Oregon was the only state to sustain casualties, to be bombed by enemy aircraft and to have a military installation shelled during WWII. Additionally, thousands of Japanese-Americans who had settled in Oregon were sent to internment camps.
After the attack at Pearl Harbor there was panic along the west coast of the U.S. with a strong feeling that the Japanese would continue on from Hawaii to America’s west coast. U.S. troops were hastily sent to guard the coastline and all Japanese-Americans were under suspicion of possible espionage. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed and issued Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, cleared the way for the relocation of Japanese-Americans to internment camps. Over 120,000 Japanese-Americans from Oregon, Washington and California endured relocation—more than 60 percent were born in the U.S. Most who were removed lost their homes and livelihoods. Many Hood River orchardists retained their property as neighbors managed their property in expectation of their return. For many others that was not the case.
The Japanese didn’t continue on from Hawaii, but they did send submarines to the west coast. One of those submarines, the I-25, followed a fishing boat in near the mouth of the Columbia River where it surfaced on June 21, 1942 and fired 17 shells toward the Oregon coast in retaliation for the bombing on Tokyo by Doolittle’s Raiders. The shells landed near Fort Stevens which was manned by members of the 249th Coast Artillery. They quickly went into action. Much to the great chagrin of the men the order was given to not return fire. The I-25 submerged and returned to Japan. The only casualty of the shelling was the baseball backstop.
When the I-25 returned for its next mission, it was issued a Yokosuka E14Y “Glen” seaplane, designed to be disassembled and put into the sub. The I-25 then returned to Oregon’s southern coastline just off of Brookings. It surfaced, assembled the “Glen,” and launched it with two bombs designated to be dropped in the forest to start a large forest fire. The Japanese hoped this act would pull U.S. troops back from the Pacific Theater to fight the fire. The “Glen” was spotted by fire watchers and the small fires started by the bombs were quickly extinguished. Shortly after disassembling the seaplane, the I-25 was located and bombed by a A-29 Hudson reconnaissance aircraft. The bombs caused minor damage, but the I-25 was much more cautious when it launched the seaplane a second time near Port Orford. No bombs were detected from the second flight.
Japan continued to persist in its attempts to start a large forest fire in Oregon and decided to use the newly discovered jet stream to launch 9,000 balloon bombs. The hope was that they would land in the U.S. and start forest fires. These balloon bombs were found as far east as Michigan, as far south as Mexico and as far north as Alaska. One of the balloon bombs landed outside the small southern Oregon town of Bly. It was discovered by Mrs. Elyse Mitchell, a Sunday school teacher and expectant mother, along with five Sunday school children, Jay Gifford, Edward Engen, Sherman Shoemaker, Dick Patzke and Joan Patzke. The discovery proved lethal, killing them all. Mr. Archie Mitchell, the teacher's husband and church minister, escaped death because he was parking the car. It is reported that as he got out of the car, he heard his wife say, "Look what I found, dear," just before the explosion.
The Tillamook Naval Station housed eight K-class blimps during WWII. The mission of Squadron ZP-33 was to patrol the Oregon and Washington coastlines to search for Japanese submarines. One storage hangar, Hangar B, still survives and houses the Tillamook Air Museum, the largest wooden structure in the United States.