Abandoned Fort Ord: Once “America’s Most Beautiful Army Base”

The now largely abandoned Fort Ord military base in 1941 (Image: USAAC. The now largely abandoned Fort Ord military base in 1941)

Atlas Obscura called it “America’s most beautiful Army base”, and it’s easy to see why. Fort Ord was established in 1917 and occupies 45 acres of land along Monterey Bay, on the California coast. In its heyday, it was home to more than 50,000 active duty troops at a time.

Soldiers training in abandoned Fort Ord buildings (Image: DirectorG. Soldiers training in abandoned Fort Ord buildings)

The now largely-abandoned army base was initially dedicated to field artillery training. The facility was originally named Camp Ord for the Union Army Major General Edward Otho Cresap Ord. Horse cavalry continued to be trained there until the army made the shift to mechanised warfare. By the time the menacing spectre of World War Two loomed on the horizon, Camp Ord became Fort Ord and home to the 7th Infantry Division.

(Image: Torml)

Over the decades, Fort Ord remained am important part of the US military’s infrastructure. It was a staging ground for troops being deployed to combat in the Korean and Vietnam wars, as well as peacetime deployments to Japan, Thailand, South Korea, and the Philippines.

(Image: Bureau of Land Management)

The storied military base only approached the end of its operational lifespan in 1988, when President George W. Bush approved the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) legislation that would ultimately see Fort Ord shut down in 1994.

(Image: Torml. A line of disused barrack blocks)

Part of the reason for its record-breaking closure – it was the largest military base to close down at the time – was a discovery made by the Environmental Protection Agency. Underground storage tanks that were used to store waste materials from the base and the surrounding areas were leaking into the groundwater. Rectifying the spillage became a national priority.

The surviving Fort Ord Station Veterinary Hospital (Image: Chrismcelwain. The surviving veterinary hospital)

Atlas Obscura estimates that around 20 percent of the mostly abandoned Fort Ord’s original buildings still standing. Fortunately, these include some important pieces of history, such as the Fort Ord Station Veterinary Hospital, which was built in 1941 to oversee the care of the 1,400 horses belonging to the 76th Field Artillery Regiment.

Fort Ord National Monument by Monterey Bay in California. (Image: Bureau of Land Management. Fort Ord National Monument)

It remains the only World War Two-era medical facility dedicated to the care of the military’s horses still in existence, although some of the nearby stables were demolished in 2011. Tours are occasionally given and, nearby, a strip of land was designated Fort Ord Dunes States Park. In 2012, President Barack Obama established the Fort Ord National Monument, forever preserving this important relic of American military history.

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About the author: Debra Kelly




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