Most Amazing Unexpected Military Finds
Let's explore some of the most amazing and unexpected military finds of all time!Knowledge
Since the dawn of humankind, there’s always been conflict. And while war is a terrible thing, it often leaves behind traces, discoveries and stories that are straight-up mind-blowing. From terrifyingly destructive devices found carelessly discarded to eerie underwater graveyards, let's explore some of the most amazing and unexpected military finds.
Uncovering The Unbelievable
While a soldier’s job is to serve and protect, sometimes they make pretty good detectives too! The pictures in the tweet below were reportedly taken in May 2003 near Kirkuk, Iraq after the 173rd US Airborne Brigade discovered 999 gold bars hidden in a truck during a routine traffic inspection.
The shimmering stockpile was reported to be worth close to a quarter of a billion dollars according to a Pentagon official, and this isn’t the only time a military find has struck gold.
The internet is full of wild stories about people finding abundant riches in strange places, and out of the stories that are true, you’d be surprised how many of these discoveries have a military connection.
One of the wildest stories starts with Nick Mead, a military enthusiast and tank collector who owns the aptly named tank driving experience school, ‘Tanks A-lot’, in Northamptonshire, UK. While perusing eBay looking for his next tank trinket in early 2017, Nick stumbled across a Chinese Type 69 battle tank for $38,000.
Built in the early 1980s, the tank was a Chinese copy of the Russian T-54 design which has been touted as the most produced tank in history with almost 100,000 having been manufactured.
Unlike its inspirer, a Chinese Type 69 is considered quite the rarity in the tank world. With less than 4,500 manufactured since its introduction in 1958, it’s safe to say Nick was more than a little excited.
When the Chinese Type 69 arrived at Tanks A-Lot, Nick got to work on it right away: examining the tank’s condition and setting about replacing damaged parts. As part of the process, the Tanks A-lot team searches every nook and cranny of newly recruited tanks for safety reasons. These are armored vehicles, many of which with explosive capabilities, after all!
During the search on their newly arrived Chinese tank, Nick and team found something rather odd. It looked as though one of the fuel cannisters was jammed up, and what was more, it looked like something very different to fuel was inside.
As one of the Tanks A-lot team members reached in, no one knew what to expect, but what came next was beyond unbelievable. After struggling with the weight of whatever was inside, Nick’s colleague pulled out what at first looked to be a brick, a very gold brick.
Further examination revealed that this looked to be a brick of gold bullion, Tanks A-lot had quite literally struck gold! And it didn’t stop there. Like a magician pulling rabbits from a hat, every time a hand went into the cannister, it emerged, brandishing yet another gold bar. And they kept coming until there were five gold bullions in total, with a value of $2.7 million.
With a seriously lifechanging amount of money on the line, the question of whether or not Nick could keep the gold was on everyone’s lips. Unfortunately, the concept of finders’ keepers isn’t always true when it comes to valuable discoveries like this.
Nick had to turn over his bullion batch to the police who, as per standard protocol, are then supposed to take steps in finding the rightful owner of the gold. While it might put a dampener on treasure hunters everywhere, the aim of the rule is to make sure that important archeological items are preserved correctly and not destroyed through improper use.
The question of how exactly the gold stash ended up tanked was never definitively answered, but this treasure did leave one main trail to follow. The main theory goes that the gold bars were stolen from Kuwait during the invasion of the nation in 1990.
During the conflict, Iraqi soldiers notoriously looted billions of dollars’ worth of valuables from Kuwait during the occupation, only some of which were returned. What’s more, it’s widely documented that the Chinese Type 69 was used in the Persian Gulf War after China sold more than 2,000 of the tanks in the 1980s.
But one year after the incredible tank-full-of-gold discovery, it was reported that the question of whether or not Nick would be allowed to keep the gold was still unanswered. And with no recent updates, we can only assume that he is still in millionaires’ limbo.
If Nick does get to keep the gold, though, he can forget about calling his company Tanks A-Lot; a more suitable name would be Tanks a Bullion!
Back In Time Bombs
While the Vietnam War ended in 1975, it’s estimated that there are still around 800,000 tons of unexploded bombs scattered across the country just beneath the ground. Also known as unexploded ordnance, leftover bombs from days of conflict pose a significant danger to civilians going about their daily activities.
In April 2021, local famers in Vietnam’s Sung Nhon Commune found a 750-pound live bomb while working in a rice field. The bomb was a M117 destructor, a type of mine that uses what’s known as a magnetic proximity fuse.
This fuse is intended to be triggered off by the presence of metallic objects like tanks and submarines, and it’s a miracle that no farm equipment had triggered it in the 5 decades it’d been laying there.
