All around the world, armies spend millions of dollars on forts, bunkers, and bases. But when there is no longer a threat, these sites are decommissioned, and all of that money spent goes down the drain. What remains is an abandoned building that gives locals and tourists a glimpse into what it was like in wartime.
From America and Russia to France and Japan, former military sites are left to rot. While some were a source of protection in the midst of World War II, others were top-secret spy stations. Regardless of their purpose, these military sites were abandoned for one reason or another.
Let’s take a look at some of the eeriest, most haunting, abandoned military bases from around the world.
The Nekoma Pyramid, North Dakota, USA
Costing the US Military over $6 billion, the Nekoma Pyramid was developed in the 1960s to protect the US from incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles fired by the Russians. The massive complex had missile silos, a radar system, and launching silos that could be used for surface-to-air missiles. The pyramid was also equipped with a “backscatter radar” site that could follow Russian missiles and shoot them down before they reached the US.
Due to the complex’s expense, questions about its effectivity, and the danger of exploding a ballistic missile over Canada, the House Appropriations Committee voted to shut the program down. After less than a year of operation and less than 24 hours of full operational capacity, the Nekoma Pyramid was officially closed in February 1976.
The Maginot Line, France
In the 1930s, the French built a series of forts and weapon installations along the French-German border to protect themselves from the growing threat of Germany. The French military thought that the bunkers were a great addition to their line of defense because they were almost indestructible. The bunkers could withstand aerial bombings and tank fire and had a series of underground railways that could be used for backup.
The barracks were very comfortable and even had air conditioning units for the soldiers. But, unfortunately, Germany didn’t attack from the east as the French had expected. They attacked across the northern border with Belgium, rendering the Maginot Line almost useless. Today, the forts still exist, but they are abandoned.
Duga Radar, Russia
The beautiful forest just north of Kiev seems like the perfect spot to enjoy nature, except for one fact. Well, two. Not only is it contaminated by radiation from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, but it was also once home to one of the most secret structures from the Soviet era. From 1976 until 1989, the Soviet Union had such an advanced radar that it could detect targets from hundreds to thousands of miles away.
The Duga Radar, also known as “The Arc,” is 492 feet high and stretches almost a half a mile long. Even decades after the Soviet Union collapsed, the full story behind the Duga Radar is unknown. On Soviet maps, the radar was market as a children’s camp, complete with a decorated bus stop.
Teufelsberg Listening Station, Germany
The Teufelsberg Listening Station was a former United States spy station for the National Security Agency (NSA) located in what was formally known as West Berlin. Throughout the Cold War, the US wanted to build a structure that could intercept radio communications from the Soviet Union. NSA scouted around West Berlin but decided that a manmade hill, the Teufelsberg, was a great spot to build.
In 1963, the station was built, with a series of white domes, buildings, and towers. The exact operations that were conducted inside of the Teufelsberg Listening Station are still classified. Still, we do know that the station intercepted radio transmissions up until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. After the station was closed and the equipment scrapped, it became a hub for local graffiti artists and tourists.
Switzerland’s Secret Military Bunkers
The United States and the Soviet Union weren’t the only countries preparing their cities for an attack during the Cold War. At the height of the Cold War, Switzerland had a strict bunker policy that required every person in the country to have a spot in a bunker in case of an attack. Citizens had two choices: build a bunker under their homes or apartment buildings or pay for a spot in a public bunker.
There were many public bunkers around the country, including inside the two Sonnenberg tunnels. In the event of a catastrophe, the tunnels could be sealed off to provide shelter for thousands of people. The Swiss also built a seven-story building called “the cavern” around the tunnels that could be converted into a command station.
RAF Stenigot, England
From 1938 until 1955, the British Army used the Royal Air Force (RAF) Radar Station to detect German Air raids during World War II. After the war, the fort was taken over and redesigned by NATO. They built huge 60-foot-wide tropospheric scatter dishes that weighed over 100 tons each. The dishes were used to detect and warn against Soviet attacks.
By the 1980s, the base was decommissioned, and, by 1996, it was mostly demolished. In 2018, three of the four dishes disappeared, leaving citizens of Lincolnshire scratching their heads. After an investigation by the East Lindsey District Council, it was discovered that a local construction firm demolished the dishes, raising legal questions. Today, the site is used for training by the Royal Air Force.
