The farm that wasn't there

May 29, 2007 11:00 pm
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By Nicholas Grube

Triplicate staff writer

You can see it, but it's not really there.

The gabled roof, the wooden shingles, the paneled siding, even the barn – you can touch it, but it's not real. It's a facade.

And that's exactly what the people who built it intended it to be – the farm that wasn't there.

"It is a survivor of the era early warning radar stations," said Rick Nolan, chief of interpretation and education for Redwood National and State Parks. "It was uniquely constructed at the start of Pearl Harbor."

Radar Station B-71, known as "Trinidad" or the "Klamath River" station was built between 1942 and 1943 in response to Japanese attacks on U.S. soil during World War II.

"There were a series of defenses along the West Coast, and this is the northern most in California," Nolan said.

In total, the Army built 65 stations spanning from the Canadian border and into Mexico. But this particular one, located in the coastal bluffs south of Klamath, is different from all the others.

"It is unique in that most of the stations used camouflage" to disguise their location, Nolan said. "This one, (the Army) actually constructed the building to look like a farmhouse and barn."

Coastal attacks

Except there were no tractors or cows on this farm – only 50-caliber machine gun turrets, armed soldiers and military police with guard dogs to protect the property. It took 35 Army Air Corps (there was not an Air Force yet) men working in shifts to cover 24 hours.

"Man, in his creativity...disguised these as farm buildings to keep their true purpose hidden from the Japanese," Nolan said.

Aaron Funk, owner of FunBus Tours in Klamath, takes visitors up to the radar station as a part of his guided journey through Del Norte County.

"There's a high degree of interest, more so than I thought," Funk said. "There's a lot of interest there because there was a continuing attack effort on our coast."

The latter is a fact, Funk says, that not many people know about.

When giving the tour of station B-71, Funk always asks if anyone remembers Dec. 7, 1941, the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Many of his customers, he said, think that's the last time the United States was attacked by the Japanese.

"We were attacked a number of times," Funk said, adding that this is something that tends to surprise most of the people taking his tour. They don't realize the extent of the attacks along the West Coast, he said.

The Japanese struck all along the West Coast, hitting oil refineries and tankers – including the S.S. Emidio. Many of the attacks came from torpedoes shot by Japanese submarines, but other attacks came from above.

Incendiary bombs were used to ignite fires along the coast and throughout the Northwest. They were dropped by both plane and balloons.

"The purpose was to fire bomb our forests ... It would divert fire power from the war effort," Funk said. "This (B-71) was set up here to stop that from happening."

Abandoned

But toward the end of the war, the Japanese threat began to dissipate and the need for early warning radar stations faded. On July 1, 1944, station B-71 no longer searched for enemy crafts along the coast but was used as an emergency rescue station until the end of the war, when it was abandoned.

On April 14, 1978, Station B-71 – the farm that wasn't there – was registered on the National Register of Historic Places.

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How to get there

To find the farm that wasn't there, you'll need to drive along some narrow, gravel roadways (trailers and motor homes are not permitted):

•Take U.S. Hwy. 101 south from Crescent City

•Pass through Klamath and take a right on Klamath Beach Road

•Turn right onto Klamath Beach Boulevard

•Take a left on to Alder Camp Road

•At the top of the hill, turn right on Coastal Drive

•The buildings will be on the left; you'll need to park and walk a small trail to

reach them.

•Though locked and boarded up, you can peer through small holes in the

wood to see inside the empty station

Other sights

Aside from the Klamath River Station, B-71, you'll encounter other sights to see along the way:

•Remains from the old Klamath

Bridge, including the original

bears, still stand near the

intersection of Klamath Beach and

Alder Camp Roads

•Scenic views of the mouth of the

Klamath River and the Pacific

Ocean. Great for whale and bird

watching.

•A large steel cross, cemented into

the ground that overlooks the

mouth of the Klamath River