From radar facilities to bunkers, gun emplacements to forts, militaries build infrastructure to further their missions. When they’re 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 hotspots 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 across the world 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.
Here are 10 stunning abandoned military structures that stand today.
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.
Cape May Bunker: Cape May County, NJ
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.
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.
Mothball Fleet: Suisun Bay, CA
Although the only remaining ship in the so-called Mothball Fleet is slated for removal, the dreary flotilla once numbered nearly 60 vessels. A reserve fleet comprised of surplus ships, the Mothball Fleet ships in California’s Suisun Bay became a veritable floating toxic waste dump, leaking more than 20 tons of deadly chemicals into the bay over the years.
Camp X-Ray: Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
One of the most infamous former military installations in the world, Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay is now abandoned and overgrown. Tens of thousands of Haitian asylum-seekers were housed there in the mid-1990s. The site’s real infamy, however, was earned after the 9/11 attacks, when hundreds of suspected terrorists from around the world were subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which many have argued amounted to torture.
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.
Wolf’s Lair: Kętrzyn, Poland
Thousands of enslaved prisoners of war built the Wolf’s Lair, and were sent to Nazi death camps within six months of their arrival so they couldn’t reveal the structure’s secrets. The most famous of Adolf Hitler’s many headquarters, Wolfsschanze was a massive complex consisting of 80 buildings and 100 barracks that contained everything Hitler needed to conduct military operations, receive guests, and remain secure—to a degree. The Wolf’s Lair, in what was then Rastenburg in East Prussia, was the site of the famous Valkyrie assassination attempt.
Beelitz-Heilstätten: Beelitz, Germany
Had it not been for the Beelitz-Heilstätten military field hospital, the largest and deadliest war in human history might have been averted. It was there that a young Adolf Hitler was nursed back to health after sustaining serious injuries during World War I, including temporary blindness caused by a British gas attack. Although small portions of the hospital are still in use, most of the complex’s 60 buildings are derelict structures dating back as far as 1898.
Imari Kawanami Shipyard: Kyushu, Japan
Japan is home to one of the world’s most bizarre abandoned military bases. Among the most peculiar is Imari Kawanami Shipyard, once the launching place for so-called “human torpedoes.” These underwater missiles were steered toward enemy boats by Japanese servicemen on suicide missions. Abandoned since 1953, the shipyard was turned into a public park in 2011.