Fort Stevens
A Little Known Piece of History

Hammond, OR.

September 24, 2000

Now those of you that have met me, know that on occasion, I like to carve a little on a walking stick. It's better than needlepoint and relatively inexpensive. The one issue of course is acquiring the sticks to carve on. For me that was quite simple, my old friend and field editor, Lynn Davis builds logging roads along the Oregon-Washington border. On those rare occasions when we get together, he and his lovely wife Sue take me out into the pristine forests to hunt for that perfectly straight Alder tree just waiting to be converted into a piece of art. Now you have to understand that I like to cut my sticks just a little larger than the finished product will be, so that I can shape them a little in the process. Well, Dex, as we call him, found a nice tree that was somewhat bigger than needed, but he thought it would do. I grabbed the chain saw and in no time we had ourselves an excellent specimen to work with. Dex wondered if it might be a little to big but I told him that it was just fine. Boy, I wonder how long it will take me to whittle this thing down to something I can carry?

Trivia: Where was the last time the Continental US was attacked by a foreign power? Need a hint, OK, it involved the shelling of a coastal installation. Hmmm, need another one? It was coordinated with a bombing attack. Still not sure? Last hint, it occurred on June 21, 1942. If you know the answer, move directly to the front of the military-buff line.

We discovered these intriguing facts after making a run to the coast where we stopped off at the Fort Stevens State Park near Hammond, Oregon. Fort Stevens was one of the many coastal artillery fortifications that were built during the Civil War and then enhanced over the years, up until the end of WWII when coastal artillery was abandoned, having been made obsolete by air power.
Like many of the other coastal installations, this Fort, in its heyday, housed over 2,500 men, and never fired a shot in anger. However, here is where Fort Stevens differs from all of the other coastal artillery installations; it has the dubious distinction of being the only fort shelled by a foreign power since 1812, and believe it or not, it was 1942. Only the staunchest of military buffs have even heard of the incident which occurred around 10:30PM, on the evening of June 21st, 1942 when a Japanese submarine surfaced some 20,000 yards (just over 11 miles) off the Oregon coast and opened up with its single deck gun. The submarine had a sea plane attached to its deck, which it could submerge with, without damage. Just prior to the shelling of Fort Stevens, this plane took off from the sub and dropped two incendiary bombs on the Oregon coast. Both bombs detonated in wooded areas and although there were small fires as a result, the ground was wet and the fires soon went out. The plane returned to the sub safely and after landing in the water was hoisted aboard, reattached and the I-25 sailed away into the history books as having been the only ones to have ever shelled the US mainland during the war. The deck gun which fired several shells had no specific sighting on the installation's facilities and the shells fell harmlessly on the beach area. One shell did explode dangerously near a pillbox manned by two soldiers who had quite a tale to tell come that morning. Now speaking of those little military trivia questions, how about "What was the first intercontinental weapon ever used in a war?" As World War II wound down, the Japanese created a most devious plan to again bomb the US mainland. They worked for two years developing and testing a paper balloon that could carry an incendiary bomb into the American heartland. The plan was to launch paper balloons carrying the bombs, let them travel with the wind currents and land on the American cities, forests and farmlands. In the dry season, widespread scattering of these weapons could theoretically burn out the vital forest of the Pacific Coast. This was Japan's purpose along with the associated psychological effect upon the American people. Over 6,000 balloons were launched between November 1944 and April 1945 and an estimated 1000 reached the US. The balloons took an average of 60 hours to cross the Pacific Ocean and were found from Alu in the Aleutians to, as far east as Michigan. Some even went into Mexico. Only a few hundred were ever tracked, recovered or destroyed. Of the remaining there is no trace. Considering the widespread dispersion of these balloon bombs, the primary goal of the US was to prevent the Japanese from hearing of their effectiveness. The Office of Censorship requested newspaper editors and radio broadcasters to give no publicity whatsoever to balloon sightings or incidents. The stories of the incidents and how they were explained away makes for some fascinating reading. The Fort is yet another example of the little pieces of history that are tucked away in quiet rooms all through the country, just waiting for someone to stop by and rediscover them.

For more information on Ft. Stevens, visit their website at:

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