Mine on Cape Meares Beach

A dangerous remnant of war lands on the North Coast.
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Mine on Cape Mears BeachSometime in the winter of 1953, an hour or so before dark, I was walking the shoreline of Cape Meares on my usual search for Japanese glass fishing floats, which were commonly found in those days before plastic took over. I noticed a number of people gathered some distance away. When I got closer, I saw the reason for their coming together. A large mine had washed up at the edge of the ocean.

It was about 4 feet tall and 3 feet or so in diameter and had horns around the top. I hurried home to get a camera. When I returned, there were only one or two people there and I shot two photographs that were fair, considering the failing light. I was told that the Coast Guard from the Garibaldi station had been notified and was on its way.

When the Guardsmen arrived, they asked people to leave the area, and a young man, Gordon Farley, was stationed at the end of the street closest to the mine to keep people away. An expert from Seattle was coming the next morning to inspect and possibly disarm it. It was considered very dangerous. The mine was secured with a strong rope tied one end to the anchoring ring and the other end to a large log above the tide line to prevent its returning to the ocean on the tides.

Farley’s station was about 1000 feet away from the mine and protected by a high clay bank—which was a good thing because a couple of hours or so later, when it was quite dark, the mine exploded.

Farley ran to the nearby home of Robert and Barbara Watkins. He was wild-eyed and almost speechless. He said that he had gone up the beach with his flashlight to check on the mine. It was rolling back and forth in the waves, still tethered to the log, he said. He had barely returned to his station when it detonated. The bank between him and the mine was all that protected him.

Windows were shattered from the con-cussion, reported from as far as Bay City, 5 miles across Tillamook Bay. The next day I went back to the site and there was nothing to show that an explosion had occurred, except the clay bank was black with soot for about 200 feet.

The day has not been forgotten. A few years ago Farley returned to the scene of his narrow escape of more than 50 years earlier. He contacted the James Bennett family, and Mrs. Bennett guided him to the beach.

Apparently I was the only person who had photographs of the mine and I shared them with the Coast Guard. Later one appeared with a mention of the incident in the book Retaliation by Bert Webber (Oregon State University Press, 1975).

The mine was determined to be of Russian manu-facture and had been used in the Korean War.

Oregon Coast November/December 2007

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