Mt. Rainier National Park Centennial Web Site Home Page Mt. Rainier National Park Centennial Timeline
The Forties
    Timeline Menu
Mt. Rainier Centennial Web Site

World War II, victories and tragedy. 1940 -1949


- Puget Sound news papers fire public interest in a funicular (cable railway) or other means of transporting passengers to areas above Paradise for skiing and sightseeing.


- The lightest snowfall on record helps keep the road open continuously to Paradise during the winter of 1940-1941. More than 136,000 visitors come into the park during the five month ski season.

A "constam" (early version of T-bar) ski lift is approved by the National Park Service, but financial problems prevent the RNPCo. from building it.


- World War II begins, and public travel restrictions are in effect. Paradise and the upper slopes of Mount Rainier are used by military ski troopers for winter training, using methods developed by the Finnish army and developing new tactics and equipment. A primary user is the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment of the Army's 10th Mountain Division.

Aircraft warning stations (a new use of fire lookouts) are manned at the request of the US Army in the fall of 1942.
View ImageMt. Rainier Centennial Web


- The number of vehicles entering Mount Rainier National Park falls from the 1940 record of 117,879 to 35,029 because of the unavailability of gas, tires, and other tourist needs. "Two young ladies" are hired as summer rangers to handle checking station duties.


- Financially distressed RNPCo. is able to sell their hundreds of tourist cabins at Paradise and Yakima Park. The cabins are hauled out of the park and used for emergency housing.

Plans begin for improving visitor facilities after the war ends.


- President Harry S. Truman, Governor Wallgren and a party of sixty playful people give short notice before arriving at Paradise on June 22. It takes much effort to clear the snow-blocked Paradise road. RNPCo. employees scurry to open the shuttered Paradise Inn and prepare a luncheon for the President and party. Truman thoroughly enjoyed frolicking in the snow. He is the first president since Taft (1911) to visit the park.

On the Sunday following the surrender of Japan (V.J. Day, 8/19/1945) 3,847 cars and a total of 16,688 people come to Mount Rainier, setting a record for a single day of visitors.


- All park accommodations, minimally maintained during the war years, are criticized by the public. Governor Wallgren and the Secretary of the Interior agree that the park's visitor facilities must be improved.

On December 10, 1946 a Marine Corps C-46 transport plane flying from San Diego to Seattle crashes into Mount Rainier. Thirty two officers and enlisted men are listed as missing.


- Uncounted Search and Rescue missions comb the Mount Rainier area, seeking the remains of the Marine Corps flight during the first six months of 1947.

On June 24 Kenneth Arnold flies near Mount Rainier in a light Callair aircraft, modified for mountain search and rescue. At about 3:00 PM, Arnold sees nine flying objects approaching the mountain's 9500 foot level at a rate of speed exceeding Mach 1, faster than any recorded flight speed at that time. The objects are relatively flat, and have a curved perimeter. He estimates that each has a length and width of about fifty feet. The objects continue southward, past Mount Adams, until disappearing from sight.

On July 21 Ranger William J. Butler, while climbing the southern slopes of Mount Rainier, spots an unusual reflection high on the mountain and finds the crashed Marine Corps plane. Families of the victims and the park agree to leave the plane and bodies in the glacial ice that already encloses most of the remains. Mr. Butler declines the $5,000 reward offered for his finding.

On October 2, the Kautz Creek valley at Mount Rainier is blasted by a wall of water, rock, and mud. A glacial dam bursts, the churning flow gouges out the upper valley and covers the lower plain and road to Longmire with up to twenty feet of debris. Most of the trees in its path are uprooted or suffocate by the concrete-like mass.


- Studies of the chasm carved by the 1947 Kautz Creek flood reveal that such a flood had happened several times in the past. Similar studies in other parts of the park show that flows of a much greater mass happen at unpredictable periods of time along the drainage routes of all of the major glaciers. Studies begin to seek safer locations for the park headquarters and facilities in the potential path of a flow.


- During the winter of 1948-1949 a series of heavy snowstorms cause road closures due to falling trees and avalanches that cover the road with as much as 35 feet of snow and debris. Nearly 200 fallen trees per mile block the trails. Many of the bridges are crushed or swept away. Most of the 295 miles of telephone lines within the park are demolished.

TopMt. Rainier Centennial Web Next DecadeMt. Rainier Centennial Web

The Park  |  Centennial Events  |  Timeline  |  Fast Facts  |  Exhibit  |  Maps and Media  |  Credits  |  Search