Archive for September, 2006

Oregon Cold War Week: SW Sector

This is the last post in this week’s special series on Cold War Oregon. Be sure to check-out the last part of this post for info about sites across Oregon that didn’t quite fit into my neat little categories.

Coos Head Air National Guard Station (North Bend)
I don’t know much about this facility other than the fact it was used by 104th Air Control Squadron of the Oregon Air National Guard. Recently, I think there was some discussion of deeding the land to one of the American Indian tribes in the area, but I don’t know if that ever went through. My guess is the Coast Guard uses this facility for their rescue helicopters these days.

Google Maps

US Naval Facility Coos Head (Charleston)
This has to be one of the more secret Cold War installations in Oregon. Built in 1958 at the entrance of Coos Bay, this small facility monitored underwater listening stations that were part of the Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) and the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS) used to track Soviet submarines. In the late ’80s, this station was closed and monitoring was transferred to Whidbey Island. I don’t know anything more about this site, but I’m guessing it’s semi-abandoned like Christmas Valley.

Google Maps

Kingsley Field (Klamath Falls)
Currently the home of the Oregon ANG 173d Fighter Wing, this facility mainly trains fighter pilots from across the country. But during the Cold War, this was a full fledged Air Force base. Not sure what the Air Force used the base for, but it was closed in 1978. In 1980, the 142nd Fighter Group began stationing fighter interceptors at the site and the unit was later renamed the 8123 Fighter Interceptor Training Squadron in 1983. The unit was renamed again, as the 114th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, in 1984 and finally became the 173rd Fighter Wing in 1996. BOMARC missiles may have been part of the Air Force installation as part of Air Defense Command (ADC), but I haven’t been able to find any information about what the Air Force actually did there. My dad claims he saw B-52s at Kingsley back in the ‘60s, so maybe it was either a satellite SAC base or some kind of refueling stop for strategic bombers. Boy, that runway is really long, I bet a B-52 could land there.

Google Maps

Cold War Oregon: Various Sites

AT&T Long Lines (Various Locations)
My dad told me about a hardened Cold War relay station in Roseburg a while back. Supposedly, the site was chosen because it was thought Roseburg could ride-out a nuclear attack better than other Oregon locales. I think it has something to do with weather patterns. Anyway, I do know AT&T maintained something called Long Lines, which were hardened facilities designed to withstand a nuclear attack. There was one site over on the Oregon coast at Saddle Mountain that was pretty extensive. The Maupin installation is definitely hardened (see photos), but not really used anymore from what I gather. There were basically two types of Long Lines sites, junctions (switched) and repeaters (relay).

Junction sites were larger, sometimes manned, providing switching of microwave signals. I think the Saddle Mountain facility was a junction site. Signals could be rerouted to various paths or underground cables depending on traffic load, bandwidth, and location. Termination points were usually located in a major city.

Repeater sites provided amplification of a signal. These sites were usually placed to get around obstructions, like mountains, or on long stretches where a signal might weaken. But with the adoption of fiber optic cables in the ‘70s, microwave reliance diminished. By the mid 1990s, microwave technology was pretty much obsolete (except for making popcorn and reheating coffee). Most of the repeater sites are shut down and their facilities have often been sold to small wireless companies.

King Mountain

South Saddle Mountain


AT&T Project Office: CLLI code LSBGVA05 (East Coast)

Civil Defense Community Fallout Shelters (Various Locations)
Probably most Oregon cities had Community Fallout Shelters. These were usually located in government buildings and would be stocked with survival supplies. I remember our post office in McMinnville being designated as a Community Fallout Shelter. My dad said that Melrose Hall on the Linfield College campus was also a Community Fallout Shelter, stocked with medical supplies apparently for the treatment of wounded urbanites who would have evacuated Portland during an atomic attack. The Community Fallout Shelter Program was born in 1961 and the purpose of the program was to locate, mark, and stock fallout shelter. Local governments (city and state) did the work as far as delivering and placing the supplies in the shelters, while the Feds provided actual shelter supplies. These fallout shelters were for radiation protection only, although some of the shelters would have offered a modicum of blast protection depending on the structure’s design and construction. My dad said the “duck and cover” drills were a joke. The old saying was, in case of atomic attack, put you head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye.

