Since 1988, the US federal government has closed over 350 military installations. This process is done by a commission called BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) and is designed to increase DoD efficiency. While it’s a good idea to evaluate where personnel and budget should be allocated, it can be sad to see these bases go when so much American history is wrapped up in them.
Here are 10 of the most famous and important closed military bases in America:
Closed Military Bases
10. Bergstrom Air Force Base — Texas
Activated in 1941, this Texas Air Force base became a permanent post after World War II and housed the Twelfth Air Force, which controlled all reconnaissance, fighter, and airlift operations west of the Mississippi River. In the ‘60s it became a common takeoff and touchdown location for Air Force One (under President Lyndon B. Johnson). Bergstrom was shut down in 1993 and became the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
9. Fort Chaffee — Arkansas
Fort Chaffee is still open, but the Arkansas base was “realigned” under the BRAS commission in 1995 and hasn’t housed active military members since. It was built in 1941 and has been used as a training facility, refugee camp, and POW camp. Today, the Arkansas National Guard trains there, and much of the original land has been redeveloped into shopping centers and office buildings.
8. Fort Benjamin Harrison — Indiana
Used almost exclusively for training, Fort Benjamin Harrison became active in 1903 and housed the US Army Finance School and Interservice Postal School. They trained soldiers for duties in finance, postal, clerical, and information technology. The Defense Information School was also located on Benjamin Harrison, and trained soldiers in journalism for print, radio, television, and more. When the post was closed in 1995, it became a training base for the Indiana National Guard and Army Reserve. The American Legion also has a presence there, as well as the US Defense Finance and Accounting Service.
7. Marine Corps Air Station Tustin — California
MCAS Tustin is another one of the closed military bases built in 1941. It was used as a base for airships, but it actually became the first to be used solely for helicopters. It supported the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at MCAS El Toro. It was also a training center for helicopter pilots, and was used for radar systems testing during the Vietnam War. After it was closed in 1999, it was a prime location for filming movies and shows like JAG and The X-files. It has a 192-foot tall blimp hangar that’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
6. Philadelphia Naval Yard — Pennsylvania
Philadelphia Naval Yard was the oldest shipyard in the US. Established in 1776, the US Navy began using it 1801; they built and repaired ships there for almost two centuries. In 1991 it was slated for closure, but the city of Philadelphia fought back, and it took four years for the shipyard to be officially closed. Today there are over 10,000 people employed at different port facilities where the Philadelphia Naval Yard once was.
5. Marine Corps Air Station El Toro — California
Founded in 1942, Marine Corps Air Station El Toro was a flying powerhouse. It was home to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing — now relocated to Miramar — as well as aircraft like the F-18 Hornets, KC-130 aerial refueling tanks, F-35B Lightning IIs, AV-8B Harriers, CH-53 Super Stallions, AH-1Z Cobras, V-22 Ospreys, and UH-1 Venoms. It was shut down in 1999 and is now used as the Orange County Great Park and a nature preserve.
4. Myrtle Beach Air Force Base — South Carolina
Myrtle Beach Air Force Base was a civilian airport first — constructed in 1939 and then given over to the military during the war. It was returned to Myrtle Beach in 1947, but reactivated as an Air Force base in 1954. It was mainly known for the presence of the A-10 Thunderbolt; an exciting spectacle to witness in the skies over Myrtle Beach. However, when the A-10 lost popularity, MBAFB was closed down in 1993. The A-10, also known as the Warthog, made a comeback in the years following, but it was too late for the base. Today, it’s been turned into Myrtle Beach International Airport, as well as a number of parks, homes, sporting facilities, and more.
3. Fort Ord — California
Ford Ord was considered one of the most beautiful places to be stationed in its 77-year history. It was located on Monterey Bay, California, and hosted the 7th Infantry Division. Ord also housed facilities for basic Army training and advanced infantry training. It joined the list of closed military bases in 1994, and the land is now used for a multitude of things; including California State University’s Monterey Bay campus, the Fort Ord Dunes State Park, the Veterans Transition Center, and a nature preserve. Several endangered species reside there — from the Smith’s blue butterfly to the California tiger salamander.
2. Charleston Naval Shipyard — South Carolina
This historic shipyard was established in 1901 along the Cooper River in Charleston, South Carolina. 21 destroyers were built at Charleston Naval Shipyard, and it was also a homeport for cruisers, destroyers and attack submarines during the Cold War. After the Cold War ended it was slated for closure and shut down in 1996. Today, its dry docks, floating dock and six piers form the largest commercial facility on the East Coast, servicing military, commercial and cruise ships.
1. Fort McClellan — Alabama
Fort McClellan’s history goes back well over 100 years. It was founded in 1898 and trained half a million troops in World War II. This Alabama Army base was the home of Army recruit training, military police training, Women’s Army Corps (WAC) training, and chemical warfare training. McClellan was officially closed in 1999, and underwent unexploded ordnance cleanup from 2003 to 2014. Today, it’s used by the Alabama National Guard for training and houses the Center for Domestic Preparedness.
Add to our list in the comments below, or talk about your experience with one of these iconic closed military bases.
For more, read our ranking of the top 10 military bases of all time.