Explore Abandoned WWII And Cold War Military Remnants On Alaska's Adak Island

Adak Island - A Historic Blast From The Past

 By: Courtney Dowd-Stanley 

Alaska's Adak Island is an isolated destination with rich history, rugged terrain, and scenic landscapes. Its location in the Aleutian Islands marks the dividing line between the Bering Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Adak is an island, the largest town on the island goes by the same name though it was formerly Adak Station, and is the southernmost city in Alaska. Its remote locality proved to be ideal for the United States military during both World War II and the Cold War, causing the area to grow rapidly in a very short amount of time. However, it wasn’t long before the wars ended and the military bases closed down. What remains of Adak has left many onlookers to believe that Adak is nothing more than a mere ghost town. [caption id="attachment_8404" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Paxson Woelber[/caption]
Interestingly enough, Adak was the westernmost military installation in the entire nation for a short while. At the time, it allowed American military forces to mount a successful offensive operation against the Japanese-held Aleutian Islands of Kiska and Attu during WWII. The Naval Air Facility Adak was established in 1942, which played a very significant role during the Cold War. A submarine surveillance center was established and brought in both US Navy and Coast Guard members by the masses. [caption id="attachment_8395" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Travis[/caption]
At Adak Station’s peak, the military community housed over 6,000 Navy and Coast Guard members along with their families. Buildings popped up all over the place—from residential structures and schools to popular chain restaurants and local watering holes. [caption id="attachment_8407" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Paxson Woelber[/caption]
During the peak of this military community, Adak had a college campus and a major hospital. Entertainment in the area included a wide variety of options including a movie theater, roller skating rink, swimming pool, squash court, saunas, ski lodge, bowling alleys, skeet range, auto hobby shop, photo lab, and racquetball and tennis courts. [caption id="attachment_8396" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Paxson Woelber[/caption]
The military base opted to downsize years later in 1994, and it was at this time that both family housing units and public schools closed. [caption id="attachment_8398" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Paxson Woelber[/caption]
The Naval Air Facility Adak was closed officially in 1997 before reopening as the Adak Airport. Although the facility became listed as a National Historic Landmark for its role in WWII, most of the remnants of the past have since been demolished or lie in shambled ruins. Many buildings have since closed or become abandoned, but there are still some structures that remain open to serve the small local population that resides on Adak today. [caption id="attachment_8399" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - army.arch Adam[/caption]
Today the population of Adak is just over 300 permanent residents, but the rich military history isn’t gone. In fact, relics from the past can be found just about everywhere you look. [caption id="attachment_8397" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Travis[/caption]
As you explore Adak today, you'll see row upon row of abandoned duplexes that once housed thousands of military members along with their beloved families. [caption id="attachment_8402" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Travis[/caption]
Many signs that used to be pleasantly displayed with information about the historic value of local buildings are now covered in rust. [caption id="attachment_8411" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Kim F[/caption]
It is such a rare and unique sight to observe historical manholes used during the WWII era. [caption id="attachment_8405" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Kim F[/caption]
Quonset huts and military bunkers can be found scattered throughout Adak, abandoned and slowly becoming reclaimed by nature. [caption id="attachment_8409" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Travis[/caption]
You'll find signage that indicates particular areas where enlisted military members practiced drills with live ammunition. [caption id="attachment_8410" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Travis[/caption]
The abandoned playground equipment on Adak is a stark reminder of the many military families that used to call Adak home. [caption id="attachment_8401" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Paxson Woelber[/caption]
Even the abandoned police barracks structure still stands strong on Adak today. [caption id="attachment_8408" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Travis[/caption]
You'll also find an abandoned Pizza Hut in the middle of town. [caption id="attachment_8400" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Adak Island Flickr - Kim F[/caption]
Along with the other popular chain restaurant… McDonald's! [caption id="attachment_8406" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Travis[/caption] [caption id="attachment_8403" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Travis[/caption]
With every twist and turn comes a new surprise. Tucked away from the downtown Adak area, you can even find remnants of an abandoned bar on the island's mountainside. [caption id="attachment_8394" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Adak Island Flickr - Travis[/caption]
Alaska's Adak Island is a place unlike any other in the world. Along with the magnificently diverse terrain and breathtaking scenery, Adak is filled with an immense amount of historic charm. Walking through town is truly like taking a step back in time. Not only will the friendly locals that currently reside on the island make you feel right at home, but the enchanting setting will make you feel as if you're in the single most unique place on planet earth. Even the town motto is amazing: "Where the winds blow, and friendship grow." [caption id="attachment_8437" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Adak Island Flickr - Global Wildlife Conservation[/caption]
Explore Adak: Many people visit Alaska's Adak Island to experience the prolific fisheries, abundant caribou, and breathtaking natural beauty. This remote wonder is a photographer’s paradise and a nirvana for those seeking tranquility in the wilderness. Outdoor recreational activities on Adak include fishing, hunting, backpacking, birding, and wildlife viewing. The prized Adak caribou can exceed weights of 700 pounds, making hunting a prime attraction. You can access this island destination by flying into the Adak Airport.
Looking for more where that came from? Check out Adak Island - Salvaging Items Left Behind. Also, this 1964 Good Friday Earthquake Photo Gallery will show you a glimpse into the destruction of the second largest earthquake in recorded history. Be sure to also check out The Alaska Purchase - A Brief History. If you are living and loving The Alaska Life – share your adventures with us on our Facebook page HERE, and they might just end up getting featured in one of our next blog posts.
Written by Courtney Dowd-Stanley 

