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When the Japanese bombed Oregon in WWII

Just before dawn on September 9, 1942, a Japanese submarine surfaced 25 miles off Cape Blanco near Port Orford. The submarine contained a tiny, modified Zero fighter with folding wings, which was transported in a small hangar attached to the deck of the submarine.

Flown by Nobuo Fujita, a Chief Warrant Officer and pilot in the Japanese Imperial Navy, and his crew man, Petty Officer Shoji Okuda, it dropped two 170-lb incendiary bombs on the slopes of Wheeler Ridge on the sides of Mt Emily, 10 miles northeast of Brookings.

The plan was to start a forest fire that would weaken the war resolve of the U.S. and cause panic and depression among the American people.

This mission was so secret that it came as a total surprise to American military intelligence. And, was so secret that it was a half-day after the attack before Americans knew there had been an attack at all.

After Fujita's bombing run, the I-25 came under attack by US Navy patrol aircraft, forcing the submarine to hide on the ocean floor off Port Orford.

The Naval attacks were unsuccessful, and Fujita was able to launch an additional bombing sortie three weeks later. Fujita's crew man Okuda was later killed in action, but Fujita continued flying until 1944, when he returned to Japan to train kamikaze pilots.

He survived the war to become a successful businessman. He tried throughout the final 35 years of his life to repair the damage of the war by building a bridge of peace and respect between Japan and the US. "He was so very sorry. He had very, very deep regrets," said Ernie Bowers, 61, a close friend of Fujita's. Fujita visited Brookings after the war four times.

He gave Brookings his family's 400-year-old Samurai sword as a gesture of peace and good will during his first visit in 1962. The sword was placed in the mayor's office, where it remains today. He also hosted a group of Brookings-Harbor High School students at his home in Japan and was an honored guest at the 1990 annual Azalea Festival in Brookings. The Brookings City Council declared Fujita an honorary citizen.

Fujita's ashes now rest on the same spot where his first bombs landed on Mt. Emily.

The site of the bombing is marked and can be visited via a good gravel road. Pick up a trail guide at the Chetco Ranger District office in Brookings. From town, allow about three hours for the drive and 3/4-mile hike. Sturdy shoes are advised. The Bombsite Trail (No. 1118) is one mile long on Wheeler Ridge several miles east of Brookings. To get to it, from U.S. 101, take South Bank Road up the Chetco River to Forest Service Road No. 1205 (Mt. Emily Road) and follow the signs. The trail is on No. 1205 after spur No. 260. The trail is part of a national recreation user-fee program and requires a $3 parking fee.

 


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