November 8, 2013
The Disappearing Underground TunnelToby Evans -- Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany -- December of 1988
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I was a Security Police/Military Policeman stationed at Rhein-Main Air Base in Germany during the late 80s. One of our regular duties was to patrol the inside of the perimeter fence surrounding our base, and to make sure no one had sabotaged the fence. A good chunk of the road, about a mile of it or so, ran through some dense woods on the back side of the base. The inner perimeter road was cut through a path in the woods, and there was a buffer zone of about a dozen feet on either side of the fence.
On this particular night's patrol, myself and my partner, Sgt. Moon, were riding three-wheelers that were painted dark green with a rifle rack on the front. This section of the patrol was always nerve-wracking for us; there was always a very sinister atmosphere, we never wanted to take too long going through there, so we usually went as fast as we could to get the check over with. One night, we decided to go into the woods not too far from the edge of a picnic area, to explore. These woods were interesting because there were still many remnants from World War II, such as huge bomb craters, and many uniform items and old weapons were found. It was also hazardous because there was also some unexploded ordnance (UXOs) in the area. There were also a few burial sites discovered that contained mustard gas from the World War I period.
We drove into the clearing, marked by a very large distinct tree, and parked our 3-wheelers so their headlights shone on to the ground, and began to root around cautiously with sticks. While doing so, I stepped on a patch of ground that gave way slightly. After digging thru the layer of compressed fallen leaves and dirt, we discovered a 1/4 inch metal square plate that was covering a red brick-lined hole that was about 4' by 4' square. The bricks were a distinctive red that were exactly the same as several 30s-era buildings that were constructed of on the base. The hole ran straight down for about 7-8 feet and we could see the floor of it. Making a dumb decision to jump down into it to see what it might be. We had heard stories about huge, cavernous storage depots for the German military dating back to World War II, and we wondered if this might be one of those!
When I landed, I felt and heard this rumble/echo, that sounded like I had landed on the hatch or roof of what had to be a large open area, as the echoes I heard went on for several seconds. I was alarmed and froze in place for a second; images of plummeting down raced through my head. Luckily, whatever I was standing on was strong enough not to give way. I bent over and discovered a pipe running across the bottom of the hole, I think about an inch in diameter, with the remnants of a valve wheel that had decayed. Afraid to go any further, I had my partner pull me out of the hole and we pulled the steel plate back over the top, leaving the ground cleared from it, and marked the spot as well. We intended to report it to the bases civil engineers so they could investigate. We walked back to our respective three-wheelers and as I touched the handle of mine to board it, then engine and light both went off. I hopped aboard thinking I had dislodged a battery cable or something, but there was nothing apparently wrong, and after about 20 minutes of unsuccessful attempts to start it, I asked my partner to tow us back to our squadron.
A few nights later, we went back to the location to see if the engineers had done anything about it, and we found the clearing and our markers. But we could not find the metal plate or the hole. The ground in the area was completely undisturbed, and we looked for over an hour with no success. Who knows what the background was for that hole, but a few weeks later when I was preparing to rotate back to the States, I went past the base motorpool and happened to notice my three-wheeler parked in the lot with a red tag attached to it. I asked about it, since it was a fairly new vehicle, and was told that the mechanics had replaced virtually every part on the machine, and had never been able to get it to run again, so they opted to scrap it. Make what you will of these events, but they are a portion of my life that I will never forget.