Cold War Civil Defense Museum

Occupying a Shelter: Civil Defense Film

Target You: Civil Defense Film

Let’s Face It: Civil Defense Film

September 22nd, 2006

Oregon Cold War Week: SE Sector

Over-The-Horizon-Backscatter Radar (Christmas Valley)
This massive radar complex was built late in the Cold War, sometime in the 1980s, about 17 miles east of Christmas Valley. Designed to detect Soviet bombers thousands of miles away, the facility was obsolete by the time it was built and mothballed just months after beginning operation. These strange looking radars were designed to bounce radio waves off the ionosphere in order to “see” around the curvature of the earth. The Christmas Valley installation is the transmitter site, while another complex in Tulelake, California receives the bounced signals. Monitoring was done from Mountain Home AFB in Idaho during the short time the site was operational. The site is now being maintained on a “caretaker” status just in case Joseph Stalin busts out of his glass coffin Simpsons style.

The Christmas Valley site could very well receive a new lease on life. In the 1990s, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration tested the radar system for weather forecasting. This type of radar has shown promise for tracking large storms over vast stretches of ocean where no other radar coverage exists.

Google Maps

Tule Lake Receiver (CA)

1 comment September 21st, 2006

Oregon Cold War Week: NE Sector

Umatilla Chemical Depot (Umatilla)
The Umatilla Chemical Depot opened in 1941 in northeastern Oregon as a storage site for wartime munitions and supplies. In 1962, the facility began storing chemical weapons for possible use in an all out war with the Soviets. Weapons stored in hardened bunkers included rockets, land mines, and bombs containing the nerve agents GB (sarin) and VX. Additional, there were many large containers of World War I era mustard gas. While the depot is still maintained, a significant stockpile of chemical weapons have been disposed of. As of July 26, 2006, 732 tons of GB loaded weapons have been destroyed, representing about 20% of the total stockpile.


Google Maps

Boardman Air Force Range (Boardman)
A bombing range used by the Oregon, Washington, and Idaho Air National Guard, this site was shut down in 2000. The range seems pretty small (12 miles by 12 miles square) but is still being used in some capacity. Between 1952 and 1956, the 57th Air Division at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington assumed responsibility for the Boardman Range. I think there were plans to create a rocket park here a while back, but it doesn’t seem like much is going on out there at the moment.

Google Maps

Pendleton Army Air Base (Pendleton)
This base was built during the Second World War (they trained the pilots for the famous Tokyo Raid here), but I don’t know if it was used during the Cold War. I believe it’s still used by either the Oregon Air National Guard or the Oregon Army National Guard. To be honest, I really don’t know much about this site, but I’ve seen it before, and it looks pretty small.

Google Maps

Add comment September 20th, 2006

Oregon Cold War Week: NW Sector

Portland Air National Guard Base (NE Portland)
The Oregon ANG 142nd Fighter Wing is probably the last remaining active vestige of our state’s Cold War legacy. Leasing 246 acres at Portland International Airport, the fighter wing formed in 1946 and saw action during the Korean War. After returning to Oregon, the 142nd took on the task of intercepting long range enemy aircraft from northern California to the Canadian border. A number of jet fighters were used in that capacity over the years, including the F-86, F-94, F-89, F-102, F-101, and F-4C. Today, the 142nd operates state-of-art F-15 fighters, but their days here in Portland may be numbered. Rumours in Washington seems to suggest the 142nd’s aircraft may be transferred to New Jersey where homeland security needs are greater. Interventions by Oregon’s elected officials have kept the fighters in Portland for the time being, but I’m guessing the 142nd won’t be around much longer due to mounting expenses from the war in Iraq.

I have fond memories of the 142nd’s F-4Cs. When I was in elementary school, the annual Memorial Day parade down main street McMinnville was always something to look forward to. At the end of every parade, two F-4Cs would appear low over main street and those cheeky pilots would light-up the twin J79-GE-15 afterburners as they banked skyward. The elderly would plug their ears and curse while all the kids would scream and jump for joy in the wake of the sternum rattling noise.

A 142nd F-4C from what looks like the ’70s

This is what I remember the 142nd’s F-4Cs looking like. This picture was probably taken in the ’80s.

