KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Holy hideouts, Batman, they’ve found the Batcave!
Thanks to Google Maps, a giant Batman symbol has been discovered on the rooftop of an office building on Kadena Air Base. But so far, nobody has seen the Caped Crusader.
The iconic white bat actually marks the home of the Air Force’s 44th Fighter Squadron, which is known as the Vampire Bats, according to Kadena spokesman Ed Gulick.
Word of the famous symbol on this southernmost Japanese prefecture — which has never been confused with Gotham City — spread across the Internet on Tuesday after it was revealed by Google satellite imagery. The company’s map program provides the public previously unavailable views of ocean bottoms, suburban streets and, most recently, Antarctica.
Add satellite views of restricted U.S. military bases to that list.
No one knows for sure when the bat symbol appeared, but it is believed that it was painted on the roof sometime in the 1980s.
“We know it’s been there for years … and is somewhat common for esprit de corps around the Air Force as it gives members of the squadron pride in their unit,” Gulick said.
A similar painting of a fighting cock can be seen on the roof of a Kadena building used by the 67th Fighter Squadron.
The symbols are hardly a military secret, but Google’s map collection and intimate views of such areas has ruffled the Pentagon’s feathers in the past. In 2008, the Department of Defense banned Google from creating street-view maps of military facilities in the United States after panoramic views of a base in Texas showed up online.
Still, satellite views of some Air Force, Marine Corps and Army facilities on Okinawa are still available to anyone with a laptop and an Internet connection.
Gulick referred questions about security to Pacific Air Forces in Hawaii, which could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.