War. What is it good for? Well, it must be good for something, as humans keep declaring it on each other – or on ideas (like terrorism or drugs). With war comes all the trappings, such as high-tech weaponry, bunkers, and bases. Since seemingly the dawn of time, we have warred with each other. The first documented case of war was in 2700 BCE in Mesopotamia, but there are pictographs of armies dated around 3500 BCE.
The fortress is also as old as time – archaeologists have discovered fortified walls and moats that date back to 7000 BCE. While men fought each other with bows and arrows, guns, missiles, and nuclear weapons, they also built bases meant to protect and fortify throughout wars. When wars end, though, the bases remain. Sometimes they become ghost towns, of sorts, and other times they man-made fortresses are reclaimed by nature, the walls and turrets covered in ivy and moss.
The most fascinating of these abandoned military bases are just a click away. Click ‘Start Slideshow‘ to see them, and learn a bit more about how they were used!
Devil’s Slide Bunker
On the coast of Pacifica, in California, just west of San Mateo, stands a forgotten observing station. During World War II, this was just one piece of a much bigger collection of buildings that served as a high lookout point. The Devil’s Slide is a tall peak that overlooks the Pacific Ocean, so it would’ve been a perfect place to spot any incoming ships.
Armed with a set of binoculars and a compass, military members would stand at the top of the station and keep an eye out for ships at sea. If they saw anything, they would radio the coordinates to the central post. There used to be six structures there – three of which formed a triangulation station, which helped the soldiers reporting coordinates determine the exact location of a ship off the coast.
Now the base is abandoned and closed to the public. Keep reading for more photos!
It wasn’t the ideal defense of the San Francisco Bay, but it was effective enough. By 1949, though, the bunker was deemed obsolete, thanks to the advent of radar. It was abandoned then, and simply sat atop the Devil’s Peak.
Although there are fewer structures left standing, this one that seems as though it’s precariously placed, considering the erosion of the nearby cliffs has telltale signs of people visiting it. It’s covered in graffiti now. The site is the property of a private owner, who purchased it in 1983.
In the middle of nowhere stands an isolated air base. Click “Next” to see photos of the eerie base!
The Pacific Ocean is a vast body of water, covering more than 30 percent of the planet’s surface. Small islands dot the big blue sea that separates the west coast of the United States from Japan. So, it made sense for the United States military to take control of a group of islands out in the middle of the ocean and set up shop. In 1926, the area was labeled as a bird refuge, but by 1934, the U.S. Navy took over and turned it into a base.
One of the natural islands was built upon and expanded many times over to support a big military base that could hold more than 1,000 people. Warships docked there for years, and the island included a long runway for planes coming and going. In the late 1950s through the 1970s, the area was used for nuclear weapon testing.
Good luck finding the place – or getting to it! Read on for more photos!
The military tested underground and above with nuclear missiles. Plus, the base was used to launch spy satellites and more. Eventually, the military base was mostly unused in the 1990s, and it has become a sort of radioactive garbage dump – so even if you could get to the place, you probably shouldn’t. Still, that hasn’t stopped some tourists who are cruising by to swing by for a look at the deserted base.
Much of the biohazards that were once stored there, including nerve agent rockets, mustard gas, and Agent Orange, have since been removed. You’re unlikely to find much of interest, but it’s still an intriguing spot. What sort of tests were conducted there among those four islands? What secrets does the atoll hold? Does anyone else want to watch LOST now?
In Tokyo, there’s a long-forgotten base that once belonged to Japan, until they surrendered. Click “Next” to see what it looks like now!
Fuchu U.S. Air Force Base
Although the Fuchu Air Base was initially an Imperial Japanese Army base in the 1940s, it was soon taken over by the United States. Military forces from the U.S. set up shop at what was then known as the Fuchu Air Station. In the 1960s, it was a home away from home for those serving in the U.S. military during the Vietnam war.
As you can see in the aerial photo, there’s a tall communications tower, which is still in use today. However, much of the rest of the area has been completely covered in ivy. Barracks, the mess hall, and other structures are mostly obscured by nature, which has taken back the land. The residents in the area keep a close eye on anyone snooping around, so don’t be surprised if you’re spotted before you get to explore much here.
What remains, though, are two giant antennas – and guards. Keep reading to see them!
A few bloggers and photographers have managed to sneak by the heavily guarded base to slip into the decaying buildings and snap photos of the dorms and other rooms that are now in ruins. Graffiti artists have also made their way in, leaving drawings and paintings of monkeys, men using the toilet, and spray-painted stacks of coins on the walls.
