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How World War II Affected the Oregon Coast

Published on 06-06-24 at 04:15
Via Oregon Coast Beach Connection

(Oregon Coast) – The grand details of World War II are varied and incredibly layered. If you are a student of history at all, this one presents the most constant stream of amazing facts and revelations; it’s an endless supply of breathtaking drippers. Even D-Day itself can deliver these, which is celebrated today, January 6 – now the 80th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy that ultimately sealed the end of the conflict in Europe. (Extremely rare photo of World War II personnel in Lincoln City, courtesy of the North Lincoln Historical Museum)

Did you actually know that it was a giant fake ghost army that helped win D-Day? Or that Pink Floyd unintentionally helped find another Nazi bunker in Berlin in the 1990s? (More on that below).

Even the Oregon coast has several surprises when it comes to World War II – although D-Day itself took place an ocean and a continent away. It was World War II in general that had a profound effect on the seaside resorts, especially after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1942.

There are many famous stories about this area during wartime: the Japanese submarine that fired on Fort Stevens, the bombing attempts of a plane launched from that submarine at Brookings, and the balloon bombs that went off there. However, this coastline played a major role in defensive measures that are still somewhat conspicuous to this day.

All kinds of patrols hit these beaches. Radar and surveillance bases went up from Brookings through Astoria. Zeppelins roamed the sky and even barbed wire went up in places like the wreck of the Peter Iredale.

One of the surprises: there are almost no photos of military life on the Oregon coast. That’s because for security reasons it was forbidden to take photos of operations or bases here. At that time, selfies with the big guns heading west were not allowed.

This even extends to regular homes in the area. One house in the Nelscott neighborhood of Lincoln City was used as a submarine lookout. Until recently it was a holiday home, built in the 1940s. Like many places on this coastline, it became a home for military personnel stationed in the area. This one, however, was a little different: there was actually a large cannon built on the south side, on the cliff. That apparently gave way to erosion one day.

The veil of secrecy means there are no photos of it.

Numerous homes and hotel businesses became host to military personnel, including the later Spouting Horn restaurant in Depoe Bay. However, there are a few rare photos of that.

Life on the Oregon coast often changed dramatically. Tourism dried up in most places (although Seaside sometimes seemed to do well during the war years). One of the main forces there was gasoline rations, perhaps even more than the need to use the beaches to protect against incoming enemies.

One notable aspect was the power cuts: these were strictly enforced in larger towns and much of the coast. Homes and businesses were forced to turn off their lights at night to prevent enemy aircraft from becoming a target.

On Oregon’s central coast, around Depoe Bay and through parts of Lincoln City, Army boats often checked offshore to see if houses were blocking their lights. Not everyone took it seriously, and the army officer in charge of the area wrote an op-ed in the local newspaper threatening martial law if they kept it up.

There are still a few structures from World War II, but not many. You can see the Oregon Coast during World War II, history with more lessons to learn and the remains of World War II on the Oregon Coast that you can visit.

This includes the radar stations.

An important example lies deep in the woods of Tillamook Head, between Seaside and Cannon Beach. Called J-23 there was a whole base up there with a mess hall, accommodation for the men and of course the large radar equipment. The bunker, some railway tracks and some markings still exist. However, it has pesky bats and it is illegal to go in there.

Another that still exists is on the south coast at Cape Arago, near Coos Bay. It was called Station B-28 and today it resembles the burned-out remains of a toilet. At the time, however, these bunkers were alive with people and buzzing equipment.

Another radar station can be found near Oceanside.

Continued from above:

Just before D-Day, the Allies had to fool the Axis powers into landing anywhere in France other than Normandy. So the US and others created a “ghost army” of fake vehicles, tanks, a fake base and more, all activated on January 20, 1944. Called Operation Fortitude, it enlisted the help of an army of artists, including future pioneers like Bill Blass ( fashion designer). There was even talk of so-called radio traffic – all to trick Nazi surveillance into thinking that the troop build-up was taking place elsewhere.

It worked. Hitler was reportedly stunned when he received word of the invasion, even though he denied for a time that the invasion was not where German intelligence thought it would be.

In 1990, after the Berlin Wall fell, Pink Floyd would perform in the newly unified city with a concert by The Wall. As excavations ensued to prepare an area for the massive performance, an old Nazi bunker that had not been seen before was found. It had housed SS troops during the war and ended up on the eastern side of the border when Russia took over that area.

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