Olavsvern Naval Base, Norway
It wasn’t just the US and Russia building secret military bases during the Cold War. Carved into a mountain on the outskirts of Tromsø, Norway, the Norwegian military built their own secret naval base. The base took almost 30 years to make and cost NATO over $500 million. The secret Arctic base, equipped with a submarine hanger, 300,000 square feet of bombproof interior space, and direct sea access, was built in response to the growing threat of the Soviet Union.
But after the Norwegian government decided to reconstruct the country’s navy, the base was officially shut down. The government put the abandoned base on an auction site, where it eventually sold to an oil drilling company for a mere $5 million. Ironically, the oil drilling company decided to rent the site out to Russian research vessels.
Wünsdorf Soviet Camp, Germany
The base started off as a German military shooting range in the 1800s before becoming one of the largest military bases in Europe during World War I. After the war ended, the Germans established the Army Sports School and even trained athletes there in preparation for the Olympic Games in 1936.
After World War II, the base was located in Communist East Germany, and it became the headquarters for Soviet soldiers and their families. At one point, the base housed over 75,000 people, making it the largest Soviet fort at the time. It was more of a town than a base, with schools, trains, and hospitals. After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, all of the camp’s residents were forced to leave. The camp remains abandoned until this day, serving a grim reminder of the Cold War.
Fort Tilden, New York, USA
Many people don’t know this, but on the outskirts of Queens, New York sits a hundred-year-old abandoned army base. Fort Tilden was first constructed in 1917, the same year the US entered World War I. It was used to store munitions and house soldiers. The base remained active during World War II and the Vietnam War and was finally decommissioned in 2014.
Since then, some of the buildings have been renovated and are now used by local artists. Some of the larger open areas have been converted into sports grounds, and one of the old batteries is now used as a scenic lookout point. There is a lot of nature surrounding the abandoned base, which is often frequented by bird-watchers and other nature lovers.
Željava Air Base, Bosnia
Located on the east side of Croatia on the border with Bosnia, the Željava Air Base was a secret underground Yugoslavian Air Base. Formally known as Objekat 505, the communist country used the airbase to increase the country’s defense systems during the 1940s. The airbase housed a long-range radar early warning system and served as a strategic command center.
The base was built between 1957 and 1965, costing the Yugoslavians over $6 billion, which was three times more than Serbia and Croatia’s yearly military budgets combined. The base that resulted was a military wonder. It had four exits that could launch jets and withstand direct nuclear bombs. After the Yugoslavians left Croatia, they destroyed the functionality of the base so it couldn’t be used against them.
Barnton Quarry Nuclear Bunker, Scotland
Built in 1952, the Barnton Quarry Nuclear Bunker was constructed to provide the British government and the Queen protection in the event of an attack. The bunker was kept ready for the potential arrival of 400 people and had enough supplies to house them for 30 days. But when an anticipated Soviet attack never happened, the bunker was never used.
It was kept a secret until 1962 when a group called “Spies for Peace” exposed the bunker and its location to the public. However, the bunker remained fully operational until the early 1980s. The bunker was bought by a private property developer in the late 80s, but the property was damaged by fires in August 1991 and in May 1993. The bunker has been repurchased with the intention of converting it into a museum.
Saint-Nazaire Submarine Base, France
The Saint-Nazaire was France’s largest harbor on its Atlantic coast. But after Germany occupied France, they decided to convert the harbor into a submarine base, with U-46s arriving as soon as possible. From February 1941 until January 1942, the Germans built a huge cement structure to protect their submarines from British air bombings.
The cement structure is 985 feet long, 426 feet wide, and 60 feet tall. The entire base covered over 50 acres and was equipped with 150 offices, 92 dormitories, two bakeries, two electrical plants, a restaurant, and a hospital. The base was officially abandoned at the end of the war after the Allies liberated France. In 1994, the French government restored the former submarine base for tourists.
Cape May Bunker, New Jersey, USA
It was never meant to stay, but the gigantic concrete bunker is still sitting on a beach in Cape May County, New Jersey. The building, complete with concrete walls that are just under seven feet thick, was built on timber pilings that have yet to give out. During the years leading up to the United States’ entry into World War II, the military started the Modernization of the Coastal Defense program.
Battery 223, as the concrete bunker was known at the time, was part of the military’s effort to ramp up the country’s shore defenses. But, as the war came to an end, the bunker was decommissioned, and defense guns were scrapped by 1948. The bunker was used briefly for Navy radio communications after 1958 but has since been abandoned.