Google Maps

Kelly Butte Civil Defense Underground Headquarters (SE Portland)
Built in 1956, the same year as Mt. Hebo (see below), the Kelly Butte Civil Defense Underground Headquarters reflected a pervasive ‘50s paranoia that a Soviet bomber attack on North American was imminent. This underground bunker in SE Portland was designed to hold up to 250 emergency officials for up to two weeks. 26 inch reinforced concrete walls provided protection, while a radio tower above ground kept personal in touch with those not so fortunate to be safely tucked away underground. Footage of this complex can be seen in The Day Called X…featured on my DVD release from two years ago titled On Guard: Educational Films from the Cold War Era.

The bunker continued operation until the late 1960s, when local civil defensive efforts began to wan. The facility was eventually turned into a 911 call center for the county, but proved to be unpopular with the staff who often complained of sick building syndrome. While the radio tower has been torn down, you can still visit the site and see the entrance to the bunker (although it has been covered by dirt from a bulldozer).

The Day Called X

Google Map

Oregon Historical Society Picture and Info

Recent Photos

Mt. Hebo Air Force Station (Near Tillamook)
The Mt. Hebo Air Force station was built in 1956 as a radar tracking complex tied into the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system (see first entry from this week). Actual data analysis and fighter jet interception dispatching took place at McCord AFB in Washington just south of Tacoma. The remote facilities at Mt. Hebo were really quite extensive, featuring barracks, family housing, a dining hall, and gym facilities. The base was essentially a small town, a necessity due to extreme isolation (Mt. Hebo has an elevation of 3,154ft and is deep in the coast range).

The station took a severe beating in the Columbus Day storm in 1962 when wind gauges topped out at 130mph. Damage to the radar domes suggested a wind speed of around 170mph though. But the station was repaired and continued operation for almost two decades. The 689th Radar Squadron remained at the site until 1979, when they were moved to McCord. Detachment 2 of the 14th Missile Warning Squadron stayed at the station providing ballistic missile tracking until 1980. After that, the site was dismantled and all that remains are building foundations and a small plaque. I’m planning on going up to the site this fall to take pictures if anyone is interested in joining me.

Note the tunnels between buildings. This was necessary because of winter snow.


Photo Gallery

Adair Air Force Station (Corvallis)
Located on a former World War II Army base, the Adair Air Force Station was built in 1957 as a SAGE site [see first entry from this week]. In addition to the SAGE site, the Air Force proposed building a BOMARC missile base as well. The BOMARC missile was a surface to air interceptor missile with a range of several hundred miles and was capable of carrying small nuclear warheads. $10 million was allocated in 1958 for construction of the BOMARC site and 56 former Camp Adair buildings were removed to make way for the missiles. The base was built and completed, but by that time, the BOMARC had become obsolete. Adair was officially deactivated on September 15, 1969, but the main SAGE building still remains. According to reports on the web, the SAGE site has been recently vandalized, with thieves stealing much of the ferrous metal — no doubt to fund someone’s meth habit.



Photos and Info

BOMARC Missile Info

Google Maps

2 comments September 19th, 2006

Oregon Cold War Week

For me, growing up in Oregon during the Cold War was a time of contradictions. On the one hand, I remember enthusiastically marching with my parents down main street McMinnville in a small peace rally. But I also remember fantasizing about Red Dawn scenarios where I would fight Commie paratroopers in the hills outside of town. I suppose those contradictions illustrate how hard it was to escape the realities of the Cold War during the ’80s. Reagan called the USSR an evil empire and embarked on a period of massive military spending. Television offered up a hopeless vision of America after an atomic attack in the movie The Day After. And closer to home, I was really scared that we might actually be targeted by a nuclear bomb since Cascade Steel was supposedly classified as a secondary nuclear whipping boy by the Soviets.

To mark Oregon Cold War Week here at wildfreshness, I’m offering up information on the physical remains of our Cold War legacy. Oregon was not transformed the way Washington, our neighbor to the north, was, but the Cold War did leave a rapidly disappearing footprint. I’ve divided the state up into four regions, so each day I’ll talk about a handful of sites. This is not intended to be a comprehensive listing – just what I’ve been able to find on the web and in the local library. Also, I decided not to delve into the other political and cultural aspects of the Cold War’s impact on Oregon, since that’s fodder for its own series of posts.

