Kaboom! The Implosion of the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital

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On April 8, 2011, the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland was demolished.

Oak Knoll hospital was built during World War II for the purpose of treating American military personnel who had been wounded in the Pacific theatre. In later years it also treated those who had been wounded in the Korean and Vietnam wars. The site was previously a golf course and country club which had closed during the Great Depression. The largest of the buildings (seen below) was built from 1965-1968.

This was my first large-scale implosion I’ve witnessed. I managed to sneak in and perch myself in a tree with the telephoto lens for a nice, up-close view of the dynamite doing its thing. As I waited for the thundering explosions to start, I began to appreciate the design of the building and was sad to see it go. I wondered why the developers couldn’t figure out something to do with it. For years the building was a homeless encampment and I regretted not sneaking in for a bit of urban exploration with the camera.

It only took 800 pounds of dynamite to bring down the huge 11 story concrete building–four sticks in each of the building’s 1500 columns. Boom, boom, boom…the deafening blasts echoed out rhythmically about 15 times before the building even budged. Within seconds, the once-proud edifice disappeared in a cloud of dust.

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  • Clydene

    In 1953 my family and I went to visit my 1st cousin, Ray Eugene Sanders, who was a USN Medic in the Korean War who had stepped on a land mine and had a severe back injury.  I’ll never forget that he was hanging by his upper arms on the wall about 15 feet up.  This must have been a form of traction to separate his jammed vertebra.  He survived and went on to become a college professor.  Oak Knoll served all our wounded well.  Those who were there will never forget the wonderful care they received.  

  • David Walden

    I was a patient there in 1967 and 1968.  I had cancer while I was in the Navy and ended up being attached to the Urology Ward for three months while I was healing.  Many great memories I have of this and the surrounding buildings that were my short home.