Armies spend millions of dollars on bases, bunkers, and forts. But when a station is abandoned, all that money goes down the drain. The military will decommission a fortress when they no longer need it, and often these shelters remain abandoned as a haunting reminder of the wars they survived.
From America to Russia, military bases are left to rot. Some were battle locations, while others were used for training or testing weapons. For one reason or another, they were abandoned. Check out these haunting photos of forgotten army forts along with their stories.
The Maginot Line, France
In the 1930s, the French military built a series of bunkers along the French-German line. If the Germans ever attacked, France’s Maginot Line would withstand troops, bombs, and tanks. But in 1940, the Germans didn’t attack the border; they invaded through Belgium, entirely surpassing the Maginot Line.
After World War II, the Maginot Line was abandoned because it was too expensive to maintain. Its tunnels, shelters, and forts still stand today. The Maginot Line stretches 450 miles (720 km) without a single soul inside.
Johnston Atoll Military Base, Pacific Ocean
Johnston Island, 825 miles (1,328 km) southwest of Hawaii, stored deadly chemicals for over 30 years. The uninhabited island was taken over by the US Navy in 1934, and they built the station Johnston Atoll in 1941. It became a fuel station for aircraft, chemical weapons storage, and site to tests atomic bombs.
While the Army occupied Johnston Atoll, they created two artificial islands, which resulted in a ring of four small islands. The last soldier left in 2001, and only some contract civilians remain. Johnston Island is also a sanctuary for hundreds of native fish, coral, and migratory birds.
Maunsell Forts, North Sea
Offshore of Kent, England, a group of Star Wars-looking buildings stand above the water. They are the Maunsell Army Sea Forts, and they were built to protect the shore in 1942. The buildings contained radio stations that warned London citizens of oncoming airstrikes.
After the Maunsell Forts were decommissioned in the ’50s, pirates took advantage of their radio to communicate with each other. Today, these buildings lay abandoned and decaying. Visitors can see them if they take an eight-mile (12 km) boat ride to the facilities.
Duga Radar, Russia
You would have to explore the dense forests around Chernobyl, Russia, to find Duga Radar military base. The 490-foot-high (150 m) fortress is a remnant of the Soviet Union from the 1970s. Duga Radar acted as a warning system for missile strikes, and it was top-secret at the time. The government disguised it as a children’s camp.
Duga’s radio signals weakened during the 1980s, and in 1989, they disappeared altogether. To this day, the reasons behind Duga Rada’s closure have not been revealed to the public. It remains abandoned near the worst nuclear accident in history.
Teufelsberg Listening Station, Germany
In the forests outside of Berlin, Germany, a former NSA spy station remains abandoned. Teufelsberg Listening Station sits on top of a 260-foot (80 m) hill called “Devil’s Mountain”. The site was originally a Nazi military-technical college, but during the Cold War, the US repurposed it to spy on the Soviets.
Teufelsberg wasn’t chosen randomly. Every year, a local festival would set-up a Ferris wheel that improved what the NSA heard through radio waves. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Teufelsberg Listening Station was abandoned. All that’s left are wild boars and graffiti-covered walls.
Switzerland’s Secret Military Bunkers
Switzerland hasn’t participated in a war for almost 200 years, but this country still has military bunkers. If you know where to look along the Alps, you can find several camouflaged bunkers. Many buildings look like giant rocks, but if you look inside, you’ll discover nuclear shelters, cannons, tunnels, and railway systems.
At least 20,000 military bunkers have been discovered throughout Switzerland, although the exact amount is not known. The Swiss army began building these bunkers in the 1880s, and construction continued through the twentieth century. Some look like cabins, while others were built into the side of a mountain.
Plokštinė Missile Base, Lithuania
If you want to visit Plokštinė Missile Base in Lithuania, you’ll have to head underground. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union discovered that the US was constructing underground bases. To catch up, they began rapidly building their own hidden base in Plokščiai.
Plokštinė Missile Base was the first nuclear missile site in the Soviet Union. However, the US never learned about it until 1978. No missiles were ever launched there, even for tests. After the Cold War, Plokštinė Missile Base became obsolete and was abandoned. A history museum opened there in 2012.
Wolf’s Lair, Poland
The abandoned bunker in Ketrzyn, Poland, holds disturbing memories of the Nazi regime. Wolf’s Lair, as it’s called, was one of Adolf Hitler’s headquarters during World War II. Hitler spent around 800 hours there and even survived assassination attempts.
In 1944, one of Hitler’s colonels brought a suitcase with a bomb inside to a meeting. Miraculously, Hitler survived the blast with few injuries. When the war ended, Wolf’s Lair was forgotten. It is now covered in moss and plants from the surrounding Polish forest.
