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Culebra, Puerto Rico

The Tanks of Flamenco Beach

Graffiti-covered siege engines still litter the tropical beach of a Puerto Rican island the US military used to use for target practice. 

Puerto Rico’s Culebra Island is home to stunning tropical beaches and a lush wildlife sanctuary, but just before World War II, the US Navy used the picturesque island to test out their soldiers and their bombs, leaving behind a number of tanks to rust in the wilderness.  

The island’s Flamenco Beach in particular was used for the training exercises which were started in 1939 as a lead up to the American actions in the Second World War. Testing and training continued through the war and after, and while not huge base was created, a great deal of equipment and armaments were moved to the island. Unfortunately the Navy’s testing and exercises on the island did not sit well with the small population of residents, and in the early 1970s, protests began to try and get the military to leave the island. It only took about four years of outcry, but the Navy finally got the hint and evacuated the island, ceasing all testing.

However, when the Navy bolted, they left behind a number of their tanks and other pieces of gear. While much of it was cleaned up, the huge tanks could not be moved and were simply left to rot. While the salty sea winds worked on the metal, causing it to rust and crumble, the locals got to work on decorating them, covering the abandoned hulks in layers of graffiti.

Today the tanks remain and have become a unique feature of the otherwise pristine beach. New pieces of graffiti are continually added atop the old, giving the old war machines an almost cheerful new life.  

Know Before You Go

Tanks are back in the brush and on the shoreline on the far west side of the beach.