From left to right: Damaged tail section of
an American airplane; Soldier walks through a bombed out
building; Ruined firehouse and fire truck; Heavily damaged
aircraft hanger. (Oregon State Archives-Highway Division
pon hearing the news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor,
Oregonians shared feelings of shock, disbelief, fear, anger,
and sadness. The attack galvanized Americans, many of whom
just a day earlier had believed strongly in isolationism.
News from Pearl Harbor was relayed to the mainland by
telephone, telegraph, and teletype during Sunday morning.
The United States government heavily censored the news,
refusing to release information about the number of ships
sunk or the number of casualties. The next day the United
States declared war on Japan, triggering total American
involvement not only in the Pacific but also in the war
raging in Europe.
Governor Charles A.
In Salem Governor Charles Sprague quickly took action. In
addition to being governor, he was the publisher of the
Oregon Statesman newspaper. The paper already had
delivered the regular Sunday edition when the news broke.
Sprague ordered all of the staff back to work to publish an
"Extra" edition. An editorial on the front page braced the
readers for the inevitable: "We are at war. Well, we have
been at war before and have acquitted ourselves honorably.
We will do so again. We are all Americans in this war of
The same day Sprague wired a message to President Franklin
Roosevelt assuring "full support of the human and material
resources of the State of Oregon." In a related statement,
he called for vigilance against espionage and sabotage but
interestingly made an appeal for the rights of Americans of
Japanese descent who were living in Oregon: "...these
Japanese-Americans who are citizens should not be molested."
Roosevelt's secretary wrote back
with thanks for Sprague's support and went on to praise the
support of the "many loyal citizens in all parts of the
country." Just months later, on April 1, 1942, the U.S.
government began the systematic "evacuation" all
Japanese-Americans in Oregon and elsewhere on the West
Coast. The evacuees were sent to internment camps for the
duration of the war because they were determined to be a
risk to national security. Many of those who spent years in
the internment camps were members of families that included
American citizens for several generations. Decades later the
U.S. government formally apologized and made reparations to
the survivors of the camps.
On Monday, December 8 Governor Sprague issued a
proclamation (page 1 |
page 2) declaring an
"unlimited emergency" and outlining steps to coordinate
military, law enforcement, and civilian defense
organizations throughout the state. In the coming weeks,
months, and years the Oregon Defense Council, headed by
Sprague, developed policies for the protection of Oregon's
coasts, forests, and civilian population from potential
enemy invasions (see the
transcript of a Sprague radio address describing these
actions - 12 page PDF document). The threat loomed as more
than theoretical. Over the course of the war Japanese
submarines ranged off of the Oregon coast and Japanese
incendiary bombs carried by balloons fell on Oregon forests
starting fires. The Oregon State Archives holds a colorful
group of records from the Oregon Defense Council detailing
the prodigious efforts to keep the state safe from
Statesman Journal: Dec 7, 1991, Sp. Sec. pg. 7
Radio address transcript: Oregon State Archives Defense
Council Records, Special Bulletins 1941
On to USS Sederstrom
Responds | USS
Sederstrom | Other
Resources | Exhibit
Oregon State Archives Home