The Anti-Comintern Pact of WWII

When talking about World War II, most people know about the conflict as the Allies versus the Axis powers. However, there were a lot of different and competing allegiances both before and during the war, all of which had some level of impact on the outcome. One of the most intriguing was the Anti-Comintern Pact of 1936. Although this Pact didn’t alter the course of the war as significantly as others, it does illustrate how complicated things can be during times of conflict.

So, with that in mind, we want to take a closer look at the Anti-Comintern Pact. Who was part of it, what it outlined, and what it meant for the war overall.


Anti-Communist Sentiment Pre-WWII

During Hitler’s rise to power, he had a fairly extensive list of enemies. One of them was the communists, most notably the USSR. Hitler and the Nazi party were vehemently anti-soviet and believed that bolshevism would corrupt the world as much as Judaism and other beliefs.

In the mid-30s, Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda, developed the General Association of German Anti-Communist Federations, or GDAV, as it was known in Germany. The primary goal of the group was to spread anti-soviet messaging both inside and outside of Germany to bolster support for the Nazi party.

When the Spanish civil war broke out in 1936, the GDAV focused a lot of its propaganda there, particularly because the Nazis were allied with Franco’s fascist party. On the opposing side was the USSR, who supported the Republicans. The Germans felt that a formal treaty with other nations could help stem the tide of soviet aggression.

On the Japanese side, they also viewed the Soviet Union as a primary antagonist. Since the USSR was expanding its operations in the region, and considering that the two countries practically shared a border, tensions were high before the Anti-Comintern Pact was signed.

Another element that caused conflict between Japan and the Soviets was Japan’s invasion of Manchuria and China in the early 30s. Since Imperial Japan was extending its power and influence in the region, the Soviets knew that they would eventually come to a head. Further complicating matters was the relationship between communists in Russia and those in China.

Initially, Germany had hoped to ally with China and Japan against the USSR, since Sino-German relations were good. The Chinese bought armaments from the German military, and the Germans received valuable resources, such as tin and tungsten. However, because of the conflict between China and Japan, Germany would have to pick one over the other. Eventually, since the Japanese military was a more potent ally, Hitler went with them.


The Seventh World Congress of the Comintern

In 1935, communists around the world came together for the Seventh World Congress, held in Moscow. There, communist leaders recognized that they were heading into significant conflict with both Western and Japanese powers. Before the Congress, the Soviet treatment of Western democracies was one of mutual benefit. However, seeing that Germany and Japan were actively becoming more aggressive, leaders believed that it was better to secure alliances with left-leaning countries, such as Great Britain.

During the Congress, communist leadership called out Japan and Germany as aggressors and potential threats to the USSR and its interests. Because of this Congress, Germany realized that it needed to form an anti-communist alliance as soon as possible.


German Alliances With the USSR and Great Britain

One of Hitler’s strategies to consolidate his power was to work with people right up until the point he betrayed them. It worked wonders in Germany, as the “night of long knives” allowed Hitler to dispose of his enemies swiftly.

Abroad, he used the same tactic with Great Britain and the Soviets. However, his long-term goals were always to push back against Soviet aggression and remove the Bolsheviks once and for all.

With Great Britain, Hitler signed the Anglo-German Naval Agreement in 1935. This agreement came as a shock to Japan, which saw the treaty as a threat to the German-Japanese alliance. However, Hitler’s primary reason for aligning with Britain was to weaken his European enemies (i.e., France) and to help contain the USSR. At the time, he felt that an alliance between the Western powers was far more valuable to removing the Soviet threat.

With Russia, Hitler and Stalin agreed to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which was itself something of an extension of the Treaty of Berlin. Since 1922, Germany and Russia had agreed to a pact of nonaggression. Neither country would ally or aide an enemy of the other.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was named after German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Soviet diplomat Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov. This agreement went into effect in 1939 and stipulated how the two powers would carve up Eastern Europe, specifically the countries of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland.

The idea behind this Pact was that Hitler wanted to share a border with the USSR. Then, it would be much easier for him to invade, since he wouldn’t have to move through intermediary countries first. Although the Pact made it seem like German aggression toward Russia would cease, the plan was always to invade and wipe out the Soviets.

In both cases, Germany sent secret messages to Japan to let them know of their ultimate plans, thus securing the German-Japanese alliance.


What Did the Anti-Comintern Pact Do?

On the German side, Ribbentrop was the primary architect of the Pact. On the Japanese side was Hiroshi Oshima, the ambassador to Germany from 1938-39 and 1941-45. Both men vehemently hated communism and the Soviets, and they made sure that the Pact assured mutual assistance if the Soviets were to attack either country.

There was plenty of back and forth about what to include within the Pact, but in the end, it covered a few key protocols.

First, both countries were to share information about communist dealings, specifically those related to the USSR (although the country was not named publicly). The Pact was careful to omit any details regarding military strikes or advancement so as not to create diplomatic tensions with the Russians.

Second, should the Soviets attack either country, the other would agree to step in and offer assistance as needed. Originally, it’s believed that the first draft of the Pact, as signed by Hitler, had a more offensive stance, but the Japanese were worried about having to back Germany if they launched an invasion. The way it was written in the final draft, the Pact was meant as a defensive measure only.

Finally, there was a secret protocol added to the treaty, which named the USSR directly and outlined Germany’s and Japan’s informational and militaristic alliance. Based on the language of the secret protocol, it was apparent that the Pact was designed as a measure against Russia specifically, not communism in general.


What Was the Anti-Comintern Pact’s Impact on the War?

For the most part, the Pact signaled that Germany and Japan were officially allied with each other. The Chinese were largely upset, since – at the time – they were still receiving German aid to help fight off the Japanese. That aid ceased in 1937 when Japan invaded China.

For Europe, the Pact was seen as an act of aggression toward Eastern European countries like Czechoslovakia and Poland. When Italy signed the agreement in 1937, that further cemented the divide between the Allies and the Axis powers.

In Germany, the Pact was part of a pro-Japanese propaganda movement by the Nazi party. Since most Germans were pro-Chinese, the Nazis had to work hard to sell the idea of an alliance with Japan. Over time, Hitler wanted to strengthen the bond between the two countries, particularly for cooperation after the war.

In Japan, the Pact wasn’t widely celebrated, but it did create some tension between the Imperial Japanese Army (who supported the Pact) and the Imperial Japanese Navy (who weren’t supportive). According to the Navy, the more significant threat in the region was the US and Great Britain, so allying with Germany effectively made cooperation with the US and UK impossible.

For the Soviets, the Pact was a clear act of encirclement between Japan and Germany. They also saw through the public version and realized that there must be a secret military alliance between the two countries against the USSR. Essentially, the Pact made the Soviets more paranoid and encouraged them to ramp up their armament in case of conflict.

Overall, once the Pact became public, it signified a shift in allegiances, which made a lot of countries nervous. Italy’s entrance to the agreement in 1937 only made matters worse and put Europe and Russia on edge. Had Germany and Japan not gone public with their treaty, it could have bought them some time to strategize their plans for the war. As it was, they played their hand and would let the chips fall where they may.




Posted in America, Anti-Comintern Pact, China, Germany, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, World War II, WWII | Leave a comment

Post-War Plans for the World War II Axis Powers

When talking about historical fiction, one of the most popular “what-if” scenarios involves what would happen if the Axis powers had won World War II. As improbable as it may seem today, the countries of Germany, Italy, and Japan had huge ambitions that could have led to a restructuring of the world as we know it.

So, with that in mind, we want to take a closer look at the proposed ideas and plans that the Axis powers developed in the early stages of the war. To make it easier, we will be looking at them based on the country, starting with the least-capable of the three: Italy.


Italy – A Roman Renaissance

When you look at Italy’s involvement in World War II, one could assume that they would have been better off sitting the whole conflict out. Although fascist leader Benito Mussolini had grand visions of a new Roman empire, his soldiers and regime were ill-equipped to make it a reality. No matter where they went, the Italians suffered casualties and defeat. Whether it was Ethiopia, France, or Greece, Mussolini couldn’t seem to get his act together.

Still, had Italy whipped its soldiers into shape or had Germany prevailed, the general idea was for the country to reclaim colonies it lost in World War I, as well as expand into ancient Roman territories. The Mediterranean was particularly attractive, which is why Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in 1935, Albania in 1939, and the Horn of Africa and Greece in 1940. Unfortunately, in each circumstance, the Italian army suffered massive losses. By 1940, Germany had to come to Mussolini’s aid to prevent the Allies from gaining a foothold in Europe and cutting the German Reich through the middle.

Overall, Italian plans for a new Roman empire were nothing more than a pipe dream. A huge issue for Mussolini was that he failed to inspire his countrymen to share the same vision. While his party was in charge, the average Italian citizen was not eager for war, especially having suffered during the last one.


Japan – A Pro-Eastern Coalition

Japan’s territorial expansion began long before World War II broke out. In fact, they were making inroads toward a new Japanese empire before the first World War, with conflicts in Taiwan in 1895 and Korea in 1910.

One of the reasons for this expansion was the desire for Japanese influence to dominate the region. Western powers had long been trying to control the Far East. The French had Indochina (Vietnam), the British had Singapore, Hong Kong, and India, and the United States was also starting to acquire islands – namely the Philippines and Hawaii. Japan sought to eradicate Western forces from these countries, replacing them in the process.

