Because military tourism is always fascinating:
1. Coast Guard Heritage Museum; Barnstable, MA; This small museum is crammed with artifacts and preserves the unique history of the Coast Guard. With its official motto, "Always Ready, Always Prepared," the CG's unofficial motto remains "You have to go out, you don't have to come back." In just a short visit you'll understand just how dangerous offshore rescue missions can be. Near the Cape Cod National Seashore, wander from the museum over to the beach on a stormy day to see how angry the ocean can get; it's all the more reason to appreciate those who are called upon to go out when no one else will to save seafarers in distress.
2. Battleship Cove, Fall River, MA; An imposing collection of "floating grey," this is the largest concentration of WWII war ships in the world. Anyone who has served one of these ships or who has a modicum of interest in Naval History must see this place to believe it. The scope is overwhelming - you can hardly manage just one boat, let alone the dozens here, in just one day.
3. Rock Island Arsenal; US Army Military Installation; Moline, IL. A US Army Military Installation, the Arsenal operated as headquarters for the Iraq war and is the largest government-owned weapons manufacturing arsenal in the western world. The Arsenal is an active U.S. Army factory, which produces ordnance and equipment - M198 and M119 Towed Howitzers, and the M1A1 Gun Mount for Humvees - for the Armed Forces.
4. Freedom Rock; Menlo, IA; Coasting from Menlo, IA to Atlantic, IA on the White Pole Road (old US Route 6), make sure to turn left at the Greenfield Sign onto Iowa 25, cross I-80 and drive 2 miles to this distinguished boulder, painted anew each Memorial Day to honor our fallen soldiers. Ray "Bubba" Sorensen has made a name for himself creating murals (some using ashes of the dead in his pigments) to memorialize the men and women who paid the ultimate price for our country's freedom. The 56-ton "Freedom Rock" in remote Iowa is Sorensen's most renowned piece of handiwork.
5. Camp Ashland National Guard Base; Ashland, NE; Formerly known as just the "Rifle Range," Camp Ashland is home to the Headquarters, 209th Regional Training Institute (RTI), 1/209th RTI (NCO Academy), 2/209th RTI (OCS/WOCS) and 3/209th RTI (88M). Year-round training is conducted at Camp Ashland for Active Component, US Army Reserve, and Army National Guard soldiers.
6. Camp Atlanta; Holdrege, NE- Built deep in the interior of the USA, locals were told that that Camp Atlanta would house civilian "conscientious objectors" but this internment compound was actually constructed to house 3,000 WWII German Prisoners of War over three years.
7. Naval Ammunition Depot (NAD); Hastings, NE; As you approach Hastings, NE on US Route 6 heading west, you see what at looks like a bizarrely undulating lawn, but upon closer inspection is actually an array of camouflaged bunkers. Hastings was a WWII Naval Ammunition Depot providing 40% of the Navy's ammunition supply and these bunkers stored bombs and small arms manufactured in town. The Government confiscated a swath of farmland five miles wide and 8 miles long in the 1940's - and that "theft" is still a sore point today among the farmers' children and grandchildren. The sod-covered bunkers are all that remain from that era, but they are still quite a jarring sight.
8. West 6th Ave, Denver, CO; West Sixth Avenue as it comes through Lakewood was built largely to transport ammunitions in large trucks. The highway connected the Remington Arms Plant that was commissioned in 1941 in Lakewood on a former ranch to the main roadway. The Denver Ordnance Plant, as it was also known, was the largest contract ever awarded by a federal agency in Colorado at the time, according to a local history book. At one point, more than 6,000 people worked at the plant, pumping out several million rifle and machine gun cartridges each month. This facility has long since stopped making ammunition and ordnances, and it became the Denver Federal Center, the largest concentration of federal agencies outside Washington, D.C. now employing 6,000 federal workers.
9. Tonopah Bombing and Gunnery Range (former) and Tonopah Test Range (current); Tonopah, NV. This is where the Stealth Bomber and other military aircraft were (and are) tested, fuelling stories of UFO's. This hard, dry land is surreally vast and the perfect place to assess new warfare technology. According to a government website, "Tonopah is the testing range of choice for all national security missions. The Tonopah Test Range (TTR) provides research and development test support for the Department of Energy's weapon programs. The range also offers a unique test environment for use by other Government agencies and their contractors."
10. Manzanar Historic Site, Independence, CA; The unrelenting winds are intimidating enough, but it's the image of a concentration-camp in our own country that tugs most at one's conscience. Manzanar was just one of these "internment camps" for Japanese-born US citizens. During World War II, tens of thousands of Japanese Americans - adults and children - were taken from their homes and placed here and in similar camps all over the west. Not one of these citizens was charged with a crime, yet some were confined for as long as 3 ½ years. Newscasts of the day called the packed trains to the camps a "voluntary migration," and most who were instructed to go were told that they were being evacuated for their own safety, as animosity towards Asians skyrocketed after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This was our country's dirty little secret until President Ronald Regan signed a Bill of Restitution in 1988, calling these "war relocation centers" a "big mistake."
Read about the attractions and restaurants in my guidebook, Stay On Route 6 available on Amazon.
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