I’d been through Tillamook, Oregon several times and never spotted the huge blimp hangar that was built there during World War II. It is plainly visible from the Highway 101. Who knows what I was thinking about when I made my way up and down the road? It must have been a heck of a daydream. I saw the hangar this time, however, and it was like, “Wow!” I immediately changed plans and decided to stay in the area for another day. The hangar was something I had to visit.
Today it serves as a partially abandoned air museum. (Most of its airplanes have been shipped off to Madras in eastern Oregon, where it’s hoped the vintage aircraft will survive better in a drier climate.) The facility is definitely worth a visit, however. The 170-foot high, 1000-foot long building was built to accommodate eight, 252 f00t K class blimps. One hundred and twenty-foot tall doors open up to a cavernous interior.
Blimps played an important role in World War II: They protected convoys and shipping lanes by spotting German and Japanese submarines. The blimps’ ability to fly in almost any type of weather, hover, and provide unobstructed views of the ocean made them an excellent choice for submarine patrol. The Tillamook facility was responsible for the coastline between British Columbia and northern California. Nine other naval air stations covered the rest of the west and east coasts of the US.
An introductory film and numerous World War II era photos at the museum provide an overview of the hangar’s history. I also found other interesting information on the war including posters, balloon bombs and a cow escape route.
I was amused when I came across a report on the cow escape route. Tillamook takes its cows seriously. Some of the best dairy stock in the US is located in the area. So it isn’t surprising that the local farmers decided their cows needed an escape route in case the Japanese invaded. Woodsmen were called upon to plan out paths through the forest. Using old logging roads, deer trails, and hunters’ routes, a cow getaway plan was soon organized.
No one asked the cows what they thought. Given that their idea of exercise was to leisurely travel from well-stocked barns to grass filled pastures, they may have preferred to hang around and provide the Japanese with milk, butter and cheese rather than hightail it through the rugged wilderness with udders bouncing.