All is Quiet on the Western Front

Joe Sterne Photography, hawk hill, san francisco, california, battery 129, abandoned military base

This was definitely a time in my life when I felt that I actually walked into a horror movie.

Joe Sterne Photography, hawk hill, san francisco, california, battery 129, abandoned military base

This weekend Jules and I wandered up to the San Francisco area to take some pictures. Jules had a (great) suggestion of heading up to a place called Hawk Hill to take a time-lapse of the sunset over the Golden Gate bridge.  After talking over the idea with my uncle Lee at brunch, we headed up there later in the afternoon.

Joe Sterne Photography, hawk hill, san francisco, california, battery 129, abandoned military base

When we arrived to Hawk Hill, we discovered two things. First, we were stuck in a extremely thick fog that showed no signs of moving anywhere soon.

Joe Sterne Photography, hawk hill, san francisco, california, battery 129, abandoned military base

Secondly, we discovered that Hawk Hill is actually an abandoned military installation dating back to World War II. Looking at the emplacements dug into the sides of cliffs I was suddenly reminded of bunkers from my tour of beaches in Normandy.

Joe Sterne Photography, hawk hill, san francisco, california, battery 129, abandoned military base

Joe Sterne Photography, hawk hill, san francisco, california, battery 129, abandoned military base

So here we were, at an abandoned military installation, in the fog, with no one around. What could possibly go wrong?

Joe Sterne Photography, hawk hill, san francisco, california, battery 129, abandoned military base

Joe Sterne Photography, hawk hill, san francisco, california, battery 129, abandoned military base

(I didn’t notice this pile till I edited the photos when I got home. This was a totally dark ammo storage area that I turned on the flash and took a picture “blind”)

Joe Sterne Photography, hawk hill, san francisco, california, battery 129, abandoned military base

Joe Sterne Photography, hawk hill, san francisco, california, battery 129, abandoned military base

Thankfully, we weren’t attacked by zombies or serial killers. (However, that pool of water above did creep me out a little) I was curious about where we ended up, and (mainly) to prove to Jules that this was some sort of WWII military base. Turns out I was right in my thinking. From the nps.gov website:

Former Battery 129, also known as Hawk Hill, has been a silent witness to the ecological and cultural changes in and around the San Francisco Bay for eons. It is the story of soldiers waiting for an enemy that never came. Although most of the World War II fortifications built in the park were intended to keep the newest battleships from reaching striking range, the war was fought and ultimately won from the air. Built into the highest point at the Golden Gate, Battery 129 had two large guns mounted under thick concrete shields covered with native vegetation for camouflage and virtually invisible from above. It features tunnels that connect the two gunpits, magazines, and storage rooms. After Pearl Harbor, the entire Western Defense Command was placed on high alert. Anti-aircraft guns were installed, and radar stations were developed. Even before the war ended, defending the San Francisco Bay against ships became superfluous, and heavy artillery soldiers were transferred to anti-aircraft duties.

During the Cold War, the Nike Defense system was put into place in the Bay Area and other urban areas throughout the U.S. Antiaircraft missiles were at ready from the Korean War all the way through the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty of 1972. Guided by a complex system of radars and tracking computers, they had ranges of up to 87 miles and could shoot down planes traveling two to three times the speed of sound. The radar station buildings at Battery 129 have been removed. During the Cold War, the Nike Missile radar station required visual connection to the missile launching area at Fort Cronkhite (currently the Marine Mammal Center). Again, this technology was never used and a global nuclear missile crisis was averted.

Joe Sterne Photography, hawk hill, san francisco, california, battery 129, abandoned military base

How cool is that?! Granted, the facility has fallen into deep disrepair. Walls are covered with graffiti Urban Artwork and obviously all military equipment was removed a long time ago.

Joe Sterne Photography, hawk hill, san francisco, california, battery 129, abandoned military base

Joe Sterne Photography, hawk hill, san francisco, california, battery 129, abandoned military base

Joe Sterne Photography, hawk hill, san francisco, california, battery 129, abandoned military base

All that is left now is an impressive display of American ingenuity.

Joe Sterne Photography, hawk hill, san francisco, california, battery 129, abandoned military base

(Yes, we survived unscathed)

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One thought on “All is Quiet on the Western Front

  1. Pingback: Timelapsing at Hawk Hill « Blog of Joe

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