Spotlight on Excellence: World War II Veterans Historic Highway
By Cara Kaser
If you’re making plans to travel within or through central Oregon this summer, keep an eye out for the new World War II Veterans Historic Highway signs that dot Highway 97 marking the locations of Oregon’s historic World War II training sites. In 2007, Dick Tobiason, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and Vietnam War veteran, helped organize the World War II Veterans Historic Highway Committee. This committee sought to create a memorial to Oregon’s nearly 150,000 veterans of World War II by designating a 322-mile long stretch of Highway 97 and State Route 126 in central Oregon.
The project had two goals: first, to honor Oregon’s World War II veterans and secondly, to inform travelers along the highway of eight World War II training sites located along its route between California and Washington. This would be accomplished by installing prominent signs near the training sites, one in each direction of travel.
The committee promoted the project with Oregon’s legislators, county commissioners, mayors, historical societies, and veterans’ groups. The committee introduced legislation to designate the World War II Veterans Historic Highway and it was enacted by the Legislature in 2009. The highway was officially dedicated on June 6, 2010, on the 66th anniversary of D-Day. Through donations and training provided by the Oregon Department of Transportation, the committee installed the signs between 2010 and 2011.
Although other states have named highways to honor veterans, the concept of a dual purpose sign to honor veterans and inform travelers of Oregon’s historic training sites is unique in our country. For their outstanding commitment to honor World War II veterans and promote the history and heritage of Oregon’s involvement in the war effort, the World War II Veterans Historic Highway project received a 2012 Oregon Heritage Excellence Award in April.
More information about the World War II Veterans Historic Highway project is available at the Bend Heroes Foundation website. For a complete list of this year’s Oregon Heritage Excellence Award recipients visit the Heritage Excellence Awards webpage.
Cara Kaser is the Heritage Outreach Specialist with Oregon Heritage.