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Did You Know: Ammo Bunkers At ASU Polytechnic Have Been Around Since 1940s

By Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez
Published: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 4:24pm
Updated: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 5:05pm
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Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez/KJZZ
An ASU crew uses a tractor to remove the barricade from in front of this ammunition bunker. The ammo bunker is located at the south end of the Polytechnic Campus.

Before and during World War II Arizona was home to several military training stations. Today there are a few remnants of these facilities. One in particular was recently opened.

At the southern end of the ASU Polytechnic campus there is a wide open landscape. At one side of the area is a bed of solar panels, on the other is a small college campus. And in between are two small mounds of dirt. These are ammo bunkers. Did You Know... the ammo bunkers at the ASU east campus have been here since the 1940s?

“You’ve got basically a structure here that’s cast in place concrete built in 1942 by Del Webb," said Arizona historian Vincent Murray, watching as an ASU team of workers use a tractor to pull the concrete barricade from in front of one of the ammo bunker doors. It’s been barricaded to protect it from vandalism.

“This is the last vestiges of the Williams Field/Williams Air Force Base," he said. "It’s where they would store ammunition for when they were actually doing the pilot training out here, both during WWII and shortly after that.”

The exterior of the bunker is a mound of dirt in a dome shape divided in half, with an open space in between the two pieces. On one end is the actual bunker with a concrete wall and a reinforced steel door. On the opposite side is another concrete wall, called a blast wall. Most ammunition bunkers are designed like this to assure that if one was to explode, the blast would be contained to its surroundings.

“They refer to these now as ECMs," Murray said. "An ECM is Earth Covered Magazine, so you basically then have your structure here and then they’ve of course have piled earth over the top of it to help protect it as well.”

Inside, the cylinder-shaped space is empty. This is about 12 feet high and 25 feet wide. The dusty concrete floor barely shows the yellow lines on the ground.

“This is probably where they had the shelving and everything set up so that they could actually store the ammunition," Murray said.

There’s also a drainage system built onto the ground on one side of the floor. Above us against the back wall is a square-shaped ventilation hole covered with a wire mesh.   

“The floor it also is basically tied into where it’s grounded too, so it could protect it from lightning," Murray said. "It’s really interesting to see something that’s as old this and still in this good a shape. Pretty much you can come in here with a broom and spray the place down and you’ve got a nice storage building.”

And that’s what ASU used it as when it first acquired the facility. But it is now kept closed. Murray said the bunkers are recognized as a historical site. As we step out of the bunker, the workers close it again.  

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