In Photos: Fascinating Abandoned Military Structures
From radar facilities to bunkers, gun emplacements to forts, militaries build the infrastructure to further their missions. When they are usefulness expires, however, those installations sometimes remain for years, decades, or even centuries, standing as crumbling and dilapidated reminders of wars gone by.
Some abandoned military structures become derelict and are overtaken by nature. Others become hot spots for tourists looking to catch a great sunset and take a few selfies. Many remain so chemically contaminated it would be dangerous to go near them.
Militaries worldwide leave abandoned installments in their wake, sometimes in the form of small, simple structures and sometimes in the form of vast, sprawling complexes that once housed soldiers and their families.
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Teufelsberg Listening Station: Berlin, Germany
One of the finest views of Berlin can be taken in from a former American listening station perched atop a hill of rubble. The Cold War relic was comprised of a series of listening devices and gear for jamming Soviet radio signals across the divided city. When the Cold War ended, the station became a sunset hangout, as well as a tapestry for graffiti artists.
Matt Biddulph // Flickr
Balaklava Submarine Base: Balaklava, Crimea
Looking today at the idyllic, yacht-strewn Balaklava Bay, you’d never guess the strategic Russian port on the southwestern tip of the Crimean Peninsula was once a maritime nuclear fortress. The Cold War submarine base was designed for two purposes: to survive an American nuclear assault, and retaliate with a launch. You can visit this hulking relic, which is still guarded by a 165-ton steel gate, designed to withstand a blast with five times the power of the Hiroshima bomb.
SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP // Getty Images
Maunsell Sea Forts: Kent, England
The towering Maunsell Sea Forts pockmark the Thames Estuary in Great Britain. Reminiscent of the lumbering Imperial Walkers that spearheaded the attack on the Rebel base in “The Empire Strikes Back,” the peculiar-looking forts were commissioned in 1942 to repel Luftwaffe attacks during World War II. They’ve been abandoned since 1958.
Russss // Wikimedia Commons
Wünsdorf Soviet Camp: Hauptallee Zossen, Germany
Known as “Little Moscow,” Wünsdorf Soviet Camp was once home to 75,000 Soviet men, women, and children during the Cold War. Located 25 miles from Berlin, the sprawling, secret base was the site of the largest Soviet headquarters outside the USSR: the heart of the high command in Soviet-occupied Germany. When the Berlin Wall fell, the Russians withdrew, leaving behind nearly 100,000 rounds of ammunition, nearly 50,000 pieces of ordnance, and tens of thousands of tons of munitions, trash, furniture, and home appliances.
PP Pilch // Wikimedia Commons
Saint Nazaire Submarine Base: Saint Nazaire, France
During World War II, Saint Nazaire was one of the most important Atlantic harbors. When the Nazis conquered France, they erected a gargantuan concrete fortification that still stands today. Once a critical base for sheltering and repairing German U-boats, the marine base was so enormous it could even receive the Third Reich’s largest battleships for maintenance.
Jean-Pierre Dalbéra // Flickr
Željava Underground Air Base: Željava, Croatia
The border between modern-day Croatia and Bosnia witnessed brutal violence during both World Wars, as well as crushing post-war occupation and subsequent war after the Soviet collapse. During communist occupation, the Soviets built a huge underground air base that once housed dozens of fighter jets. In 1992, Serbian forces destroyed the base to prevent it from falling into Croatian hands, and the site has been abandoned ever since.
Jerry Gunner // Wikimedia Commons
Fort Ord: Monterey Bay Coast, CA
Established in 1917 as a target range, Fort Ord was long-considered America’s most beautiful Army base. Situated on 45 miles of the picturesque coast of California’s Monterey Bay, the base once housed 50,000 troops and served as a major staging area for the Vietnam and Korean wars. Closed in 1994, it was discovered that the base-turned-Superfund-site was one of the most toxic places in America. Plans were announced in 2018 to demolish the last remaining structures.
Presidio of Monterrey // Flickr
The Devil’s Slide Bunker: Coast of San Mateo County, CA
Driving California’s scenic coastal route of Highway 1, you may notice a strange building that looks like it’s growing out of a boulder. That’s Devil’s Slide, an observation bunker encased in a nest of rocks during World War II, when conventional wisdom suggested that a Japanese attack on America’s West Coast was all but certain. The attack never came, the Allies won the war, and the bunker was left to decay and become exposed as its rock encasement eroded away.
Christopher Michel // Wikimedia Commons
Fuchu Abandoned U.S. Air Force Base: Tokyo, Japan
You might not think of Tokyo when someone mentions abandoned military bases—it’s one of the most densely populated places on Earth—but the crowded city is in fact teeming with them. Among the oddest is in Fuchu: an abandoned military base that still hosts the rotting shells of two enormous parabolic antennas. Built by the Japanese Imperial Army and occupied by American forces after World War II, the base is now a maze of crumbling, graffiti-painted dormitories and electrical component rooms.
ucb // Flickr
Ellis Island Hospital: New York, NY
More than a million immigrants passed through the Ellis Island Hospital after landing in New York City between 1901 and 1924. The year it ceased immigration operations, the site was converted to a psychiatric hospital for soldiers and later used as an internment camp for Italian-, German-, and Japanese-Americans during World War II. It sat derelict for decades before being restored and opened to the public in 2014.
Forsaken Fotos // Flickr