And now a few words about the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system. SAGE played a prominent role in Oregon’s Cold War history and I’ll be mentioning it this week in various posts. SAGE was a massive computerized control system used for collecting, tracking, and intercepting Soviet bombers from the late 1950s into the early 1980s and was probably the most successful large-scale computer system ever built. The technological advances resulting from the development of SAGE led to the creation of online networks, real-time computing, and our old friend the modem. It’s not known how much it cost taxpayers to build SAGE, but it’s estimated at around 8 to 12 billion (in 1964 dollars). If this is true, SAGE was more costly than the Manhattan Project – the program that built the atomic bomb during World War II. Below are some links to more information about SAGE. Be sure to check-out that IBM propaganda piece on SAGE that I included on my Cold War DVD from a couple years back.




SAGE General Info

SAGE Photo Archive

SAGE Sites

On Guard! The Story of SAGE

Add comment September 18th, 2006

Rock Me Like A Hurricane

My guess is most readers of this blog are too young to remember the Columbus Day Storm of 1962 – Oregon’s diminutive version of hurricane Katrina. I remember hearing stories about the storm when I was growing up in McMinnville from the old folks. The comparison to Katrina is not totally off base of course, since wind speeds topped out around 179 mph in some areas which is equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane. The damage to Oregon was defiantly catastrophic, estimated at around $200 million in 1962 dollars. Adjusted for inflation, that works out to over $5 billion in 2006 dollars. And you have to remember Oregon was a far less populated state back in those days. It freaks me out to think about the kind of damage this storm would have done today.

The Big Blow as it became to be known took shape in the Pacific Ocean off Northern California as typhoon Freda started to fall apart. Remnants of the typhoon merged with another developing system, creating a hybrid “perfect storm” that quickly moved up the Oregon and Washington coast before breaking-up over British Columbia. But this storm didn’t deliver the kind of massive precipitation associated with Atlantic hurricanes. Instead, the powerful winds did the most damage.

Writing about the Columbus Day Storm has also got me thinking about present day disaster planning. I have a backpack at home with emergency supplies, but I don’t have enough food and water for me and the cats if we had to survive on our own for more than 48 hours. I’d advice all readers to visit the Red Cross website and make an effort to plan for that next inevitable natural disaster.

2 comments September 14th, 2006

Top 10 PDX Albums

The other day I was thinking about popular music birthed in our fair city. The most famous song originating in PDX would have to be “Louie, Louie” by The Kingsmen, but I was thinking about more contemporary stuff that I listen to on a fairly regular basis. Because I can’t get enough of lists, I thought I would create my top 10 list of Portland albums. Now I need to be up front here, there is a big hole in my Portland music collection spanning the early nineties. While I enjoyed seeing bands like Sprinkler, Hazel, Pond, and Crackerbash play live, I never bought any of their CDs. Guess I was too busy buying the latest from Seattle groups like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden to be bothered w/ the great stuff right on my doorstep. That changed around 1995, when grunge was in its death throes and I started listening to Portland bands again like the Spinanes. OK, here is the list:


10. The Crazy Eights — Big Live Nutpack (1988)

I’m guessing hardcore fans of this former Portland institution would probably object by arguing that the 8s first album, Law and Order, is a better representation of the bands work. But I think this two CD live recording captures the 8s doing what they do best: performing in front of a bunch of drunken kids. These guys had that blue-collar/go-for-broke sensibility that influenced many of the better Portland bands that followed in the early ‘90s. This CD brings back fond memories of seeing the 8s play in McMinnville at Linfield College when I was in high school and all the times we drove up to the Starry Night.


9. Dharma Bums — Welcome (1991)

The Dharma Bums represent an era when Portland bands were defined by their live performances. These guys, and other PDX bands in their musical circle, would bring their a-game for 5 or 500 people. Here’s a bit of trivia…the book Courtney Love: Queen of Noise claims the Bums were Courtney’s favorite Portland band. And it was at a Bums concert at the Satyricon that Kurt Cobain first met Courtney (Nirvana was a frequent opening act). The Bums also played Satyricon the night of the famous “riot” on April 28th, 1990 that’s now part of Portland lore.