Humboldthain Flak Tower, Germany
In addition to a swimming pool, rose garden, and multiple playgrounds at the Volkspark Humboldthain landscape park, two flak towers sit on top of a massive concrete air-raid shelter. Almost immediately after the British Royal Air Force started bombing Germany, air-raid shelters were built all across the country.
This base, in particular, housed one of the eight massive cement towers equipped with anti-aircraft guns. These huge structures had two purposes: to defend local factories from Allied air raids and provide shelter for the 10,000 civilians in the area. After the war, France destroyed all of the flak towers, except for the two in Humboldthain. The demolition in the area was considered too dangerous. Today, the park is rebuilt and is open to visitors.
Fort Ord, California, USA
Located near Monterey Bay, California, Ford Ord was once considered one of the most beautiful military bases in North America. Long before Fort Ord was built in 1940, the surrounded fields were used for artillery target practice. Fort Ord was used primarily as a basic and advanced training base until it was handed over to the 7th Infantry Division, following its return from South Korea.
However, in 1989, it was found that the site had leaking underground petroleum storage tanks and a hazard-waste landfill, making the area very toxic. Following the US Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal, Fort Ord was officially put on the National Priorities List (NPL) in 1990. The last basic training was held in 1990, and the base was officially closed in 1994.
Vieques Island Bunkers, Puerto Rico
Vieques, a small island off the coast of Puerto Rico, served great strategic importance during World War II. After buying nearly two-thirds of the island, the US Navy built a series of hidden concrete bunkers on the west coast and a training facility on the east coast, leaving the middle of the island for civilians.
The bunkers were used as storage facilities for weapons and ammunition and were completely hidden from the air. After the war, the US military continued to use the island for its storage facilities and weapons testing area, causing irreparable damage to the areas. After repeated protesting, the US army finally agreed to leave Vieques in 2003. The army not only left behind bunkers but unexploded bombs that are still being discovered today.
Devil’s Slide Bunker, California, USA
As you drive south from San Francisco on Route 1, you’ll pass through a tunnel just south of Pacifica. Just as you emerge from the tunnel, you’ll see a large, graffitied building overlooking the ocean on your right. Located on Devil’s Peak, the former military bunker was used by the San Francisco’s Harbor Defense program during World War II.
It was used to survey the location of Japanese ships trying to sail into the harbor. But as the technology of radars became more advanced, the Devil’s Slide Bunker became less and less important. The bunker was completely abandoned in 1949. The site was bought by a private owner in 1983, but it remains untouched to this day.
Balaklava Submarine Base, Russia
Today people can sail on the turquoise waters of Balaklava Bay, but 30 years ago, the bay was a restricted military zone filled with Soviet submarines. Located near a small Ukrainian ocean town on the coast of the Black Sea, the port was used as a power plant for almost 200 hundred years.
During the Cold War, however, it was converted into a top-secret Soviet naval base designed to withstand a US nuclear attack. The base was shut down following the collapse of the Soviet Union and moved under the jurisdiction of a now independent Ukraine. Russia rented the base from the Ukrainians, but the underground base fell into disrepair and was converted into a museum in 2003.
Maunsell Forts, North Sea
The Maunsell forts were armed sea forts that were built at sea to destroy enemy planes and boats before they reached the coastline. The towers built in the Thames and Mersey estuaries are located in the southeast and northwest of England respectfully. The structures were named after their designer, Guy Maunsell, a British civil engineer.
Each tower was held up by four concrete pillars, and the buildings that sat on top were made of steel. By the end of World War II, the forts had served their purpose and were eventually decommissioned by the late 1950s. In the 1960s, the forts were used to communicate with pirates, among other activities. Today, the forts are abandoned, but can still be visited by boat.
Johnston Atoll Military Base, Pacific Ocean
Today, Johnston Atoll, or Kalama Atoll to Native Hawaiians, is a territory controlled by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. But for nearly 70 years, the area was under the authority of the US military. The atoll was used for a variety of reasons: an airbase, a naval refueling spot, a nuclear testing site, a secret missile base, and a chemical weapon storage and disposal site.
The uninhabited atoll was taken over by the US Navy in 1934, and they eventually built an entire complex with an airfield, barracks for hundreds of men, and an underground hospital. In the years following, the Johnston Atoll Military Base was used for various testing until its closure in 2003. Today, the military base remains abandoned.
Askold Island, Sea of Japan
During the 19th century, Askold Island was known for its lucrative goldmines and was often a point of conflict between Japan and Russia. But, by the beginning of the 20th century, Russia took over the island and integrated it into a complex system of 11 fortresses. The military complex on Askold Island allowed Russians to spy on the Japanese and then destroy their maritime routes by carefully placing mines in their path.
But by 1917, and only two-thirds of the fortresses completed, construction came to a halt. The forts and other buildings were converted into warehouses for Russian equipment. Today, the island is abandoned, and, although no one lives there, it is still open to tourists. Rumor has it that the island is home to dozens of undiscovered gold deposits.
Greenbrier Bunker, West Virginia, USA
Located under the west wing of the luxury Greenbrier Resort, lies a massive, top-secret bunker that was built for 535 members of the Senate and the House of Representatives during Eisenhower’s presidency. While the resort has been around since 1778, construction for the military bunker started in 1958.
By the time it was completed in 1961, the bunker had a power plant, 18 dormitories, and an intensive care unit, among other amenities. The bunker was active for over 30 years and was constantly updated to keep up with advancements in technology. By 1995, the US government ended its lease agreement with Greenbrier, which began offering tours of the bunker later that year. Tourists can still visit the resort and top-secret bunker today.
Monte Moro Bunker, Italy
Located in Genoa, Italy, this secret bunker still remains something of a mystery. When the Italians declared war on the French in June of 1940, Genoa was one of the first towns to be attacked. The Germans helped develop the Italian’s defensive system, which included the Monte Moro Bunker. Other than storing ammunition, little is known about the bunker’s uses.
Italy joined World War II as a member of the Axis Powers in 1940, with a plan to attack the British Empire in Africa and the Middle East, expecting their eventual collapse. When the Soviet Union and the United States entered the war, however, the Italians’ plan to force the British to sign a peace treaty was ruined.
RAF Hethel, England
The Royal Air Force Hethel is a forgotten airbase that lies in the north of London, England. The base was used by both the British and American air forces during World War II. But when the war came to an end, the Americans left, and the British no longer had use for the airfield. In 1948, the base was converted into a camp that housed almost 900 Polish Displaced People.
Many Polish citizens that lived in Allied occupation zones decided not to return to Poland when the war came to an end, due to political reasons. This included soldiers from the Polish armed forces, prisoners of war, and freed prisoners from concentration camps. In the 1960s, British racecar manufacture Lotus Cars bought the camp and still uses it for test runs today.
Pointe Du Hoc, France
Located on a cliff overlooking the English Channel, Pointe Du Hoc was crucial during Operation Overlord, more commonly known as D-Day. The cliff is the highest point between the Utah and Omaha beaches, meaning whoever controlled it was at an advantage. Utah and Omaha were the American codenames given to the beaches and not their actual names.
The Germans had fortified the cliff with concrete casemate (concrete walls that protect gunmen) and gun pits. But, on June 6, 1944, the United States Army Ranger Assault Group attacked and captured the fortress. Today, Pointe Du Hoc features a World War II memorial as well as a museum dedicated to the battle. Visitors can still see many of the original fortifications and a number of bomb craters.
Imari Kawanami Shipyard, Japan
The Imari Kawanami Shipyard is one of the most famous abandoned sites in Japan. Located on Kyushu Island, the building was constructed in 1851. At its peak during World War II, the shipyard was home to over 2,500 workers. These workers contributed to the Japanese war effort by building various types of boats, such as coastal defense boats and cargo ships, as well as munitions.
The factory also made the notorious “kaiten” or human torpedoes that were used during the war. When the war ended, the Imari Kawanami Shipyard continued to build and repair ships, until it officially closed its doors in 1955. Today, the building remains abandoned, with many calling for its demolition to make room for a public park.
Palmerston Forts, Portsea Island, England
In 1959, the Royal Commission was formed to advise the British government against an enemy invasion. At the time, the British thought that the French were a threat and decided to build the Palmerston forts as a response. The forts were constructed from 1865 until 1880, but by the time they were completed, a French invasion was no longer a threat.
The forts were armed and updated as technology advanced but were never used, making them the most expensive system of fixed defenses that the British undertook during peacetime. In the end, the forts were decommissioned in 1956 and put up for sale in the 1960s. Today, the forts are used as luxury hotels and museums, while others are abandoned.
Fort Terry, New York, USA
Located on Plum Island, New York, Fort Terry was originally built to store weapons. The fort was deactivated and activated multiple times during World War II but was officially taken over by the US Army Chemical Corps in 1952. The fort was then turned into a biological warfare research laboratory, officially known as Building 257 (or Lab 257).
The lab was used to research anti-animal biological agents. The lab was officially transferred to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1954 until Richard Nixon ended the program in 1969. The labs were run by the USDA until the US Department of Homeland Security took over in 2003. The government has long denied that bio-weapons research was conducted at the lab, but “Newsday” published documents in 1993 proving otherwise.
RAF Upper Heyford, England
Upper Heyford was one of the largest air force bases in Europe during the time of the Cold War. The base was home to bombers that carried NATO’s intermediate-range nuclear missiles. Upper Heyford was first used by the RAF in 1916 but wasn’t used for actual flights until 1918. From the end of World War I, the base was used primarily as a training base until it became home to the US Air Force in 1950.
The US used the base for more than four decades until the end of the Cold War. The base was officially closed in December 1993, and, today, the runways are home to scores of wildlife. The buildings have been converted for a number of different uses, such as automobile storage, police training, boat building, and rental housing.
Hashima Island, Japan
Bought by Mitsubishi in 1890, the uninhabited island was transformed into an undersea mining location, complete with the construction of modern buildings. By the 1950s, the island was home to 5,000 people, who came to the island in search of a solid paycheck. But as coal was overtaken by gasoline, the mining industry plummeted, and Hashima Island was closed.
By 1975, the island was completely deserted. Today, many people travel to the island to catch a glimpse of its post-apocalyptic appearance. But what most people don’t know is that the island was actually used for forced labor during World War II. Many of the victims’ stories remain untold, and historians believe that thousands lost their lives, although the exact number remains undocumented.
Carlstrom Field, Florida, USA
Located just a few miles southeast of Arcadia, Florida, Carlstrom Field is a former airfield used for training during World War I. Built in 1917, the now-abandoned air force base was one of 32 training camps that were built for preparation for the war. When the war was over in 1918, the future use of Carlstrom Field was unknown.
Some people thought that it would still be used to train pilots, given the incredible combat record established by pilots who were trained at Carlstrom. From 1920, the base was used as a pilot training school on and off, until it was officially closed at the end of the war. From 1947 until 2002, the base was turned into the G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital for psychiatric patients.
Plokštinė Missile Base, Lithuania
While most military bases or spy stations from the Cold War are abandoned and left to rot, the Plokštinė Missile Base in Lithuania actually received money to be refurbished and converted into a museum. Located in the beautiful Plokštinė forest, the missile base has received a lot of attention from locals and tourists alike, but the station has a dark past.
It was once part of a series of Soviet bases that launched ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads. At the time, Lithuania was part of the Soviet Union and provided a strategic location to launch missiles at targets in Europe. Built in 1962, the military base has four missile silos and an extensive central command station underground. The base remained active until its last missile in 1978.
Wolf’s Lair, Poland
Hidden in a forest outside of Ketrzyn, Poland lies a former secret headquarters used by the Germans during World War II. The concrete bunker was heavily protected behind layers of security, and its location remained a secret so that the German regime leaders could meet without the Allied Forces knowing. Built in 1942, The Wolf’s Lair was used by Hitler quite often, and he even survived an assassination attempt in the bunker.
One of his colonels, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, snuck a suitcase filled with explosives into the bunker. The bomb went off when the Führer entered the room, but he escaped with minor injuries. With an assassination attempt and the Russians closing in on the bunker, the Germans abandoned Wolf’s Lair that next day.
Kaunas Fortress, Lithuania
In 1882, the Russian Empire began on one of their most important projects at the time: to protect the city of Kaunas. Global tensions were rising, and the Russian Empire wanted to ramp up their defense systems. They built nine forts, with the last one completed on the eve of World War I. The entire fortress was made of concrete, and the walls and ceiling were at least five feet thick.
The forts also had a series of connecting tunnels that could be useful if the area needed to be evacuated. From 1940, the fort was used as a point of transfer for NKVD prisoners, who were mostly former Lithuanian politicians. In 1958, the fort was converted into a museum to commemorate the lives lost during World War II.
Forward Operating Base Shank, Afghanistan
From 2008 until 2014, Forward Operating Base (FOB) Shank served as a military base for the US army. Located in Logar, the eastern province of Afghanistan, FOB Shank was the most heavily bombed military bases during Operation Enduring Freedom. The base is located in a sand bowl between two large mountain ranges, making it an easy target.
Due to the constant rocket attacks, many of the villages surrounding the base were abandoned shortly after the US army set up camp. In 2014, the army base was handed over to the Afghan National Army, who are still lacking the funds to maintain the base. Today, the base mostly lies in ruins in the hands of the Afghans.