The area now known as Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge near Los Fresnos, once played a major role in World War II. 

“It was a huge air base for the war effort for World War II, as a training field, as a gunnery range… It was very important,” said Eugene Fernandez, Historic Brownsville Museum Manager. 

Soldiers were first trained on arcade style BB machine gun ranges, then moved on to shotguns, and finally trained with machine guns, firing at moving targets on the ground in what is now the wildlife refuge, where millions of bullets can still be found. 

“The bomber is nothing more than an exposed boxcar going on over the battlefield, it has to have machine guns in order to protect it. The people that trained in this facility were the ones that learned how to shoot those machine guns to protect our aircraft,” Fernandez said. 

“The training that went on here saved the lives of our combat people in Europe, it protected freedom and so it was immensely important in the war effort,” he said. 

The hanger, and bunkers are also still intact. 

Another major training location for soldiers in World War II is located in Harlingen.