The plan was called the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and it included all nations within Southeast Asia, going as far west as India and parts of Russia, and as far south as Australia. Had Japan succeeded in the war, this sphere might have expanded further to include the United States.

China and India were particularly attractive to the Japanese, as they established colonies in both countries. In 1942, Japan sent an ambassador to Germany to discuss the division of Southeast Asia. The two countries agreed on a border that crossed through China, Russia, India, and Afghanistan. Germany would control the western portion of India, while Japan controlled the east, including Pakistan.

Interestingly, by dividing the country so neatly, it created problems for the Axis powers. Neither one wanted to cede territory to the other, so the border was well-maintained by both sides. Japanese forces were victorious in driving the British back in India but were unable to maintain momentum for fear of crossing into German-held territory. Since Germany was occupied with other conflicts, they weren’t able to continue Japan’s aggression, which meant that neither side could gain a strong foothold in India.

As with Germany, Japan’s grander scheme seemed to place itself at the top of a global hierarchy. Other nations within the Co-Prosperity Sphere would feed into Japanese industry, acting as de facto colonies for the greater Imperial Japanese Empire. In return, these countries could shed Western influence for good. Overall, it seemed that the Japanese believed Eastern and Western cultures were too dissonant for a long-lasting cooperation.


Germany – Total World Domination

When talking about post-war plans, no one dreamt bigger or had grander visions than Adolf Hitler himself. Based on the projects we know about, his ultimate goal was world peace – with Germany as its leader. However, to reach such lofty heights, he would have to do it in stages. The overarching strategy he developed was called the New Order (neordnung).

First, there was Lebensraum (living space), as described in his manifesto, Mein Kampf. Germany, being the second-most populous country in Europe, needed more space for its citizens to grow and thrive. This philosophy would drive the annexation of Austria and the Czech Republic in 1938, as well as the invasion of Poland in 1939.

However, the Polish invasion was also necessary for Germany to establish a border with Russia. Since Hitler had long-term plans to invade and destroy the Slavic nation, he wanted to set up an easy path to Moscow first.

Germany’s expansion to the west, including invasions of Luxembourg, Belgium, and France, was another part of the Lebensraum plan. Denmark and Norway were also annexed, particularly because of Hitler’s affinity for the Nordic people. He believed that Nordic and Aryan races were superior to all others, so they should sit at the head of the table, with everyone else making room for them.

The eventual plan was to create a Greater German Reich, which would occupy most of Europe, except Great Britain, Spain, Italy (for obvious reasons), and the Middle East. The Reich would consist of ancient Germanic territories, and each colony would be indoctrinated as quickly as possible.

After Lebensraum, the next phase was more racially motivated. Hitler wanted German men to sow their seed as far and wide as possible, and German women to have as many children as possible. This policy would be known as Lebensborn (fountain of life) and was carried out in many annexed countries, mostly Denmark and Norway. The idea was that Germany needed to increase its population to fill in these newly conquered territories and to promote the country’s hegemony (racial dominance).

To help bolster this cause, the German high command created the Gold Honor Cross of the German Mother, which was awarded to any woman who had at least eight babies for the Reich. Also, the law was rewritten so that men could marry additional wives as necessary. According to Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS and the Lebensborn program, he envisioned a global German population of 300 million by the year 2000.

Another method of ensuring Germany’s dominance was the resettlement of Germans to new colonies. By 1942, almost 630,000 Germans had been moved to parts of Poland and France, with plans for another 390,000 in the following years.

As far as an invasion strategy went, Hitler saw Russia as the biggest threat to his plan of world domination. Thus, he developed Operation Barbarossa, which started in June of 1941. In his mind, Russia was such a backward country that the invasion would be swift and decisive. Once the Slavs were defeated, he could continue his Lebensraum and Lebensborn programs unabated. Since the rest of the Allies were nowhere to be found, it would be years before he had to move on to the next stage.

Had Russia fallen as quickly as Hitler envisioned, he had plans for every other part of the globe. Here are some highlights of his vision for a thousand-year Reich.



Northern African countries would go to Italy, while Germany would reclaim pre-WW1 colonies in the central part of the continent. This conquest would include modern-day countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan, Zambia, Angola, and Botswana. South Africa would remain mostly independent.


Middle East

Hitler had no real plans for the Middle East, instead leaving it for Mussolini and the Italians. However, he did strike a deal with Turkey, thanks to its anti-Russian ideology and strategic location. Hitler would allow the Turks to expand throughout the region as they saw fit, and they would be close allies. Turks even got equal status as Germans.


North America

For the most part, Hitler’s plans focused on Europe and Russia, not the United States. Sending troops across the Atlantic would be too costly, and an invasion of North America would only be possible once Europe and Africa were colonized. In his mind, the eventual battle between Germany and the US would happen decades later, in a sort of Eastern vs. Western hemisphere conflict. Unfortunately, Britain didn’t surrender in 1940, and Japan attacked the US in 1941, so Hitler was forced to tangle with US forces much sooner than he wanted.



When talking about a long-term strategy for global domination, Hitler knew that he would have to bump up against his Japanese allies. Overall, the plan was for Lebensborn to help the Germanic people establish dominance over Asian countries over many years and decades. At some point in the future, a German-led coalition of European and Russian forces would have to invade Asia to establish ultimate supremacy. As with North America, however, Hitler would likely not be around to witness it.




Posted in Axis Powers, England, Europe, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United States, World War II | Leave a comment

Post-War Plan of the World War II Allied Powers

Post-War Plan of the World War II Allied Powers

After one of the most devastating and costly wars that the world has ever seen, the Allied Powers set out to accomplish specific goals after the war. These included bringing justice to Germany and the power of the Axis, along with necessary reparations that would restore balance to the globe, after the war.

For the war crimes that Germany had committed and the massive cost that they imposed on the allies in terms of both life and the cost of the war imposed on each nation that participated.


Conferences After World War II

The Potsdam Conference was held after the war from July through August of 1945. The US’s goal in the conference was to implement the Morgenthau Plan, developed by Henry Morgenthau Jr., who was the United States Secretary of the Treasury at the time.

During this famed conference is when the United States made the elective decision to dismantle the German armed forces and to strip them of all of their munitions factories, along with any other civilian-led industries that had a link to supporting their troops during the war.

This elaborate and comprehensive plan also included the total destruction of the ships involved in their navy and their aircraft and aircraft manufacturing plants and capabilities. The US also placed heavy restrictions on any and all types of civilian industries that could even possibly support the German armed forces, to keep the German military and economy at bay.

The Allies stripped down German industry and manufacturing to what they referred to as “approved peacetime needs” which were based on the standard of other European countries. They also reviewed the German industry closely to assess the minimum of factories that Germany would need to stay somewhat economically sufficient.


Industry Plans for Germany After World War II

The Allied powers signed the first level of industry plan back in late March of 1946. This plan would execute lowering Germany’s manufacturing and industrial capabilities by 50%, from what it was before the war. To do this, the allies mandated the destruction of 1,500 German manufacturing facilities.

The Allied Control Council put a stringent cap that limited German steel production down to 25% of what they were before the war broke out. Since this had a direct impact on the entire steel production capabilities of the UK, they argued to let Germany keep their steel production higher, but the US, Soviet Union, and France didn’t budge on this issue. They had set a strict limit to 3 million tons of steel production per year.

With the limitations that were placed on Germany after the war, this brought their economy back to the state that they had been at the worst of the Great Depression. The allies set out to cripple or limit the German economy as much as necessary, without providing a hindrance to the survival and standard of living to the German people.

William Henry Draper Jr. led the charge on analyzing these restrictions as to make sure that the new German industry and economy could support a population of 66.5 million. To do that, he laid out that the nation needed to be dependent on large imports of raw materials and food from other countries, so that the German people could be fed and take care of their minimal standards of living.

This also required Germany to shift economic terms, and instead of thriving on an economy fueled by war exports, these mandates made restrictions on the goods that Germany would export. It led them to being restricted to exporting electrical gear, coke, leather goods, coal, wines, spirits, beer, textiles, clothing and apparel, toys, and musical instruments.


The Results of the Morgenthau Plan

By 1946, the allies came to find that their implementations from the Morgenthau Plan were strict, and throttling the German people and their economy. With the allies taking notice of the undue hardships that this was placing on their country, they changed their stipulations to allow for some German economic expansion.

One of the primary reasons it is thought that the US changed their restrictions on Germany is because Germany was footing the bill for a significant piece of the occupation costs, of their country. Though, the limitations on the German economy inevitably left the allies relying on their own exports and funding to continue their occupation of Germany and prevent mass starvation during their post-war occupation.

The war and the end of the war took a massive role on the entire European economy. Prior to the war much of Europe was growing because of the booming growth of the German economy.

In 1947, President Harry Truman began to realize that the restrictions that the allies had placed on the German economy were far too strict, and the ramifications of that were crippling the entire European economy. Though he faced resistance to make changes to their original economic regulations, President Truman replaced their previous holds with JCS 1779, which addressed that the economic growth and stability of Europe as a whole was heavily reliant on the success of the German Economy. In accordance, he raised the bar on their regulations by allowing Germany to produce double the amount of steel that they were producing, though that limit was still only 50% of Germany’s pre-war steel production capacity.


