The eastern tip of Long Island has always had military significance, even in the days of the American Revolution. In 1776, the Battle of Long Island proved that the tip of the island was a vulnerable spot. When Montauk Lighthouse was first authorized in 1792, part of its mission was to keep a lookout for British ships sailing for New York or Boston, and as such was the first military installation at Montauk.
In World War II, with German U-boats threatening the East Coast and Long Island, Montauk was considered a likely invasion point. The US Army upgraded Fort Hero, and renamed it Camp Hero in 1942. The whole facility, with U.S. Army, Navy and Coast Guard constituents, was officially known as the "US Military Reservation", but the locals just called it "Camp Hero". The fort was named after Major General Andrew Hero, Jr., who was the Army's Chief of Coast Artillery between 1926 and 1930. When World War II ended, the base was temporarily shut down and used as a training facility by the Army Reserves. The naval facilities were largely abandoned.
In the 1950's the Army gave over the western portion of the military reservation to the 773rd Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron. During this time the military reservation was run jointly by the Army and the Air Force.
In 1952, the 773rd was transferred to the 26th Air Division and operated as an Air Defense Direction Center and in November 1957, the Army closed the Camp Hero portion. In 1958 a SAGE (Semi Automatic Ground Environment) radar system was installed and the facility was merged into the national air defense network. The site was also a major part of the NORAD defense system.
The unit was renamed the 773rd Radar Squadron (SAGE) in 1963 and officially shut down on July 1, 1980. The antenna was "abandoned in place", with its controlling motors and electronics removed, allowing it to move with the wind to prevent it being torn off its base in a storm. A GATR (Ground Air Transmitter Receiver) facility remained in service to direct military aircraft operating within the region but was deactivated in 1984.
Barracks, laboratories and other buildings on the base were all built to resemble a small fishing village. The base has long been associated with a number of conspiracies, the most famous being the Philadelphia Experiment, in which the USS Eldridge was supposedly rendered invisible. The base has also been implicated in conspiracies involving time travel, the Men in Black, Martians, and Nikola Tesla.
The area is now a state park encompassing 415 acres of diverse landscape, with “heavily wooded areas, a long expanse of beachfront along the Atlantic Ocean, and an historic military installation.”
“Camp Hero.” Atlas Obscura, Atlas Obscura, 24 May 2009, www.atlasobscura.com/places/camp-hero
“Montauk Point, NY.” Camp Hero, www.camphero.net