The west is the place. to. be. when it comes to military bomb testing. Utah, New Mexico and Nevada are all high-profile bomb-testing states frequently referenced in history trivia and the news cycle. But not so fast east coast—don't hang your head just yet! It turns out there’s a lone site near the Atlantic for testing—to the tune of 20,000 bombs a year, no less. Welcome to Florida’s Ocala National Forest, the blastiest camping experience you can get east of the Mississippi!
Yes, in the center of the forest is the Navy’s Pinecastle Impact Range for live bomb target practice. And the site has actually been there since World War II, when on the eve of war, the previously (and accurately) named War Department negotiated a temporary permit for 40,000 acres of national land. The middle of the Ocala Forest is far from people, and at the time, from Japanese threat of the Pacific Ocean.
The army threw itself into creating a gunnery, bombing range and rocket testing complete with a fake Japanese city and factory as target practice. We’ll assume the planes aimed to avoid the houses and hit the factory.
After the war, the military gave back most of the land to the USDA—except for about 5,000 acres that are still used by the Navy. The Japanese village has been predictably swapped for Middle Eastern targets (the military holds no grudges). Jet fighters take off either from a Jacksonville station, or from aircraft carriers off the coast, fly low over the forest and are scored on how well they hit targets within the range.
Oh, But There Are Downsides
And just like its western counterparts, the eastern bombing range has its critics. Besides the fact that accidents from military plane training are not uncommon (and can be exceedingly deadly), the bombing is obnoxious for area residents. Even from the great distance away, the blast creates noise that can be heard from miles away, shaking the very ground at nearby residences. Oh, and then there’s the threat of old World War II munitions that are still laying around in the area and posing a perpetual hazard of going live.
And just think if any of the bombs are radioactive—radiation plus the zoo-like combination of invasive species living in Florida? We’re not saying it would create a python version of Godzilla, but we’re not saying it wouldn’t either.