With lurking hazards like this found disturbingly commonly, countries with a history of war need to be extremely careful when taking on new construction projects. In December 2020, construction workers found what looked to be a bomb at Bangladesh’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
The discovery took place as workers set about excavating the airport’s third terminal in preparation for renovations. Upon being notified, the Air Force Bangabandhu Base Bomb Disposal Unit rushed to the scene to painstakingly extract the unexploded ordnance, and gladly managed to without any explosions!
While the airport itself began operating in 1980, it’s likely that the bomb was dropped during Bangladesh Liberation War against Pakistan in 1971. Terrifyingly, it was built over completely unknowingly, and it sat lurking under the feet of countless unwitting airport goers for decades.
So, if the thought of a bomb at an airport wasn’t scary enough, just think how you’d feel knowing you were walking over one that had been there for 49 years, and could have gone off at any moment!
We’ve already learned l how scary finding one unexploded bomb can be but what about one big bomb filled with hundreds of little bombs? In 2006, a nightmarish bomb was found in Lebanon on the outskirts of a small village called Ouazaiyeh.
It’s a cluster bomb, which are usually fired or dropped, opening up mid-air to release hundreds of deadly bomblets. Many varieties have the capacity to cover areas similar in size to several football fields.
Because of their capability for mass destruction, including of civilians, the use of cluster bombs is considered highly controversial. Which gives the locals of that small village all the more reason to be grateful that this one didn’t go off as intended!
Located 1000 miles north of the island of New Guinea, Chuuk Lagoon was Japan’s main and most formidable naval base in the Central Pacific Ocean during World War 2.
The lagoon is a part of the 607 islands that make up the Federated States of Micronesia, which receives an average of just 19,000 visitors per year, making it one of the least visited countries on the planet. Despite not having many visitors, the lagoon has a lot of secrets, but you’ll have to swim to find them.
During World War 2, Chuuk, along with the many other Pacific islands played an important role in the Asia-Pacific conflict, which pitted the Allies against Japan. In February 1944, the US navy launched a massive air, ship and submarine offensive on Chuuk Lagoon that resulted in the destruction of a large portion of the Japanese fleet.
In fact, the destruction of the attack, dubbed Operation Hailstone, was so vast that Chuuk Lagoon became known as the world’s largest underwater graveyard. After the war, the sunken Japanese ships and aircraft were left to rust at the bottom of the lagoon. The world moved on and the underwater graveyard at Chuuk Lagoon was forgotten.
These days, only scuba divers can fully submerge themselves into the lagoon’s deep military history. The abandoned underwater battleground at Chuuk is chock filled with a whole host of wartime relics, and that’s not all.
Over 4,000 Japanese soldiers were killed or wounded during Operation Hailstone and many of their remains lie alongside the sunken wrecks, and many scuba divers have actually recovered skulls.
For this reason, despite its historical significance, Chuuk Lagoon is one of the eeriest places to go diving, especially given that divers never know exactly what or who they’re going to find down there.
Underwater finds in Chuuk Lagoon, like the one in the image below, must have had scuba divers jumping out of their wetsuits, given that it looks like some kind of ghostly deep-sea military diver that perished in battle.
Thankfully, the rusted humanoid figure is actually a pump attached to one of Chuuk Lagoon’s most famous shipwrecks, the Fujikawa Maru, a colossal armed cargo ship that lies 110 feet beneath the lagoon’s surface.
The sinking of cargo ships like the Fujikawa Maru meant that a whole host of other land artillery also found itself in a new watery home like some tanks that were likely being transported to or from the Naval base.
This area of the South Pacific is overloaded with military history, and it doesn’t stop with Chuuk Lagoon. 1,000 miles to the west of Chuuk Lagoon is the island nation of Palau, another hotspot for military relic discoveries.
One of the most impressive recent finds was discovered by tourists who were kayaking around Palau’s coastline in August 2017. There, found in a dreamy pool of paradise, was not a tropical bird, but a plane!
This particular WW2 plane has been in a picturesque lagoon in Palau for more than 75 years and mother nature has well and truly taken hold, covering it with moss, coral, and sea life.
Given Palau’s tropical paradise appearance, the thought of its history as a conflict site in World War 2’s Pacific theater of War is almost hard to believe, even with the evidence in front of us.
While the pilot of the plane in Palau didn’t live to tell their tale, this next aviation anecdote is one of survival against all odds.
While on a routine flight over Papua New Guinea in 1972, soldiers from the Australian Air Force spotted an unusual object lurking within the greenery. After touching down their helicopter for a closer look, they found the old wreckage of a World War two B-17E Flying Fortress plane bogged down in a swamp in the forestlands.
Despite being caked in swampy mud for 3 decades, the B-17 was, amazingly, very well preserved with the machine guns still in place and, astoundingly, old coffee still inside thermoses onboard. But how had the plane ended up here? And what became of its passengers?
