The Saratoga Sun -

History leads the future


April 10, 2019

Sometimes when reading over the national news of our country, I get the feeling we are a place that is ready to explode. Fortunately, because I am a avid reader of history books, I really believe lessons learned will prevent this country from falling apart. Paying attention to the past is just smart in my book.

It started in Virginia

My first real memory of learning about history was in 4th grade while I was in the school system of Virginia. That state is proud to teach their students the first permanent English settlement was Jamestown, Va.

I can still tell you all about the Jamestown colony and how it was founded by the Virginia Company of London as an economic English outpost in the New World to counter the dominance of the Spanish, French and Dutch.

Even before Jamestown was the colony of Roanoke. This fascinated me because this colony had the first English child born in the Americas. Virginia Dare was her name and she disappeared along with 115 men, women and children. All that was found when reinforcements came was the word “Croatoan” carved in a fence post and C-R-O in a nearby tree. There was tribe nearby with that name. The mystery still remains, but it put inside a kernel for me how interesting history was and that it should be remembered.

It isn’t just dates and names, but also the political and social climates. This is where I have to give credit to the teachers I had. If they had not taught the subject in an interesting manner, I would not have enjoyed or absorbed as much historical knowledge as I did. I think a good history teacher is worth their weight in gold.

It didn’t hurt I went on two or three field trips to Washington, D.C. museums every year. I take for granted everyone has seen the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives Museum. They really are something to behold.

Learning about the

recent past

When I first started college at the University of Maryland, I took a history class each semester. In truth, I could have had a minor in history because of all the classes I took in this subject matter. Studying Western Civ exposed me to the World Wars.

Both wars were compelling to digest, but World War II was riveting for me.

So much was at stake all over the globe. It was through the bravery of many in the U.S., especially the armed forces, monstrous regimes were defeated. I don’t want to take anything away from the allies and resistance from invaded countries, but I believe the world would be a very different place if the courage from our country had not shown through those dark times.

I am always on the lookout for any history book, but especially ones that deal with the 20th century, because I am amazed at all the intricacies involved in this century that have led to how the world is today.

Not long ago, I acquired a huge book on World War II that went over both war fronts.

Some of those photos sent shivers up my spine.

What got me was reading about how serious the threat of invasion was to our country and how the citizens stayed mentally tough. Alaska, Hawaii and the West Coast were on serious alert from Japanese aggression. Then there were the Axis subs in the Atlantic that were lurking near our shores and harbors.

It had to be a scary time.

There are three attacks on American soil that stood out in my mind that I am not sure everyone knows about.

Ellwood Beach

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a small force of Japanese submarines were dispatched to patrol the California coastline. On February 23, 1942, the Japanese submarine I-17 got into a channel near Ellwood Oil Field, a large oil well and storage facility outside of Santa Barbara. The sub fired 16 shells at Ellwood Beach, then fled to the open ocean. The bombardment caused minor damage to the oil field. A pump house and an oil derrick were destroyed, but its implications were serious for the U.S. Ellwood Beach was the first shelling of the mainland in the United States during World War II, and it made mainland invasion seem like it was a reality to come.

Fort Stevens

The only attack on a mainland American military site during World War II occurred on June 21, 1942 on the Oregon coastline. Following American fishing boats to bypass minefields, the Japanese submarine I-25 made its way to the mouth of the Columbia River near Fort Stevens, an antiquated army base that dated back to the Civil War. Minutes before midnight, the sub used its 140-millimeter gun to send 17 shells at the fort. The commander of Fort Stevens ordered his men not to return fire believing the muzzle flashes of the fort’s guns would only serve to more clearly reveal their position and called for a complete blackout of the facility. The plan worked, a nearby baseball field bore the brunt of the damage leaving the fort virtually unscathed.


One of the most unusual military actions of World War II came in the form of Japanese balloon bombs, or “Fugos,” directed at the mainland United States. Starting in 1944, the Japanese military constructed and launched over 9,000 high altitude balloons, each loaded with nearly 50 pounds of anti-personnel and incendiary explosives. The balloons originated over 5,000 miles away from the northern Japanese islands. The hydrogen balloons would ascend to 30,000 feet and take the jet stream to the mainland United States. Their bombs were designed to drop after the three day journey was complete. Nearly 350 of the bombs made it across the Pacific, although many were intercepted by the U.S. military. From 1944 to 1945, balloon bombs were sighted in 15 states, some as far east as Michigan. The only deaths happened in Oregon, where a pregnant woman and five children were killed in an explosion after finding one of the downed balloons. Their deaths are considered the only combat casualties to occur on U.S. soil during World War II.

Current times

Wars are a bit different now, but I believe the courage that has been evidenced by our past population in trying times is still prevalent in the hearts of most every citizen. I take great pride on how this country comes together when it needs to.

I know as a young nation in comparison to many countries, we have growing pains. There are plenty of examples to prove my point. However, I take comfort as I read about different political and social divisions in the present times we get through adversity well.

Don’t believe me?

Go grab a history book on the U.S.


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