Great Britain

Great Britain and the UK reaped the benefits of taking many German patents, intellectual property, and pieces of technology. They took German technicians and scientists captive after the war, threatening to keep them as prisoners if they did not reveal their trade secrets.



The US permitted France to expand their borders of the Saarland, which gave them access to German coal as a means to stimulate the post-war french economy.

By 1949, the Germans felt that they had suffered enough and called for an end. They felt that they had paid their dues and were fed up with the tug of war the allies were playing with them in encouraging economic expansion, while tearing down and limiting their production of factories and raw goods in which would help the economy. France was in support of the dismantling of Germany to continue.


The Post War Soviet Union

The reparations to the Soviet Union after the war included the shipments of dismantled German industrial equipment. From The end of March of 1946 to August of 1947, the Soviet Union had taken in 11,100 tons of German equipment.

In return, the Soviet Union was to ship food and wood to the western zones of Germany to aid in their survival and economic stability. However, the Soviet Union fell short on their end of the bargain, and in response the US but a temporary hold on the shipments of German industrial materials to the Soviet Union.


United States

The United States government set out with some very specific goals after the end of the war. Much of their strategy had to do with supporting their allies while making sure that justice was brought to the Axis.

The Allies in the west became concerned of the economic deterioration and fallout in the Trizone ––– the zones in Germany occupied by the Americans, British, and French after the war ––– after the war had ended. The US outlined the Marshall Plan which provided for financial aid to Europe, extending through Western Germany. This, along with a currency reform that they implemented in 1948 would help curb rampant inflation and provide some financial stability in the region.

The United States made it a priority to seize the patents and scientific technology that was being developed in Germany at the time. It is estimated that the US alone took around $10 billion in the form of German intellectual property. Most of this was split between the US and the UK.


The End of the Dismantling of Germany

Dismantling of the West German economy and their industry officially ended in 1951, but some restrictions stayed in play until the Allied occupation of West Germany came to an end in May of 1955.

Post-War Plan of the World War II Allied Powers

Posted in England, France, Germany, Russia, USA, Winston Churchill, World War II, WWII | Leave a comment

History of Father’s Day

History of Father's Day

Father’s Day is a special day of the year that we celebrate fathers around the world. Even though this is a holiday that we celebrate every year, there are few people who really know the historical challenge that it was for Father’s Day to get established as an official holiday.

Who began celebrating Father’s Day and how was Father’s Day started? Here is a history of Father’s Day.


The Early History of Father’s Day

Did you know that the idea of Father’s Day has been around since the Middle Ages?

The earliest recorded date that we have for celebrating Father’s day goes back to March 19, 1508. Father’s Day was originally celebrated in the Catholic church in Europe, and was dedicated to celebrating the bond between fathers and their children. It was celebrated on March 19th which is on the same day as the day that Catholics would feast in the honor of Saint Joseph, the Father of Christ.


The US and Father’s Day

Father’s Day was actually not celebrated in the United States, outside of the Catholic church, until the early 1900s. It started to get support from individuals in the early 1900s who wanted a day to complement Mother’s Day. A day that was special for celebrating fathers in the US and around the world.

The first Father’s Day took place on July 5th in Fairmont, West Virginia. The observance of Father’s Day was held in the Central United Methodist Church in town. Grace Clayton, one of the members of the church, was mourning the recent loss of her father, who was one of 361 men killed in a mining disaster in a nearby town. 250 of those men had children, leaving behind fatherless families in the wake of this tragic and unexpected accident.

Grace took it upon her to ask pastor Robert Webb to take a moment during his service to honor these fathers that had been killed in this awful event. Due to the local nature of this memorial, this commemoration was not held anywhere outside of the town of Fairmont and wasn’t promoted anywhere else. This also remained a relatively quiet memorial due to the fact that it was overshadowed by the celebration of Independence day the day prior, and also the headlines the following days in which a 16-year-old girl passed on July 4th.

With so much going on during the time of the church’s commemoration for the fallen fathers, this local church in West Virginia didn’t formalize this event for their annual calendar, and as such wasn’t revisited for years later.


Failed Attempts at Father’s Day

Jane Addams, an Illinois local, proposed a citywide celebration of Father’s Day in Chicago back in 1911, but the city turned her down. Portland, Oregon also tried to establish and celebrate Father’s Day that same year but had failed.

Just a year later, J.J. Berringer pastor of the Irvington United Methodist Church in Vancouver, Washington led the charge on celebrating Father’s Day. In 1915, Harry Meek believed that he had been the originator of Father’s Day, and chose to celebrate it on his birthday which happened to be the third Sunday in June.


Establishing Father’s Day

It wasn’t until Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington started promoting Father’s Day that the holiday was actually able to get some traction on a national level. Her father was a civil war Veteran that raised six children on his own. She had actually proposed the idea for the first Father’s Day celebration back in June of 1910 as a way to commemorate her father and the love that he had for his family.

They held their first Father’s Day in the YMCA in Spokane on June 19, 1910, but Dodd was not able to keep up the momentum. In the 1920s she was attending art school in Chicago. However, when she returned to Spokane in the 1930s, she started promoting Father’s Day on a national level.

What was so brilliant about the way that she went about promoting it is that she partnered with the businesses and trade groups that would benefit the most in celebrating fathers around the country. She worked with companies and associations that manufactured gifts that were commonly given to fathers, including tobacco and pipe makers and companies that manufactured neckties.

In 1938, she had garnered the support of the Father’s Day Council, which was founded the New York Association of Men’s Wear Retailer’s as a way to unify, consolidate, and systematize promotions that they would run for Father’s Day. Even then, many Americans resisted the establishment of Father’s Day, viewing it as another way for companies to capitalize on sales, as they had done historically with the celebration of Mother’s Day. It wasn’t until 1972 that Richard Nixon signed off on making Father’s Day a permanent, national holiday.

So a very Happy Father’s Day out there to all you Dads – Enjoy!

My daughter and I in St. Petersburg, Russia (October 2017) in front of the Winter Palace, now the Hermitage Museum. Every day with her is Father’s Day!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Abandoned Industrial Sites of America

Abandoned Industrial Sites of America

For many years, America stood as a beacon of industry. From the age of the Industrial Revolution to the mid 20th century, the United States was in a state of constant growth and production. These days, however, various factors – including automation and globalization – have created a much different industrial landscape. Where there were once high-output factories, now stand empty buildings; monuments to a time long past.

While America is still an industrial powerhouse, our focus has shifted in the past few decades. In this article, we want to provide some insight into the history and changes that have occurred. We also want to take a closer look at some of the most captivating abandoned sites across the country. Join us on an adventure through time.


America’s Industrial Revolution: A Primer

When we talk about the United States as an industrial and manufacturing powerhouse, most of the growth and change happened in the years following the Civil War. From about the mid-1870s, the country was exploding with innovation and new industries that were unheard of decades prior. This revolution would shift the landscape and populations of the nation dramatically.

Some examples of monumental shifts during the late 1800s included:



We take it for granted today, but electricity only existed in one’s imagination. That is, until 1882, when Thomas Edison founded the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of New York, which provided incandescent light bulbs and the power to use them. Although progress was slow initially, once it caught on the country (and the world) would never be the same. Edison Electric eventually morphed into what we now know as General Electric.



For centuries, horses and wagons were the preferred methods to get from point A to point B. However, during and after the Civil War, trains became an even more integral part of modern life. They helped the North ship men and supplies to the front, and they were an essential component of Westward Expansion.

At the turn of the century, automobiles became more affordable, which spelled the end of the horse. In 1908, when the Ford Model T was invented, there were only about 200,000 cars on the road. By 1927, that number exploded to 15 million.

Abandoned Industrial Sites of America


City Living

As factories and industrial centers became more and more prevalent, they needed a massive workforce to keep the machinery running. In the early and mid-1800s, most Americans lived in rural areas and towns. As manufacturing grew, more citizens started moving to cities, thanks to better work opportunities. Even today, the majority of Americans live in big cities rather than small towns or suburbs.


America’s Manufacturing Decline – 2000 to Present

The boom of the late 1800s lasted for over a century, even through the Great Depression and two World Wars. In fact, one could argue that both World War I and II helped make America even more of an industrial powerhouse, as military manufacturing helped create jobs and opportunities. Also, since America itself was not ravaged by the war (unlike European countries), it was able to grow at an unprecedented rate.

However, that all changed with computers. For most of the 20th century, manufacturing output remained stable, growing at a rate comparable with the national GDP. However, since 2000, the country has been hemorrhaging jobs and losing factories to other countries like China.

Although the US started becoming more efficient during this period, job loss and the shuttering of various plants and manufacturing hubs have only gotten worse. While it’s impossible to find one specific reason, here are a few of the factors that contributed to this decline.



As countries around the world start developing and growing, they are beginning to have larger workforces. China and India have become powerhouses in recent years, thanks to cheaper workers driving more profitable growth. Many businesses, both in the US and elsewhere, are taking advantage of the cost savings by building materials and products overseas and then shipping them back to the United States.

