As the years moved on, the USS Oregon continued to serve the people of the State of Oregon, the United States, and the world as a historical shrine. Unknown to the staff who volunteered on her and the numerous guest who walked her proud decks, the "Bulldog" was running out of time and her days were numbered. The dark clouds of war loomed just over the horizon.
By 1937, the Imperial Japanese war machine was embroiled in an attempt to conquer China and the political and military situation throughout the rest of the world continued to deteriorate for the next two years. On September 1, 1939, the armies of Hitler's Nazi Germany invaded Poland. The United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany and Italy and once again the world was engulfed in the flames of war.
Slowly, the United States prepared for a war it hoped it would not have to fight, but on December 7, 1941, carrier aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, crippling the U.S. Pacific fleet and plunging the United States in World War II.
The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor would spell the beginning of the end for the USS Oregon. The country was outraged by the surprised attack and a fervor of patriotism swept the country. The United States once again mobilized for war.
Unfortunately for the Oregon, she was still floating in the waters of the Willamette River and not secure in her proposed concrete basin, but most of all, she still property of the Federal government.
Although the parties involved in the destruction of the Oregon meant well and wanted to support the war effort, they did not fully understand what they were about to do. What happens next is an example of misplace patriotism, avidity, and gross indifference.
Oregon Governor Charles A. Sprague, who obviously knew little of military or naval affairs, made a gracious offer to return the Oregon to the Navy so that the she might serve for "coastal defense or some other use". At first the Navy declined, stating correctly the historical value of the ship outweighed any operational use. But the rumors started to fly about plans to scrap the Oregon.
Originally, the Navy Department issued a statement that there were no plans to scrap the USS Oregon, but deep within the bureaucracy, did lie plans for the scrapping of the renown battleship. In a frantic search for scrap material, the United States War Production Board placed its eyes on the Oregon. The Battleship Oregon Commission along with other organizations began to send a flurry of letters and petitions to their Representatives in the government to stop the process from going any further, but to no avail. Before the matter could be further considered, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (who had saved the ship from the cutters torch before) reluctantly struck the death blow to the Oregon. The USS Olympia would serve as the naval relic for the Spanish-American War and the Oregon would go to the Production Board for reduction to scrap metal.
On December 7, 1942, approximately one year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Oregon was sold for $35,000 to two Portland businessmen, Edwin Ricker and William McKay.
All of the artifacts were returned to their owners and the ship was prepared for towing to Kalama, Washington for scrapping. Before the ship was moved though, the military mast was removed, as were the stacks, and several other pieces to maintain the Oregon's legacy. On October 29, 1944 at two pm, the Battleship Oregon Mast and Park were officially dedicated in a ceremony with full military honors including a band and honor guard. The Oregon received a twenty-one gun salute from the firing detail.
Pictured at the top of the page: A child's spelling book from 1898. The fame of the Oregon and her feats were well known and were commemorated in many ways. The cover of this spelling book featured the USS Oregon. Photograph taken by website author
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