A Whisper of War

Battery David Russell.  Fort Stevens State Park.  Photo: KGilb.

Battery David Russell. Fort Stevens State Park. Photo: KGilb.

On the night of June 21, 1942—just 6½ months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the loss of America’s Pacific Fleet—a Japanese submarine surfaced off the Oregon Coast.  Its gun crew scrambled to get their deck cannon ready.  The sub’s commander gave the order to “open fire” and, for the first and only time in its history, the State of Oregon came under attack.  The target?  Fort Steven’s Battery Russell.

A total of 17 shells rained down upon the gun battery and surrounding area.  American gun crews raced to their duty stations, eager to engage, but the order to return fire never came.  The submarine was considered too far out of range for the battery’s 10” guns.  Plus, it was later reported that the fort’s commander simply didn’t want to reveal the size, strength, and exact location of this strategic defense installation to what he thought was an enemy recon vessel.  A recon vessel that might return one day with a Japanese invasion force in its wake.

So the American gunners were forced to wait out the barrage, cursing and fuming, until the Japanese sub finally gave up firing and slid back beneath the waves.  Fortunately, for the Americans, there were no casualties and very little damage. Just a few bomb craters, a baseball backstop that was left smoldering after the attack, and some badly jangled nerves.

For a more detailed account, please check out this article on the Offbeat Oregon History website.

Almost 70 years have passed since that night long ago.  The battery was decommissioned toward the end of the war and the troops moved on.  But the buildings still stand, silent and empty, crumbling a bit around the edges and scarred by rust.

Battery David Russell is just one of the many fascinating landmarks found inside Fort Stevens State Park.  The park is located less than five miles NE of Warrenton, OR.  For a map and detailed directions, please check out the Visit Fort Stevens website.

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