Camp Hero was established on this strategically important parcel of land in 1942. Montauk, located roughly half way between two major cities, was seen as a likely invasion point, and with German submarines spotted constantly along the coast line, this seemed an ideal location for defense. The Navy and Coast Guard also began developing in the surrounding area, combining to make Camp Hero quite formidable.
It included four 16" naval guns, 50 caliber machine guns, 90mm and 120mm artillery, as well as naval docks and seaplane hangers for patrol aircraft. Various structures were camouflaged using different techniques to protect them from spies including camouflage netting, painting windows on concrete bunkers and installing fake, decorative roofs.
After the war ended, the property was used to train reservists, the naval base was largely abandoned, and the large guns dismantled.
In June, 1948, with the Cold War already beginning, the US Air Force deployed the AN/TPS-1B radar to Camp Hero to help detect possible Soviet bombers. On December 1, 1953, the site was designated Montauk AFS and upgrades to the existing radar equipment began with the AN/CPS-5 search radar, and two AN/TPS-10A height-finder radars.
Upgrades continued, with Montauk AFS getting the latest and best new technology available. In 1958, the station was added to the SAGE network, and became a testing centre for such new technologies as light pens, magnetic memory, WAN (wide area networking) and modular circuit packaging.
In December, 1960, the new AN/FPS-35 radar, a landmark which still remains, was installed. Initially, this equipment was so powerful, it disrupted local radio and television until modifications were made. After two years, it was joined by the AN/FPS-26 height finder.
In 1978, with most of its equipment now obsolete, it was suggested that Montauk AFS be closed. Military operations ended here in September, 1979, but it continued operation for the FAA until January 31, 1981.
Parts of the property were sold off, but those areas deemed environmentally sensitive were handed over to the New York State Department of Parks, and opened to the public in September, 2002.
It's interesting to note that the old radar tower has been implicated in a conspiracy theory. The so-called Montauk Project was alleged to be using the radar dish to conduct experiments in mind control.
I was really hoping to get closer to that massive, highly recognizable radar tower, but there was a fence surrounding it, and it seemed like park employees were everywhere. Watching a video on YouTube after I returned from this trip, I was dismayed to discover that there is a substantial amount of equipment still remaining inside.
It was an interesting place to look at, thinking about its lengthy and important history, but the inability to access any of the buildings except for exteriors really detracted from it. Next time, however...