Town of Garden Home Celebrates Deceased Airman

Lieutenant Robert Strong touched down in Garden Home, Oregon, almost seventy years ago. The WWII airman was not making a scheduled landing, but rather bailing out of his plane as it went down. The crash took place not long after the Normandy landings, and was the product of dying engine blocks. This year, members of the Garden Home History Project organized an event to honor Strong’s memory.

Both of Strong’s engines failed at the same time, one due to technical malfunction and the other due to fuel loss. The event took place in mid-June of 1944, while Strong and several other pilots were training in the area. At an altitude of two thousand feet, Strong was forced to eject and parachute over Garden Home, where he narrowly escaped death in the wreckage. He was able to maneuver to a group of nearby trees, which is where he touched down. The plane did not touch down quite as softly, and the fuel from one of the tanks ignited.

The ignition caused a large explosion, which was soon investigated by a crew. Strong was transported back to base by an emergency medical vehicle. By all appearances, Strong had narrowly escaped death in Garden Home. Unfortunately, this was not to last long. Not even a year had passed before he met his end overseas due to anti-aircraft fire. He died with his plane and was buried overseas.

While Strong will be the key focus, the town’s ceremony will also be held in honor of veterans from the area. The crash is what most residents who were alive at the time remember best, however, as it literally shook the town of Garden Home. The ordeal was most certainly a novel event for the town, and many tried to collect small souvenirs from the wreck. The number of people who remember the crash has helped to make the event possible, the Oregon live reports.

The Garden Home History Project would be at something of a loss if not for the help of citizens who were around at the time of Strong’s landing. The event will include a recap of his story, which has also been assisted by documents that the military has supplied following their declassification. The memorial has been years in the making, and both veterans and civilians of Garden Home will be gathering in attendance to honor the unique event of nearly seven decades ago.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE