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12 Cool Abandoned Military Sites in the U.S.

A view of one of the Devil’s Slide Bunkers in California. Credit: Atlas Obscura.

There’s something about abandoned military bases that really get us thinking about our past during some of the most monumental periods in world history. It’s also a peek into how soldiers lived during different historical eras and what might’ve been going through their minds.

Throughout history, hundreds of military bases have been left abandoned. Sometimes they get turned into airports or nature reserves and other times they stay desolate and obsolete. They’re all interesting nonetheless.

So, what are some abandoned American military bases that we can look into?


Famous Abandoned Military Sites in the U.S.

Even though many of these sites aren’t quite the same as military bases we know today, these abandoned areas had large military impacts in their time. Plus, they make for rather interesting – although sometimes creepy –  tourist attractions, and it’s fascinating to learn about our military’s past through these landmarks.

So here you have it, 12 abandoned military sites located all throughout the United States.


12. Fort Carroll

Off the coast of Maryland, Fort Carroll is a hexagonal island-fort that was built in the mid-1800s. It was used as an Army training ground before it came to be abandoned around 1921. It wasn’t the most useful in nature but it did have a lighthouse that seemed to work well. Otherwise, the walls were thin and the structure was prone to flooding.

In 1958, Fort Carroll was listed for sale and purchased by entrepreneur Benjamin Eisenberg for $10,000 who had plans to turn the island into a casino and entertainment destination. These plans never came to fruition and Fort Carroll remains deserted today. Tourists are able to visit the island and explore some of the relics that are still intact.


11. Fort Ord

Ford Ord is located on the Gulf of Monterey about 80 miles south of San Francisco. It was established in 1917 as a training center and postal operation for the U.S. Army before growing into a much larger base.

Hundreds of houses were built in the area and it remained part of military operations until 1994. Now, visitors can explore the historical area that is protected by the state.


10. Nekoma Base/Mickelsen Safeguard Complex

Nekoma Military Base, also known as the Mickelsen Safeguard Complex is located in Nekoma, North Dakota and features a prominent pyramid structure that often intrigues visitors who explore the abandoned area. It was built in 1975 as the first missile defense system in the U.S.

Used during the Cold War, the mission of the Mickelsen Safeguard Complex was to intercept Soviet missiles and was the site where large air defense systems were launched. However, the complex was abandoned less than one year later as missile technology was changing rapidly at the time and a treaty with the Soviets limited the number of weapons allowed in each country.

This unusual place will surely spike the curiosity of anyone who visits, especially because the large pyramid structure has unknown origins regarding its design.


9. Ghost Fleet

In Suisun Bay off the coast of San Francisco, you’ll find the Ghost Fleet – an abandoned fleet of around 50 warships of the National Defense Rescue Fleet.

These days, due to the environmental hazards from the decaying ship parts, about 50 of these ships were removed and placed in war museums and junk shipyards. Yet, even this effort was abandoned and half of the ghost fleet still remains in the area.


8. Charleston Naval Shipyard

Charleston Naval Shipyard was a dry dock built in 1901 and fulfilled major missions in various U.S. wars. During World War II it was particularly key to the war effort as ships were constantly being built or repaired on the property.

Located in Charleston, North Carolina, the shipyard had a long run but was officially closed in 1995. Although some areas of the yard have been redeveloped, you can still see much of the remains there today.


7. Fort Terry

On Plum Island off the coast of New York lies Fort Terry. Built in 1898, the fort was active during the Spanish-American War as a line of defense and contributed to missions during both World War I and II.

Since then, Fort Terry has been turned into the Plum Island Animal Disease Center that was established in 1969.


6. Cape May Bunker

Cape May is located in New Jersey and is the site of a large bunker that still stands today. It was built during World War II to serve as a gun placement when war officials were worried that the battles would eventually reach the shores of the U.S.

Now, the Cape May Bunker is part of a State Park and tourists are able to visit the abandoned site.


5. Fort Jefferson

Down in the Florida Keys, a six-sided island fortress called Fort Jefferson was built to fight off pirates looting the Caribbean Sea. Built in 1846, the fort housed soldiers, stored equipment, and policed the surrounding waters.

Once piracy became less of an issue in the area, Fort Jefferson became a Civil War prison. With such a rich military history spanning some incredibly interesting times of the past, it’s no wonder that it’s a popular tourist site and is recognized as a National Monument.


4. Titan I Missile Complex

Somewhere in east Washington, you might look at the rural landscape and think nothing of it. Yet, 155 feet below the surface you’ll find Titan I Missile Complex built in the 1960s. The complex held three silos that contained nuclear-tipped Titan I missiles and later, Titan II missiles.

This self-contained underground military base had its own water-treatment facilities, food, and fresh air supplies. Titan I Missile Complex comprised of winding tunnels and oddly-shaped control rooms, all incredibly interesting to observe.

Eventually, due to the modernization of technology at the time, Titan I Missile Complex was decommissioned and now remains abandoned completely.


3. Fort Tilden

Fort Tilden is located in Queens, New York and was built in 1917, pointing cannons toward the sea in an effort to protect the state from intrusion. During World War II, the fort was re-fortified with concrete but proved to be unnecessary at the time.

In 1974, Fort Tilden was decommissioned and has since gone under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service and people can visit the area. A lot of its original structure is now covered in graffiti.


2. Devil’s Slide Bunkers

Considered “high tech” in the 1930s, the Devil’s Slide Bunkers are located on the coast of San Mateo County in California. These structures pre-dated the radar era and were used as observation sites to pinpoint incoming ships.

For much of its history, these bunkers were top secret and after several years of using simple devices like binoculars and compasses to locate enemy ships, the site was abandoned to make way for newer technology.

In 1983, the bunkers were sold to an unknown individual but you can still see parts of the structures along the beautiful coastal area as you walk around.


1. Greenbrier Bunker

In White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Greenbrier Bunker is nestled 720 feet into a hillside. It was a top-secret bunker, said to have been completed in 1961 to act as a safe house for Congress in the event of a nuclear war.

The bunker was completely self-sufficient with, of course, food and water but it also contained a decontamination unit, a clinic, a lab, meeting rooms, and other precautions they thought necessary if disaster struck.

Built by undercover employees known as Forsythe Associates, the Greenbrier Bunker wasn’t exposed until 1992 by The Washington Post. This revelation forced the government to decommission its operation.

Visitors can check out the abandoned bunkers since it’s now open for tours. The surrounding White Sulphur Springs resort that lies above is also still in operation.


There’s no doubt that abandoned military bases will continue to evoke intrigue for years to come. For as long as military bases are built and used, they’ll continue to become abandoned once the government no longer finds a use for them. And when they’re abandoned, tourists will continue to roam through their walls in an attempt to get a better understanding of American history.


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