Biggs, OR – At the gateway of the World War II Veterans Historic Highway, the last 2 of the 18 signs honoring Oregon WWII Veterans were installed Friday, November 9, 2012, south of Biggs Junction. These signs mark Camp Rufus as the northern entry of this historic route and first highway in the nation to be dedicated to represent appreciation to veterans and inform the traveling public about the WWII training sites served by two major highways east of the Cascades: US 97 from the Columbia River to the Oregon/California border and State Route 126 from Redmond to Prineville.
There are a total of 8 vital WWII training sites represented along the Historic Highway where different branches of the military trained. Camp Rufus (sign at Biggs), Madras Army Airfield, Redmond Army Airfield, Civilian Pilot Training at Bend and Prineville, Camp Abbot at Sunriver, and Marine Barracks and Naval Air Station at Klamath Falls.
The 2 signs near Biggs relate to Camp Rufus where 3,000 Combat Engineers trained and tested a floating bridge on the Columbia River developed to ensure troops were not dependent on German bridges crossing the Rhine River. Camp Rufus transformed into a tent city in December 1944.
Dick Tobiason, chairman of the WWII Veterans Historic Highway Committee and chairman of the Bend Heroes Foundation, dedicated the Camp Rufus signs. From Sherman County, Honor Flight veterans Dewey Thomas, Pete Macnab, Charles Decker and Don Thompson and Sherman County Judge Gary Thompson, Rufus Mayor Cliff Jett, Rufus City Recorder Jaclyn McCurdy, Maupin Mayor Denny Ross, Matthew E. Simek, designer of Camp Rufus site plaque, representatives of the Sherman County Historical Society along with numerous members of the community were present. Representing the Naval Air Station of Klamath Falls were Lucretia M. Stinson and Sylvia J. Stinson of Prineville, Oregon.
The non-profit Bend Heroes Foundation has raised funds for the signs and installations at no expense to tax payers.
The Foundation has enjoyed an outstanding relationship with many legislators, County Commissioners, Mayors, veterans group, county historical societies, military historians, private citizens and businesses and ODOT Region 4 in creating this first of its kind highway in our nation. The Foundation believes this model can be applied to other highways honoring veterans.
The Foundation has received several awards for the honorific highway: Military Officers Association of America, Daughters of the American Revolution, Oregon Heritage Commission to name a few.
Bend Heroes Foundation used the WWII honorific highway as a springboard for its Honor Flight of Eastern and Portland Oregon program honoring WWII veterans. With the generosity of many partners, the Foundation has taken 207 WWII Veterans to Washington, DC to visit their national WWII Memorial and 9 other veteran memorials free of charge during the past 2 years.
More information regarding this part of Sherman County’s military history along with an impressive exhibit that honors military veterans can be seen at the Sherman County museum in Moro, Oregon. The museum is open from May 1st to October 31st.