Mitchell Recreation Area
Mitchell Recreation Area
|Location||Fremont-Winema National Forests|
|Nearest city||Bly, Oregon, USA|
|NRHP reference #||03000050|
|Added to NRHP||2003|
Mitchell Recreation Area is a small picnic area located in the Fremont-Winema National Forests, Lake County, Oregon, near the unincorporated community of Bly. It is also known as Mitchell Monument. It is the only location in the United States where Americans were killed during World War II as a direct result of a balloon bomb delivered by an enemy. The site is maintained by the United States Forest Service and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
On May 5, 1945, Reverend Archie Mitchell took his pregnant wife and five Sunday school children, from the Christian and Missionary Alliance church where he was minister, on a picnic and fishing trip. The group found the logging road they followed blocked, so they stopped next to Leonard Creek, eight miles (13 km) east of Bly near Gearhart Mountain. While Mitchell was unloading the food, he heard one of the children say, "Look what I found!" His wife and the children ran to see what had been found. Moments later, there was an explosion. Mrs. Mitchell and all five children were killed instantly.
The children had found the remains of a Japanese balloon bomb, one of approximately 9,000 balloon bombs launched from Honshū, Japan between November 1944 and April 1945. The balloons drifted across the Pacific Ocean to North America via the jet stream in about three days. The hydrogen-filled balloons were 33 feet (10 m) in diameter and carried five bombs, four incendiaries and one anti-personnel high explosive. It is believed that as many as 1,000 balloons may have reached the United States and Canada. However, there were only 285 confirmed sightings on the west coast, and two balloons were later found in Michigan. Except for Elsye (aka Elsie) Mitchell and the five children killed near Bly, the bombs caused no injuries. These six individuals were the only Americans killed in the United States during World War II as a direct result of an enemy balloon bomb detonation.  In 1976, Sakyo Adachi, a Japanese scientist who helped plan the balloon offense, visited the site and laid a wreath at the monument. He later sent a letter of apologies to the Patzke family for the loss of their two children.
In 1995, Japanese students sent 1,000 paper cranes, a Japanese symbol of peace and healing, to the families of the victims. Six cherry trees were also delivered to Bly to be planted at the site. One of the cherry trees was planted just north of the fenced monument site. The remaining trees were planted inside the fenced area. Later that year, over 500 people attended the 50th anniversary re-dedication ceremony at the Mitchell Monument site.
The Mitchell Monument site was originally owned by Weyerhaeuser Corporation. In 1996, Weyerhaeuser donated land around the monument to the Fremont National Forest (now the Fremont-Winema National Forests). Additional property was added to the site in 1997. A small picnic area was developed around the monument.
The Mitchell Monument was erected by Weyerhaeuser in 1950. It was designed by Tom Orr, a Weyerhaeuser forester. The stone structure was built by Robert H. Anderson, a local monument builder and stonemason. It is constructed of native stone and displays a bronze plaque with the names and ages of the victims of the balloon bomb explosion. It commemorates the "only place on the American continent where death resulted from enemy action during World War II". Approximately 500 people attended the monument's dedication on 20 August 1950. Oregon's governor Douglas McKay spoke at the ceremony.
Here are the words from the monument plaque:
Because it commemorates an important wartime event that occurred at the site, the monument is of significant historical value. Therefore, the Mitchell Monument site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on 20 February 2003.
Today, the Bly Ranger District maintains Mitchell Recreation Area as a day-use picnic area. The site covers 22.7 acres (9.2 ha). It is adjacent to Leonard Creek and is sheltered by large ponderosa pines. In addition to the monument, the site offers fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing opportunities. The site is normally open from mid-May until the end of October. Adjacent to the monument is the "shrapnel tree", a ponderosa pine still bearing scars from the explosion. In 2005, the State of Oregon designated shrapnel tree at the Mitchell Monument site as an Oregon Heritage Tree.
To reach the Mitchell Monument site from Bly, travel east on Oregon Route 140 for 1.5 miles (2.4 km) and turn left onto County Road 1259. After .5 miles (0.80 km) on the county road, turn right onto Forest Service Road 34. Follow the forest road for approximately 8 miles. The monument parking area is on the right side of the road.
- UP (June 1, 1945). "Saw Wife and 5 Children Killed by Jap Balloon Bomb". The Seattle Times. stelzriede.com. Retrieved 2008-04-03.
- "Mitchell Monument Historic Site". Fremont-Winema National Forests. 6 April 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
- "Mitchell Monument", Pacific Northwest Region, United States Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Portland, Oregon, January 2012.
- "Mitchell Recreation Area", National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, National Park Service, United States Department of Interior, Eugene, Oregon, 31 December 2002.
- Robert Donnelly (2002). "War Memorial, Lake County". Oregon History Project. Oregon Historical Society. Retrieved 2008-03-10.
- Francine Uenuma (2019-05-03). "In 1945, a Japanese Balloon Bomb Killed Six Americans, Five of Them Children, in Oregon". Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2019-05-27.
- Richard, Terry, "Oregon connection to World War II", The Oregonian, Portland, Oregon, 5 April 2007.
- "Sunday rites to Commemorate Spot Where Enemy Bomb Killed Six Civilians", The Oregonian, Portland, Oregon, 18 August 1950.
- "Germ-Filled Bomb Borne by Balloon, War Possibility", The Oregonian, Portland, Oregon, 21 August 1950.