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A Family Legacy, Jimmy Doolittle, and A 1942 International Fire Truck


A Family Legacy
The memories we have of our childhood growing up are something we cherish. Those early memories often influence us later on in life, and help to shape us into the adult we become. It is also true that sometimes the simplest of things or events will stick with us forever. 

So it was with Fee Stubblefield, a boy who grew up in Oregon loving his Grandma. He watched her work hard in the family business and take great care of her family. From her, Fee learned love, kindness, dignity and caring well for others. As the years passed Grandma would tell him..."When I get old promise me you will not put me in an "old folks" home. He would never forget those words.

One day while grandma was mowing the lawn, she had a heart attack. Even though she eventually recovered, the family knew she needed additional help. The family started spending more time at grandma's mowing her lawn and doing chores around the house. She would mention almost daily during these years ..." Whatever happens I want to stay in my own home..." Fee listened carefully to her words.

Then the day came when the house was too big, the chores to difficult and grandma became a little overwhelmed. Hearing her words echo in his mind Fee had an idea. Why not create a place that was like grandma's home, A place where life would be a little easier for his grandma and those like her. A place dedicated to those simple and important values passed down from the older generation. A place where Grandma would want to live and her family would want to come visit. No such place existed, so Fee decided to build one.

The result is "The Springs Living" a community dedicated to the values Fee learned from his grandma. The Springs Living is a warm and friendly place full of caring people, the food is good, the rooms nice, and the lawns well manicured, just like grandma house. The Springs Living community turned out better than anyone could have imagined.

So...if you have gotten this far you are no doubt wondering what this story has to do with a fire truck, and Jimmy Doolittle's Raiders. Read on the best it yet to come.

The Lehman Hot Springs Resort
The family business that Fee Stubblefield grew up in was the Lehman Hot Springs Resort. Founded in 1871 the Lehman Hot Springs is in a timbered setting 4,300 feet above sea level, deep in Oregon's scenic Blue Mountains. For over 138 years people of all walks of life have enjoyed the largest natural collection of hot springs  pools in the northwest. The Stubblefield family owned the resort for 55 years of those 138 years, selling their interest in the 1980's. Fee named his retirement community after the Springs Resort that he literally grew up in. 

The Lehman Hot Springs Resort

It was during the mid 1960's that Fee's Grandfather bought a retired 1942 International fire truck from the city of Pendleton Oregon for use at the Springs Resort. As a young man Fee rode in that fire truck with his father and grandfather, and would take his first driving lessons in that fire truck. The picture below shows Fee sitting on the running board of the truck shortly after it was purchased by his grandfather.

        Fee Stubblefield  on the running board of the 1942 fire truck in the early 1960's

The Fire Truck
The fire truck itself had quite a famous history. It was bought new by the Army Corps of Engineers in late 1941 during the expansion of the local airport into what would become Camp Pendleton Army Airbase. It was on this airbase that Jimmy Doolittle began training the men selected for the upcoming secret mission to attack Japan by air. The air base remained a flight training base during the war with 2500 men stationed at the base.

                   Camp Pendleton Air Base during construction in May 1941

When the airbase was decommissioned after the war, the Army gave the 1942 International fire truck to the city of Pendleton Oregon. Sometime in the early 1960's Fee's grandfather bought the now 20 year old fire truck from the city of Pendleton. In the 1980's when the family sold their interest in the Springs Resort, the fire truck was sold to Woodpecker Truck Sales, the local International truck dealer. Woodpecker Truck Sales would own the truck for the next 30 years eventually restoring it to running condition. In 2012 Fee had the opportunity to buy the 1942 International fire truck, the same one he literally grew up with. He did with the idea it could be used for for parades and special events at the Springs Living community.

Dan Upshaw Director of Maintenance for The Springs Living called upon Fifth Avenue Antique Auto Parts to see if Randy had a way to make the now restored fire truck run as good as it looked. Randy sent a Fifth Avenue alternator and mounting bracket kit to upgrade the fire truck from a generator charging system to a more modern alternator type charging system. The benefits would be brighter lights easier starting and no more dead batteries. 

This is the Fifth Avenue Alternator Installed On the 1942 International Fire Truck.

The alternator did the trick, the fire truck is much easier to start and is more reliable and fun to drive. Now the Springs Living community can take residents for a ride on the fire truck which has become a very popular pastime. The 1942 fire truck truly runs as good as it looks. 

