Monday, June 1, 2015

June 1_A day in the life of Susan and Dale playing tourist.

Where did we go today? Fort Stevens State Park in Hammond, OR.
What is there you ask yourself?  ​A military fort and not just an ordinary fort. ​​This one was build in the 1890's and decommission in the late 1940's. ​

Our day started chilly and damp, but it is a place where we could see and touch Oregon's military past. A past where very little was written in the history books of Florida or Illinois schools.  ​There is a free guided tour of "Battery Mishler", ​however it was not available when we arrived.

The follow write up is by David Lindstrom of the Friends of Old Fort Stevens, who is a park historian.

David Lindstrom noted that Battery Mishler was built in the 1890s to protect the mouth of the Columbia River. "In the late 19th century, America was emerging as a world power and we had many potential enemies who looked at the Pacific Northwest with envy. Some strategists said that if our enemies traveled up the Columbia River and reached Portland, they had a straight shot to Seattle and they could go south if they wanted to – it was viewed as a hub by the enemy."

A century ago, Battery Mishler was a part of a Columbia River Harbor Defenses that included multiple gun batteries that were located on both sides of the Columbia River. Fort Stevens is one of three forts built at the mouth of the Columbia River and it boasted eight concrete batteries – including mortars and long and short range rifles. Fort Canby and Fort Columbia were on the Washington state side.

At Ft. Stevens, Battery Mishler was the only underground battery and it housed two 10" guns that were open to the sky. Each gun was mounted on disappearing carriages, which hid the guns behind concrete and earth walls when not being fired. Each gun was operated by teams of 35 men who worked efficiently as one unit to fire each massive gun.

"It was choreographed," said Lindstrom. "You had to be at your station for a task at a specific time and nobody else could be there but you. All of that was figured out and choreographed and practiced."

The guns could fire 617-pound shells at a distance of nine miles. "The concussion from each firing was amazing!" added Lindstrom. "When the mortar battery fired, the concussion would rip your pant leg seam. The men didn't wear ear plugs either. You could feel the pressure of the blast across your entire body.

There is a tour that will takes you past hallways and rooms and interesting features including a massive underground gun pit. The huge gun was mounted atop a large, thick concrete pillar.

Koch added, "You get a feel for the grit of the work and what the environment was like for the soldiers down here. You can't duplicate this anywhere else – you can only get it at Ft. Stevens. You're not going to see this anywhere in the United States – only here in Oregon."

In the late 1800's, Fort Stevens was a significant statement to the world that the United States was a force to be reckoned with: "What we see here is a manifestation of a nation's effort to become a world power," said Lindstrom. "We were an emerging world power and this shows how the US developed that position."

Koch offered that a tour of the Ft. Steven's defenses rounds out a fascinating and rewarding visit to the state park: "You may be here for a camping weekend or for enjoying the clamming tides or just to walk the wonderful beach we have here. But then, you can step over here and explore a bit of Oregon history. You get the best of everything that state parks can offer."

The Underground Battery Mishler Guided Tours are free and occur daily
​ except for when we arrived​. A $5 daily parking permit is required. Year-round parking permits are also available from Oregon State Parks.

The Fort Stevens attack was the only time during World War II that a continental United States military installation was attacked by the Axis Powers.

The Japanese submarine I-25, under the command of Tagami Meiji, was assigned to destroy enemy ships and engage the enemy on land with their 14 cm deck gun. Also transporting a Yokosuka E14Y seaplane, the submarine was manned by a crew of 97 men. On 21 June 1942, I-25 was in US coastal waters, following allied fishing boats to avoid mine fields in the area.

Late that night, Commander Meiji surfaced his submarine at the mouth of the Columbia River. His target was Fort Stevens, dating back to the American Civil War and armed with obsolete Endicott era artillery, including 12-inch coast defense mortars, and a number of 10 in (250 mm) disappearing guns.

Meiji ordered the deck gun manned and opened fire on Fort Stevens' Battery Russell. The first shots were harmless, in part because the fort's commander ordered an immediate blackout and refused to let his men return fire.

Most rounds struck a nearby baseball field and a swamp, though one landed near Battery Russell and another next to a concrete pillbox. One round severed several large telephone cables, the most significant damage the Japanese caused. Seventeen 5.5 in (140 mm) rounds were fired by the attackers.

American aircraft on a training mission spotted the I-25 and called in an A-29 Hudson bomber to attack. The A-29 found the I-25, but the submarine dodged the bombs and submerged undamaged.

No lives were lost during the encounter. Nevertheless, the attack helped to create the 1942 West Coast invasion scare. Rolls of barbed wire were strung from Point Adams southward in case of an invasion. The wreck of the Peter Iredale was entangled in the wire and would remain so until the war's end.

"Fort Casey Disappearing gun" by I, Jonathan Zander. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
"Seacoast-Battery". Licensed under PD-US via Wikipedia -​

Sailing from Salina Cruz, Mexico, on or about September 26, 1906, the Peter Iredale was bound for Portland, Oregon with 1,000 tons of ballast and a crew of 27, including two stowaways. The voyage up the coast was unremarkable until the night of October 25, when Captain H. Lawrence sighted the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse at 3:20 a.m. local time. The crew altered course first east-northeast and then northeast to enter the mouth of the Columbia River in thick mist and a rising tide. Under strong winds out of the west, an attempt was made to wear the ship away from shore, but a heavy northwest squall grounded the Peter Iredale on Clatsop Sands (now called Clatsop Spit). High seas and wind drove the ship ashore. A lifeboat was dispatched from Hammond, Oregon and assisted in evacuating the sailors, who were tended to at Fort Stevens. No casualties occurred in the accident.

As Susan Says SeeYa

Safe Travels and Journeys from DaGirls 

                Della                     &                      Tilly