Kaunas Fortress, Lithuania
In 1882, the Russian Empire aimed to build nine fortresses across Lithuania. The final base, Kaunas Fortress, was finished just before World War I. Kaunas entered the war when the German forces attacked in 1915. After World War I ended, Kaunas Fortress was abandoned.
However, the fort received attention when Nazi Germany overtook Lithuania during World War II. They used Kaunas Fortress to detain, interrogate, and execute tens of thousands of Holocaust victims. The fort remains as an eerie, grass-covered reminder of the tragedy.
The Nekoma Pyramid, North Dakota, USA
If you head to Nekoma, North Dakota, which has a population of 24 people, you’d see a futuristic-looking pyramid in the distance. This is the Nekoma Pyramid that was built during the height of the Cold War. The pyramid shape functioned as a radar system and missile silo.
Because the fort risked setting off bombs over Canada, the government left the Nekoma Pyramid in the ’60s. Today, the base still stands in the middle of nowhere and is the subject of several conspiracy theories.
Imari Kawanami Shipyard, Japan
Imari Kawanami Shipyard is one of the most famous abandoned sites in Japan. Located on the desolate Kyushu Island, the shipyard was built in 1851 to store boats and torpedos. During World War II, Imari Kawanami contained the infamous kaiten, also known as “human torpedos.”
Human torpedos were secret naval weapons in which pilots rammed the vehicle directly into their target. During the war, Imari Kawanami housed around 2,500 soldiers, but it closed down in 1952. The shipyard was demolished in 2011, but photos of the old structure remain online.
Barnton Quarry Nuclear Bunker, Scotland
Barnton Quarry once produced stones for building near Edinburgh, Scotland. In 1952, the Scottish government transformed the quarry into a top-secret military bunker. There, they prepared for a nuclear bombing that never came.
Barnton Quarry was built to shelter the Queen should a nuclear war break out. The battle never happened and thus, the bunker was abandoned. In 2005, a private owner bought Barnton Quarry and converted it into a museum. The bunker’s broadcast room, tunnels, and stone walls are still intact.
Devil’s Slide Bunker, California, USA
In San Mateo County, California, an abandoned military base sits on top of a dangerous cliff. The bunker, called Devil’s Peak, got its name from the 30 to 50-degree inclines of the coastal cliffs that surround it. Devil’s Peak was designed to shoot down enemy aircraft during World War II.
Soldiers in Devil’s Peak kept a lookout for Japanese ships with their advanced radio tower. During the Cold War, a private owner bought Devil’s Peak, and he planned a project for it that wasn’t completed. Nobody inhabits the bunker today, as it is hard to even get to.
RAF Stenigot, England
Between 1938 and 1955, the British Army constructed the Royal Air Force Radar Station (or RAF Stenigot.) At first, the fort was created to detect and intercept German air raids during World War II. After the war ended, NATO took over the base and redesigned it to warn against Soviet attacks.
During this time, NATO built 60-foot-wide (18 m) dishes to detect Soviet frequencies. After it was abandoned, three of the four dishes were scrapped. You can still visit the remaining dish in Stenigot, near Lancashire.
Wünsdorf Soviet Camp, Germany
What was once known as “Little Moscow” now lies in ruins. Wünsdorf Soviet Camp was a small town south of Berlin that housed Soviet soldiers and their families. With 75,000 people living there, Wünsdorf was the largest Soviet camp at the time. Along with storing ammunition, the town had schools, trains, and hospitals.
After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, residents were forced to leave. Thousands of people rushed to return to Russia, leaving many belongings behind. Today, Wünsdorf Soviet Camp remains abandoned as a grim reminder of the Soviet Union.
Željava Air Base, Bosnia
In the 1940s, communist Yugoslavia launched the project Objekat 505 to increase the country’s defense. Over two decades, they spent $6 billion on Objekat 505, more than Croatia’s and Serbia’s budgets combined. The result? A massive underground airport.
The Željava Air Base could survive a nuclear airhead and house over 1,000 soldiers. In the 1990s, pilots began defecting from the military there. To prevent further uprisings, the government bombed part of Željava. Today, the base survives, but it lies in ruins. It’s also tricky to find along the border of Croatia and Bosnia.
Saint Nazaire Submarine Base, France
While the Germans occupied France in World War II, they built four military bases. The largest was the Saint Nazaire Submarine Base off the coast of Brittany. The concrete base is 985 feet long (300 m), 426 feet wide (130 m), and 60 feet tall (18 m).
Saint Nazaire was built to protect submarines and “Unterseeboots,” Germany’s most threatening weapon at the time. When the Allies liberated France in 1945, Saint Nazaire was abandoned. The government restored the base in 1994 for tourists and history buffs.
