Fortifications are as old as warfare itself, but military tactics have certainly changed over the years. Long before the era of bunker-busters, the military commanders believed that tough walls of concrete and granite were the ultimate protection against all weapons.
Fixed fortifications have suffered several strategic blows since their hay-days in the early 1900’s. The deadlocks in the trenches of the Flanders and the Verdun in WWI must have given a somewhat puzzled outcome in the view of the static warfare, but with the introduction of airpower and high-speed mechanized units, the fixed bunkers had to adapt to a entirely different scenario.
When the Germans rounded the Maginot Line in the 1940 campaign against France, the self confidence of the bunker oriented generals must have taken a serious blow. Later when the French surrendered to the Viet Minh after the 1954 siege of the Dien Bien Phu stronghold. Or even more recently, the abandonment of the Khe Sanh firebase after the 1968 siege in the Vietnam War made it apparent that keeping a stronghold is not that easy after all.
It seems however that the parallel escalation of the Cold War and the massive buildup of nuclear weapons injected some hope to the bunker buffs – suddenly the role of the bunker was obvious again. More and more concrete and deeper down into the rock was the parole. Just imagining sitting down into a bunker where the thermonuclear war eradicated all life seems just so bizarre today – well the final word in that isn’t said yet...
However – the end of the Cold War together with the devastating effectiveness of smart munitions as deployed in the 1990-91 Desert Storm campaign seems to have passed the traditional bunker to the history scrap heap, at least here in Sweden. Fixed coastal artillery batteries and the remaining forts were taken out of service shortly after. Anyone with hopes for the future of the bunker must feel despair today, as modern bunker penetrating weapons can destroy any bunker of imagination.
As a result, the Swedish landscape is littered with remains from these vintages of bunkers that have had their ups and downs over the years, some of them dating back to medieval times. Walking around in these silent and abandoned remains gives a feeling how much effort and money that has been put into keeping these often old installations up-to-date over the years. In the years to come, most of them will be permanently demolished or sealed.