140 comments

I was on Adak in 1946—1947 Served with the 3067 ord ser co. This is my first observance of how it looks now. Our outfit was located on the East end of the airport runway. We lived in Qwonset huts but I don’t see them. I am shocked to see the church we attendid . Do I want to go back for a visit??? We played baseball one weekend and the sun came out and we stopped the game to look at it the whole 5 minutes. That is the only time we saw it up there in 9 months. I don’t miss it!!!! Dud Metke

dudley metke April 17, 2021

First time I’ve come across anyone who worked as a Navy Journalist, and was on Adak !

I was stationed on Adak 1986-1988 , worked the AFRTS Station. JO3 Paul Mikec.

Found several photos in an old photo album and scanned them into pdf pages.. If you have any of Adak as well that you’d like to share – drop me an email. Would be happy to share the photos I have with you.

pmikec1@gmail.com

Paul Mikec April 17, 2021

Loved the stories of Adak. I was a navy brat at Kodiak Naval Air Station from 66-68. Mike Murray

Mike Murray April 17, 2021

Who could forget the Tundra Tavern. That’s where I learned to drink like a real sailor !

Stationed on Adak, 1986 – 1988. Assigned to the AFRTS Station there.

Found several photos in an old photo album and scanned them into pdf pages.. If you have any of Adak as well that you’d like to share – drop me an email. Would be happy to share the photos I have with you.

pmikec1@gmail.com

Paul Mikec April 17, 2021

Stationed on Adak, 1986 – 1988. Assigned to the AFRTS Station there.
JO3 Paul Mikec

Found several photos in an old photo album and scanned them into pdf pages.. If you have any of Adak as well that you’d like to share – drop me an email. Would be happy to share the photos I have with you.

pmikec1@gmail.com

Paul Mikec April 17, 2021

Stationed on Adak, 1986 – 1988. Assigned to the AFRTS Station there.
JO3 Paul Mikec

Found several photos in an old photo album and scanned them into pdf pages.. If you have any of Adak as well that you’d like to share – drop me an email. Would be happy to share the photos I have with you.

pmikec1@gmail.com

Paul Mikec April 17, 2021

I worked on the new house in 1987-88 —500 new homes and just a few years later the base was closed.

Howard W Olson April 17, 2021

I was station on Adak from 86-88. And yes, it was as cold as everyone described. When the sun came out, about 6 times a year, the CO of the base would let everyone who did not have a mission critical job to have “sunshine liberty”. We’d lay out on the black sand beach in 50 degree weather (middle of summer !) to catch a few rays of sunshine. When I was not on duty I hiked a great deal of that island. The mountain lakes and ponds were the cleanest water you could ever imagine drinking. I found many quonset huts from WWII where I found remnants of the soldiers who were stationed there. I was only 18-20 at the time, but I’ll never forget my time there. Our detachment “renovated” an old hut into a kind of clubhouse where we would camp out and have many a drink. The place was tough as nails – but I loved every minute !

Paul Mikec April 17, 2021

Yes your so.right.stationed there in 1978 to 1979.beautiful place.would like to go back.someday

Greg newman April 17, 2021

I was there Jan 76- Sept 77. Worked in the galley and lived at Bering hill. I’ll never forget that place. I remember many Seebees. Mostly they were BU’s CE’s. BU3 Scott McCallam. We had a blast i would go back if i could. Played softball on the base team and traveled to Washington state two years.