The mystery of how the bomber ended up bogged down takes us all the way back to February 23rd, 1942. On this particular day, Captain Fred Eaton was out on a mission to take down a 10,000-ton enemy Japanese freighter.
As he lined up to take aim, his B-17 bomber malfunctioned, and enemy aircraft quickly swooped in to wipe him and his squadmates out of the sky. After a thundering aerial battle, the B-17 had taken quite a beating, and Captain Eaton realized that there was fuel leaking from damage to one of the wings.
Miles from the nearest refueling port, the only option was to go down, into the boggy bowels of the Agaiambo swamp in the Oro Province of Papua New Guinea. Amazingly, Captain Eaton and the six other soldiers onboard survived the rough landing, but they found themselves stuck in the mud of the remote swamp.
Facing an impossible situation, the soldiers’ survival instincts kicked in, and it was time to put their crisis training into action. It took two days of hacking through thick, sharp grass until the group reached the edge of the swamp and emerged onto dry land.
By that time, they were completely ravaged with mosquito bites and infected with malaria, but against all odds, they stumbled across a group of locals who took them to a nearby village for help. After a night of rest, they traveled downriver in canoes where they were met by Australian officials for rescue.
The nine soldiers arrived at Port Moresby on April 1st, a full 36 days after their crash and returned to duty after just a week in hospital. Due to its remote location, the plane wreck remained in place, and its eerie appearance left locals severely creeped out, so much so that they dubbed it: the Swamp Ghost.
Unlike its passengers, it took the Swamp Ghost a lot longer to escape the bog. After hearing of the B-17’s rediscovery in 1972, military relic enthusiasts Fred Hagen and David Tallichet decided to set out into the treacherous swamp to find out more.
The crocodile infested Agaiambo swamp is known to be very dangerous and few dare to enter its depths willingly. In fact, the inaccessibility of the plane’s location contributed to the preservation of the bomber, and it was widely considered that it was going to be impossible to salvage.
The goal was considered so impossible that while the project to recover the Swamp Ghost began in the 1980s, it took more than two decades for a plan to get off the ground. In 2006, Fred and David organized a salvage operation in which the B-17 was cut into sections.
These were flown by helicopter to a nearby port where the parts were eventually transported to Hawaii in 2010. To this day the remains of the Swamp Ghost are on display at the Pacific Aviation Museum at another wartime hotspot: Pearl Harbor. If that’s not a fitting end for this piece of wartime history, I don’t know what is!
Camp Hero is a creepy abandoned military base on the outskirts of Montauk in Long Island, New York. Once the home of an army base in World War 2, and an Air Force base during the Cold War, Camp Hero was finally decommissioned in 1981 and is now owned by the US state parks organization.
These days, it’s only brave hikers that discover the compound’s unnerving exterior and while it may look haunted on first glance, things are a lot more scientific than that. This place is seriously creepy, but the cherry on the cake is the radio tower looming above the Montauk horizon.
Constructed during the height of the Cold War, the antenna, which broadcasted its signals to a network of towers along the USA’s East Coast, was intended to give the US military a 30-minute warning in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack. But this morbid purpose wasn’t the only creepy thing about this place in its prime.
In 1992, author and conspiracy theorist Preston Nichols published a book entitled The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time, in which he wrote about the alleged kidnapping of children, who were taken to the facility and endured mind-altering experiments conducted by the government.
If all that sounds just a little too familiar, then things are about to get even stranger for you. Crazily enough, Camp Hero is the real-life inspiration behind the spine-chilling Hawkins Laboratory in Netflix’s smash hit Stranger Things.
But while Preston Nichols’ book has been interpreted as truthful online due to its authentic feeling, it is in fact a work of fiction; though that doesn’t stop many online theorists speculating that various untoward activities occurred at Camp Hero in its heyday, and that Nichols’ book is more grounded in reality than fiction.
These claims are uncorroborated by any official sources, but the eerie conspiracies surrounding Camp Hero are enough to make you think twice before paying a visit, even if you’re joined by Eleven and co for backup.
Tanks A Million
Since its wartime debut in 1916, the tank has been one of the ultimate tools used by the armed forces to fight wars. But have you ever wondered what happens to tanks once their military careers are over?
Designed to be almost indestructible by nature, disposing of tanks is a weighty job. Usually, tanks recovered from battlefields are stripped for their valuable parts and then taken to scrap-metal yards, but clearly, some get left behind.
While the thing in the image below may look like an ancient fossil, this is a 20th century tank that dates back to the Second World War and was discovered by the Norwegian Heavy Engineering Battalion in August 2007, in Norway.
After the Second World War, the Norwegian military obtained a surplus of German tanks called Panzers that were given up in light of the axis power’s defeat. And let’s just say the Norwegians put these tanks to use in an interesting manner.
