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Lat 42° 23' 52N Long 121° 2' 30W Bly is located at an elevation of 4,386' / 1,336m above sea level in Klamath County in south central Oregon in the United States of America (USA).
On May 5, 1945 Reverend Archie Mitchell the pastor of the Bly Christian and Missionary Alliance Church drove to the forest of the Gearhart Mountain Wilderness with his pregnant wife Elsie Mitchell plus five Sunday school students: Dick Patzke age 14, Jay V. Gifford age 13, Edward Engen age 13, Joan Patzke age 13, Sherman M. Shoemaker age 11. Due to a road closing and construction near Bly, he dropped off Elsie and the children to find a picnic spot while he parked the car.
The group discovered a Japanese balloon bomb that likely landed in the area weeks earlier and lay undisturbed on the ground. Afterwards, Archie Mitchell stated to the press: "Joan [Patzke] came over and said there was a white object nearby. We went to investigate. It blew up and killed them all.” Likely, they were unaware it was a Japanese balloon bomb and might have moved or kicked the object and triggered two explosions. In the blast, five of the children were instantly killed. Elsie was severely injured and died as her husband attempted to extinguish the fire on her clothing with his hands. Joan Patzke was injured and later died.
Afterwards, the U.S. military investigated the incident. This was the only fatalities caused by a Japanese balloon bomb in the United States. The explosion was first reported in the press on May 8, 1945 but was not attributed to a Japanese balloon bomb. It was not until May 31, 1945 that the true cause of death was reported by U.S. Undersecretary of War Robert P. Patterson as an explosion from a Japanese balloon bomb.
Mitchell Recreation Area
Forest Service Rd. 34, Fremont National Forest. The Mitchell Recreation Area is located in the Gearhart Mountain Wilderness near Bly, Oregon.
During 1950, Mitchell Monument was built by Weyerhaeuser Company at the site of the May 5, 1945 Japanese balloon bomb explosion that killed six civilians. In 1998, the Weyerhaeuser Company donated the monument and surrounding land to the Fremont National Forest. On February 20, 2003 this monument was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Postwar, several Japanese civilians have visited this monument to offer their personal and several cherry trees have been planted around the monument as a symbol of peace.
The monument includes a stone marker with a bronze plaque that reads:
"Weyerhaeuser Company Eastern Oregon Region - In memory of Elsie Mitchell age 26, Dick Patzke age 14, Jay V. Gifford age 13, Edward Engen age 13, Joan Patzke age 13, Sherman Shoemaker age 11 who died here May 5, 1945 by Japanese bomb explosion only place on the American continent where death resulted from enemy action during WWII."
Linkville Pioneer Cemetery (Linkville Cemetery)
Linkville Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in Klamath County in Oregon. After the Japanese balloon bomb explosion on May 5, 1945 the six killed were buried at this cemetery. Dick Patzke at block 32, plot 1, lot 24/25. Ethel Patzke at block 32, plot 1, lot 25. Engen at block 32, plot 1, lot 32. Later, three transported for permanent burial elsewhere in Washington State, Oregon and California.
Mitchell was buried at Ocean View Cemetery in Port Angeles, WA.
Gifford was buried at Siskiyou Memorial Park in Medford, OR.
Shoemaker was buried at Live Oak Cemetery in Live Oak, CA.
Stateman Journal (Salem, Oregon) “Six Killed in Mystery Blast” by Associated Press (AP) May 8, 1945 page 2
"An explosion which killed six members of a fishing party was under investigation today. The dead were Mrs. Elsie Mitchell; Jay Gifford, 12; Eddie Engen, 13; Joan Patzke, 11; Dick Patzke, 11, and Sherman Shoemaker, 12. The only survivor was the Rev. Archie Mitchell, pastor of the Christian Alliance church of Bly, who said: “Joan came over and said there was a white object nearby. We went to investigate. It blew up and killed them all."
Medford Mail Tribune "Lakeview Deaths Due to Japanese Balloon Bombs" by Associated Press (AP) May 31, 1945
"The only casualties inflicted by Japanese balloon bombs which have fallen sporadically in the western area were suffered by a family which found a [unexploded] nunexploded bomb, Undersecretary of War Robert P. Patterson said today.
They detonated the bomb, with the result a woman and five children were killed. Her husband and one child survived. The secretary did not give details of the incident. It was known however, that the incident occurred at Lakeview, Ore [sic, this is roughly 38 miles to the east], several weeks ago.
"There have been no other fatalities or injuries to personnel-people-from enemy balloon attacks. As previously stated, the attacks have been very scattered and the point of attack cannot be controlled by the Japanese."
NPS National Register Database and Research - Mitchell Recreation Area Ref#: 3000050
FindAGrave - Elsie M. Winters Mitchell (photo, memorial marker, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Dick Joe Patzke (photo, memorial marker)
FindAGrave - Jay Verl Gifford (news, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Edward Milian Engen (photo, memorial marker, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Ethel Joan “Joan” Patzke (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Sherman Menno Shoemaker (photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Rev Archie Emerson Mitchell (photo)
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