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 


Would you share your photos my grandpa was stationed there and had to build and defend the atrsttip.

De’Shon Muse April 17, 2021

Roy grathler I was there with the marines 89 91 we deactivated the barracks while I was there .I. Would love to hook up with other marines who was there I miss it .rgrathler@ yahoo.com

Roy Grathler April 17, 2021

Was stationed at the NAVFAC in 67. Great place to learn the business. After Adak, Coos Head was a piece of cake. I’d love to visit someday, maybe after i win the lottery! Great crew, great friends , great memories!

Jerry Frazier April 17, 2021

Ah yes, I remember it well.
Spent a lifetime there in ’63.
Hated it but never forgot it.
Somewhat like an old girlfriend that I met on a summer vacation.

Max Brando April 17, 2021

Patrick I am very curious as to what the item in most of the windows are, and hoping you might know the answer. It’s such a curious place, and far from what we have here in Australia

Kathleen Driscoll April 17, 2021

Was stationed at NavFac from December 80 to December 82. You know the secret place, loved my time on the rock. Great Memories.

Derek King April 17, 2021

I was an EO and did snow removal in 79 and ran the skating rink. Had a great time

Jim Womack April 17, 2021

I was on Adam from 1963-64. 369 days!!!! I will never forget it. I was a com tech up on the mtn. US Navy. When we flew in the engines were leaking oil like a gusher, there were snow shoes, skins, and other types of outdoor gear. I thought what have I got into!! I was never so glad to see Ankorage after I got off that island. I remember the Adak national forest. There was 3 or 4 trees and none were over 6 or 7 inches!! Being on the mtn. We didn’t get to go to town very often. I do remember seeing some of the old fishing stations but they were all abandoned. I was lucky enough to be stationed in Hawaii after that. It would be interesting to go back and see what is left.

Ted Green April 17, 2021

Bill says, I was there from June 1948 to jUNE 1949 WITH THE AiR Force.My Sqd.was the 5020 Th.Maint. & Supply . We lived in the old huts .

Bill Beltran April 17, 2021

A few things first, the building that looked like a Pizza Hut was the child development center, we always teased that it should have been a pizza Hut and some even rumored that it was supposed to have been a failed attempt at a Pizza Hut but it never was, the bar that they are recalling I believe to be the VFW I could be wrong on that one I was only there once. I lived on Adak from 89-93 I wouldn’t have missed that experience for anything, we hiked ,hunted and fished, not to mention we made lifetime friends. To see the buildings in such a shambles makes me so sad, but I get it not too many live there anymore but the newer houses were so nice and they are crumbling now.

Donna Dunbar April 17, 2021

I lived there when I was a kid , my dad was an e.o.d. tech. He loved it there fishing hunting , exploring . I remember my mom screaming after going in the garage , my dad went hunting caribou with the neighbor and hung the body’s from the rafters. We shared a freezer filled with salmon , flounder , caribou , and king crab. I’ve always wanted to go back and explore.

Don April 17, 2021

I was in the Navy VP-50 between 81 and 84 Went there several times beautiful but cold! Snow, snow , best king crab legs and halibut . Great memories!!

Sharon April 17, 2021

I was stationed there from December ‘92 to July ’94. Went from a command of over 5000 when I arrived, to a command of 500 when I left. Military life wasn’t for me, but there was such a powerful sense of community there, it left a major impression on me. I was surprised at how much there was to do in such a small area. Even after the draw down was complete, people still worked maintain that feeling of being in a great neighborhood. I would love to go back someday just to take in the nostalgia. Get off the plane in the middle of December, slip on the ice and fall on my ass like i did the day I arrived. Pretend I’m on sunshine liberty for a week, maybe do a polar bear swim, and explore the remains of the buildings I helped maintain (my division ran the bachelor’s quarters), and then just look around to see what was left of the last of my teen years.

