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Fort Ord: Eroded by the sea, what's left of a military legacy? | Bartell's Backroads

In its prime, the Fort Ord was once one the most coveted military training grounds in the U.S. says State Park Historian Matt Bishoff.
Credit: ABC10
Rotting Barack's at Fort Ord State Park in Monterey County, California.

MARINA, Calif. — It’s been a long time since the morning bugle last sounded off. It’s been even longer since boots marched through the barracks. The shooting range is silent, the noisy roads are covered with grass and the old mess hall with the ruckus of chow time simply doesn’t exist anymore. 

The only sounds left at Fort Ord are the winds piling up the sand and the waves breaking them down.

Today, Fort Ord is a State Park located on a 28,000 acre stretch of Monterey Coastline. In its prime, the Fort Ord was once one the most coveted military training grounds in the U.S. says State Park Historian Matt Bishoff.

“It was said the more than a million men and women trained here at Fort Ord and many of them came back,” Bishoff said.

Founded in 1917, Fort Ord was the first stop for many new recruits in many different wars. “We had soldiers training for WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Panama, and even some later conflicts,” Bishoff explained. 

The Steep overlooking cliffs and wide-open spaces of the Monterey coast made for an ideal wartime defensive position, but more importantly, the divers' landscape proved to be a premier training ground for an amphibious assault in many wars. 

“We had soldiers training for WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Panama, and even some later conflicts,” said Bishoff. “It's not an easy place to approach, also the high sand dunes mimic a lot of the conditions you encounter in Europe, which of course a lot of the soldiers would see later on,” says Bishoff.

For nearly 80 years Fort Ord accommodated a small city of soldiers and housed an arsenal of munitions hidden in underground bunkers all over the property. Today, the training ground is a far cry from what it used to be. 

In 1988 President Bush signed the Base Realignment and Closure act. Fort Ord made the list and in 1994, it became the largest military base to be shut down. 

“We are probably going to lose most of these barracks at some point. So, we hope that Fort Ord Dunes State Park is a place that people can come and learn about the important history of this place,” says Bishoff.

Like the coastline of the Monterey Bay, Fort Ord has become a victim of the elements. In 1995 state parks took over the property, turning the coast into a recreation area and spot to remember.

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