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As It Was: Army Establishes Air Base in Lakeview, Ore., in 1942

The U.S. Army rushed to build an airport in Lakeview, Ore., in 1942, completing two 5,200-foot-long runways in 18 months.

The Navy took over the base in 1944, serving as an auxiliary to the Naval Air Station in Klamath Falls. For practice, the Lakeview pilots dive-bombed targets floating in area lakes and, some say, buzzed sheep camps and targeted antelope and wild horses.  Thousands of guests attended the commissioning of the Navy base, consisting of several buildings and barracks for 50 soldiers.

An unexploded Japanese balloon bomb found near the base on Jan. 10, 1945, was defused and eventually ended up at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.  Japan launched an estimated 9,300 balloon bombs on an airstream across the Pacific Ocean.  One killed a minister, his pregnant wife and six children near Bly, Ore., the only deaths on the U.S. mainland from enemy action during the war.

The Army base closed down at war’s end.  For a short time, commercial flights connected Lakeview to Klamath Falls and Burns in Oregon and to Boise, Idaho. 

Today, the Lake County Airport serves for emergency flights and private and Forest Service aircraft.

 

Source: Juillerat, Lee. "Object Lessons: WWII bunkers still in Lakeview." Herald and News, 22 June 2013 [Klamath Falls, Ore.] , https://www.heraldandnews.com/members/news/inside/object-lessons-wwii-bunkers-still-in-lakeview/article_aba684ac-daf4-11e2-9960-001a4bcf887a.html. Accessed 24 May 2018.
 

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Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.