Most Oregonians Don’t Know About The Tragedy That Occurred At This Scenic Spot On The Coast
The Oregon Coast is a beautiful place to visit, but we often don’t realize the rich history that exists here – both wonderful and terrible. There’s one scenic spot that was the site of a terrible tragedy in 1943, and most people have no idea that it occurred.
Cape Lookout is a jaw-dropping spot between Pacific City and Oceanside. On a clear day, you can see for miles...
...but if you're ever visited when it's foggy in the early morning, it has a haunting beauty that feels otherworldly. The fog that rolls in here can completely cover the cape's cliffs, which is what happened one morning in August of 1943 when a terrible tragedy occurred here.
On August 1, 1943, World War II was raging. Some U.S. troops were engaged abroad, while others were patrolling the coast at home.
That morning at 9 a.m., a flight crew aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress, similar to the one pictured here, took off from Pendleton Field on a mission. They were supposed to fly to Cape Disappointment, head out to the open sea for 500 miles, then return to Pendleton. The mission was supposed to be the crew's last along the Oregon Coast. After they returned to Pendleton, they were heading off on a two-week furlough, then would be deployed overseas.
The fog was thick and heavy, so the pilot decided to try to fly below it to find Cape Disappointment. They dropped down, down, down... until they were flying just 50-100 feet above the water. But the fog reached all the way to the waves below.
They started to climb back up into the sky, but there was almost no visibility. As the plane reached about 900 feet, it slammed into the side of Cape Lookout, traveling about 200 miles per hour.
Because of the rough terrain and low visibility, it took rescuers a long time to reach the crash site.
There was just one lone survivor, Wilbur Perez. It took rescue crews more than 36 hours to rescue him, as he had rolled off the side of the cliff and was clinging to the plane's propeller, which had been jammed into the mud. Though other crew members initially survived the impact, they died before help arrived.
Nine young men perished that fateful day.
A plaque is installed near where the crash took place. It lists each of the men, along with their rank and title. The survivor, Wilbur Perez, passed away in 2009 in Escondio, California.
Take the Cape Lookout Trail to see this memorial.
The trail is 4.7 miles, out and back. It has an elevation gain of 810 feet, and on a clear day, you'll witness some beautiful views of the Pacific. To find the trailhead, take the Three Capes Scenic Highway west for about 13 miles and follow the signs.
Had you heard of this terrible tragedy? If you love to learn about Oregon’s history, you’ll enjoy
these 13 photos from the early 1900s.
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