The Hochspeyer Munitions Storage (HMS, a.k.a. Ammunition Storage Annex Hochspeyer) was one of the most fascinating and mysterious military installations I visited during my trip to Germany in the summer of 2013. I actually wanted to visit the place two years prior right after exploring of what was left of *Sembach Air Base*, but sadly we ran out of time back then after my buddy Gil and I were surprised by a cloudburst…
Just a couple of weeks ago I came back with my friend Catherine. The Palatine area is perfect to combine long walks with urban exploration, so I chose the forests around K-Town (commonly known as Kaiserslautern) for a little catch up trip. The first location we went to turned out to be proof of Germany’s interesting energy policy and a terrible disaster for fans of abandoned military bases as it was converted into a gigantic solar farm; the next one, Hochspeyer Munitions Storage, on the other hand was kind of a jackpot.
We entered the premises via a road blocked by two concrete barriers – no cars allowed, only bikes and pedestrians. We actually didn’t see a single “Don’t trespass!” or “Trespassers will be shot!” sign, so we felt very comfortable there, despite the fact that there was not much to see at first. Just a single green building, the interior smashed to pieces, and a big asphalted area with only basic foundations left – probably a motor pool half a century ago. Heck, even the fence was mostly gone, with only a couple of concrete posts left. Although I did quite a bit of research on the Hochspeyer Munitions Storage I am still not sure whether or not this area was officially part of it – if it was, it was mostly demolished and abandoned decades ago. But the HMS dates back to the 1960s, so it’s rather likely that both area saw activity at the same time back in the days. And while one part was left deserted, the other got modernized again and again…
Deeper into the forest Catherine and I found a locked gate, part of a really tall barbed-wire fence with a series of lamp posts every 25 meters set 5 meters behind the fence. Despite its location in the middle of the woods this area was carefully deforested and secured – trespassers could be seen easily from large distances. Abandoned or not, the people who planned this area knew what they were doing, eager to keep people out. Everything there was in great condition at first sight: the fence, the gate, the locks, the lamp posts, the security perimeter… only some open doors at a building in the distance indicated that the area really might have been abandoned. So we looked for a way in and indeed found one.
We quickly approached the green building, eager not to be seen from people on or off the premises – with Ramstein Air Base not being far away we saw plenty of stuff flying across our heads. The flat part consisted of a machinery room, restrooms and a couple of office / conference rooms, the rather high part seemed to have been a storage and / garage, probably to de/load vehicles. SIgns were either in English or bilingual, English and German. The most interesting one was just airbrushed onto the wall:
1.1 5,000 lbs
1.2 5,000 lbs
1.3 10,000 lbs
1.4 Physical Capacity
Okay… this definitely wasn’t the average administrative building you see when entering abandoned military bases, this was serious stuff! And everything looked pretty new, aside from some vandalism. Was this area really abandoned?
Catherine and I continued to explore the area. Next we found the former main gate with the gatehouse. One window open, others smashed – raw violence, because those windows were made from bulletproof glass. Again, serious stuff. When I opened a small door on the back I could feel that it was really heavy, despite the fact that it opened smoothly. The interior of the building was mostly gone, but you could see that once it must have been stuffed with tons of electronic devices. Probably not too long ago, given that you could basically start to reuse the building after a couple of hours of repairs. Nothing too serious, but probably costly.
I have to admit that I felt a bit more more uneasy inside the fenced area than outside in the 60s foundation area, and that didn’t change when finally reached the bunker area, tire tracks still on the ground, low vegetation, filled water reservoirs after a hot summer, the pool liner still in great condition. This site was definitely closed, but was it really abandoned? That thought resounded my mind like spoken words in the open bunkers. The acoustics there were fantastic, especially since I am so used to shut bunkers, sitting there inaccessibly everywhere in forests all over German. Finally being able to enter some of them was amazing, one of those minor urbex highlights you stumble across every once in a while. As was a nearby tool shack, where the silhouettes of the equipment were painted onto the wall, so even Private Paula would know where to put things back. Another minor highlight was that one bunker that was built differently in many ways and had a gigantic safe built in, installed by Garny – founded 200 years ago in 1813. (This was a newer model, of course…)
Usually it takes me months, sometimes even years, to write about my explorations, but the Hochspeyer Munitions Storage was a truly exciting exploration, one that made me write this article while I was still in Germany, taking an afternoon of doing research about what the place really was.
Sadly not much is known about the Hochspeyer Munitions Storage. At first I thought it was related to the *Sembach Air Base* I mentioned earlier, which it probably was at one point, but since the airfield there was closed it seems like the HMS was part of the famous Ramstein Air Base; some guy in a German internet forum claimed at one point it was a sub-camp of the USAF Depot Morbach-Wenigerath, now known as Energiepark Morbach (energy park Morbach).
The few facts are that the HMS was 88 acres big (about 356000 square meters), had 30 bunkers, was part of the USAFE (United States Air Forces in Europe), that the road there was built in 1957 thanks to a Captain Joseph T. Sampson – and that it was closed in 2007 as part of “Air Force Smart Operations for the 21 Century” (AFSO21) to save a couple of bucks. In early 2007 Ramstein’s 435th Munitions Squadron started transporting material from Hochspeyer to their main base, the last truck leaving on October 12th of the same year. Apparantly most of it were BLU-109 bombs, nasty buggers that are used against HDBTs (Hard and Deep Buried Targets) and can break through 1.8 meters of ferroconcrete before exploding. Which explains the setup of the facility – it’s the kind of technology you don’t want to have fallen into wrong hands… and the kind of technology local civilians shouldn’t know about.
The rest is vague. Some people claim that the area was returned to Germany, others say that it is still under the control of the USAFE. (Since there were no warning signs in German I assume the area still belongs to the US. In cases like that the Bundesanstalt für Immobilienaufgaben (BIMA, Institute for Federal Real Estate) usually takes over – and they are pretty good at putting up signs. Making good use of the area? Not so much. Putting up signs? Hell yeah!) Some people claim the premises are abandoned, others say that they are still used for emergency drills and patrolled by security – or in this case rather security police.
Whatever is true, I am happy that I was able to explore the Hochspeyer Munitions Storage without causing trouble for me and my companion. It was a very memorable experience and I did as much research as possible afterwards, but if you know more about the place, having worked there or being a (hobby) historian, please feel free to add facts and anecdotes in the comments section!