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Oregon's pioneer newspapers were also political organs, advancing their cause in news articles as well as editorials. The most prominent advocates were Asahel Bush of the Oregon Statesman (Salem) and T.J. Dryer of theOregonian (Portland), Democrat and Whig, respectively. But as the nation entered the Civil War and demands for suppression of "traitors" appeared in the North, it was the editors at smaller weekly papers in Oregon and California who would pay for their outspoken views.
One of the three major forts designed to protect the mouth of the Columbia River, Fort Stevens was constructed on the Oregon side of the river’s mouth. The three forts—Fort Stevens, and, in Washington, Forts Columbia and Canby—were authorized by an act of Congress in February 1862 to provide “for the defense in Oregon and Washington Territory at or near the mouth of the Columbia River.” While the original purpose was to protect the river from Confederate commerce raiders (such as the C.S.S. Alabama), the Civil War was over before Fort Stevens was fully operational.
The most significant event in the fort’s history took place on the night of June 21, 1942, when the I-25, under the command of Commander Tagami, opened fire on Fort Stevens with its 5.5 deck gun. Seventeen shells landed on the military reservation without causing significant damage, and once more the fort’s guns remained silent—among other reasons, the submarine was believed to be out of range. Fort Stevens was the only military installation in the contiguous United States to be shelled by a foreign enemy warship since the War of 1812. A stone monument south of Battery Russell commemorates the event.
In the course of the Spanish American War, the United States attacked and occupied the Spanish colonies of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. The Second Oregon Volunteer Infantry was initially sent to the Philippines to defeat the Spanish and aid the islands’ independence movement. But the U.S. soon changed tack, abandoning its alliance with the Filipinos and annexing the islands from Spain. The Oregon Volunteers participated in the occupation of Spanish Manila and in the brutal land war against Filipino nationalists that followed.
The Oregon Plan, implemented in May 1942, led to the organization of the first Japanese American farm labor camp during World War II. The camp, in Malheur County, housed 350 Japanese Americans who had been incarcerated in Oregon by Executive Order 9066 in the months after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. It marked the beginning of the War Relocation Authority’s (WRA) seasonal labor program, which between 1942 and 1944 executed more than 33,000 farm labor contracts with incarcerated Japanese Americans from across the West Coast.
The Mitchell Monument marks the spot near Bly, Oregon, where six people were killed by a Japanese balloon bomb during World War II. Designated by the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, this is the only place on the continental United States where Americans were killed by enemy action during World War II.
In the years after the Civil War, the U.S. government built up its military defenses by developing short-distance or sea-going coastline battleships. One notable feature of these ships was their smaller coal chambers, which held only enough fuel for a 5,000-mile voyage. With the support of Theodore Roosevelt, then assistant secretary of the navy, the Union Iron Works of San Francisco began building the U.S.S. Oregon on November 19, 1891.
During World War II, Swan Island was the site of one of the Kaiser shipyards and worker housing. At the request of the United States government, contractor and industrialist Henry J. Kaiser developed a major shipbuilding operation at Portland and across the Columbia at Vancouver, Washington. Between 1942 and 1945, the Kaiser shipyards produced 147 T-2 tankers at Swan Island, making it the Liberty and Victory ship capital of the United States. In all, 455 ships were produced at Kaiser's Oregon shipyards during World War II. The temporary worker housing created on Swan Island during the war was used to accommodate some of the people displaced by the Vanport flood in 1948. Many of the displaced had to remain for up to a year at Swan Island because of the post-war housing shortage in Portland.
William Oliver Everson, a prominent poet in the San Francisco Renaissance, was also a master printer, Dominican lay brother, literary scholar, riveting speaker, and dynamic teacher. Everson organized and directed the fine arts camp for conscientious objectors at Waldport, the only one of its kind during the war, which attracted musicians, painters, actors, and writers from other CO camps around the country. His career as a printer began at the camp, where he helped create the Untide Press, which published the literary magazine Illiterati and produced twelve beautifully designed books, including his own, The Waldport Poems and War Elegies.
In 1942, after many men in Oregon had left the workforce to fight in World War II, thousands of women joined a different kind of army to work on Oregon farms. Farmers in Oregon had faced labor shortages during the summer of 1941 and expected the problem to be more severe in 1942, with the greatest need being in the Willamette Valley. In the spring of 1942, state officials registered nearly 100,000 women who said they were available for emergency farm work. The state recruited and trained women at Oregon State College (OSC) in Corvallis (now Oregon State University) and, from 1943 until 1945, worked with the Women’s Land Army (WLA) to place more than 78,000 women on Oregon farms.