Cape May Bunker, New Jersey, USA
Beach-goers who walk along Cape May, New Jersey, could run into a giant moss-covered fortress. This bunker was built during World War II with turrets of heavy artillery. It became useless after the war and was abandoned.
During the bunker’s construction in 1942, it was 900 feet (275 m) from the water. Over time, the tide has risen so that visitors can’t walk around it without stepping in the ocean. Because the bunker hasn’t functioned in many battles, it has remained relatively intact.
Humboldthain Flak Tower, Germany
During World War II, Nazi Germany built eight flak towers, which were military towers designed to shoot down fighter planes. The Humboldthain Flak Tower in Berlin also sheltered civilians during air raids, but today, it only houses bats in the winter.
The army destroyed part of a large park in northern Berlin to make room for Humboldthain. After the war ended, the military had no need for these flaks anymore. Today, visitors can explore Humboldthain Flak Tower if they’re willing to climb the five stories to the top.
Olavsvern Naval Base, Norway
The US and Russia weren’t the only countries building secret bases during the Cold War. In Tromsø, Norway, the Norweigan army built their own secret naval base in the Arctic Circle. Olavsvern Base cost over four billion Kroner to build, but it was never needed to counter nuclear war.
In 2008, the Norweigan government decided to commission Olavsvern by selling it. Ironically, the new owners rented the site to Russian research vessels. Many people suspect that Russian military activity still occurs there in secret, but we don’t know for sure.
Balaklava Submarine Base, Russia
Today, you can board a white yacht to travel to an abandoned base in Balaklava Bay, Russia. During the Cold War, it was a top-secret submarine base built to repair submarines and the Soviet’s Black Sea Fleet. Secretly, it could also withstand nuclear bombs… and retaliate.
In theory, the base could withstand a bomb ten times stronger than the one that dropped on Hiroshima. It also held nuclear warheads that were ready to fire at any time. By the early 2000s, Balaklava Base fell into disrepair. The abandoned structure now functions as a museum.
Askold Island, Sea Of Japan
At one time, Askold Island held valuable goldmines. In the nineteenth century, the Japanese and Russians competed over ownership of the island, and Russia eventually won. By the early 20th century, Russia had integrated Askold Island into a vast system of fortresses.
The military base on Askold allowed the Russians to spy on the Japanese and build mines that would protect their maritime routes. Today, nobody lives on the island, although it is open for tourists. According to rumors, dozens of gold deposits still lay undiscovered on Askold.
Greenbrier Bunker, West Virginia, USA
In 2010, reporters revealed 33 government buildings that went undiscovered for decades. One of them was the Greenbrier Bunker in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. In the 1950s, Greenbrier was a nuclear shelter for members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Oddly enough, Greenbrier was converted into a luxury resort. The concrete add-on building had a complex air filter, 1,100 beds, and many restrooms (mostly men’s). Today, Greenbrier offers tours of the bunker that was likely never used throughout its history.
Monte Moro Bunker, Italy
The history behind Monte Moro Bunker in Genova, Italy, is shrouded in mystery. Like many abandoned bunkers, Monte Moro was leftover from World War II. When Italy declared war on France, Genova received the first hit. This fort provided ammunition for the soldiers stationed there.
It’s unknown when the army abandoned Monte Moro Bunker. But today, nobody uses the fort. It has three batteries, one of which can be reached by car, and the rest has been built into the hillside. Graffiti covers the concrete walls that once held ammunition.
RAF Hethel, England
The Royal Air Force Hethel (often called the RAF Hethel) lies forgotten north of London, England. During the Second World War, the British and Americans used the airfield as a base. After the war ended, Polish citizens used the base as a camp. As a result, there are several gravestones outside the airfield.
In the 1960s, a British racecar manufacturer called Lotus Cars used the airfield for test runs. The base now has a combination of older and newer buildings. Although few full buildings remain, the gym, chapel, and engineering sites still remain.
Pointe Du Hoc, France
Pointe du Hoc Base, which lies on a cliff overlooking the English Channel, was a turning point during the Battle of D-Day. The Germans fortified Pointe du Hoc in 1943, but in June 1944, American forces scaled the 100-foot-tall (30 m) cliffs to reclaim the base.
Today, the Pointe du Honte Base is an American battle monument. A tablet, with inscriptions in French and English, was installed on a German bunker in 1979. Visitors can still visit the abandoned concrete bunkers today.
Palmerston Forts, Portsea Island, England
In 1859, England believed that the French would invade at any moment. To prepare, the Royal Commission built several forts along Portsea Island called the Palmerston Forts. These bases stretched 200 feet (60 m) across and held 49 cannons.
