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. Flickr - Paxson Woelber
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. Flickr - Travis
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. Flickr - Paxson Woelber
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. Flickr - Paxson Woelber
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. Flickr - Paxson Woelber
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. Flickr - army.arch Adam
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. Flickr - Travis
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. Flickr - Travis
Many signs that used to be pleasantly displayed with information about the historic value of local buildings are now covered in rust. Flickr - Kim F
It is such a rare and unique sight to observe historical manholes used during the WWII era. Flickr - Kim F
Quonset huts and military bunkers can be found scattered throughout Adak, abandoned and slowly becoming reclaimed by nature. Flickr - Travis
You'll find signage that indicates particular areas where enlisted military members practiced drills with live ammunition. Flickr - Travis
The abandoned playground equipment on Adak is a stark reminder of the many military families that used to call Adak home. Flickr - Paxson Woelber
Even the abandoned police barracks structure still stands strong on Adak today. Flickr - Travis
You'll also find an abandoned Pizza Hut in the middle of town. Adak Island Flickr - Kim F
Along with the other popular chain restaurant… McDonald's! Flickr - Travis Flickr - Travis
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. Adak Island Flickr - Travis
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." Adak Island Flickr - Global Wildlife Conservation
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 


Adak is an extraordinary place, its military history fascinating and as storied as many of the folks here say. In December of 2019 my new book will be out, focusing on Adak Island during WWII with over 200 images – many original photos. It is called “I Fell in Love with an Aleutian Vampire (Illustrated) – The WWII in Adak Commemorative Edition”. So if you love Adak as much as I do, keep a look out for this book on Amazon around Christmas time. It is 500 pages+ of Adak sepia toned, WW2 time capsule wonderment. Thank you all for your service out there! And wait for this special “Illustrated” version because the one out now has no images inside.

Quinn Haber April 17, 2021

Yes, I was stationed in Adak in 1977 and 78. The boxes in windows were for that purpose.

Dan Boston April 17, 2021

Should make a minimum security prison there. Or a treatment center for the homeless in Anchorage, SanFrancisco ,and LA

Tony April 17, 2021

My dad was too in the early 1940’s In the Air Force protecting us from Russia!!

Rosa April 17, 2021

We opened & operated National Bank of Alaska branch there in 1968, staying until 1972. Loved the terrain, hiking, fishing, boating & many friends we made in Navy, Marines, Coast Guard & Civilian units…my heart is still there..such a beautiful, wild, extraordinary place!

Judi April 17, 2021

6 months on Adak with VP-17. December 86 to June 87. Was also my last 6 months in VP-17. Returned to NAS Barbers Point in June 87, and was on my way to Pensacola a week later. I worked for DK1 Helen Gewald in disbursing. I wasn’t gonna reenlist. And she talked me into it. A big mistake as DK was over 100% manned. First deployment with VP-17 was the Cubi Point NAS. Huge difference.

Don Wilson April 17, 2021

I agree salt! Was with VP49 in 65. Longest deployment of my life. Misssserable Time.

John Blackmon April 17, 2021

My father was stationed on Adak the last two years of the war. The weather conditions were terrible. You could be outside with the sky clear, go into your quansett hut and turn around and immediately go back outside and the fog had rolled in and you could not even see your hand. He was a crew chief in the Air Corps and often was asked to drive the fuel truck. Weather was so bad you could not see the roadbed and crept along following the signs along the road. That is where he had his first M&Ms. The men in his hut had rescued a kitten. He said the kitten saved their sanity.

Judy April 17, 2021

Was there to resupply during a “nor-pac” run in 1987, was a cool place, was gorgeous pulling in topside on a submarine, everyone from warm states was miserable, us that came from states with snow absolutely loved it! Remember finding out Eagles love French fries and are considered “pests” up there. Like all things times change, I am grateful I got to go there while it was still a military base.

Norm April 17, 2021

I was the only girl in the CM’s at that time.