Not only that, but because these countries have cheap labor, products that they make internally are also more cost-effective for consumers. Why would people pay twice as much for something just because it was made locally? As long as the product quality is similar, there’s no reason to pay more.

Abandoned Industrial Sites of America



While global trade deficits are a substantial factor in America’s industrial decline, a focus on automation and robotics has been as much (if not more) of a killer. In many industries, factories can produce more efficiently with fewer workers. Those that do stay behind are highly skilled engineers, programmers, and technicians – a far cry from the uneducated masses that powered Henry Ford’s automotive empire.


Shifting Demographics

Finally, America’s industrial decline can be attributed to a changing mentality among modern workers. Before, it was a good idea to work at a factory for 20-30 years until you could retire. The money was stable, and one could provide a decent life for a family.

Today, more of the workforce is looking for jobs and careers that offer more than a steady paycheck. Workers want value from their efforts, which means doing more than pressing a button or attaching parts on an assembly line. As demographics shift, so do the areas of growth. While manufacturing is declining, other industries are booming, such as:

  • Healthcare – The healthcare sector has experienced massive growth in recent years. An aging population and improvements in medicine are driving factors.
  • Technology – it’s no secret that the US is a hotspot for tech companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook. Silicon Valley is the most noteworthy area, but cities like Seattle, Phoenix, and Portland are all booming, thanks to investments from the tech sector.
  • Nondurable Manufacturing – while America doesn’t make many consumer goods, the country is thriving in the nondurable sector (products with a short shelf-life). Some examples of nondurable products include gasoline (thanks to fracking), clothing, and electricity.


Abandoned Industrial Sites in the US

To help us understand the gravity of the situation, we want to take a closer look at some of the buildings and sites that have succumbed to these mitigating factors. Many of these locations are related to manufacturing or industry, but some of them have just become victims of shifting populations. Here is a taste of what abandoned America looks like.


Bethlehem Steel Lackawanna Plant – New York

At the turn of the 20th century, steel and iron manufacturing was at its peak in the United States. Most of the demand for these raw materials came from massive construction projects, such as the Empire State Building or the Golden Gate Bridge. World War I and II also created tons of demand for iron and steel for the war effort.

Lackawanna Steel was the largest manufacturer in the world in the 1920s, and this plant thrived for many decades. What brought its decline, however, was an increase in environmental regulations and taxes. The business owners decided to move out of New York for these reasons, and the site has sat unused since 1982.


Buffalo Color Corporation – New York

Color is such an integral part of modern life that it can sometimes be challenging to wrap your mind around where they all originate. Everything from clothing to food needs dyes and colors to make them pop, and one of the largest plants in the world was in Buffalo, New York.

For many years, this abandoned site was part of the National Aniline and Chemical Company, which started in the 1880s. Once again, both World Wars contributed to the factory’s success, as clothing and supplies for the war effort required dyes and other chemicals.

In the 60s, relaxed trade deals allowed American businesses to import cheaper varieties from other countries, and National Aniline started to slow down. This particular site was changed to Buffalo Color Corps in 1976, with its specialty being indigo dye for blue jeans. Unfortunately, cheaper Chinese versions of jeans flooded the market shortly afterward, spelling doom for the company. By 2003, this plant shut its doors for good.


Packard Motor Car Company – Michigan

We could populate this list solely with plants and factories currently rotting in Michigan’s former automotive empire, but we’ll focus our attention on one in particular – the Packard Motor Car Plant. This impressive site was built in 1903 and was the most advanced factory for its time. The site covers 35 acres and has over three million square feet of space, making it one of the largest auto plants in the world.

When it opened, Packard specialized in high-end cars for wealthy individuals. During World War II, the factory helped make engines for the P51 Mustang fighter planes. After the war, however, consumer demand shifted away from luxury vehicles to more affordable middle-class offerings. Packard struggled to keep up, especially against heavy competition from Ford, GM, and Chrysler (aka the “Big Three”). The plant shut down in 1957.


Chemung Mine – California

Along with auto plants, gold mines and towns are other prevalent victims of the cycle of boom and bust over the last century. Chemung sat on the outskirts of a small city in California, and during its peak, it was highly regarded as a producer of fine gold. The mine was built in the early 1900s and opened in 1909. The main structure itself was torn down and rebuilt numerous times, and various legal troubles forced it to close for good in 1938.


R.J. Loock Auto Parts – Maryland

This site is relatively unique in that it was both a manufacturing hub as well as a retail storefront and parts distributor. R.J. Loock was a family business that started in 1913 and operated for almost a full 100 years. According to locals, the last heir to the Loock company died in 2001, and with no one in line to take over, the business shuttered for good.

The site was abandoned quickly, as many parts and supplies are still sitting unused on the factory and storefront floors. Although the area was vacated in the relatively modern age of 2001, most of its remnants echo decades past.


Pittsburgh Post Gazette – Pennsylvania

When talking about industries in decline, you can’t forget to mention print newspapers. The internet is a free and ubiquitous resource of information, meaning that print media is still facing a slow, agonizing death.

The Pittsburgh Gazette was founded in 1786, although this particular site was built in 1927. The Gazette continues to this day, although as a shadow of its former self. This specific site was home to three floors of printing presses and numerous offices. Since the paper consolidated and moved to another location in 2015, this building has been empty and unused, waiting for renovation and a second life for some up-and-coming industry.


Birdsboro Steel – Pennsylvania

Like Bethlehem Steel in New York, this area was a crucial component in the growth and prosperity of the new American empire. However, Birdsboro goes back even further than Bethlehem, all the way to the country’s roots. The original forge was built in 1740 and provided pig iron for the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Throughout the decades, Birdsboro would become a steel manufacturing powerhouse, continuing its tradition of military armament through both World Wars.

Unfortunately, the decline of manufacturing in the 1970s, thanks to more prevalent union strikes and rising imports, spelled the beginning of the end for Birdsboro. By the end of the 80s, the plant shut down for good. After it closed, the plant became an auto scrapyard, and currently houses hundreds of rotting vehicles across the massive site.


Pemco International Corp – Maryland

This factory was the original site of the Pemco International Corporation, which specialized in making glass and porcelain. The company’s founder was a pioneer in the porcelain enameling industry, as he discovered a way to add the material to iron surfaces. Some of the most notable products to come out of this plant included household appliances, outdoor grills, and roofing tiles (such as those for hotel chain Howard Johnson).

Environmental issues started creating problems for the company, as the plant regularly dumped toxic chemicals in the surrounding area. The site was shut down in 2006 as the company moved closer to Mexico and currently sits unused. Unfortunately, the area is still highly toxic, so it’s unlikely that any developments will come along soon.




Posted in Abandoned America, America, History, Industrial Revolution, Ruins | Leave a comment

World War II Ruins in Germany

Are you a World War II buff? If that’s the case, Germany has some of the most famous sites and ruins of any country amongst the axis and the allies. Many of the monuments, facilities, and landmarks left by Nazi Germany and the Third Reich were bombed and destroyed during the war, and many of these ugly reminders of the war were later destroyed. Even so, many key landmarks are still standing, to serve as a reminder to the German people and the world of one of the most devastating wars humankind has ever witnessed.


1. Berlin: Vorbunker and Fuhrerbunker

These are famously known as the places that Hitler took refuge during the war. He eventually ended up living here toward the end of the war. These bunkers were designed to serve as a protective air-raid bunker for Hitler, as well as his close family and personal guard.

Though the exact site of these bunkers has been redeveloped into a residential housing site, a memorial stands to mark the previous location of the bunkers that the Fuhrer sought refuge in at the end of the war. The Fuhrerbunker was actually the location that Hitler shot himself and committed suicide at the end of the war. If you visit today, you can see a sign that explains the layout of the bunkers and the significance that the bunkers played in the history of the war.


2. Berlin: Holocaust Memorial

Some of the most famous and most visited ruins and memorials from World War II serve as reminders from the brutality of the Holocaust. The ruthless Third Reich was responsible for the death of 6 million jews in the Holocaust, over the course of the second world war.

The Holocaust memorial in Berlin is one of the few memorials that commemorate the senseless, discriminatory slaughter of the Jewish people. The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin is a site that spans nearly 5 acres. It is a beautiful yet solemn memorial that was designed by the brilliance of engineer Buro Happold and architect Peter Eisenman, serving as a tribute to all Jewish victims in the Holocaust, as well as their families.


3. Berlin: Soviet War Memorial

 The Soviet War Memorial in Berlin was erected to honor the fallen Soviet soldiers of the battle of Berlin. The battle took place in 1945, near the end of the war. The statue at the memorial really evokes the emotions of sadness from the battle and from the war as a whole.

There is a statue at the memorial of a Soviet soldier, holding a sword and a German child. The soldier is standing over a shattered swastika. The area leading up to the monument and the statue itself is lined with 16 stone vaults or sarcophagi to represent the 16 Republics of the Soviet Union. Each of these 16 vaults have military scenes etched into them, along with quotes from Joseph Stalin that are written in both German and Russian.


4. Dachau: Memorial and Museum

 Dachau was one of the first concentration camps constructed under the rule of Nazi Germany. Dachau was created to detain political prisoners from Austria and Germany, along with thousands of Jewish prisoners.

