As eerie and surreal as they can be, abandoned military bases are often huge tourist attractions. They can tell us a lot about the history of an era and can stir up some patriotic feelings that we may have let drift away in recent times.
In Alaska, there aren’t a plethora of active military bases to begin with but as for abandoned military sites, leave it to Alaska to have the most interesting pair in the country.
Here, we’ll explore a bit about the histories of Adak Station and the Buckner Building, both abandoned Alaska military bases with a look into what the sites are like nowadays.
Adak Island is off of Alaska’s west coast and is part of the Aleutian Islands. It divides the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Adak, also known as Adak Station, is also the southernmost city in Alaska. Being so remote, it proved to be a prime location to build a military base and was key to successful missions in both World War II and the Cold War.
In a short period of time after the construction of Adak Station, its population grew rapidly. Operations out of Adak began in September 1942 after the Japanese seized the two western Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska. It was from there that the Japanese launched their attacks on an American base at the Dutch Harbor which prompted the U.S. to take control of Adak for defense.
In May 1943, Americans successfully took control of Attu by attacking the Japanese there and planned to do the same with Kitsa, only to find that the Japanese had fled. Even with these Aleutian Islands now under American control, commanders believed it was still wise to remain at Adak Station for further protection from the Japanese.
After swiftly building dikes and drainage channels, army tents were the first to arrive. Then, station facilities started to be constructed and in no time at all the air base was complete. After World War II ended on July 1, 1950, the U.S. Navy established Adak Station as an anti-submarine warfare base.
Under the U.S. Navy’s jurisdiction, the missions were mainly to act as surveillance and to gather information on Soviet Union surface vessels. By the 1980s it was one of the most important U.S. military bases on the west coast.
The status of Adak Station brought droves of Navy and Coast Guard service members and their families creating a community of over 6,000 soldiers. Adak Station was complete with schools, residential buildings, chain restaurants, and local dive bars. At its peak, the military base had a college campus, a major hospital, a ski lodge, bowling alleys, a movie theater, and all the traditional aspects of a modern city.
A few years later, in 1994, Adak Station made the decision to downsize and the area started to see major closures, including that of residential areas and public schools. In 1997, Adak Station was fully closed and repurposed to become Adak Airport.
Nowadays, Adak Station is a National Historic Landmark to honor its role in World War II and yet, unfortunately, most of its relics have either been demolished or lay in ruins as time passed by. Most of the military base is completely abandoned but there are still some buildings that are functional and used to serve Adak’s current residents.
The population of Adak now rests around 300 residents and even though much of the area might feel like a ghost town, its rich military history has not been forgotten. You can still find the abandoned duplexes where military families used to live, deserted manholes and bunkers, and signs of where service members would’ve likely practiced their drills.
Adak is a unique place with specks of the military’s past sprinkled all throughout the breathtaking landscape. Overall, it’s easy to see why tourists are attracted to this little slice of history.
The Buckner Building
If you thought abandoned Alaska military bases couldn’t get more unique and interesting than Adak Station, then think again. The Buckner Building is a single building that once housed an entire military city.
The “City Under One Roof” was called Whittier, Alaska and the reasoning behind it is that of secrecy. It’s utterly astounding how much life they squeezed into such a small space.
The Buckner Building was constructed in 1949 and was completely self-contained. It had its own hospital, a 320-seat theater, jailhouse, bowling alley, church, bakery, barbershop, radio station, gun range, library, photo lab, commissary, mess hall and kitchen, officers’ lounge, and enough residence areas for all who lived there.
It’s pretty incredible to think that a place like the Buckner Building existed in real life. Yet, all things must come to an end and the building was abandoned once the military couldn’t find any more uses for it. Then in 1964, the Big Alaska Earthquake left the Buckner Building in ruins, which is how you’d still find it today.
This abandoned Alaska military base isn’t the best place to visit since each room sits in a puddle of water that’s at least an inch deep and its walls are infested with mold, mildew, and asbestos. It’s been looted and vandalized since being abandoned and it wasn’t until 2014 that the police have started apprehending people for trespassing on the property.
Yet, while the Buckner Building is still somewhat standing, it gives us a peek into probably one of the greatest eras of military ambition that might never return in the U.S. again. It’s a symbol of patriotism, harmony, and is certainly one of the most intriguing abandoned military bases in the country.
Alaska, in general, has quite a small population, especially considering it’s the biggest state out of all 50. Not many military bases are erected there so it makes sense that there might only be two notable abandoned Alaska military bases. Though, out of all the military sites that are now ghost towns, it’ll be difficult to find a more interesting pair than Adak Island and the Buckner Building.