Patricia Roller April 17, 2021

My name is Don Liggitt an I worked at the Red Shed as a Civl. heavy Equiptment mech. 1983-85 , 1989-1990 .Would love to connect with anyone from around that time, Had some great young Sea Bees working with me that I will never forget

Don liggitt April 17, 2021

I worked there from mid 1990 to late 1991. CM3 McDonald. Do you recall anyone from the Tundra Tavern?

Patricia Roller April 17, 2021

My dad was a air traffic control there and security 1986-89. I wonder if u knew him Dale Arnold.

Trish April 17, 2021

Was there with Seabees in 1969 and hauled fuel for a whole year

John Wheelock April 17, 2021

Great photos, commentary, and comments. A shame to see the totality of abandon, I guess by its current owners, but such is life.

There is minimal life on the island and the article avoids all mention of its activity, ditto what is down below ground.

Charles welles April 17, 2021

I was there as a equipment operator but hauled fuel from August 69 till August 70 . Left there and went MCB 3 to Port Hueneme and then Vietnam.

John Wheelock April 17, 2021

I was stationed there with the Navy in 68. I ran the bakery for awhile. Nothing commercial there then. Every thing as I remember was run by th ed Navy. I stayed in barracks on Berring Hill, worked the EM club as short order cook, and worked the bakery night shift. Made most all baked goods sold at the commissary. Made millions of donuts. Did enjoy, hocking, fishing loved fresh salmon and King crab right off the boats.

We, meaning single men pretty much lived and stayed on Bering Hill. Great pool and gym with everything needed to stay in shape. I have many fond and some not so fond memories of Adak.

After spending a year there I was off to Viet Nam. Stated in US Navy reserves for another 27 years retired Chief Petty officer. Lots and lots great memories. Thanks to my sister fo eeg finding this and sharing with me.

Warren Crowder April 17, 2021

My Dad got stationed there as a heavy equipment operator in the Army Air Corps. When he got there, there was no need for his MOS so he got sent to the Armory to become an Armorer. Many stories of Adak. Not sure how to post pictures.

Patrick April 17, 2021

My Dad lived in Quonset huts with a potbelly stove. I only have one inside picture of his bunk.

Patrick April 17, 2021

They called it ‘Sunshine Liberty’ ! I worked out there in the 80’s, they still practiced it !

Nicolene Jordan April 17, 2021

I lived there in the late 70’s.
I loved it, I was a young girl and my dad worked on the"pipe line:.

I remember the whales coming ashore and getting stuck, and dying.
The military kept the civilians away.

And there was a “ghost ship” that came to port that you were never allowed to take pictures of.. but my dad did.
My dad was Claude Everette Hunt, and my family was escorted off the island and banned from returning because my dad had an affair with anothers wife, the other man came to our hut and made us(mom and 5 kids) get on our knees and was going to shoot us with his shot gun if my mom didn’t tell where my dad was… the military hid us out over night in an old little hut until we could leave the island on the next plane out.
I remember getting milk only when the plane came and then only what each family was allowed.
I remember the 12 tree “National Forest”, the bowling ally at the officers rec. center.
I remember a man named Steve Yeager(?) and his new bride Dorris.
I remember a lady, a neighbor, who helped my younger sister and I, (I think that was who my dad was with actually) make these bottles covered with all our kept treasures, marbles,rings,anything that we wanted pressed into plaster paris.
My mother didn’t let us take them when we left, but then again we each were only allowed one bag each.
I miss Adak, but sure wish it could have been different while we were there.

Sally Fiske April 17, 2021

My Dad was stationed on Kodiak on the Chipola in the early 70’s. My memory of Adak was there were only 20 trees on the whole island.

Alysia Driggers April 17, 2021

Left Yokoda AB Japan March 1957 . Made a emergency stop on Adak with aircraft problems , returning to Turner AFB , Ga. Spent 2 days there before flying on to Alaska. I’ve never seen such an isolated place. Cold and windy.

Harold Sims April 17, 2021

The Tavern was my 2nd home…the manager gave me free drinks often.

Patricia Roller April 17, 2021

I was there from 89-92, remember the “tnt” (Tundra Tavern) very well

Tom bush April 17, 2021

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