Beach Anomalies

From Cape May, NJ and along the beaches of DE and MD, there remains an assortment of concrete relics (bunkers, towers, radio tower footings, even a concrete ship!). I’m curious to know what other odd-placed things people can find at their local beaches. It doesn’t have to be vintage WWII, but just atypical seaside scenery.

Also: How far up and down the East Coast can these WWII things be found? Any WWII things found on the Gulf or Pacific?

I found a rubber on the beach at Cape Hatteras. It looked kinda old.

Yeah, I knew I left myself wide open here “hyperdermics on the shore…” (B. Joel) …looks like I started a fire, here! :smiley:

There are many similar bunkers and mounds on Sullivan’s Island, a barrier island near Charleston, SC. Most are eerie, underground, abandoned concrete structures, although at least one has been converted into a house (comes in handy for the hurricanes). From what I know, they date from the Spanish-American War (I previously thought WWII myself). They were closed off to the public fifteen or so years ago amid rumors of satanic rituals, although more likely it was a response to drunken teenage…well…whatever it is druken teenagers do in a sleepy little Southern island town (this might tie in with the used condom sightings, and hey, all of a sudden we have an honest-to-goodness phenomenon). Doubtful, though: they’re pretty creepy, even in broad daylight. The only other fixture on the island is Fort Moultrie, which dates from before the Civil War, and is one of three forts around Charleston harbour, inlcuding Fort Sumter, where the Civil War started. Enough useless info?

I used to lifeguard at Fort Fisher, just south of Wilmington, NC. There are two or three of these huge steel (I think) barges just sitting in the marsh grass on the river side of the fort. I did climb on top of one using a half-rotted mooring rope. I recall them looking like huge shoe boxes – not streamlined at all. I’m guessing that they are WWII era boats, since the fort grounds were used as an airfield during WWII. This is applicable to the OP (again, I think) since the island can’t be more than 120 yards or so wide in that area, so the barges are easily accessible from the beach.

Jinx, you’d better be happy that you’re not mentioning Civil War era stuff, because right now, you’re out-numbered 2-to-1. :slight_smile:
(I’m joking! - please don’t turn this into a N.vs.S. thread.)

On the islands in Boston Harbor (Long, Lovells, Gallops) there are the remains of gun emplacements and forts, some dating back to before the civil war. The gun emplacements were manned during the Spanish-American War and WW’s I, and II. I am really puzzled why the naval commanders of the day felt the need to maintain these structures-as if a battle fleet from Germany (or Spain) would steam into Boston Harbor! Even in those days, highly improbable-of course it gave the Army something to do…

egkelly, I’m not sure about the Spanish American war, but for WWI and WWII there was a definate threat from U boats. IIRC, California did get bombarded a few times by Japanese I-boats.

Boston? That’d be a prime target, as far as the U.S. Army is concerned!

I’m personally very fond of Fort Knox (no, not that Fort Knox), just outside of Bucksport, Maine. It guards the mouth of the Penobscot River, keeping the strategically critical city of Bangor forever safe from enemy invasion.

Hey, it’s my job to look after rusty metal and concrete along a beach!

And don’t think that isn’t fun in a high-salt marine environment…and don’t get me started about ferro-hydraulics.

Here’s the homepage of the Coast Defence Study Group, dedicated to preserving and interpreting US coast forts:

Try their links page for more info on US coast arty fortifications on the east coast, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific coast, Alaska, Phillippines, etc. Here’s a good one for the forts in Alaska:

Something more exotic? Coast defence sites in Sydney, Australia: One of these (not sure which) is featured in a chase scene in Mission Impossible 2.

The British-based Fortress Study Group is worth a visit:

And our own site for Fort Rodd Hill: Harbor is the digital platform for alternative assets

As for the Spanish or Germans sailing into Bahston, or any other US east coast port, well the whole idea of coast artillery is one of deterrent (I know that argument has lost credence in this post-atomic world, but it held true 100 years ago).

Nothing is more vulnerable than a naval ship helpless in port, hence the need for batteries to protect the fleet, god forbid it should get caught in harbour, but also to protect your coaling, repair, and victualling facilities. If the enemy can raid your base and put your drydocks out of action, your Great White Fleet is pretty screwed.

The British officer in charge of designing the Canadian west coast defences in the 1890s wrote that “The effect of the coast artillery fortress should be akin to that of a large sign which says. ‘A fierce dog is on the premises.’”