Although the Palmerston Forts never fought the French, they did see some action in both world wars. In the 1950s, the forts were decommissioned. One of the forts, called No Man’s Land, opened as a luxury hotel in the 1960s before it closed once again. Now, the Palmerston Forts remain abandoned.
Fort Terry, New York, USA
In 1897, Fort Terry was built on Plum Island outside of New York. It was initially made to monitor trade, but when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, Fort Terry quickly turned into a military base. It worked as an ammunition supplier throughout both world wars.
In 1952, the US Army Chemical Corps had another idea for Fort Terry. The fort became a center of animal disease research and biological warfare. During the 2000s, Fort Terry transferred ownership a few times before finally being abandoned. The building still stands on that forgotten island.
RAF Upper Heyford, England
Five miles (eight km) north of Bicester, England, an old air force base is slowly consumed by nature. The Royal Air Force Upper Heyford Base sheltered aircraft from both the US and Britain during the Cold War. Strategic bombers and strike aircraft were stored there.
When the Cold War ended, the Royal Air Force had no more use for Upper Heyford. It gradually decayed into the abandoned base it is today. Native birds build nests in the buildings, which make the area an ideal site for bird watchers.
Hashima Island, Japan
If you sail nine miles from Nagasaki, Japan, you may find an eerie coal mining town that has been abandoned since 1974. Hashima Island, also called Battleship Island, because a popular city after coal was discovered there in the nineteenth century. During the 1930s, however, the Japanese army used the island for forced labor.
Under Japanese wartime policies, thousands of Korean and Chinese prisoners were forced to work on army supplies. Around 1,300 died during their labor. With the rise in petroleum, workers on Hashima Island gradually left, and the city remains as a solemn reminder of Japan’s dark history.
Fort Tilden, New York, USA
On the outskirts of Queens, New York, there’s a hundred-year-old army base. Built in 1917, Fort Tilden protected the entrance to New York Harbor. A few new buildings were added in the 1930s. During both world wars, soldiers tracked enemies, stored supplies, and defended the shore in Fort Tilden.
After World War II ended, the Coast Artillery Corps–who ran Fort Tilden–was abolished. The Army converted the fort into apartments for veterans and their families. However, the Army reclaimed Fort Tilden during America’s war with Korea. Afterward, it was abandoned.
Fort Ord, California, USA
Fort Ord in Salinas, California, was once considered America’s most beautiful military base. The coastal site was founded in 1917 as a target range for field artillery. However, it wasn’t designated as a fort until 1940. During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, over 50,000 soldiers were stationed at Fort Ord.
Many soldiers wanted to stay at Ford Ord for its beautiful and well-provided facilities. However, the base closed in 1994 after several training areas deactivated. Fort Ord has become a protected environmental site for the rare native species living there.
Fuchū Air Base, Japan
Fuchū Air Base in Tokyo began as a Japanese Airbase in 1940. After Japan surrendered in 1945, the United States came in and took over Fuchū Air Base. From 1957 to 1974, American operated the base as its first and main headquarters in post-war Japan.
Fuchū hosted Air Weather Service and Air Traffic Control service groups. Although soldiers left the base in the ’70s, you can still see the giant eroding disks and communication towers. Two jet fighters, a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter and Mitsubishi F-1, are on display at the entrance.
Vieques Island Bunkers, Puerto Rico
In 1941, the American Navy overtook the small Puerto Rican island of Vieques. They built a series of secret concrete bunkers that stored ammunition during World War II. The Vieques Bunkers also became a testing ground for weapons, since hills completely obscured the structure.
By 2003, residents had, had enough of the military occupation. Repeated protests forced the Army to withdraw from Vieques, leaving the bunkers untouched. Today, the US Fish & Wildlife Services are working to clean up the remaining ammunition. But otherwise, the buildings remain abandoned.
Carlstrom Field, Florida, USA
Six miles (ten km) south of Arcadia, Florida, there’s an airfield that survived World War I. Carlstrom Field was built in 1917 to house several Air Force squadrons. After the war, Carlstrom Field became a testing area for aircraft. It closed in 1926 but reopened in 1941 to train the Allied Forces.
After World War II, Carlstrom Field turned into the G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital. The psychiatric hospital closed in 2002, and the buildings remain untouched. The site still has several wells, runways, hangars, and hospital machinery.
Forward Operating Base Shank, Afghanistan
In the late 2000s and early 2010s, the United States government spent millions of dollars strengthening Forward Operating Base Shank in Logar, Afghanistan. Now, it’s called “Zombieland.” The American forces initially used the fort as a strategic hub while fighting the Taliban.
In 2014, soldiers were ordered to rush out of Afghanistan. In their haste, they tore apart over 500 bases, one of which was Forward Operating Base Shank. Today, the base is unrecognizable, and its only residents are feral dogs who use the wasteland as shelter.