In the 12 years that Dachau was open (from 1933 to 1945), over 200,000 prisoners passed through the camp, and nearly 32,000 people were killed in the concentration camp. In the 1960s, Former Prisoners of Dachau-East assembled to create a memorial for prisoners that had been through or were killed at the concentration camp.

The memorial in Dachau was redesigned in 2003. How it is laid out, the memorial actually follows the path that new arrival prisoners walked when they were processed into the camp. Two of the original barracks were actually rebuilt to commemorate those that were killed in Dachau, and one of them outlines the entire history of the concentration camp.


5. Nuremberg: Rally Grounds of the Nazi Party

 Nuremberg is the location of the Nuremberg Trials. The site and the event where the judges of the allied powers passed made 22 major Nazi war criminals stand trial. 12 of which were sentenced to death for their atrocities during the war.

Nuremberg is also the site of the Nazi Party Rally grounds. This assembly site spans 11 square kilometers, and were created to host rallies of the nazi party. Six of these rallies took place on the Nuremberg Rally Grounds between the years of 1933 and 1938. Pieces of some historic buildings are still standing on the site of the rally grounds, and many of them have been preserved to serve as a memorial from the war.


6. Hamburg: St. Nicholas’ Church

 There are many churches dedicated to St. Nicholas, around the globe, but the one in Hamburg, Germany is unique for several reasons. The first being that it was actually at one time, was the tallest building in the world for the two brief years between 1874 and 1876.

If it was built so long ago, what was the significance of this church during World War II.

The pilots of the Allied Forces actually used this prominent tower of the church as a marker for orienting themselves in the city. This was critical for them during their air raids and strikes on Hamburg, during the war. As you can imagine, the church sustained heavy damage from the bombs that the allied forces dropped in the area. Parts of the roof of the church collapsed, but even with the extensive bombing of the area, the walls and the tower somehow remained standing.

The tower and some of the salvageable walls around the church have been preserved to commemorate the war.


7. Obersalzberg: Eagle’s Nest

 The “Kehlsteinhaus” as it is known in German, or the Eagle’s Nest for the English translation, was less of a tactical position for the Third Reich and more of a recreational area. The Eagle’s Nest was actually given to HItler as a 50th birthday gift. It became a retreat and vacation home that he would use to entertain and host guests and their friends.

The Eagle’s Nest has been preserved and is fully standing, unlike many other memorials, monuments, and ruins from the war. It has beautiful views of the land and mountains around Berchtesgaden, and today the Eagle’s Nest is open to the public, complete with a tourist information site, a beer garden, and even a restaurant.


8. Colditz: Colditz Castle

Germany and other regions throughout Europe are known for their architecture, and specifically their castles. Though Colditz castle is another key World War II location in Germany, the construction of the castle actually started in 1158, after Thimo the first was made Lord of Colditz by Emperor Frederick Barbossa. Throughout the Middle Ages, the castle was actually used as a lookout post for German Emperors.

When World War II broke out, the Nazi’s converted Colditz castle into a high-security prison. This prison was used to detain high profile officers and war prisoners who they believed would be at a high risk for escaping. The castle is located on a rocky area, above the River Mulde which made the Nazi’s believe that this castle would make for s difficult prison to escape from. Conversely, this prison location held the highest number of successful escape attempts throughout the course of the war.

9. Nordhausen: Mittelbau Dora Memorial

 Mittelbau is another World War II concentration camp site that is nestled near Nordhausen, in Thuringia. Though Mittelbau was only established as a subcamp in 1943, it made a reputation for itself during the war as one of the cruelest and most ruthless concentration camps in Germany. Just a year later, it was established as a main camp, with several other subcamps around it. One of the major prisoner populations of this camp were Slavic people, which the Nazi ideology marked as less than human. The Nazi prison guards would regularly work the prisoners through excruciating 14 hour days, wihtout access to adequate food, beds, water, and hygiene. For that reason, roughly a third of the prisoner population of Mittelbau died.

By the early 1950s, most of the main prison camp had been demolished, but locals of Nordhausen began redesigning the area around the crematorium to make a memorial and cemetery.


10. Merzig: Besseringen B-Werk

 The Besseringen B-Werk is unique in that it is the only completely reserved Nazi Bunker out of 18,000 total bunkers that were known as the Siegfried Line. The Siegfried Line served the Nazis as a 400 mile defense system to protect themselves during the war. The Siegfried Line where the Besseringen B-Werk stands consists of a network of 32 war bunkers. The reason that they put “B” in the name is due to the fact that the bunker was built to construction standards with a thickness rating of ‘B.’

After the war, the site was used as a dump site for rubbish and garbage, but in 2005 the country reopened the bunker and redesigned it to include a museum that is open to the public.


11. Peenemunde Military Test Site

 During the war, the Peenemunde Military Testing Site became one of the most advanced technological facilities in the world. This is the site where Germany and the Nazis developed and tested various types of guided missiles. One of which was the V-2 missile that they fired into space in 1942. The Nazi’s goal with this military testing site was to develop and leverage advanced weapons technology to exercise superiority over military foes.

After the technologies were developed, the construction of the rockets were mostly done by inmates, slave laborers, and prisoners of the concentration camps. Though this facility sustained frequent attacks and bombings from the allies during the war, the museum for this historic site was built in the power station of this weapons development and testing site.


12. Hurtgen Forest

 Though this is more of a geographic location than it is ruins that were left from the war, Hurtgen Forest carries the weight of some considerable historical significance. The battle that took place in Hurtgen Forest was the longest recorded battle that took place in Germany during World War II. The battle spanned months, starting in September of 1944 and ending in December of that year. The US First Army suffered from the battle, with a total of 33,000 soldiers that were either killed or wounded. Some records estimate that number is closer to 55,000. The Germans lost roughly 28,000 soldiers in this arduous battle. In the forest, you will find a military cemetery and a monument that was actually built in memory of a German lieutenant, that escorted a wounded American Soldier safely through a minefield during the battle.


13. Munich: Konigsplatz

 The Konigplatz is yet another location in Germany that the Nazi Party used to amass their rallies. Originally, the Nazis had constructed two temples that honored and housed the remains of 16 Nazis that had died during the war. The Nazi Party believed them to be martyrs for their efforts. The US Army demolished both of these after the war, and the only things that are left standing are the platforms that the temples were built on.


14. Munich: Feldherrnhalle

 The history of the Feldherrnhalle is interesting. It was the site of a Nazi coup against Bavaria back in 1923. During a brief fight (Known as the Beer Hall Putsch), 16 members of the Nazi party were killed. The same 16 that were housed in the temples in the Konigsplatz. When HItler in the Nazis took power in 1933, he turned the hall into a memorial to those Nazis that were killed in the Beer Hall Putsch.








Russian World War II War Memorial in Berlin – November, 1989

Russian World War II War Memorial in Berlin – November, 1989


East German Soldier guarding Berlin Wall – November 1989

East German Soldier guarding Berlin Wall – November 1989


Berlin Wall a few days before it’s fall in November, 1989.

Berlin Wall a few days before it’s fall in November, 1989.


I took the above pictures when I happened to be in Berlin, November 1989 during the fall of the wall. It was an incredible experience!

I took a taxi to Brandenburg Gate. There were news crews with cameras on cranes and large crowds. The wall itself was much bigger than I thought. Near the Brandenburg Gate, the wall was maybe 10 feet wide. There were armed East German soldiers marching on top of the wall.

I recall that looking from the West into the East was like looking at a color photograph, then looking an older black and white version of the same photograph. East Berlin looked to be a cold, grey, dark and foreboding place.

In West Berlin I saw familiar looking cars, Mercedes Benz, Volvo and other western European cars. The East Germans were being allowed to drive into West Berlin and I recall that the East German cars looked and sounded like small toys compared to the cars of West Berlin.

I was able to walk up to the wall, which by now was covered in graffiti, and touch it. So, I can say that I was able to touch the Berlin Wall as it was coming down.

I had nearly forgotten about my brief visit with history in Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate until I came across the old photographs. What was my one twinge of regret? I did not bring home a piece of the Berlin Wall. It would have been very easy. Kids were taking sledgehammers to the wall and there were small pieces available and this was before TSA security at airports.

But that is okay – I have my memories and the photographs of my day with history.



Posted in Germany, World War II, WWII | Leave a comment

World War II Ruins in France

World War II Ruins in France

For the history enthusiast, there’s nothing quite like the thrill you get when you visit an important historical spot in person. It’s one thing to read about history being made; it’s another to be there, to stand where those others once stood and relive those past days.

For many, war-related ruins and monuments are especially important. This is because these historical points mark places where history didn’t just happen — it was shaped there as well! There are thousands of war-related ruins, geographical points, monuments and museums to visit across the globe, but World War II holds a special place in many peoples’ hearts due to its sheer size and importance.