MSCM SW/AW Derring Price April 17, 2021

I was 1 of 3 Marines being transferred from Parris Island in 1961. I was initially targeted for Adak but we were told we could trade assignments. The choices were HQ Washington, Hawaii and Adak. We all switched and I spent 3 yrs. in Hawaii and lived in Waikiki. A guy nicknamed "Fishin’, huntin’, trappin Groves, who was from Maine wanted Adak. I still gloat about it.

Mike Romaine April 17, 2021

I was there Jan 76- Sept 77. Worked in the galley and lived at Bering hill. I’ll never forget that place. I remember many Seebees. Mostly they were BU’s CE’s. BU3 Scott McCallam. We had a blast i would go back if i could. Played softball on the base team and traveled to Washington state two years.

MSCM SW/AW Derring Price April 17, 2021

My daddy was there in 1945 and he also talked about cold it was.
He said there was a cat that would sleep on his feet at night.

Vickie Cook April 17, 2021

My daddy was there in 1945 and he also talked about cold it was.
He said there was a cat that would sleep on his feet at night.
He was in the Army. He past away March of 2019.

Vickie Cook April 17, 2021

Was your brother’s name Young? And his wife Cindy?

Dan Boston April 17, 2021

They brought in horses about 1970 or 1971. Not too many maybe 10. I took horsemanship classes with them. Can’t remember where stables were. My name is Virgil Ford and I lived in kuluk housing
vford1f60@hotmail.com

Virgil ford Jr. April 17, 2021

He’s still alive. I saw him there 3 months ago.

Dan Boston April 17, 2021

My dad, Sgt. Harvey Hughes with the 45th Infantry, Corp of Engineers was there when they built the landing strip in the fall of 1942 in 11 days. He told of the use of explosives to blow up a hill or mountain to get material to build the airstrip. The film “Report from the Aleutians” documents the construction of the base. I don’t know if he was attached to the 807th Aviation Battalion or how that was done. He spoke of many places they were stationed or visited; Adak, Dutch Harbor, Cold Bay, Kodiak Island, Nak Nek, and Anchorage during his 3.5 years from when they left Seattle. I have a lot of pictures of his time in Alaska but I’m not certain of each location.

Steve Hughes April 17, 2021

My Dad was stationed there 67-68, and I attended kindergarten. My mother sometimes worked at the Exchange. My sister was in 1st grade and brother 3rd grade.

KAREN DAMRON April 17, 2021

My dad, Sgt. Harvey Hughes with the 45th Infantry, Corp of Engineers was there when they built the landing strip in the fall of 1942 in 11 days. He told of the use of explosives to blow up a hill or mountain to get material to build the airstrip. The film “Report from the Aleutians” documents the construction of the base. I don’t know if he was attached to the 807th Aviation Battalion or how that was done. He spoke of many places they were stationed or visited; Adak, Dutch Harbor, Cold Bay, Kodiak Island, Nak Nek, and Anchorage during his 3.5 years from when they left Seattle.

Steve Hughes April 17, 2021

Yes, they were called Sun Days

wes thurman April 17, 2021

Was stationed there from Feb 77 to Feb 78. was a 18 year old Seabee for Public Works. worked as a boiler watch. 8 hours of driving around in a 4 wheel Jeep checking and signing in at each boiler. We bought a 61 New Yorker with push button Transmission from the chief of the Police for 500.00. Had 5.00 left. Chad and I bought three bottles of Mad Dog 20 20. Don’t remember anything else that day. Hated it when I was there, (hell, we all did). But have some of the best memories of my youth are from there. I sent my dog home named Alkie. They were trying to get rid of the dog population off the inland.
When the sun did come ( once or twice a year) The Capt. of the base would declare it a Sun Day, and everyone had the day off. Do you remember the Painted Rock, Speed limit of 30 mile a hour, The snow going horizontal, The Crab expedition coming in? Filling two 55 Gallon barrels of Crab. Giving one to the Galley so they would cook them for us. Ahhhh the memories.

Wes Thurman April 17, 2021

Yes, they were called Sun Days

wes thurman April 17, 2021

SEE FIRST VERSION!!!!!

FRANK HOSINSKI April 17, 2021

Just stumbled onto this site today, wondering what ever became of Adak. Surprised to see your note, as I was also there as a CT in 1957 and survived the big earthquake! Adak was pretty active then, but it sounds as if it’s a ghost town now.

Duane Prunty April 17, 2021

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