Woodward News 12 Nov 1999, Page 1
A Veteran's Tale
Fargo Man At Unusual WWII Battle On U. S. Mainland
by Jim Jarrett, Staff Writer
Fargo--Many of the battles fought in World War II were in places with peculiar names such as Iwo Jima in the Pacific, or the hedge rows of Normandy in faraway Europe.
Forty eight states in the continental United States remained largely untouched by war -- but there was at least one exception. It was the battle of Fort Stevens near Hammond, Ore.
John Shepherd, a 85-year-old World War II veteran from Fargo, served at the fort. He was a quartermaster in June of 1942 and stationed at Fort Stevens when a Japanese submarine shelled the area. It was one of the few engagements involving the Japanese in the continental United States.
A Japanese submarine located off shore fired nine shells near the fort on the night of June 21, 1942.
"All the soldiers in the barracks jumped out of bed or fell out when they heard the shots", Shepherd recalled Thursday afternoon.
Shepherd's job during the engagement was to move trucks. Shepherd and others shifted the trucks from an open area to a covered place without the benefit of light.
"The shells were dropping over the area. We could hear them, but they didn't mean nothing. It was too far away, " Shepherd said.
"It shocked us at first. We had to move everything. Everything was camouflaged. We had no lights or anything around."
The damage from the shelling was minimal.
His wife Helen wasn't at the battle, but she arrived later that summer at the fort with a child. Folks around the fort were still talking about the battle, and security was tight. No diapers or clothes were left on clotheslines. Lights on vehicles were prohibited.
"We couldn't go anywhere," Helen Shepherd remembered. "The sea side wasn't very far. He took me out on the beach, but we weren't allowed to go there and stay for very long."
John Shepherd said the Japanese submarine, an I-25, was later captured. But he had already left the fort. Shepherd transferred to the 44th infantry division.
In 1944, Shepherd was wounded in France. He spent a year in the hospital, and was discharged in 1945. He earned a purple heart, and a bronze star for serving in two battlefields.
The fort, built in 1863, was closed in 1947. It was restored in 1975 by the Oregon State Parks.
Shepherd returned to Fort Stevens State Park last summer. Several of the state park's personnel visited with him.
"They visited with me a long while," he said. "I told them I worked in the quartermaster's, had a truck and delivered stuff to them. I never saw any of the fortifications," he said.
John Shepherd at Fort Stevens near Hammond, Ore., during World War II.