8. The Dandy Warhols — Dandy’s Rule OK? (1995)

Mentioning The Dandy Warhols tends to elicited strong reactions from Portlanders. That reaction is usually negative (maybe all those failed musicians jealous of their success and the obnoxious way they flaunt it?) But during the mid ’90s, I thought The Dandys were refreshingly pretension; a nice antidote for those of us with an unfortunate grunge hangover. But they’re an anachronism now I suppose. I find their newer big label albums to be almost unlistenable. Plainly put, they don’t really make any interesting music anymore.


7. Elliott Smith — Figure 8 (2000)

OK, so is this really a Portland album? It wasn’t recorded in Portland. And I think Smith was living in LA at the time. But I’ll count it anyway because this is my list. A lot of fans dissed this CD when it came out — and I have to admit, most of my favorite Smith songs are on other albums — but I think this is his best overall effort (and a lot of credit should go to all around super pimp John Brion, who contributed a lot to the majestic sound). I miss Smith quite a bit.


6. The Decemberists — Castaways and Cutouts (2002)

The Decemberists have always walked that fine line between charming and cheesy. On this album, Colin Meloy does an admiral job of avoiding the later while penning songs about lonely ghosts and parched French Legionnaires. They’re on a major label now, but still recording and performing great music.


5. The Shins — Chutes Too Narrow (2003)

Transplants from Albuquerque, members of the Shins seem to have made themselves at home here in PDX the last couple of years. This, their second album, has it all in just over 30 minutes — smart writing, razor sharp pop sensibilities, and punchy production courtesy of Phil Ek. I heard a new album is in the works…I can’t wait! Like the Decemberists, James Mercer was the victim of Portand’s meth crisis having a bunch of his gear stolen by tweakers.


4. e*vax — Parking Lot Music (2001)

Portland is not well know for electronica, save purveyors like the Helio Sequence, but Evan Mast (and his multi-talented brother Eric who works under the moniker e*rock) are an exception. This album is hard to categorize. It’s glitchy, like Aphex Twin and their IDM brethren, but there is something almost organic to all the digitally generated sounds. Evan seems to have abandoned his solo career after moving from Portland to Brooklyn and is now part of the duo Ratatat — whose music was recently featured on a Jaguar TV ad (yawn). Don’t get me wrong though, Ratatat is great. They had this wicked hip hop remix CD I bought a while back at one of their shows. I wonder if the rumors are true about Evan working on the new Bjork album?


3. Quasi — Featuring “Birds” (1998)

Quasi has been around Portland since the early ’90s if memory serves. Janet Weiss Paleolithic drumming on this CD would have made John Bonham pee his pants. This disc has silly, yet often resonant (in a Portland context anyway), lyrics like: “You need the money so you got to play it dumb, but if you play it long enough it’s just what you become (from “The Happy Prole”). I believe this album was recorded at Jackpot! Studios here in PDX w/ Larry Crane.


2. The Spinanes — Strand (1996)

Rebecca Gates, former manager for the Dharma Bums, formed this band with drummer Scott Plouff after the Bums broke up. I think a lot of folks prefer their first album Manos, but this is my favorite of the three CDs I’ve listened to. They do this crazy thing were they hit a plate reverb w/ a mallet. It sounds so spooky. BTW, I don’t think this album was recorded in Portland (maybe Nashville?).


1. The Exploding Hearts — Guitar Romantic (2003)

Most people know the story of the Exploding Hearts by now. A tragic van accident on I-5 killed all but one of the band members after this album was released. In my book, the Hearts are the best band to have EVER come out of Portland. Hearts haters like to point-out their music sounds totally derivative. Yes, I suppose it does, but I can’t think of any other bands that recorded such exuberant songs about sniffing glue. And I love the low-fi production.

Honorable mentions:

Sleater-Kinney — The Hot Rock (1999)
Viva Voce — The Heat Can Melt Your Brain (2004)
The Thermals — F*ckin A (2004)
M. Ward — Transistor Radio (2005)

1 comment September 5th, 2006


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