The asphalt that once created paths from barracks to the laundry business just outside the gate are now covered in grass. The large air station included a chapel, library, hobby shop, and an Airman’s club, where the men could go for a beer, smoke, and entertainment from the locals, like the Gay Little Hearts, an all-girl band that played the military clubs in the country.
One of the most bizarre bases is located in an isolated spot. Click “Next” to see it!
Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex
If you thought Egypt was the only place with pyramids, well, you were wrong! In the middle of nowhere – okay, it’s actually in Nekoma, North Dakota – stands a large stone maybe Mayan-like structure that was left alone less than one year after it opened. The U.S. government spent more than $500 million on the complex that was meant to support the Army’s anti-ballistic missile program.
The base became operational in 1975, but it was shut down in early 1976. In addition to the giant concrete pyramid, the base included housing and other structures to support any military personnel living on base. The white all-seeing eyes on each flat side of the main structure were radars that kept a lookout for any incoming missiles.
The complex was reportedly actually only open for a day. Keep reading to learn more!
According to one report, the complex was open and ready for business Oct. 1, 1975, but then the government shut down the Safeguard program on Oct. 2, 1975. Like many military bases, this one included a chapel, gym, office building, and a community center. What’s below the big structure hasn’t been seen by many, but it’s reportedly full of hallways that are so deep that they create their own atmosphere.
Where there once were 100 or so underground missiles, now there is nothing. And in 2012, the Spring Creek Hutterite Colony purchased the site at auction – for only $530,000. The government included a stipulation, though: No changes can be made to the site. Without a Cold War, there isn’t much use for the site, but perhaps the one condition the government included is foreshadowing?
War inspires the construction of giant defenses, and WWII brought about many of them. Click “Next” to see one from Germany!
In the 1940s, World War II was raging, and Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazis, realized he needed some defensive towers to deal with incoming air raids. Three were erected in Vienna, three more in Berlin, and two in Hamburg. Soldiers were manned at the top of the towers to shoot down any enemy planes, but the towers served another purpose.
The towers with their thick, seemingly impenetrable walls, housed tens of thousands of locals whenever an air-raid strike came in. Each flak tower included a hospital ward, and could hold up to 10,000 civilians. Although Germany ultimately lost the war, the flak towers in Berlin withstood attacks – even from giant howitzers. Eventually, some of the towers were demolished after the war, but a few remain.
One tower in Hamburg was used as a nightclub. Keep reading to find out more!
A tower in Vienna was transformed in 1957 to be used as an aquarium. One side of that same tower was turned into an outdoor climbing wall. The creative uses for the tall structures don’t stop there. Another flak tower is being considered as a location for an open-air theater.
In these flak towers’ other lives, during the WWII, the guns on the towers could fire up to 8,000 rounds per minute and their range was up to nearly 9 miles – with a 360-degree field. Hitler was even part of the design of these towers that went up in only six months. So, war brings out the creativity in the artist, er, dictator, er, ruthless killer?
Although France was eventually overrun by German troops, their line of defense was still impressive. Click “Next” to see it!
Along the northeast border of France sits Germany, which in the 1930s, was a vulnerable spot. To prevent, or at least deter, invasion by German troops, the French built the Maginot Line, a defensive line made up of 22 large underground fortresses and 36 smaller ones, along with some bunkers and blockhouses.
The theory by French military experts, who recalled their country’s role and experience in World War I, was that the Maginot Line would keep an invasion at bay for a time. Then French soldiers and forces could head through Belgium and attack from there. Germany ignored the careful setup by France, though, and simply attacked near La Ferte, a more isolated area by the French-Belgian border.
The Maginot Line was a good idea, in theory, but not so much in practice. Read on for more!
Following the end of the war, France made a few changes here and there to the defensive line, but eventually, it was mostly left empty and unused. The fortresses were solidly built, so they still stand today, but they’re largely abandoned and covered in overgrown foliage.
You can tour some of the French fortresses, and many people do. You can explore the underground tunnels and the electric railway, but you should definitely bring a jacket – temperatures dip low once you go underground. In fact, some of the fortresses were even used as wine cellars after the war. The Maginot Line is largely scoffed at and considered an expensive failure. To be fair, though, the fortresses kept the Germans from invading at those points where the line was the strongest.
Think that’s impressive? Wait until you see the Duga radar. Click “Next” for the photos!
The Russian Woodpecker, which is located in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in the Ukraine, isn’t quite what it sounds like. You’re not going to find a three-eyed bird with a long beak. Instead, you’ll see a massive steel array. In the late ’70s through the late ’80s, the Soviet Union used the radar system as an early-warning detection network.
It earned its nickname as the Russian Woodpecker thanks to its incessant sharp tapping noises that shortwave radios picked up. Although there were conspiracy theories about the signal that was, at the time, unclaimed, it turned out to not be Soviet mind control experiments or weather control.
