After Rotting For Decades, We Can Finally Get A Glimpse Of These Abandoned Military Bases

When they are no longer needed, the military will decommission a fortress, leaving behind a haunting reminder of the wars they survived. From America to Russia, many military bases are left to rot for some reason or another. Read on to see haunting photos of forgotten army forts and learn about their stories.

Pointe Du Hoc, France

Pointe du Hoc Base lies on a cliff overlooking the English Channel. It 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 cliffs to reclaim the base.

Aerial Views Of D-Day Normandy Landmarks
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Today, the Pointe du Honte Base is an American battle monument.

RAF Upper Heyford, England

Five miles 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.

Exterior of disused hanger Upper Heyford hanger
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

When the Cold War ended, the Royal Air Force had no more use for Upper Heyford. Native birds now build nests in the buildings.

Teufelsberg Listening Station, Germany

A former NSA spy station remains abandoned in the forests outside of Berlin, Germany. 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.

Berlin in fog
Paul Zinken/picture alliance via Getty Images
Paul Zinken/picture alliance via Getty Images

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Teufelsberg Listening Station was abandoned.

Hashima Island, Japan

Nine Miles outside of Nagasaki, Japan, you will find an eerie coal mining town that has been abandoned since 1974. During the 1930s, the Japanese army used the island for forced labor.

Japan's Battleship Island
Carl Court/Getty Images
Carl Court/Getty Images

Under Japanese wartime policies, thousands of Korean and Chinese prisoners were forced to work on army supplies. Around 1,300 died during their labor. The city remains a solemn reminder of Japan’s dark history.

Balaklava Submarine Base, Russia

During the Cold War, the top-secret submarine base in Balaklava Bay, Russia, was built to repair submarines and the Soviet’s Black Sea Fleet. Secretly, it could also withstand nuclear bombs… and retaliate.

Sixth Anniversary Of The Annexation Of Crimea
Pierre Crom/Getty Images
Pierre Crom/Getty Images

By the early 2000s, Balaklava Base fell into disrepair, and it now functions as a museum.

Kaunas Fortress, Lithuania

In 1882, the Russian Empire built Kaunas Fortress just before World War I. After the war ended, Kaunas Fortress was abandoned.

Russian Tsar Alexander II, chose Kaunas, Lithuania as the...
Benas Gerdziunas/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Benas Gerdziunas/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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 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.

An abandoned building leftover from the Maginot Line is seen in France.
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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.

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.

The sea Maunsell forts tower above the mouth of the river Thames.
Marzena Grabczynska Lorenc/Bar/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Marzena Grabczynska Lorenc/Bar/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

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.

A visitor poses next to a sign with the radiation warning symbol in front of the construction of the Duga Radar.

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.

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.

The Salvenach Bunker in Switzerland lies buried in snow amidst a forest.
Illustrè/RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Walo Von Büren/RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images

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.

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.

Wolf's Lair, one of Hitler's hideouts during World War II, is concealed behind trees.
Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In 1944, one of Hitler’s colonels brought a suitcase with an explosive 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.

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.

The West Tunnel of Greenbrier Bunker is seen.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

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.

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.

A wall mural of WW2 bombers crossing the sky is at the former RAF Hethel base.
In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images
In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

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.

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).

A tunnel that stretches through Saint Nazaire Base is seen.
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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.

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.

Abandoned buildings are seen of a former military compound, Wünsdorf.
Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images
Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

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.

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.

Abandoned tents are partially torn down at the Forward Operating Base Shank in Afghanistan.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

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.

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.

Tourists sale by Spitbank Fort, one of the Palmerston Forts.
Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images
Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

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 Ord, California, USA

Fort Ord, near Monterey Bay, 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.

An abandoned pool is seen at Fort Ord Military base in CA.
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Charles Ommanney/Getty Images

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.

Disks of the abandoned Fuchu Air Base are seen above the treeline.
John S Lander/LightRocket via Getty Images
John S Lander/LightRocket via Getty Images

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.