Construction of Naval Air Station (NAS) Argentia began on January 25, 1941 and was completed that July. In order to build this base in anticipation of the US's involvement in World War II, over 400 families were displaced from the land by the Government of Newfoundland. While they had been paid for their property, they were uprooted from land on which generations before them had lived, and moved into other communities that were already struggling with the population they had.
August 7-12, 1941 saw the visit of US President Roosevelt, and UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill to NAS Argentia aboard the USS Augusta and HMS Prince of Wales, respectively. They were there to discuss plans for the eventual American entry into the war. While no documents or agreements were signed, the general agreement that was reached was referred to by the press as the Atlantic Charter.
When the US did enter the war, NAS Argentia began to provide air cover for convoys of ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean, as well as anti-submarine patrols. In addition, the dock facilities constructed there were kept quite busy.
In February, 1942, disaster struck the USS Pollux, a supply ship, and the USS Truxtun, a destroyer, as both ships ran aground just over 70 miles away during a storm. A total of 203 fatalities were recorded, of which over 100 were buried at NAS Argentia. A second destroyer, USS Wilkes, was also grounded the same day but was able to continue without loss of life.
In March, 1942, construction of Fort McAndrew was completed. This army facility was tasked with the physical security of the Air Station. In the spring of the following year, a floating dry dock facility was added to enable the Navy to carry our repairs to their ships.
During the Cold War, Argentia was involved in the SOSUS system, making it a target for several attempts at espionage.
In 1973, ownership of the land on which the base was situated changed first to the Government of Canada, and then to the newly-founded province of Newfoundland. All US Navy personnel and equipment finally left the base in 1994.
When we first arrived, we were almost disappointed. We drove along the main road and arrived at a gate that would allow us to proceed no further. There was a great deal of activity beyond that, and it was clear that some kind of construction was taking place. As near as I could find out later, they were building a facility in which offshore oil rigs would be built.
Turning back, I spotted a road in with no obstructions. I turned and followed it to find myself in the middle of the runway. As construction was clearly happening to the right, I turned left on the runway and proceeded to the end. I could see a number of bunkers built into the ground and thought this would be an excellent starting point.
At the end of the runway, I was expecting there would be a peripheral road often used to patrol facilities such as this. However, I found none. This puzzled me until I later discovered that the land on which the peripheral road was on, was now eroded out to sea. I doubled back on the runway and turned left onto the second runway and soon spotted an access road to the bunkers. The exploration was on.
We spent the better part of the day exploring this place. Not only were there these ammunition bunkers, but we went on to find two medium guns, still in place, and their accompanying bunker, and an observation post. Following other roads, we discovered several other buildings that were clearly part of the original base, but appeared to be in use for other purposes. We continued on back roads up into the surrounding hills and found countless more ammunition bunkers of various sizes. These guys were loaded for bear!
After my return home, through an act of personal stupidity, my photos were deleted. I was unable to get them back. For this reason, the photos you see below are those of Alex Methe, our guest photographer for this location.