In France, the memories of World War II are alive and well. For those history hounds hoping to visit this beautiful country there is much to see, do and learn. Below are some of the most important World War II ruins in France. To learn about them, we’ll move across the country, generally from west to east, talking about some of the most important points in each area of our visit. Let’s start out tour with what is undoubtedly the most famous beach in the annals of history:



There’s probably no place in World War II lore that is as fabled or awe-inspiring as the beaches of Normandy. June 6, 1944 is rightly seen as one of the most important dates of the 20th Century, and thankfully this area of northwestern France pays homage to that history. The Normandy coast is littered with beaches that all played an important role in the Allies’ final push on D-Day, and one could spend a long time just touring this area. In fact, many people do.

Normandy is actually made up of several different beaches, from Utah Beach in the west to Sword Beach in the east. Each one of these beaches saw heavy fighting that day, and many carry the scars even decades later. All of them can be visited, but let’s focus on one in particular:


Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach saw some of the heaviest fighting on D-Day, with a severely high death toll among Allied soldiers. Many troops drowned trying to make it onshore, and those that didthat did were very quickly gunned down by the entrenched German troops. Eventually, though, Omaha Beach fell to the Americans.


Pointe Du Hoc

It’s not a beach, but Pointe Du Hoc is a must-see for any Normandy visitor. Nowhere was the fighting more deadly than in this area. Allied troops were forced to scale 100-foot tall cliffs to capture German fortifications.

Today, a visitor can tour the area, which contains various points of interest. Many of the craters created during the bombardment are still very visible and give the visitor just an inkling of the devastation that occurred there that day. Erosion has started to claim this area, and efforts are underway to preserve this vital bit of history.



Just up the coast from Normandy is Calais, another coastal area that saw heavy German fortifications, as Hitler was convinced this is where the Allies would try to land. Because of this, massive forts and bunkers were built that can still be toured today.


Batterie Waldam

Batterie Waldam is a huge complex that really cannot be explored in one visit — unless that visit is stretched out over a couple of days! With over a mile of bunkers, tank traps and other defenses put in place, there are tons of things to explore here.

At Waldam the Germans built a huge, interlocking array of buildings and artillery that was clearly designed to turn the entire area into a death trap. Massive guns pointed both towards the coast as well as inland so that no matter where an attack came from, those at Waldam would be ready.

With the sheer amount of death and destruction that occurred at Normandy, it’s hard to think it could’ve been worse. Yet, looking at Waldam, it’s easy to see why Calais was skipped altogether — if the Allies had landed there, that day could have turned out very differently!


La Coupole

La Coupole was a bunker built on top of an old underground quarry. The original intent was to build a site to store and launch the fearsome V-2 rockets towards England, which sat right across the English Channel. Housing and other rooms were built, and were all put under a massive concrete dome. However, the German plans were thwarted here when the Allies began a strong bombing campaign during Operation Crossbow. The site was soon abandoned.

The site was captured in 1944 and partially destroyed. There it sat until 1997, when it was turned into a museum.



Moving inland, no tour of French World War II history is complete without a stop in Paris. Luckily, Paris was spared most of the fighting during the war, having fallen early without putting up a real resistance. That being said, there aren’t many actual “ruins” in this city. However, there are a few spots of note.


Le Meurice

Le Meurice is a hotel that was built in 1815 and is still active today. This hotel is the height of modern luxury, going so far as to be designated as a “Palace Hotel” in 2011. It’s important for us, though, because during the war, from late 1940 through mid-1944, this hotel was taken over and used as the headquarters for the Nazi occupation in France. Visiting this hotel puts you right where some of the most famous names from German-occupied France made decisions that affected the lives of all of those living under German rule.


Fort Mont-Valerien

Fort Mont-Valerian was a fort long before the Nazi occupation, but it played an important role during the Nazi occupation. It was here that thousands of French citizens were imprisoned for various activities, and over 1,000 were executed by firing squad.

After the war ended, Charles de Gaulle consecrated the site as a public memorial, and it has remained so to this day.



Southwest of Paris lies what is probably the most heart-breaking and poignant World War II ruin in all of France — the village of Oradour-sur-Glane. On June 10, 1944 the fate of this village changed forever when a division of German troops arrived in response to what was basically no more than a rumour that a high-ranking German officer was being held captive in this tiny village.

Over the course of the next few hours, the entire village was slaughtered. The men were taken to various barns and sheds throughout the village, where they were all executed by machine gun. The women and children were rounded up and put in the village church, which was burned to the ground. In all, 642 men, women and children lost their lives. Only a small handful escaped.

That night, the village was partially destroyed until only part of it remained standing. Then, the German division left.

Today, the village has been rebuilt a few miles down the road, and the ruins still stand as a reminder of the atrocities that took place there. A museum stands close by, and the original site has been consecrated as a memorial.

Any visit to World War II France must include a visit to this sacred place.


The Maginot Line

Our last stop takes us all the way to France’s eastern border to a series of fortifications known as the Maginot Line. These bunkers were built in the years between World War I and II as an attempt to keep Germany from marching across the border. For that reason, these bunkers and forts were made to be strong, full of ammunition, soldiers and equipment ready to defend the country from invasion.

It was a good strategy, but it didn’t work. The problem was that France only built this line of defense along the southern stretch of its border. It didn’t build any along its border with Belgium, since Belgium was an ally. So, when Germany invaded and conquered Belgium, they were able to march into France without having to encounter these fortifications at all.

The remnants of the Maginot Line are still in place and can be visited all up and down the border. Bunkers such as Ouvrage Fermont and Ouvrage Galgenberg are just two examples of what you can encounter exploring this area.

These bunkers come in all sizes, from large, massive buildings that sprawl both above ground as well as below to tiny buildings that served more as lookouts than anything else. There is also an extensive network of underground tunnels that link much of the Maginot Line, giving you plenty of places to explore.

For the history lover, France offers a wealth of World War II sights that must be visited. The German occupation and eventual Ally liberation left a mark on this country that is still visible to this day, if you only know where to look.

World War II Ruins in France



Posted in France, History, Military, Ruins, World War II | Leave a comment

British Ruins of World War 2

British Ruins of World War 2

As the deadliest and most destructive conflict the world has ever seen, World War II serves as a reminder of what can happen when military giants decide to go head to head. Although it’s been over 70 years since the war ended, scars of the conflict remain to this day. Looking at these sites through a modern lens can give us a glimpse of what life was like under the constant threat of military action.

World War II was fought on many battlefronts, but today we’re going to focus our attention on Great Britain. The British Isles served as an instrumental staging area for Allied forces during the war so that they could launch the greatest offensive of all time to recapture occupied European territory.

We’re going to look at numerous ruins while diving into their history and importance during the war (and beyond). Step into our Wayback machine, and let’s see how World War II shaped a nation.


St. Margaret’s Beach Fortification

During the early years of the war, Nazi Germany was storming across Europe, finally reach Britain’s doorstep. Once France had succumbed to the Wehrmacht, it looked like the Germans would launch a full-scale invasion of the island nation. Afraid of what that could do for the war effort and the Allies (considering that the US hadn’t officially entered the conflict), Britain had to act.

Field Marshall William Edmund Ironside drafted a plan to protect England’s coastline with a series of tunnels, gun emplacements, minefields, and anti-tank obstacles. This network would be known as the “Coastal Crust,” and one site that remains to this day is the fortification at St. Margaret’s Beach.

Here you can see remnants of a tunnel system that was dug into the cliffside. Several pillboxes were installed within the rock to cover the beach from a potential invasion. The entrance to the tunnels was sealed years later, but intrepid explorers can access them from the gun turret.

Nearby, there is the St. Margaret’s Museum, which dives deeper into the strategic importance of the beach and how it played a part during the war. Dover was an important location for both the Allies and the Germans, and it will show up multiple times on this list.


The Secret Tunnels of Dover

Depending on which side you were on, the battle of Dunkirk was either a rousing success or a rousing success. Allow us to explain – as the Nazis marched into France, Britain and other allied troops tried to fend off the Blitzkrieg. Unfortunately, the Germans were too well organized and equipped, forcing the Allies to retreat to the beaches of Dunkirk. Almost 350,000 men waited there for rescue while enemy forces neared closer and closer.

Unfortunately, although Britain has one of the finest navies in the world, most of it was occupied elsewhere. Not only that, but the British were still preparing for war, so they had massive personnel and equipment shortages at the time.

To help expedite the evacuation, hundreds of civilian boats were pressed into service, including pleasure yachts, lifeboats, tugboats, and others. Over 800 “little” ships arrived in Dunkirk to ferry the soldiers across the English Channel to Dover. These tunnels were dug into the white cliffs to help the men get off the beaches and back to civilization.

Both sides considered the battle a success. For the Germans, it meant driving British forces out of Europe, as well as capturing massive amounts of guns, vehicles, and other equipment left behind. For the British, they were able to recover several battalions worth of men, who would come in handy later during D-Day.

At this site, you can explore an exhibition recalling the events of the campaign, called Operation Dynamo.


Red Sands Fort

As the German Army started performing air raids on London and other English cities, they were able to use the Thames River as a guideline, particularly at night. To help protect the river and its surrounding environs, the British Army and Navy constructed a series of fortifications along the river’s estuaries.

These forts would be called Maunsell Forts, named after Guy Maunsell, the architect who designed them. There were four navy-style and four army-style structures constructed in strategic points throughout the estuary. One of the only ones currently accessible is the army-style fort at Red Sands.

