A single redwood tree in Curry County planted as one mans symbol of hope and peace between two countries was honored on Saturday when it was dedicated as an Oregon Heritage Tree.
As such, the tree became one of more than dozen in a program sponsored by the Oregon Travel Information Council to increase public awareness of trees connected to Oregons history and heritage.
Saturdays ceremony, at the Historical Marker Wayside on Constitution Way near Highway 101, drew a crowd of 60-plus people, including community members, city and county officials, and Senators Ken Messerle and Wayne Krieger.
The guest of honor was Toyojiro Soejima, Consul General of Japan, who spoke of past and current relations between Oregon and his country.
This tree symbolizes to me the historical bond between Japan and Oregon, Soejima said.
Its the same tree, he said, that led to Nobuo Fujita being named an ambassador for Brookings.
Soejima was referring to Japanese Navy Pilot Nobuo Fujita, who, during WWII in 1942, launched his small plane from a submarine offshore and tried to ignite a forest fire in the hills east of Brookings with an incendiary bomb.
Although the attempt failed it was extinguished by a firefighter who was on fire lookout duty the bombing put Brookings in the history books as the only place in the mainland United States to be attacked during the war.
Some 20 years later, members of the Brookings Jaycees tracked down Fujita and invited him to be a guest of honor at the annual Azalea Festival.
Jim Barrett, of the Brookings-Harbor Jaycees, on Saturday said the pilot came, presenting his familys 400-year-old Samurai sword as a token of repentance and peace.
He presented the sword and apologized for his wartime deed, Barrett recalled.
In 1985, Fujita sponsored a student exchange between Brookings and his home. He returned to Brookings to mark the 50th anniversary of the bombing in 1992 by planting a redwood seedling at the bomb site on Mount Emily.
Upon his death in 1997, Fujitas daughter spread his ashes near the tree.
On Saturday, people still marveled at the story of Fujitas bombing attempt and his subsequent return visits.
When you tell people this story, they cant believe, said Norma Fitzgerald, of the Chetco Valley Historical Society. She added, Its important this incredible event not be lost to history.
Sen. Messerle agreed, saying, Its important we keep in mind the importance of memorials like this, especially for our youth.
He added, This tree exemplifies what our country is made of and the sacrifices made, but it also exemplifies the intergovernmental relations between our two countries and the sharing of our cultures.
Paul Ries, chairman of the Oregon Heritage Tree Committee, concluded the ceremony by giving Soejima a lapel pin depicting two people planting a tree.
A Heritage Tree plaque was also presented to Siskiyou National Forest officials Jerry Darbyshire and Gilbert Zepeda. The plaque will be placed near the tree at the bomb site.
The bombing site is the 16th Oregon Heritage Tree site in the state, and one of 23 historical marker on the coast
After the ceremony, the public was invited to join a guided tour to the bomb site by a Siskiyou National Forest Ranger.