The Mitchell monument commemorates the only location in the United States where Americans were killed on American soil during World War II as a direct result of enemy attack. The unfortunate incident occurred on May 4, 1945, when Elsie, the pregnant wife of Reverend Archie Mitchell, and five Sunday school children encountered and accidentally set off an undetonated balloon bomb sent by the Japanese Army. This bomb was the first intercontinental ballistic weapon in history to be detonated. A stone with a plaque attached, located on the site, displays the names of Elsie and the children.
unfortunate incident occurred on May 4, 1945, when Reverend Archie Mitchell,
his pregnant wife, and five Sunday school children set out to enjoy a day of
picnicking and fishing. The group ended up at a spot along Leonard Creek in
present day Fremont-Winema National Forests. Archie's wife, Elsie, and the
children explored the nearby area and tragically found an unexploded Japanese
balloon bomb. They called for Archie to come look at it and moments later the
bomb exploded, instantly killing Elsie and the children. This bomb was the
first intercontinental ballistic weapon used in history, a fact both
interesting and grim.
The Japanese are
believed to have sent up to 1,000 balloon bombs towards the United States
during World War II, via travel along the jet stream. Two were found as far as Michigan
and there were 285 confirmed sightings overall. In 1976, one of the scientists
who worked on the balloon bomb program, Sayko Adachi, visited the site and laid
a wreath there, to make amends for his hand in the project. For the 50th
anniversary, a large gathering took place to commemorate the incident and
several cherry trees were planted there. The site was placed on the National
Register of Historic Places in 2003, and the nearby tree, “the Shrapnel
Tree,” was designated as an Oregon Heritage Tree in 2005.