If you’ve read any of my earlier posts you know that I have spent a great deal of time living, working, and studying in Bosnia-Herzegovina. My research, focused on the development of Bosnia-Herzegovina since the war ended in 1995, has taken me to minefields, trenches, battlefields, and military camps. So, upon first glance, one might assume these photos were taken deep in the green forests of Bosnia. However, the bunkers, dating from the Second World War, can be found just over an hour away from Arcadia’s Glenside campus, deep in the Pine Barrens of South Jersey.
I love the outdoors, and over spring break, I planned to spend as much time hiking in the Pine Barrens as I possibly could. I’ve been an avid reader of Weird N.J. magazine since I was about twelve years old, and often consult old issues or their website for new hikes in the Garden State. One morning I stumbled upon a New Jersey hiking discussion board, where someone had posted photos of a battery of concrete bunkers from World War II that they had found on a wildlife preserve. Upon further research, I found that in 1942, the US Army constructed an airfield in Southern New Jersey, used to train pilots for the war. Along with the airfield bunkers, other military installations were constructed in the area. While most of the buildings from the base have long since collapsed or been demolished, the bunkers, quite literally “made to survive the war,” remained perfectly intact, hidden away in the forest.
The following day I set off with two high school friends into the pines to find the bunkers. As it turns out, the land where the bunkers were built was once farmland, but the military bought up the land to construct targets for the pilots to practice. When we arrived in the area we noticed huge fields that were cleared during the war, and I learned from research that nothing will grow there today due to the large amount of lead from bombs dropped there during the war. I was even able to locate some photos of the area from the war, with examples of the targets used.
Using maps of the area from WWII, we were able to locate a small overgrown trail that led us to the bunkers, where we spent the day exploring trenches and the remains of military buildings. It was surreal walking around WWII bunkers—some of which were almost identical to the bunkers I had seen overlooking the D-Day landing beaches in Normandy, France—in my own home state of New Jersey!