Abandoned Military Bases Around the World

Abandoned Military Bases Around the World

If you are a military history buff, you may be interested in some of the abandoned military bases around the world.  There are a few to consider, including El Toro, Port Lockroy, Nekoma, Fort Ord, Royal Air Force Stenigot, and Walker Air Force Base.

Walker Air Force Base

The former Walker Air Force Base (WAFB) was a United States Air Force base located in eastern New Mexico near Roswell.  During World War II, it was a training facility for B-29 crews. After the war, it became an Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC) base. In the early Cold War, it was the largest SAC base. The base was named after General Kenneth Newton Walker, who died on a bombing mission over Rabaul, New Guinea, on January 5, 1943. When the base first opened, it was a flying school for the Army Air Corps. Soon after its opening, the base was expanded to become a strategic bombardment training center. The base was home to three bomb units. First, the 509th Composite Group was assigned to the base in 1945. Later, the B-52s and KC-135s were added to the base. Walker AAF had three runways, a large paved ramp area, and taxiways. It also had a photographic laboratory. Although many of the base’s buildings have been abandoned, there are a number of abandoned hangars still standing in the airfield. Another site, the Atlas F missile complex, was removed after several explosions. There is a museum at the base, highlighting its history. Also, the base is home to a medical rehabilitation center and a municipal airport.

El Toro

MCAS El Toro is a former military air station in Orange County, California.  It was built during World War II as an air base to support operations for the fleet marine forces. After the war, it developed into a permanent jet fighter base. Currently, it is one of twenty Department of Defense facilities undergoing cleanups in California. The former El Toro base is located on 4,700 acres of public land, a large portion of which is within the boundaries of the City of Irvine. Many of the buildings were constructed during World War II and have now fallen into disrepair.  Some of the remaining structures, such as the aircraft maintenance facility, are still used by the Marine Corps. The area has been contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs. The EPA has spent $165 million in groundwater treatment to clean up the site. However, the cost is considerable due to the polluted soil. There are currently plans to develop the site as a commercial airport. A local redevelopment authority (LRA) is responsible for preparing a plan for the reuse of the MCAS El Toro. The base is currently considered a Superfund site. As such, EPA has cleaned up approximately 1,900 acres of the base. This includes 1,200 acres that are currently being developed by FivePoint Communities.

Fort Ord

Fort Ord was an important military base for the US Army during the early 20th century.  It served as a target range, a training facility and an airfield. In addition, it was the home of the 7th Infantry Division. However, it was closed in 1994, leaving behind a vast area of land that is now a national monument. The area is known for its rare habitat, which includes eagles, mountain lions, deer, and other wildlife. It is also home to the endangered blue butterfly. Since its closure, the military has begun to clean up the former Fort Ord. This is done through two programs, one that focuses on the munitions and explosives of concern program, and the other that focuses on groundwater and soil contamination. Several environmental groups, including the Save Monterey Bay Coalition, have been pressing the government to address these issues. In response, the government has agreed to set aside a portion of the former Fort Ord for protection of the wildlife and rare habitat. During the Vietnam War, up to 50,000 troops resided at Fort Ord. Although the area is now mostly abandoned, there are still some units operating in the area. A key part of the cleanup will be the development of a nature conservation area.

Royal Air Force Stenigot

During the Second World War, RAF Stenigot was a radar station located near Donington on Bain, Lincolnshire.  It was part of the Chain Home early warning radar network. The station also served as a communications relay site. Although it is no longer operational, RAF Stenigot has a number of surviving buildings. These include the tower, which is Grade II listed. There is also a memorial to the former RAF Aerial Erector School. During World War II, the RAF Stenigot Radar Station was one of many early warning radar stations that provided early warning of German air attacks.  This was a crucial role for the Allied Air Forces during the Battle of Britain. However, new communication technology rendered the Stenigot Radar Dishes obsolete.

Port Lockroy

Port Lockroy is a small island off the northwest coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, which once was a British whaling base. It is also a former military base, and is now a historic site and monument. During World War II, British forces set up secret military bases in Antarctica. They subsequently left, and the area was left empty. The base was eventually abandoned in 1962. In 1994, the BAS and UKAHT conducted significant restoration work to the buildings. Today, the base is a scientific research facility, and a museum and gift shop are located on the island. Visitors can see an assortment of remnants of human exploration, as well as a huge fin whale skeleton. For a century, Port Lockroy has been a place for whaling. Factory ships moored in the bay during the whaling industry’s peak in the early 20th century. While many of the buildings are now empty, the bay remains as a reminder of the area’s whaling history. Port Lockroy is a popular tourist destination. Each year, up to 18,000 visitors arrive on the island. Guests can visit the post office, which processes about 70,000 pieces of mail from tourists. Visitors can also buy postcards from Antarctica, and take a non-official stamp from the port in their passport. A team of four women currently manages the scientific base.


Located in North Dakota, the base has an enormous missile control building in the shape of a pyramid. The base was built during the Cold War. Its purpose was to detect, track, and deter Soviet missile attacks. But as the Vietnam war ended and tensions waned, the base was shut down. Currently, it remains a museum of Cold War technology. The Safeguard Program was a complex of anti-ballistic missile sites located in North Dakota and Montana. These missiles were designed to destroy incoming attack missiles.  They were primarily intended for use at Grand Forks Air Force Base and Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. The base was decommissioned on February 10, 1976. The pyramid-like structure is still a recognizable landmark. Many visitors travel to the base just to see it. Visitors are not allowed inside the pyramid. Instead, visitors can take photos from the gate. In addition to the Pyramid, the base also houses for Remote Sprint Launch facilities. Each of these launchers is located about 10 to 20 miles away from the main Nekoma site. The base’s original purpose was to defend against Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles. The structure was a giant pyramid with a backscatter radar to help detect and intercept missiles.

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