Eric Bourdon April 17, 2021

In 1943 I was 16 yr old in merchant Marines on Tanker Frank G Drumm, with destination to Adak via Hawaii. The ship leaked too much after about 50 miles at sea, and had to go back to dry dock. Never got to Adak but is on my bucket list if I live that long.

Don Willims April 17, 2021

My Dad was stationed there as welll in 1946-1947 when it was still the Army Air Corps. I have many photos of Adak.

Patrick April 17, 2021

Was stationed there in 1979-1980 at the red shedp/w transportation, I was a young kid then and had a ball then, wish I could afford to go back and see it but it,s a shame that everything was left to rust and rot away. what a waste.

chris nash April 17, 2021

I was there as a child from 1967 to 1969. My dad was stationed at the navy base that used to be there. I loved exploring with my brother and other neighborhood kids.

elizabeth7zach April 17, 2021

My brother was stationed on Adak from 1977 until 1979. He had just gotten married when he was transferred there. His wife, also in the Navy, was sent to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii!

He would never really tell us what he did there, but the family suspected it has something to do with spying on the Russians. I’ve always wanted to go there. Don’t think my husband would pay the $1200 round-trip fare though. Maybe someday when I win the lottery?.

Swim Mom April 17, 2021

I was there in aug.63 to sept 64 unloaded supply ships.. L & E…( labor & equipment )I wonder what happened to my RED catarmeran boat I built…I sailed it a couple of times in the bay..small artical written in the adak paper..had to hang it up on the wall at L&E building… I didnt know I couldnt leave the island..lol.. good to hear from all of you that share the memories…like to hear from you guys from yr 63 to 64…latter an god bless..jimmy ..

jimmy pigron April 17, 2021

I was stationed on adak from 1981-1983 worked as a front desk clerk at the officers barracks had great friends, did a lot of hiking fishing and snow tubing at the National forest!

Jefferson Etting April 17, 2021

I was there in aug.63 to sept 64 unloaded supply ships.. L & E…( labor & equipment )I wonder what happened to my RED catarmeran boat I built…I sailed it a couple of times in the bay..small artical written in the adak paper..had to hang it up on the wall at L&E building… I didnt know I couldnt leave the island..lol.. good to hear from all of you that share the memories…like to hear from you guys from yr 63 to 64…latter an god bless..jimmy

jimmy pigron April 17, 2021

Spent my entire 18th year there in 1958, right out of boot camp & BU A School. Not much of a social life, but i loved it. No caribou, they were brought in right after I shipped out to MCB 11 on Guam. Did a lot of hiking, explored WWII remains, climbed Mt. Moffet, took a lot of pictures, caught Dolly Varden trout, salmon, etc. Exhilarating weather, loved the storms, lots of sun but I confess I was quite pale after my year there. great steak & beer Dept. parties in the old WWII Submarine Base bldgs at Finger Bay, and the flowers on the tundra were beautiful when in bloom. Most exciting recreation was late night rat killing forays at the dump. If I could have filmed those, would have been a guaranteed winner on “funniest videos”. Machine gun drill & overnight “island defense”maneuvers were fun too, but not always comfortable due to weather. I’m an old guy, don’t do facebook or other fancy electronic stuff. Probably will never come back to this page to see replies, if you have question/comment for me, my snail mail is PO Box 1142, Coos Bay, OR 97420.

john shank April 17, 2021

I was stationed there in 1984. I won the 84 masters bowling tournament there I was in nmcb 133. Had a great time. Go Roos

George Allen April 17, 2021

I lived there in 76 and 77 we lived catty corner from fire station in duplex I turned 16 there got my drivers license in a 65 Chevy pickup 3 speed on the colum in the snow will never forget my memories of their. We threw snow balls from captains hill at security as they drove by they would climb the hill to catch us we would bomb them some more then slide down the hill on the back side on inter tubes . Would love to see it again.

Roy j Engleman April 17, 2021

There are buildings and housing units for sale often. Most belongs to the Aleut Corp, the City, DOT (Airport), and private owners
Some General info at the city web site. http://adak-ak.us

Steven S April 17, 2021

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