The Oregon Air National Guard Memorial Park

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Terrence G. Popravak, Jr., USAF (Retired)
  • 142nd Fighter Wing History Office
As Memorial Day approaches our nation prepares to honor those members of the unit who have fallen in the service of our country. Members of the Oregon Air National Guard stationed at the Portland Air National Guard Base, the Oregon ANG Memorial Park, which is dedicated to members of the organization who have lost their lives in the line of duty since 1948, is available to visit and remember to remember these fallen Airmen.

The Memorial Park, constructed by the 142nd Civil Engineering Squadron, is also a garden, with park benches, shrubs and walkways around a marble memorial plaque with a roll of honor at the base of a flag pole. The memorial plaque is flanked by two static display aircraft which were restored by the 142nd Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, and represent some of the aircraft the unit has operated. A McDonnell F-101B-105-MC Voodoo fighter-interceptor, serial number 58-0301, and McDonnell-Douglas F-4C-21-MC Phantom II fighter, serial number 63-7679 are featured aircraft.

This Memorial Park was dedicated on September 22, 1991 as part of the Oregon ANG's 50th anniversary ceremony, which featured patriotic music from the 234th Army Band, a 21-gun salute by the 142nd Security Police Squadron and a flyover of four 123rd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron F-15 Eagles in a "missing man" formation.

Since 1946, when the Oregon Air National Guard began operations at Portland ANG Base, 18 Airmen have lost their lives in service to the state and country. Their names and the dates of those lost are inscribed on the roll of honor on the memorial plaque at the memorial park.

There are also two stone monuments on the front side of the park. One of them honors the 123d Observation Squadron's service in World War II, including the period of time (1943-1945) when the unit was designated as the 35th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron.

The other monument is dedicated to all the Oregon Air National Guard Airmen who served in the Korean War, when virtually the entire unit was called to active duty for 20 months of service. Some members flew combat missions in Korea; others served in locations ranging from Alaska to California to England, and places in between. None are known to have died during this period of active duty service.

Yet as we remember the 18 Oregon ANG members lost in the line of duty since 1948, we should also recall that the unit's heritage goes back to World War II, and that there are more names to remember on Memorial Day.

During World War II, three of the original members of the 123rd Observation Squadron were lost in 1944 while serving with another unit. The transport vessel they were aboard was sunk by enemy action in the Mediterranean Sea. Later, seven F-5 Photo Lightning pilots of the 35th Photo Recon Squadron (35th PRS) were lost on reconnaissance missions or operational flights over China and/or Southeast Asia in 1944-1945. Three of these Airmen are still missing. In addition, another pilot of the squadron died aboard a ship on the journey home soon after WWII ended. A total of 11 squadron personnel were lost in WWII.

During World War II, around the time the 142nd Fighter Wing was designated as the 371st Fighter Group, 55 Airmen were killed or went missing action between 1944-1945. Five of those 55 remain missing. The 371st Fighter Group was a fighter-bomber unit and flew combat missions using the P-47 Thunderbolt in Europe.

For those members of the Oregon Air National Guard who are able to pay a visit to the Memorial Air Park, it is an opportunity to remember these 84 Airmen with connections to the 142nd Fighter Wing and reflect on their service and sacrifice. 

And for those who read this article and view the photographs, we too can take a moment of the liberty which we Americans enjoy and reflect on those who have served our community, the state of Oregon and our country, in times of peace and war, even at the cost of their lives. Thus we owe them this, in humble gratitude, as all of us remember those whom have answered the call to duty and paid the ultimate sacrifice while defending our freedom on this Memorial Day.