The Red Sands fort is a series of seven towers, each connected by a metal walkway. Being an army-style structure meant that soldiers could man turrets on each of the six outer towers, watching for enemy boats and opening fire as necessary.

After the war, these forts became hubs for pirate radio stations in the 1960s, having been decommissioned in the late 50s. Currently, a nonprofit organization is trying to restore and preserve the Red Sands Fort for historical purposes.


Denge Sound Mirrors

War can inspire the most creative minds to build all kinds of impressive structures. However, while some of them can become instrumental in turning the tide of battle, others, like the Denge Sound Mirrors, can become obsolete, serving as a monument to the “build first, ask questions later” nature of global conflict.

Interestingly, though, the “mirrors” were built during the interim between World War I and II. From 1914 to 1939, a series of concrete structures dotted the coastline surrounding Kent. Each structure was designed to capture soundwaves from incoming aircraft and focus them on highly sophisticated listening devices. The idea was that groups stationed along the mirrors could identify aircraft before they were in firing or bombing range, allowing the British to scramble a rapid response.

Unfortunately, by the time the first set of mirrors was finished and tested in 1930, radar was starting to become a thing. Construction of the mirrors continued, but once World War II began, they were all but obsolete. Today, only a few of them remain, and you can take a guided tour explaining how they worked and why they were built.


Chislehurst Caves

The Battle of Britain was a devastating point of the war for England and the Allies. German planes bombarded cities all along the coastline and up the Thames River, including London, Dover, and Kent.

To help protect its civilians from these raids, the government built many underground facilities. While Londoners could escape the bombs by hiding out in subway stations, those who lived in Kent and the surrounding area came to Chislehurst.

This cave system is massive, as it could house up to 15,000 people at a time. In addition to the usual refinements (beds, restrooms, and mess halls), Chislehurst was also home to a movie theater, a barber, and three canteens so that locals could still get a spot of tea. There was a Red Cross hospital built inside, staffed by one doctor and two nurses. Fortunately, the hospital wasn’t overrun with casualties, but one girl was born there during the war.

After World War II, the caves were closed, although they reopened in the 60s as a concert venue. Today, there is a guided tour of Chislehurst that delves into the history of the Battle of Britain. Guests can also see replicas of the accommodations that residents had to use at the time.


RAF Upwood

Air superiority was a crucial point during the war, as the country with the best planes and pilots could dominate the skies. Bombing raids and dogfights were a constant part of World War II, which meant that all countries involved had to have various airfields and training grounds for their men.

For the Royal Air Force, Upwood served as one of those training grounds. The site was first built during World War I, although the runways, hangars, and other buildings were not permanent installations.

Between the wars, the Royal Air Force realized that they needed to expand and upgrade their operations, so Upwood became a staging area for many new planes and pilots necessary for the war effort. The airfield saw action twice during Luftwaffe bombing raids, but fortunately, there was only one casualty.

Post World War II, Upwood became a training ground for the US Air Force, who used it throughout the Cold War. Since the mid-90s, the site has been abandoned, and you can explore the ruins of the former base.


ROF Wrexham Industrial Estate

If you’re not familiar with the acronym, ROF stands for Royal Ordinance Force. Bombs and other munitions were essential for the war effort, and countless ROF sites popped up across Britain both before and during World War II.

Wrexham is located in Wales, and the ROF quickly adopted the industrial site at the beginning of the war. Wrexham was chosen for a couple of reasons. First, it was far enough away from Germany to be less enticing as a bombing site. Second, the area had a good railway network, enabling the ordinance to be shipped wherever it was needed.

To help protect the site from reconnaissance and attack, British forces spread the complex over a wide area. Farmland and agricultural buildings were left standing so that it would appear less like a munitions factory. Many of the ROF structures were also camouflaged to help avoid detection from spotter planes. Defensive pillboxes dotted the area, and an airbase was nearby to help defend both Wrexham and other military installations.

Wrexham mostly produced cordite, a substance used as fuel for various artillery shells. After the war ended, cordite production halted. Today, the site is home to many different businesses, as newer buildings were constructed in the 1950s. Remnants of storage towers and pillboxes can be seen and explored, although there are no guided tours.


RAF Biggin Hill

Because air raids were so prevalent during the war, countless shelters were built in strategic areas throughout the country. Airbases, like the one at Biggin Hill, required sturdy concrete structures to protect the personnel whenever the Germans would come knocking.

Biggin Hill was attacked several times throughout the war since it housed an RAF squadron. An air-raid shelter was built into the side of a hill nearby, which was large enough to accommodate around 40 people.

During the war, the British government allowed military men and women to share their stories on the radio as a means of boosting morale and providing personal insight into the war effort. One woman, Felicity Hanbury, recalled two bombing raids at Biggin Hill on August 30th, 1940.

As I entered headquarters, the sirens wailed, and we were told to go to the trenches. A few seconds later, we heard one squadron roar into the air, then another, then still another, and finally, the civilian air-raid warnings sounded in the surrounding country. We laughed and chatted on our way to the trenches, as this was no unusual occurrence.

Hanbury survived both raids, and Biggin Hill was never out of action. Several buildings and hangars were destroyed, along with phone lines, but the base remained operational throughout the war. Similar air shelters, however, were not so lucky. The government wisely decided to forgo sharing those stories so that civilians would not be dissuaded from using shelters altogether.


St. James’ Old Church

Although the ruins of this church consist mostly of the entryway and a few feet of walls, they have a long and impressive history. It was built in the 11th century, and restored in the 1800s. The church also served as a meeting place for the Barons of the Cinque Ports, although their last congregation was in 1851.

It’s interesting to think that a building like this stood for so many centuries, only to be destroyed so swiftly in modern times. The church was first damaged during World War I, when a seaplane dropped bombs on the nearby city, causing debris to hit the roof.

Although St James’ church was restored in 1931, German artillery destroyed much of the building during World War II. Firing across the English Channel, the Nazis had decided to target British cultural sites, including ones like this.

After its destruction, the church remained in ruin, with the main bell tower collapsing in 1951. Afterward, other parts of the structure were demolished in 1953 for safety reasons. Today, it serves as a “tidy ruin” that visitors can explore at their leisure.

British Ruins of World War 2





Posted in England, Europe, Military, Ruins, World War II | Leave a comment

Liquefied Natural Gas Production and Export in the United States

Liquified Natural Gas

When it comes to energy production and consumption, natural gas is on the rise. Compared to other carbon-based fuels like crude oil or coal, natural gas is far more abundant and much less pollutive when burned. As the world starts to move away from the dangers of carbon-based fuels, natural gas will continue to be a valuable resource for modern society. Currently, gas usage is on the rise, and these trends are expected to continue to go up in the coming years.

One of the best ways to store and ship natural gas is in a liquid state. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is highly stable, and it offers a variety of advantages. LNG production and usage are becoming more and more valuable these days, which means that countries that can produce LNG will become vital in the continued growth and expansion of industrialized nations.

In recent years, the United States has been increasing LNG production significantly. Currently, the US is ranked number three worldwide, but that will change in the near future. In this article, we want to take a closer look at LNG and its impact on the world, as well as the United States’ role in the production and export of this material.

The Value of Liquefied Natural Gas

One of the reasons that natural gas is in such high demand is that it can be used for a wide array of industries. Consumers are most familiar with the product as a means of heating houses and cooking fuel.

However, the application of natural gas goes well beyond those uses, as various industries utilize it to produce steel, paper, clothing, chemicals, and other products. Also, because natural gas is highly stable, it’s easy to deploy in a variety of situations. Some areas have even started using liquefied natural gas as an alternative fuel source for vehicles, as it burns cleaner than gasoline and is much denser.

The liquefaction process has been around for over a century, with facilities opening in the early 1910s. However, LNG production and usage have grown substantially since then, with modern industrialized nations leading the demand.

Compared to traditional natural gas, LNG has a host of benefits. First, gas production facilities can store much more of the material, as the liquefied version takes up 1/600th of the space of regular gas. Transportation of LNG is also highly reliable, making it feasible for producers to ship the fuel using trucks and barges, particularly in areas where building a pipeline is unfeasible.

LNG is much more stable than other fuel sources, as it is rarely flammable or combustible. This is a huge reason why the transportation of this material has been so reliable. In fact, barges have traveled over 100 million miles with LNG, all without any major leaks or catastrophes. Considering how crude oil spills have dominated the headlines in recent years, LNG is much less problematic.

Worldwide Demand for LNG Grows

While other carbon-based fuels are trending downward, natural gas is only expected to increase in demand. China is the world’s largest importer of the material, accounting for around 40 percent of global consumption. Industrialized nations around the globe need natural gas for many different industries, and because of its clean-burning profile and stable storage, it’s a much better alternative.

Overall, worldwide demand for LNG increased by 4.6 percent in 2018, and it’s projected to grow even higher in the next five years. This means that countries that can produce LNG reliably will be in a highly competitive position when it comes to trade and influence.

US Production and Export of LNG

As recently as 2003, the United States was in a precarious position regarding natural gas. At the time, we were using more of the fuel than we were importing, which created a massive shortage across the board. Headlines of the year illustrated the potential disaster that awaited the country if natural gas imports weren’t increased to meet demand.