                   This is What The 1942 International Fire Truck Looks Like Today

The Jimmy Doolittle Connection
In June 1941 the U.S. Army Air Forces' 17th Bombardment Group was transferred to Camp Pendleton for training for the upcoming Japanese Raid. The most highly skilled pilots were stationed at Pendleton Air Base. The Japanese raid was conducted in April 1942 in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.The Doolittle raid was the first Bombardment of Japan by American forces.

The Mitchell B-25 Bombers
Originally built in 1938 the Mitchell B-25 bombers had the most range and load capacity of any bombers available for the mission, and were also the fastest and most agile. However the B-25 bombers were not designed to take off from an aircraft carrier. The average carrier deck at the time was only 450 feet long and the Mitchell B-25 bombers needed 750 feet for takeoff. Doolittle studied the engineering drawings and consulted with engineers and determined that he could teach pilots to takeoff from a 450 foot long carrier deck. He needed 80 volunteers for 16 five men crews. He chose the 17th bombardment group stationed at Pendleton Oregon because of their advanced B-25 flying experience.

It took Jimmy just 4 weeks to teach the pilots how to master the short takeoff. The shortest distance they practiced was 500 feet. The B-25 Bombers used in the raid were highly modified and carried nearly twice as much fuel on board as a standard bomber. These planes, 16 in all, were the first to be flown off the deck of a ship. On the fateful day the ship was traveling into the wind at 20 knots and the wind was blowing 30 knots for a combined 50 knot headwind. The pilots followed Doolittle's lead (he was the first to takeoff) and timed their takeoff during the upsurge motion of the ship. It worked... all 16 pilots managed to takeoff safely.

Lt. Col. James Doolittle earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for leading the attack, and all the crewman five of whom were from the state of Oregon received distinguished Flying Cross. The Camp Pendleton Army Air Base served as a training base for fighter pilots until August of 1945 when it was then converted back into a civilian airport. It still serves as a airport today as is known as Eastern Oregon Regional at Pendleton.

The Doolittle Raid on Japan
If you watch the video below carefully you will notice the planes are very tightly packed in order to get all 16 of them on on deck. They were literally packed wing tip to wing tip and nose to rudder, with the back and sides of the planes hanging off the ship. Jimmy himself was the first to takeoff and he made it, so the rest of the pilots knew it could be done and each one gained a plane length in runway. 

All the pilots made it off the ship and all but three pilots returned home. Ironically none of the planes themselves made it home. The Japanese discovered the bombers about 400 miles and ten hours short of their takeoff destination. The decision was made to launch the raid early and ditch the planes when they ran out of fuel, which is exactly what they did, but not before all of the targets were hit. The mission was a success.

Jimmy himself at first... thought the mission would be considered a failure because he lost all 16 planes on the mission. He was coming home and preparing for the worst and thought he might end up facing a court-martial. Instead he came back a hero along with all of his men, declared heroes as well.


                                                          Click Arrow to Watch Video

The Springs Living Veterans Take Flight
After watching the above video you come to appreciate all of the things the veterans have done for our country, The Springs Living community has a number of veterans living in their communities. They began looking for a way to honor those veterans and found Ageless Aviation Dreams a not for profit group that provides rides in World War II vintage aircraft for retired veterans. The Springs Living made the arrangements for the group to come to the Springs Living communities and provide rides to their veterans. To say the project was a success would be an understatement. Watch the video below to see for yourself. 

Click The Arrow To Watch The Veterans Flight Video

I always try to learn a little something about my customers to find out what their passions are and what they do for a living or what job they retired from. Every once in a while I get more than I bargained for and I get to be part of something that is truly spectacular that makes you feel honored and humbled to be a part of it. This project was one of those. This became much more than fixing an antique fire truck which I have done literally hundreds of times over the past 30 years. This project was about somebody making a difference in the lives of the people around him and sharing a vision that he got from his grandmother as a young boy over 60 years ago.  It is projects like these that make my job fun!

Thanks to The Springs for their video footage of the veteran pilots flights, the history of Lehman Springs Resort, and the history of their community. 

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About Me

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Since 1987, Fifth Avenue owner, Randy Rundle, has been making antique, classic and special interest vehicles more reliable and fun to drive.