I only know of one, an attack on an oil refinery.

There was also a Japanese sub that sailed into the mouth of the Columbia River during WWII. It lobbed about a dozen shells at Fort Stevens on the Oregon side. The fort did not return fire, but only because in the excitement of battle, someone made an error with the range finder and reported that it was out of range. Someone should have thought about this a little more. After all, the fort was within range of the sub, and it probably had a smaller gun. Anyway, the sub did no damage to the fort, which is now a state park.

That was the subject of one of PapaBear’s first threads (now deleted). Galveston, Texas received a few shells, doing no damage, from a U-boat during the war, and I remember the now gone concrete gun emplacements that were still on Galveston Island’s beaches when I was a kid.

Well, I have heard, though I’d be interested if anyone could corroborate it, that ocean-facing windows in at least a handful of east coast cities were painted black and many outdoor lights were turned off at night during WWII. The explanation I was given was that u-boats patrolled so close to the coast (though not close enough to be a direct threat to harbors) that they could discern a passing ship’s silhouette against the lights of a city. The same person (my US history teacher) told me that there were several good dives off NC where u-boats had gone down. I guess I could look it up, but what fun are the facts when I could just toss out some hearsay?

[QC Notice- this is done without reference - strictly from memory]

Operation Drumbeat was the “Happy Time” for German submariners - early 1942 had the U.S. coast brightly lit up and no blackouts effective. Much maritime tonnage was tagged and done away with during this period. Coastal lighting effectively silhoutted targets of opportunity. It took the U.S. a bit of time to come up with (eventually) effective anti-submarine measures.

WHOAH! I had always thought that the US of A suffered no direct attacks during WWII!?!? Color me surprised!



Here’s another tid bit for you. The Japanese had an elaberate program for sending bombs across the Pacific on the Jet Stream. IIRC, only one of them actually hurt anyone, but the whole thing was hushed up to prevent a panic.

Ahh, the FUGO fire balloons. Very ingenious, and would have caused a great deal of hassle and manpower drain if they had been launched during summer season, instead of the winter of '44-'45.

Basically, a 30-foot diameter doped paper hydrogen balloon, carrying a metal ring assembly which had ballast bags, a barometric switch (to release ballast if it dropped out of the jet stream during flight), a self-destruct bomb (usually a 15kg antipersonnel bomb), incendiary blocks, and a battery for power.

They launched something like 6000 (although 9000 were built) of these from the home islands, and they generally took 3-5 days to arrive in North America. The majority that have been found fell in Alaska, British Columbia and Washington State, but some also in Yukon, Alberta, Oregon, etc. One even made it to Michigan!

There were 6 people killed (a woman and 5 kids) when they found (and probably touched) a balloon bomb while picnicking on Gearhart Mountain, near Klamath Falls, OR, on May 5, 1945. The sole survivor (who was still parking the car when the explosion happened) was Pastor Archie Mitchell of Bly, OR.

The other damage done by the balloons was to short out the electicity at Hanford Plutonium Plant, by falling across power lines. It took three days for the piles to be brought back to full capacity. So perhaps the FUGO delayed the dropping of the first atom bomb by a few hours!

I have a small piece of one of the paper balloons that landed in Canada. It is an aquamarine colour, and has lot of pulp visible. Looks sort of like the hand-made paper you see in chi-chi card shops these days.

Oops, forgot.

Here’s a look at the suckers (they got the number launched wrong, though; 9,000 produced, about 6,000 launched):


I bow to thy Budda nature, sir. Much better info than my vague recollections. Many thanks.

There’s a concrete boat on the pacific coast at Seacliff Beach in the Monterey Bay.


Most of the Danish west coast is littered with German WWII invasion defense bunkers (part of the Atlantic Wall)- they’re a royal pain to remove, so they’re more or less left to decay on their own.

In the town of Hansholm, there’s a somewhat restored fortification designed to house a pair of 40 cm naval guns - together with a similar pair in Norway, they were theoretically able to hit shipping everywhere across the Skagerak. Fortunately, their precision proved considerably worse than their range, and they never went operational.

More interesting (IMHO) are some of the 1800-1805 coastal defenses - nothing left but the ramparts now, but they were supposed to defend from the English, which didn’t stop them from nicking our fleet in 1802.

A note on coastal fortresses: They were used with great effect by Norway, who managed to sink the German cruiser “Blücher” on april 9th 1940. (Unlike my country, Norway at least put up a fight).