In recent years, however, the United States has gone from a major importer of LNG to one of the top five exporters. The first LNG production facility opened in Louisiana in 2016. Since then, the US has overtaken countries like Nigeria and Indonesia to capture the number four spot in worldwide LNG production.

Let’s take a closer look at why this happened and what it means for US interests, both domestically and abroad.

A Shale Revolution

Driven in part by the shortages of the early 2000s, energy companies were looking for a way to boost US natural gas production. Fortunately, they found the answer in massive gas deposits trapped in shale rock. Fracking has become a vast industry in the last few years, as production facilities can tap into these deposits to create an abundance of natural gas.

Once the raw material became readily available, liquefying it was the next logical step. Many countries lack the infrastructure necessary to pipe in natural gas, which is why LNG is so valuable.

Cheniere Energy was the first company to create a liquefied natural gas facility (called a train) in 2016. Currently, this is the largest LNG producer in the country, and it will likely stay that way. As of 2019, the Sabine Pass facility can produce up to three billion cubic feet of LNG per day across five trains.

Once the door was opened, other facilities came online, both in Corpus Christi, TX, and Cove Point, MD. Since 2016, 17 LNG trains have been opened, and another 13 are approved by the Department of Energy and scheduled to come online in the next few years.

It didn’t take long for LNG production to surpass usage in the US, which has made prices highly competitive, particularly when compared to international producers like Australia, Qatar, and Russia. In fact, many LNG facilities can produce the material below the cost of production, which means that they wind up paying companies to take their supply, rather than the other way around.

Since 2017, the United States has had a surplus of natural gas, which has only grown. In 2018, the country exported more LNG than 2016 and 2017 combined.

While this meteoric increase in production has been a boon to the country’s energy needs, infrastructure has not quite been able to keep up. Even with so many trains coming online, natural gas companies will likely be sitting on vast surpluses of the material, waiting to get liquefied and shipped.

Nonetheless, the US is expected to overtake Australia and Qatar (the number one and two producers of LNG, respectively) by 2024. Australia exports around 10.8 billion cubic feet of LNG daily – Qatar exports 9.9 bcf. By the end of 2019, US exports were expected to reach 8.9 billion. According to projections, the US should be able to transport over 20 billion cubic feet per day, far outpacing the competition.

US LNG’s Trade Impact

Being such a monumental LNG producer and exporter puts the US is an excellent position, trade-wise. Because the cost of its natural gas is so low, many countries are buying from the United States, even if they are closer to other production facilities. Ironically, Qatar has started buying and importing US natural gas, despite the country being second place in exportation. A significant reason for the discrepancy is that Qatar lacks the infrastructure to move its own LNG around the country, so it’s more cost-effective to buy from the US.

Southeast Asia is driving global demand for LNG, particularly countries like China and South Korea. These places are unable to produce much (if any) natural gas of their own, so they require imports to keep their societies running. While China is investing in LNG facilities, it’s still cheaper to import from the US at current prices.

One major shakeup caused by US LNG production is that Europe can buy from America, not Russia. For many years, Russia supplied the majority of European natural gas via pipelines, but that is no longer the case. As the US can supply more LNG to countries like Great Britain and Germany, Russia’s influence in the region will weaken.

Bottom Line: US LNG Production and Export is a Game Changer

It’s hard to believe that the United States went from the number one importer of natural resources to one of the biggest exporters in just a few years. With vast reserves and growing worldwide demand, LNG production will ensure US influence and trade growth in the coming years and decades. While green energy will inevitably overtake natural gas at some point down the line, the United States is poised to be an LNG powerhouse for the foreseeable future.







Posted in Liquified Natural Gas | Leave a comment

The History of Hydraulic Fracking

Hydraulic Fracturing — otherwise known as “fracking” — is a mining and drilling technique that has garnered much attention in the news over the past two decades or so. From its humble beginnings over a century ago to an often-misunderstood global practice, fracking has received its fair share of criticism. But, what is fracking, and where did it come from? These questions are important to consider when learning about this technique,

What Is Hydraulic Fracturing?

Fracking is a method of drilling that involves pumping liquid (typically water, but not always), sand and other substances underground into vertical and horizontal boreholes The resulting pressure created by this influx of liquid creates and exacerbates fissures and cracks, forcing open subterranean layers of rock. The sand acts as a prop, keeping the forced layers of rock open, which allows the easy release of oil and natural gas, which rises to the surface and is then collected.

The environmental effects and overall safety of this drilling technique have been hotly debated for years now, but the history of fracking goes back much further than that.

What Is the History of Fracking?

As Geo ExPro tells us, early recorded instances of what would eventually turn into fracking go back as far as 1857 when, on a farm in Canadaway Creek, New York, Preston Barmore had a gas well that was not producing as much gas as he would hope. He theorized that the gas was having a difficult time escaping the well due to blockage. To create a larger opening, Barmore lowered gunpowder down the well, and then ignited it with a red-hot iron tube. The resulting explosion greatly increased the flow of gas from the well.

Although there was no liquid involved in that incident, or similar ones, it paved the way for future hydraulic fracturing because it employed and proved a valid theory: using pressure to increase well production.

In 1865, Colonel Edward Roberts invented a new method that he and his brothers called “superincumbent fluid-tamping,” an idea which came to him after watching artillery shells explode in water during the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virgina, according to Business Insider. This method used the same concept of pressure-by-explosion, but used water as a medium to alter the explosion in several ways. First, it helped to evenly distribute the pressure created by the detonation, ensuring that the entire area was affected. Secondly, it helped to dampen the explosion and stop any debris from flying back up through the borehole, which created a safety hazard for those on the outside. Third, it enhanced the explosion.

In addition to creating this technique, Roberts also invented a nitro-glycerine torpedo that he used in place of gunpowder. This helped to create a more reliable and controllable explosion than could be expected with powder alone. This is considered by many to be the actual start of what is now known as hydraulic fracturing.

The Rise of Modern Hydraulic Fracturing

Even though this process was used as far back as the 1860s, it wasn’t really used at all until the 1940s. During that time, a Stanolind Oil worker named Floyd Farris suggested that using liquid to fracture a rock formation could help to increase the productivity of the rocks and wells in question.

This was put to the test in 1947 (note: a full 80 years after Edward Roberts did it!) when the first modern commercial application of the theory took place in Kansas. For this use, over a thousand gallons of napalm and naphthenic acid were mixed with sand and gasoline. This mixture was forced into a rock formation under the No. 1 Klepper well in Hugoton Field. Needless to say, it worked.

Fracking was put to an even larger scale test just a couple of years later in 1949, when Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company acquired an exclusive license to use this process. Over the course of the next year, fracking was used on over 330 wells, this time with a combination of crude oil, sand and gasoline. The results were promising: on average, the 330 wells increased their production by as much as 75%.

In 1953 companies started to use water for the liquid, and over the next few years many different combinations of water, sand and various chemicals were tested to try and figure out the best overall combination.

By the late 1960s fracking was basically a standard practice all over the United States, but it was used primarily on easy-to-reach oil and gas deposits.

New Techniques, New Problems

As fracking grew in popularity and use, different companies discovered different techniques to make it even more efficient. One important discovery was the use of horizontal drilling, allowing the company to access more of a particular rock formation at any given time.

This technique was very important because it eventually led to a breakthrough when it came to using fracking on shale. Shale is a rock formation that keeps hydrocarbons packed together in very tight formations. Standard fracking at the time simply didn’t produce the amount of pressure needed to crack these formations. Horizontal drilling was one of the first “newer” techniques that provided promise when it came to fracking in shale.

In the mid 1980s, Mitchell Energy out of Texas finally developed a solution to fracking in shale, combining horizontal drilling with the use of “slick” water. Slick water is a low-viscosity type of water that, due to its extreme thin-ness, makes it very easy to move very quickly. In short, the use of slick water allowed Mitchel Energy to force even more water into the horizontal drill spots in a shorter amount of time, creating intense pressure that finally cracked open the shale formations and released the natural gas within.

In 2002, Mitchell Energy merged with Devon Energy, creating a large company that employed fracking techniques on shale across a large portion of the US. The quick expansion of this technique forced fracking into the public eye, where it was met with skepticism.

Fracking is not without its side effects. The process creates microearthquakes (which are less than a three on the Richter scale and are virtually undetectable) but has been linked to a few larger earthquakes as well, most notably a 5.7 in Oklahoma in 2011. In addition, many in the public worry that injecting large amounts of chemicals underground can lead to damage to the ecosystem and a tainted water table, which could affect millions of people in the surrounding area. The US government has conducted a number of studies over the possible contamination of local water supplies due to fracking. So far, none of them have shown the fracking process to have any significant impact on local water tables or other environmental concerns.

The Future of Fracking

It’s safe to say that fracking will remain a controversial topic going into the future. As federal priorities shift and regulations change, many will question the safety of the process and the validity of the studies that support it. Meanwhile, companies all across the US continue to use fracking successfully, which has helped turn the US into an even more powerful player on the global energy scene.

Whatever the future of fracking might hold, it’s safe to say that this process has transformed how companies look for oil and gas in the US and abroad, and has changed how the world finds its energy.

Posted in Hydraulic Fracking | Leave a comment