Scanning the Skies
Wednesday August 17, 2005
By Jeff LaLande
Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson
Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army Air Corps and the U. S. Forest Service joined to form the "Aircraft Warning Service" or A.W.S. During 1942 and 1943, Forest Service fire-lookout stations up and down the Pacific Coast were staffed year-round by two-person teams of "spotters" who would scan the skies and phone reports of all airplanes--whether visible or only audible--to Army airbases.
Lookouts typically were staffed only during the summer fire seasons, so supplying the A.W.S. spotters throughout the winter months was a challenge. Forest Service men on skis, snowshoes, and even dog sleds brought supplies to the snow-bound lookouts high in the mountains.
Herb and Zella Wright were spotters on the Blue Rock Lookout, east of Butte Falls, Oregon. After one big snowstorm severed their link with civilization, Herb strapped on his snowshoes and headed down the mountain to repair the line. The storm returned suddenly and with the wet snow sticking to the webbing of his snowshoes, an exhausted Herb Wright barely made it back to the lookout in time.
With the arrival of dependable radar in 1944, the Aircraft Warning Service spotters were honorably discharged from their lonely and sometimes dangerous duties.
Today's episode of As It Was was written by Jeff LaLande [lah-LAND], the program engineer is Raymond Scully. I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org