coastline into the northern part of Oregon and centered on the military reservation known as Fort Stevens. On June 21, 1942, the Japanese submarine I-25 shadowed fishing boats from the nearby city of Astoria to maneuver around minefields and within eight miles of the Oregon coast. The area was targeted because the Japanese believed that it was home to a U.S. Naval base that housed submarines and destroyers. In reality, such a base had been approved but had not started development. Unaware of this, Commander Meiji Tagami of the Imperial Japanese Navy ordered all 108 crewmen to their battle stations. Around 11:00 P.M., he gave the order to fire and the submarine commenced shelling the coastline.

Chaos erupted on shore as 2,500 soldiers scrambled to their posts. Men manning the guns at Battery Russell quickly loaded their weapons and began searching the waters to find their target. A searchlight on the beach was turned on and commenced scanning the ocean, but was quickly ordered off for fear of giving away their position. The men resorted to using the flashes of light that came from the submarine as it fired off its shells in an attempt to get the submarine in their sights. However, the order quickly came down from the Senior Duty Officer, Major Robert M. Huston, that the men were to hold their fire.

There are different accounts of why the U.S. military did not return fire, including rumors that the commanding officers had been too drunk to issue orders at the time of the attack or that the officials were concerned about having to pay combat pay. While those accounts were completely wild speculation, the true reason had more to do with strategic planning. Some accounts have the officers erroneously believing that the submarine was out of range of the World War I-era guns employed at Battery Russell. In addition, there was real concern that by returning fire, they would be giving away their position. Whatever the reason, the decision turned out to be the right call, despite the overwhelming displeasure by the troops that wanted to fire back.

The submarine fired off 17 shells at the Oregon coastline. Because Commander Tagami was unaware of what aerial forces the United States military had on shore, the gunnery crew did not use their gun sight, so that it was available to them if they came under retaliatory fire from the sky. As such, the sub really wasn't aiming at anything in particular. After the 17th shell was fired and no shots were returned, Commander Tagami ordered his men below deck and sent the submarine on a course due west, escaping into the night. Following the war, Commander Tagami was quoted as saying, "If I had any idea those cannons were right in front of me I would never have been there."

The Aftermath
As it turned out, witnesses on shore only counted between 9 and 14 explosions, so some of the 17 shells might have fallen harmlessly into the ocean or were duds. For the ones that did make it to shore, there was very little damage caused. The only true casualties of the attack were a baseball diamond near Battery Russell and a power line that was severed by the explosion. There were no deaths among U.S. servicemen and the only injury that occurred is when a soldier gashed his head while rushing to his post.

Despite the minor damage, the incident reinforced the concerns of a potential Japanese invasion of the West Coast, as well as the shortcomings of Fort Stevens. Various coastal defense enhancements were made at the Fort and a civilian warning system was implemented, after complaints from the residents of nearby Astoria who had no idea what was going on at the time of the attack and received no communication from the military.

Further Attacks
The I-25 Japanese submarine was not done with the Oregon coast. On September 9, 1942, the sub launched a Yokosuka E14Y floatplane that dropped two incendiary bombs near Mount Emily, northeast of Brookings, Oregon. The goal of what has now been dubbed the "Lookout Air Raid" was for the bombs to start a massive wildfire that would divert attention from the War in the Pacific, as well as heighten fears of Japanese strikes on the United States mainland. However, the fire was quickly brought under control by weather conditions and the spotting of two Fire Lookouts who called in reinforcements. Despite its minor impact, the incident will remain in the history books as the first bombing by an enemy aircraft on the mainland United States.

Slightly more successful were a series of fire balloons (hydrogen balloons that contained an incendiary bomb) that were released from Japan into the Pacific jet stream. Over 9,000 fire balloons were launched, though only 300 actually landed in North America but did little damage. One of the balloons that landed near Bly, Oregon exploded and killed a mother and her five children on May 5, 1945, as they were looking it over as it hung in a tree. Their deaths mark the only deaths to occur in the continental United States due to an enemy attack during World War II.

The Monument
The spot that is marked by the monument is thought to have been the spot of one of the "craters" left behind by the shelling of Fort Stevens. In truth, no one really knows for sure. U.S. officials quickly cordoned off the craters left behind by the shells and sent their engineers to work in attempt to deconstruct the technology behind the shrapnel. In addition, no records were kept by the military that identified the spots where the shells had fallen or at least no records that were made available to the general public or the State Park service that took over Fort Stevens in 1975.
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See Also on
Blog: When Japan Struck the U.S. Mainland in WWII (06/21/09)
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The Second Attack on Pearl Harbor: Operation K And Other Japanese Attempts to Bomb America in World War II
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The Second World War: A Complete History
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World War II Fort Stevens Shelling Landmark
Photo of the Historical Landmark marking the spot a Japanese shell fell in WWII - May 2008.
From: TheCabinet
Wideshot of Japanese Shelling Landmark
A wider angle of the Historical Landmark marking the spot a Japanese shell landed in WWII-May 2008
From: TheCabinet
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The above content is for informational purposes only. Before making any travel arrangements, it is highly recommended that you contact those in charge of the property to check for updated availability and hours of operation. While we do our best to keep this information updated, we cannot guarantee that it is completely valid and up to date. Any destination marked "Closed to the Public" is marked that for a reason and we discourage any visits or attempts to gain access to that facility. Similarly, take note of any "Travel Advisory" that may be associated with a destination. Finally, treat any location and its local residents with respect. Any vandalism and/or unruly behavior is completely despicable and only ruins the experience for future visitors.

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