Why are people so interested in abandoned military bases in the first place? Well, it pretty much goes without saying that these somewhat eerie spots are fascinating to the core. There’s something about being in a historical place that gives us, as humans, so much satisfaction.
Especially if you’re a military buff, exploring abandoned military bases can be a peek into the era, giving you a glimpse of what soldiers of the time might’ve been thinking or feeling. It really gives us a chance to experience their actual surroundings.
Unfortunately, many abandoned military bases get reclaimed by nature or mostly destroyed, yet some are still mostly intact and protected as historical monuments and museums. If you get the chance to see some of these lost and forgotten fortifications for yourself, take it. You’re sure to be in awe the entire time.
Abandoned American Military Bases
Most of these abandoned American military bases will be located in the U.S., but not always. American troops create bases and installations all over the world to assist in their military efforts, many of which end up abandoned.
Here, you’ll find some of the most interesting, abandoned American military bases located both at home and abroad.
Located 80 miles south of San Francisco, Fort Ord was established in 1917, undergoing improvements until the 1930s. It became the largest military base that was ever closed when it became abandoned in 1994.
Fort Ord was used primarily as a training center for the Army Infantry complete with an Olympic-sized swimming pool. To attract tourists and preserve its historical and cultural significance, President Obama designated Fort Ord National Monument in 2012.
The site of this abandoned military base is in unincorporated territory of the U.S. At this point in time, Johnston Atoll is only accessible to scientists and educators and is currently administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The area was classified as environmentally contaminated due to the dangerous military activities that went on there for almost 70 years including acting as a refueling depot for the Navy, as an air base, for weapon testing, as a secret missile base, and as a storage and disposal site for chemical weapons and Agent Orange.
Funnily enough, it also became a wildlife sanctuary for birds. Johnston Atoll was closed in 2003 yet 1300 people still live there.
The island fortress of Fort Jefferson is located down in the Florida Keys. This abandoned military base has a long and rich history dating back to 1846 when it was built. The purpose of Fort Jefferson was to help fight against piracy that was rampant in the Caribbean Sea at the time.
Fort Jefferson had six sides and is made of brick – typical of military bases of the era. It made for the living quarters of soldiers and storage space for military equipment. Later, it became a military prison after the Civil War.
You can visit Fort Jefferson to experience its fascinating history as it is now a national monument.
Mickelsen Safeguard Complex
During the Cold War, the threat of nuclear destruction seemed imminent. The U.S. government was doing everything they could to deflect the Soviet Union. The Safeguard Program implemented by President Nixon was part of that plan.
The Mickelsen Safeguard Complex located in Nekoma, North Dakota was a radar system intended to find and destroy incoming missiles. What’s interesting about this complex is that the large pyramid structure was built for reasons unknown.
Due to a treaty that was signed with the Soviet Union after the construction of Mickelsen Safeguard Complex that limited the number of nuclear weapons allowed in each country down to two, the area was decommissioned within less than a year of service.
More than 720 feet below the surface of Greenbrier Resort outside of White Sulphur Springs in West Virginia is Greenbrier bunker. The area was top secret until only recently when the location was disclosed by The Washington Post in 1992.
Greenbrier bunker was completed in 1961 and was meant to be a sort of safe house for U.S. Congress in the event of nuclear demise. During the Cold War era, it’s clear that the threat of total annihilation by the Soviet Union was taken with utmost seriousness.
It had its own power plant, water filtration system, 25-ton blast door, decontamination chambers, a clinic, lab, mess hall, and meeting rooms.
After the article exposed the Greenbrier bunker, the government was forced to close it down. Now, it’s open for tours.
Abandoned Military Base Locations Around the World
Abandoned American military bases certainly aren’t the only interesting military sites around. All over the world, you’ll find amazing, and sometimes creepy, abandoned military sites where you can learn a lot about the history of the times in which they were active.
The following include some of the most utterly fascinating, yet abandoned, military based all around the world.
Balaklava Submarine Base, Crimea
During the Cold War, the Balaklava Submarine Base was planted in the Black Sea of Crimea to house Soviet submarines in the event of a nuclear attack. Its location was top secret and housed a series of tunnels reaching into the mountains nearby.
Balaklava Submarine Base closed in 1993 and a museum in its honor was founded in 2002. The construction and location of this once-classified base are truly fascinating.
Zeljava Air Base, Croatia
Underground at the border of Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, Zeljava Air Base lies abandoned after being used in both World War I and World War II. Costing $6 billion to construct, Zeljava Air Base is one of Europe’s largest and most expensive military endeavors. For reference, this was three times the annual military budget of both Croatia and Serbia combined.
It was built to house fighter jets with runways above ground and was expected to withstand a direct hit from a nuclear bomb. Yet, in the 1980s, the site experienced intense damage during the Yugoslav Wars.
Explosions wreaked havoc on the bulk of the underground base and destruction was complete in 1992. Smoke would continue to rise in the area for six months afterward causing much harm to the environment.
Saint Nazaire Submarine Base, France
These fortified locks located in Saint Nazaire, France were actually built by the Germans during World War II. Saint Nazaire Submarine Base featured 14 pens to secure German submarines that were housed there.
The structure is made of granite, concrete, and steel with one part submerged below the water and the other half above the surface, mounting anti-aircraft weapons on top. If you’re interested in World War II history, this is an impressive abandoned military base to see.
The Maginot Line, France
During World War I, Germans invaded France which led to strong suspicions that the same would happen in World War II. So, during the 1930s, the French military built a series of fortifications known as the Maginot Line.
Railways underground were built to mobilize troops and it could turn back most forms of attack with bombs and tanks. The living quarters for soldiers were state of the art, even featuring air conditioning. All attacks from the east were considered thwarted by the Maginot Line.
But, during World War II, the Germans didn’t attack from the east – they came from the north. Even though Belgium was a neutral country, the Germans violated this neutrality and attacked France by way of Belgium, just like they did in World War I. Germans practically walked right past the Maginot Line and captured Paris within six weeks.
Still, even if the Germans hadn’t attacked, the Maginot Line was incredibly expensive and money was not available to sustain the fortifications. The area still exists, although abandoned, and is no longer used for military purposes whatsoever.
Maunsell Sea Forts, North Sea
Built to protect England from German submarines, the Maunsell Sea Forts rise up from the North Sea in the Thames and Mersey estuaries. Those stationed in the forts kept a lookout and housed anti-aircraft weapons throughout World War II.
The Maunsell Sea Forts are small towers that were grouped into six forts. They’re truly an intriguing site to see. Although the forts were decommissioned and abandoned in the 1950s, many of them still remain, complete with a fair bit of rust.
Wolf’s Lair, Poland
Wolf’s Lair is a bunker in Poland that has remarkable historical significance. It was one of the bunkers in which Hitler resided for 800 days during World War II. It’s where he made the decision to construct the infamous concentration camps.
The bunker is concrete and reinforced with steel and it was where Hitler survived an assassination attempt. Although much of Wolf’s Lair was destroyed after the defeat of Germany in the war, some portions remain, although completely abandoned and covered in moss.
Still, as you can imagine, it’s a popular tourist destination in Poland for a chance to be near where Hitler once had lived during World War II.
Of the sites mentioned above, which abandoned military base sparks your interest the most? Is it Fort Jefferson from the 1800s, or the residence of Hitler himself at Wolf’s Lair?
Military history is deeply tied to world history on a massive scale and exploring abandoned military bases both in the U.S. and worldwide gives us insight into some of the most interesting times in human history.