In 1989, the signal mysteriously disappeared. Keep reading for more on this abandoned structure!
No reason was given for the sudden shutdown of the Duga radar. It likely had something to do with shifting technologies and the end of the Cold War. Now they stand higher than the tree line completely inoperable. As with most relics of war, it’s largely forgotten, the control room in ruins, with debris all around, but the mesh-like monolith still dominates the sky in Chernobyl.
The structure serves no purpose now, except as a thing for daredevils to climb and jump off of (PSA: don’t try that, kids – it’s super dangerous). The radar inspired a documentary, as well, that investigates the possible connection between the Russian Woodpecker and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Could the explosion have been an inside job? And how is it connected to the giant radar system?
Castles are a European-only thing, right? Nope! Click “Next” to see an incredible American structure that was used for military surplus!
It seems unbelievable at first – a Scottish castle on the Hudson River? New York is known for some eccentric habitants and habitats, but a castle like this belongs atop a grassy hill in Scotland, or some other European country. Travel about 50 miles north of New York City, though, and you’ll see a Scottish castle that’s falling apart.
A Scottish boy immigrated to the United States in the 1800s, and at the age of 14, in 1865, started a company to sell military goods. Francis Bannerman sold everything from scrap metal to full ships. In 1900, he bought a small island and started building the castle to store the surplus he bought and sold. After Bannerman died, an accident with gunpowder and shells resulted in an explosion, which destroyed part of the castle.
Since 1957, the castle has been empty. Keep reading to see more photos!
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation owns the property now, but the castle and island has suffered at the hands of vandals. There have been fires, an alleged murder, and more. In 1969, a fire burned for three days, further damaging the already ruined castle.
It was in 2015 that a couple were kayaking down the Hudson River to Bannerman’s Island. Angelika Graswald and her fiancé Vince Viafore managed to make it to the island, Graswald said, but with bad weather on the horizon, they decided to turn back for Plum Point. Viafore’s kayak sunk, and he drowned.
Could there be anything more intriguing than a secret Soviet submarine base? Click “Next” to see the photos!
Balaklava Submarine Base
When you see the Balaklava submarine base, which is now a naval museum, it’s a bit like stepping into an old James Bond movie. You could pretend to be an American spy, infiltrating the base, but the place is inoperable now, so it’s all up to your imagination. Still, the submarine base, which began its life as “Objekt 825,” is formidable.
The structure was built not only as a secretive base to house nuclear weaponry, it was also built to withstand a nuclear attack. At the height of the Cold War, this place was likely hopping. Its location is ideal for a secret base – it’s on a small inlet that cannot be seen from the open waters.
It was the ideal secret base during the Cold War – then it was turned into a museum. Read on for more!
The base was in use up until 1993, when vessels were removed and decommissioned. By 1996, the base was emptied of submarines, torpedoes, and warheads. In 2000, the abandoned base was turned over to the Ukrainian Navy, and by 2003, it opened as the Balaklava Naval Museum Complex. You could go to explore the naval base set in a mountain with long tunnels and see wet and dry docks.
Not all sections were open to the public, though, and the site was extremely well-kept. And with the recent Crimean crisis, Russia seems to be revamping some military bases, and building anew. Is it possible that Russia could use this base again? Even though its location is known, it could still be a functioning military base with some use left in its old bones.
Is it normal to have a favorite abandoned military base? Click “Next” to see one of the most visually interesting forts yet!
Shivering Sands Maunsell Army Fort
In 1942, the construction of large army forts began on land. The towers would serve as anti-aircraft defense off the east coast of England. A total of seven large forts were built and floated out into the sea. To protect England from the attacks from Germany, Guy Maunsell came up with the clever defense strategy.
Resembling AT-ATs from the Star Wars saga, the concrete giants are only similar in appearance. They stand still in the waters and are connected by rickety bridges. Each fort had anti-aircraft cannons used to shoot enemies out of the sky before they could do any damage. Some still stand today, but they were decommissioned in the 1950s, after World War II.
Could there be a cooler abandoned fort? Keep reading for more on them!
Although they were of little military use after the war ended, the abandoned bases were still getting attention. In the 1960s, Screaming Lord Sutch broadcast his pirate radio station from one of the old towers. His manager Reginald Calvert took over when Sutch went back to performing, but Calvert was eventually killed by a rival – Oliver Smedley.
Some of the other sea forts may be transformed into luxury apartments, homes, or a hotel, according to one article. The resort that was planned was to include a spa and helipad. The plans call for a “rubber ring” that would sort of be like a central hub for the foyer, restaurant, and other luxury trappings. The plans have yet to be approved.