Trail Dedication at Japanese Bombing Site Set
By Patty Burel, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest
On October 2, the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest is sponsoring a dedication of a new interpretive facility and redesigned trail at the mile-long Wheeler Ridge Japanese Bombing Site Trail, 19 miles outside of Brookings, Oregon.
"We're excited to have this new interpretive facility on the Forest, one that tells the public about a fascinating and little-known event in American history," said Scott Conroy, Forest Supervisor of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. “We appreciate the various community partners that have helped to make this event possible,” said Conroy.
The dedication ceremony will take place at the Wheeler Ridge trailhead, and will include a short ceremony followed by a hike down the trail.
During this event, the agency will unveil new interpretive signs installed along the route. The Forest Service will acknowledge financial donation towards the interpretive facility and a new bench, made by the alumni of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy and the City of Brookings.
After the dedication ceremony, a hike will be lead by a Forest Service historian to the newly designed trail overlook.
The following guests of honor will take part in the dedication ceremony:
- Curry County resident and former four-term Oregon State Representative Walt Schroeder will serve as master of ceremonies for the event.
- The Consul General Akio Egawa, Consulate-General of Japan in Portland.
- Key note speaker at the event will be prominent American poet and Poet Laureate of the State of Oregon Lawson Fusao Inada. Mr. Inada is an emeritus professor of writing at Southern Oregon University in Ashland and an author of five books.
The Forest Service is seeking help to outreach to those people directly involved in the history of the Wheeler Ridge Japanese Bombing Site Trail or their relatives to invite them to the trail dedication. There still is some room for interested attendees but there is also limited parking and transportation available.
For more information and to sign up to attend, please contact Kim Hunter, Partnership Coordinator, no later than Friday, September 26 at the Gold Beach Ranger District office (541) 247-3636.
The newly completed interpretive trail tells the story and significance of the event unique in American history that took place at the trailhead, a unique spot as one of only four bombs ever dropped by enemy aircraft on the continental United States.
In 1942, the Army and the Forest Service jointly set up special “Aircraft Warning Service” observation stations to scan the skies for enemy aircraft at fire lookouts in the forest along the Oregon coast.
In early September 1942, a submarine which had sailed all the way from Japan with a small float plane disassembled inside arrived undetected off the coast of southern Oregon. On September 9, 1942, the pilot, Nobuo Fujita, and his navigator Shoji Okuda, took off in the seaplane and dropped two 168-pound incendiary bombs on Wheeler Ridge.
Howard Gardner, an Aircraft Warning Service observer and Forest Service employee stationed on top of Mt. Emily Fire Lookout in Brookings, initially spotted the fire and radioed to the Gold Beach Ranger Station that morning that he had spotted a smoke visible on Wheeler Ridge, a few miles to the southeast of Mt. Emily.
Gardner and another lookout, Keith Johnson from the Bear Wallow Fire Lookout, and two other men stationed near Brookings hiked to the site and were the first to find and suppress the fire. They encountered a small crater with metal fragments from the bomb. Due to the damp conditions in the forest that year, the small fire was quickly extinguished.
Later Japanese pilot Nobuo Fujita became an honored visitor to, and forged a long-standing friendship with, the people of Brookings. On his first postwar visit to Brookings in 1962, Mr. Fujita carried with him a 400-year-old samurai sword that had been handed down in his family from generation to generation. He presented the sword, which he had carried with him throughout the war, to Brookings as a symbol of his regret, and it now hangs in the local library.
Following his first visit to the city in 1962, Mr. Fujita served for many years as an informal “ambassador” of peace and friendship. He made a number of visits over the years, planting a redwood peace tree at the bomb site in 1992. He later participated in the dedication of the 1994 state highway marker to the bomb site.
Following Fujita’s death in 1997, his daughter, Yoriko Asakura, in his honor, buried some of his ashes at the Wheeler Ridge site under a small redwood seedling.
In 2001, the bombsite redwood tree was dedicated as an “Oregon Heritage Tree”. The guest of honor at the ceremony was Toyojiro Soejima, Consul General of Japan, who spoke of past and current relations between Oregon and his country.
In September 1998, a visiting group of fourteen former Japanese naval officers who were Japanese Naval Academy trainees during World War II visited Brookings to retrace the history of Mr. Fujita. They donated $1,060 to the City of Brookings which later provided the dollars as a gift to the Forest Service to use as a donation to improve the historic interpretation of the Wheeler Ridge Japanese Bombing Site Trail.