HISTORY OF THE PROGRAM
The Fort Worden Oral History Program’s mission is to collect oral histories from those who were at Fort Worden during a memorable period of their lives.
The Friends of Fort Worden State Park began the Fort Worden Oral History Project in 2002 as part of a year-long celebration of Fort Worden’s 100th anniversary primarily focused on the stories of veterans who had been stationed at the fort. As the anniversary drew to a close, it became evident that the project was too valuable to end with the close of the Centennial.
In 2003, the project became the Fort Worden Oral History Program with its focus broadened to include the real life experiences of not only those who served at Fort Worden during the military era but also those who worked or lived there during the Juvenile Diagnostic and Treatment Center days and those who have visited, participated in activities, or worked at the fort since it became a state park conference center.
The program’s objective is to collect oral histories through recorded in-person or telephone interviews that are transcribed, archived and made available for students, genealogists, writers, and historians. Currently we have collected more than 300 oral histories.
In 2007, the program issued its first publication “Conversations With the 369th”, a catalog of interviews with members of the U.S. Army 369th Engineer Amphibious Support Regiment who served at Fort Worden during the Korean War era. Their stories are especially interesting, since many of those veterans participated in the building of the US airbase at Thule, Greenland while others were sent to Camp Desert Rock, NV to take part in early atomic tests or to Rochefort, France as part of a NATO exercise.
In 2012, the Fort Worden Oral History Program Blog was created in an effort to make information in the program’s archived collections more accessible to an online audience. The blog is a collection of interesting, amusing, and informative “snippets” or excerpts taken from the interview transcripts. The blog website provides easy, searchable access to those oral history interview excerpts for sharing with the public. Stop by the Fort Worden Oral History Program Blog and enjoy reading the stories of men and women who have lived and worked at Fort Worden.
Excerpt from an interview with Robert W. Klum
Excerpt from an interview with Robert W. Klum of King City, OR conducted by phone by Patience Rogge on December 4, 2008 from the Fort Worden History Center. Mr. Klum served in the U.S. Army 369th Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment from 1951 to 1953 at Fort Worden. Here he describes an incident that proved rather embarrassing for his commanding officer:
“The master boat must have been probably 80 feet long. It was kind of like a PT boat, very fast, the colonel who was the head of our group rode on it. They called it a Q boat. The colonel got himself in big trouble one time. All the companies (you can imagine how many boats we had) and the Q boat left Fort Worden at 3:00 AM and headed for the San Juan Islands. I had no idea what we were going to do when we got there, but we went off to Blaine, WA, and anchored the boats just outside Blaine. You could see the beaches of Canada at night. We had a little fun sending light messages in Morse code, talking to sailors who were on the beach. When we woke up the next morning, it was foggy, very foggy. The Q boat went around and told us which way we were going to go, and then we would all follow.
We were underway about two hours, thinking we were heading toward the San Juan Islands. All of a sudden, a big Canadian destroyer pulled up alongside us, honking his horn and telling everybody to shut off their engines; that we were in Canadian waters and we didn’t have permission to be in Canadian waters and we were all under arrest. The colonel who was on the Q boat that was leading us was very embarrassed and spent quite a bit of time talking to the commander of the Canadian destroyer. He admitted he’d made a mistake and wanted help to try to find his way back home.”
Mr. Klum also shared his experiences in a slideshow he created. It has been converted to a PDF for easier download or viewing in your browser.
Share Your Story
We hope you will take this opportunity to leave a legacy for future generations by sharing your Fort Worden memories. Please contact us - we look forward to your contribution.
Oral History Program
200 Battery Way, Port Townsend, WA 98368