Coastal Spotters Scan Skies for WWII Enemy Planes


Friday, March 2, 2018


Laurel Gerkman


3 389

During World War II, the United States established civilian-staffed Aircraft Warning Service airplane spotters along the country’s east and west coasts in May 1941.

At Gold Beach on the Southern Oregon coast, spotters worked from the third-story cupola at the courthouse, the tallest building in town.  The small room enclosed a table, two chairs, and a telephone.  It had no heat, windows needed refitting to open, and its only bathroom was in the basement.

Silhouettes of enemy and allied planes posted on the wall helped identify them in the sky.

When something noteworthy flew by, a spotter picked up the phone and said, “Flash Message.” The operator bumped everyone off the line and plugged the caller into an Army Filter Center to complete the description of the sighting.  The operation ran on three-hour shifts around the clock, the volunteers sipping coffee, reading, and playing cards to pass the time or stay awake. Comforts included a sink, running water, and electricity.

Two weeks before the allied forces invaded Europe in 1944, the Aircraft Warning system shut down because the threat of enemy aircraft had been eliminated.


Source: Newhouse, Howard J. Published by Howard J. Newhouse, Wedderburn, Oregon, U.S.A., 1995. Wedderburn, Oregon, Howard J. Newhouse, 1995, Accessed 24 Feb. 2018; "Aircraft Warning Service." Wikipedia, Accessed 17 Feb. 2018


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