In 1953, the Norwegian army built a defensive fort very close to Bardufoss airport and airfield in northern Norway. The purpose of the fort was to have readily available heavy weapons with the range to cover all entrances to the airfield in case of enemy forces moving in to take over as Germany had done in 1940.
For the ultimate defensive barrier, the panzer tanks were half buried in concrete and a hole was cut into the bottom for use with a tunnel that would funnel ammo in and out of the tank in the event of a standoff.
By the 1960s, however, the fort had expanded, and extra fortified positions had been created, rendering the panzers redundant. So, the tanks were fully covered with concrete and were forgotten after the fort was disbanded in the 1980s, that is, until they were dug back up in 2007 after rumors of their existence re-emerged.
Now moving on from concrete to countryside, the eerie snap below of an abandoned tank in a beautiful field was taken on the island of Shumshu. Shumshu is part of the Kuril Islands chain in the north-western Pacific Ocean and was the site of a soviet offensive to occupy the islands in August 1945.
While you might be fooled into thinking that tanks like the ones in the flower fields of Shumshu are a thing of beauty, the battles they were a part of drew a heavy toll in human lives. So, the tanks remain in stark contrast with the surrounding greenery as a haunting and solemn reminder of the horrors of war.
On October 1st, 2013, residents of Milan, Italy woke up to what looked to be an utterly baffling catastrophe right on their doorsteps. There, in the middle of the street was a submarine that had burst through the pavement from below.
While this might look like one of the messiest military missions of all time, things weren’t what they appeared to be. The elaborate stunt turned out to be a clever advertising campaign, dubbed ‘protect your life’ or in this case: protect your car, set up by the agency M&C Saatchi Milano for insurance company Europ Assistance.
The point of the advert was meant to show the importance of protecting your possessions, as you never know what unforeseen events might take you by surprise. While the reality behind that street submarine turned out to be less than historically accurate, there are plenty of real-life submarine discoveries that give a true glimpse into military history.
During World War 2, a recorded 52 US submarines were lost, with a total of 3,506 personnel going down with them. One of these missing submarines was the USS Grayback, which despite its eventual disappearance was one of America’s most successful submarines of the Second World War.
Throughout its ten sea patrols, it’s credited with sinking 14 enemy ships totaling 63,835 tons, including an Imperial Japanese Navy submarine. But despite its success, this sub didn’t get a very happy ending.
The mystery began on January 28th, 1944, when the USS Grayback sailed out of Pearl Harbor for its tenth combat patrol. By the time March rolled around, the Grayback was three weeks overdue for its return and was ultimately declared missing along with the 80 crewmembers onboard.
After the war, the Navy tried to piece together exactly what happened to the submarine and by 1949, all they could deduce was an approximate location where they thought USS Grayback had met its end.
Post-war Japanese records documented an incident in which a Nakajima B5-N Bomber aircraft recorded the sub’s coordinates to be around 100 miles southeast of Okinawa, Japan.
But when efforts were made to locate it, the Navy found nothing. It seemed that the USS Grayback had vanished off the face of the Earth, or had it?
Well, that question was eventually to be answered by Tim Taylor, a bona fide submarine hunter who made it his mission to locate all 52 of America’s missing submarines. Dubbing the initiative: the Lost 52 Project, Tim and a team of experts began the search in 2006.
Needless to say, it wasn’t a quick or easy task. But things began to change in a pretty crazy way in 2018, when Japanese systems engineer and military enthusiast, Yutaka Iwasaki, contacted the Lost 52 Project team, who were hot on the trail of USS Grayback.
While studying Japanese navy archives, Yutaka came across a transcript of a radio transmission made on February 26th, 1944. His analysis of this revealed that the original translation of the Japanese documents referencing the Grayback had included an error in the coordinates of the Grayback’s location. One of the digits were incorrect.
With the correct coordinates now revealed, more than half a century after the initial mistake was made, the team set sail in June 2019 and with the aid of underwater drones began scouring the ocean floor for the Grayback.
Despite now being in possession of the correct coordinates, the total search for the exact location of the Grayback was expected to take up to a year to complete. However, on June 5th, the team were reviewing some of the sonar data collected from the underwater drones and to their astonishment, the Grayback appeared before their eyes.
With the help of these high-tech drones and their ability to build a digital image using sonar, not only was a 74-year-old mystery solved, but it also meant closure for the families of the 80 American soldiers who went down with the submarine. As of November 2022, the Lost 52 Project and others like it have located 14 out of the 52 lost submarines and I can’t wait to find out what they’ll find in years to come.
If you were amazed at these unexpected military finds, you might want to read this article about military encounters with unidentified creatures. Thanks for reading!