Members of the Triple Nickles parachute into an Oregon forest in May 1945. (Photo by USDA Forest Service)

The “Triple Nickles” — the World War II-era airborne infantry unit that served as the subject of a special program during Philomath’s Veterans Day Celebration last month — will now be connected to a creek in Douglas County.

Some of you might remember a blog that I wrote earlier this year about the Oregon Geographic Names Board’s plans to consider proposals for renaming certain geographic features with offensive names in various locations around the state.

One of those was Negro Creek in Douglas County, which is located in southern Oregon. On a vote of 21-1, the board approved a motion to forward the name “Triple Nickles Creek” to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names.

The state-level name changes do not become official until approved by the USBGN and any other connected agencies (for example, the U.S. Forest Service).

At the Nov. 9 Veterans Day program at Philomath Scout Lodge, Robert Bartlett, a Vietnam War veteran and son of a World War II veteran, gave a presentation entitled “Jumping Into Fire.” Bartlett shared the history of the first all-Black U.S. Army Airborne Infantry Unit — specifically the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion that was known as the Triple Nickles.

The Triple Nickles were involved in a secret military mission in the Pacific Northwest code-named “Operation Firefly.” The operation was in response to the threat of wildfires caused by Japanese balloon bombs arriving on the West Coast. The Triple Nickles completed 1,200 individual jumps on 36 fires from July to October 1945 while operating out of Oregon and California.

One other name change was approved by the board with Swastika Mountain in Lane County proposed to become Mount Halo. According to an Oregon Encyclopedia article, Chief Halito (commonly shortened to Halo) was the leader of the Yoncalla Kalapuya tribe. The area near the mountain had been the home of the tribe for over 10,000 years, according to information provided to the board. Umpqua Mountain had also been suggested for the mountain’s new name.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at News@PhilomathNews.com).

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.