Saturday, June 25, 2016

WWII Spies in my Backyard-Vint Hill Farm Station

6-25-16

I love being neighbors with the 18th century: George Washington, George Mason, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe. Civil War battle fields abound. John Boy lived down the road. Everywhere I turn is a fascinating piece of history. All of this was expected and anticipated when I first moved here a few years ago. However to my surprise was the discovery of a WWII spy station practically in my backyard. Who knew? I drive past there often in my travels throughout Virginia. We heard rumors of a once upon a time commissary. What all was back there anyway?

One day I pulled my husband away from chores (which he seems to love) and we drove out to this scenic spot in horse country. I had heard that there were now shops and an eatery there. We parked at the Covert Cafe (intriguing name) and found ourselves surrounded by an old spy network dating back to WWII! So those rumors were true!

Inside the old housing for the intelligence gatherers is the Covert Cafe (I love it!)...

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We ordered the Cyclops. That's the hamburger with the fried egg on top. These are the best hamburgers in Virginia! We ate on the patio looking at all the old buildings which actually reminded me of home. I grew up near Lackland AFB that had WWII era buildings galore. I felt quite at home!

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Inside was all the history of the era. In 1942 Vint Hill Farms Station became a part of the US Army and the NSA. This was one of the most important spy stations during the WWII. Their work continued through the Cold War. One of the intercepted messages greatly aided General Eisenhower in planning the Normandy Invasion.

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The WACS (Women's Air Corps) arrived in 1943 and they changed the tenor of the environment. With so many of the men overseas, the WAC filled an essential role as covert interceptors. There were some men on the post though. Apparently there were issues encouraging the men to groom. Once the women arrived, the sales of aftershave quadrupled at the PX! There was always someone on shift, working 8 hours at a time.

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After lunch we walked over to the Cold War Museum, truly only a few steps away. Within was an amazing store of intelligence gathering galore. One of the founders of the museum is Francis Gary Powers, Jr. whose father was the U2 pilot who was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960.  

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I was especially thrilled to see this crypto  machine. My dad worked crypto maintenance in the USAF during the Vietnam War.

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Being a teacher, my favorite book in the museum was this one. I would have loved using this in the classroom, but it had only been published in 2002. If only I knew about it while homeschooling. I'm on the lookout for it for my own collection though!

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One of the most fun finds was this computer simulation. Has anyone seen War Games starring Matthew Broderick (1983)? We've seen NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain Complex (one of the settings of the movie) many times on our vacations in Colorado. Way back then I remembered seeing this movie while growing up. I hunted it down to show my own kids who now had a connection with it from our vacations. Well, this computer my husband is playing with has been programmed to be the WOPR computer that plays games with the Broderick character. Next to the computer there is a script of commands to punch in so we can be the Broderick character. "Wa-nt to pl-a-y a ga-me?" So it's an opportunity to reenact the War Games  movie...without all the drama.  

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I only had my cell phone with me so there isn't much clarity in the photo, but this was the beginning of the DOS commands (boy, remember those?) for the war games.

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What an interesting day! We've been back a few times since. I would love to go back for a photo shoot of all the outdoor WWII buildings with me wearing my WWII dress.

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