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 


I was stationed there from June 1974 to June 1975. I was 19 years old. Assigned to the Public Works Department on the Power Line Crew and as a telephone operator. We did not have any fancy restaurants to go to for meals other than the Bering Hill Galley. We only had the bowling alley and Bering Building where all the recreation was. We did a lot of hiking all over the island, endured some white out winter conditions, tremors and earthquakes everyday. And an occasional volcano eruption from Mt Sitkin volcano. Very primitive communications. The only thing we had was, you pick up the phone, dial zero for operator, and the operator connected you to wherever you would call. Today Adak is as fresh on my mind as it was back then. So sad those buildings have to deteriorate over time. Too bad something can’t be done to restore the Bering Barracks for some livable conditions such as a prison or ski resort and such. Oh what memories

Bob Paulsen April 17, 2021

While being assigned to VP-46 out of Moffett Field, Calif. we were deployed to Adak and Okinawa. 1966 we went to Adak for our 6 month deployment. I remember salmon fishing like no other place since. Since I was in an aircrew (crew 9) we were able to get off the island flying tactical flights. These were long and gruelling flights and often on a daily basis. I witnesed some of the most remarkable sights I have ever encountered flying out the Aleutian chain. I would not trade this experience for anything.

paul gale April 17, 2021

Maybe you meant Dutch Harbor? Adak wasnt built when the war broke out. There is an excellent book called soldiers of the mist and another called the thousand mile war. Both are great at telling the story and have amazing photos of the time.

Bud April 17, 2021

I don’t know but we were stationed at Keflavik Iceland air naval station in the 70s and men in the barracks had sheet metal boxes in windows to keep food and drinks in.

C Lewis April 17, 2021

I was in Adak between ‘51 and ‘53. While I was there I decided to learn how to walk. Why you ask, ‘ cause I was born there. I remember nothing but tales told long years past. My dad, Capt. Nelson and Lt. Hunt established (planted) the “entering and leaving” Adak Forest in 1953. Sleep tight little island.

Desi Nelson April 17, 2021

I was stationed there April 87 to July 88 was a bu right out of “A” school. Was assigned to public work builder shop. I still remember the husky bar and the tundra tavern. I did a lot of fishing and site seeing. I spent a lot of my free time at the bowling alley in the rec center. If I remember correctly there were 4 of us from the same “A” school class out of hueneme sent there. It’s a shame that it’s going to ruins. Would like to go back to see it again.

Glenn Shadwell April 17, 2021

I ran the electric motor rewind shop and also did maintenance on the runway lighting systems as a Seabee electrician. Got there 66 left 67 . Our barracks were on Bering Hill. The rewind shop was in Public Works building by the runways. Hiked every inch of the Island every chance I got. Lost a good friend in a climbing accident. His name was James Dickey from …..I think…..Whittier California. Fell about 100 feet off a cliff while climbing One weekend. He was a really funny guy. We really missed him.

Chris Haney April 17, 2021

You might of known my dad EO Jack wiswell he work at public works

Martha April 17, 2021

My father was a Captain while stationed there during WW2.
My mother and I were there with him. I had just turned two when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor at which point all dependents had to leave. We lived with my grandmother in San Francisco for the remainder of the war.
I’d LOVE to see the base where we lived and the locations here my father faught.

Gail Johnson April 17, 2021

Yup….I was part of the Police force for base closure from Apr. 1996 – May 1997. Remember every day of it. Such a unique part of U.S. military history. The whole island was a time capsule. Lots of Navy Sea Bees, Electricians, Machinist Mates, Airport support personnel and government contractors for the closure in late ‘97. Maybe a total of under 500 on the rock back then. The log cabins in the tundra were pretty cool to go hike to. Never made it to the summit of Mt. Moffit, although I’d like to. Lots of fond memories for me and one year of my youth on Adak. Love to go back!

Rob Kaneiss April 17, 2021

Was stationed at NSGA Adak 1980 – 1984 and again 1986 – 1988 PW Seabees loved it!

Jerry Shepherd April 17, 2021

I was there in 74 with NMCB 74 and completed the hobby shop We then went to Pt Barrow and put us a building there and returned to adak and built some antennas

Jerry Johnson April 17, 2021

I was there with NMCB 74 Det Adam in 89-90. Beautiful place but cold. We hiked up the mountains and up to the lake. Loved the WW2 remnants.

Michael Ming April 17, 2021

I went there twice a year for 20 years putting on gold shows at the commissary and sold all the souvenirs that Adak carried, lots of fun times.

Tony Webb April 17, 2021

We were stationed on Adak from mid-89 to mid-91. I think that “bar” in the middle of nowhere was indeed the VFW club! Many fabulous memories from our time there; our children were very young and only remember through the stories and photos.

Sysan Springle April 17, 2021

I was on adak
in 63-64 when it hit. I left in April after the earthquake in March

Jerry m Agan Sr April 17, 2021

In 1979, 1981, 1982 & 1990, I worked on various construction projects on the island.
From one out at NSGA past the Dinosaur Cage, to the new school being the last. Close to two years total.
Found memories of a totally awesome place. The outer Aleutians!
Great photos by the way. The one said said “Police” happened to be the Marine Barracks. I worked on that renovation also, in 1979.

William Strous April 17, 2021

I was stationed here in 1990-91, a very cold, windy, lonely place. You felt like you were millions of miles away from the rest of the world. It was definitely an experience I will never forget. Thanks to the Tundra Tavern it made it a little warmer place.

Patricia Ma April 17, 2021

I was stationed here from 1990-91. A very cold, windy, lonely place. You felt like you were a million miles away from the rest of the world. An experience I will never forget! Thanks to the Tundra Tavern, it made it a little bit warmer place.

Patricia McDonald April 17, 2021

There in Navy 1965 1966 work in the post office and was the pc for navfac. Played a lot of basketball .

Albert Edwards April 17, 2021

Was there 88 to 90 with the Marines at the NSGA. Adak was a lot better than being on Shemya. We climbed Mt. Moffett, Mt. Adagdak and our C.O. got us a tug boat ride to Sitkin were we got to climb the volcano. A lot of good times. Met a lot of good people there.

chris miller April 17, 2021

My daddy was stationed there in 1966-1968, I think. I went to kindergarten there. My brother was in 7th or 8th grade. I remember cold and snow and Mt. Moffett.

Patsy April 17, 2021

Stationed on Adak with the Marine Barracks 81-82. Still have dreams of that place I wish didn’t end. Such a different place to a boy from Florida

JEFFERY April 17, 2021

Was stationed on adak in 82- 83 spent many days hiking out to Shagyak bay finger Bay have about 400 slides and pictures Kanaga volcano greatsitkin volcano an eagle on the berring hill chapel enjoyed hiking and fishing had lots of great times and friends

Jefferson Etting April 17, 2021

I was stationed on Adak from October 85-86.
Young Marine first active duty assignment.
Who remembers the Baskin Robbins? And getting the 1st section recall during a movie!
Semper Fi. Did it and didn’t die

Eric Austrins April 17, 2021

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