The memory of this ghost town, known as “Mock Village at Yahou Lake” in Pentagon documents, is a minor headache for local officials hoping to reopen McClellan's Yahou Lake as a recreation area. The village remains on a Department of Defense list of contaminated sites even though local officials say the lake is safe to use.
Yahou Lake, a 13-acre artificial lake on the former base, with fish, is set to open sometime next year as a recreation area, open to anglers and possibly boaters. That would mimic the old use of the site, which was created in the 1960s, when the Army dammed a creek to provide soldiers with a lakeside picnic ground.
According to Army reports from 1998 and 2000, the Army built a 5-acre fake town near Iron Mountain Road at some point between 1946 and 1954. The mock village appears on aerial photos from 1954, according to one DoD report. By 1961, according to the report, the village was gone, with only building foundations remaining.
Many local residents remember the base’s later mock villages — fake Southeast Asian towns build to train soldiers for the Vietnam War.
“I know there was a mock Vietnamese village up there, because I had friends who’d go up there and bring things back,” said Chip Howell, who was elected Anniston's mayor in the year following the base's closure.
Howell said that early on, there were concerns about what was left behind at the Vietnam Village. Troops trained with explosives and tear gas, he said. Even when cleanup began, he said, it wasn’t always clear what was left.
“They kept a good record of what came out of there, but I don’t think they kept much record of what went in,” he said.
The Yahou village is even less well-documented.
“Specific information on utilization of the Former Mock Village facility is unavailable,” said an Army engineer’s report in 2000. “Although it is assumed that training was similar to that which occurred at the Former Mock Vietnam Village.”