Lost American Airfields of the North Pacific

Image by U.S. Air Force

The North Pacific Ocean is littered with abandoned airfields and other military installations.  Many sit atop tiny atolls and despite being shortlived, played a critical role in history.  Today, most of the infrastructure has gone, but the runways and dispersals stand as a silent reminder to the battles that once raged there.

Midway Eastern Island

Images via Google Earth and Forest & Kim Starr

(Bottom two images licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

Midway Atoll is essentially two tiny islands swallowed up by military air bases, both of which still exist today.  After a turbulent wartime history that culminated in the bloody Battle of Midway, the larger of the two bases (Henderson Field on Sand Island) remains in use today as a public airport subsidized by Boeing.  The original airfield on Eastern Island was a strategic American base during World War Two, and became abandoned shortly after.

Images by U.S. Navy

The images above depict the conflict in full swing.  The Battle of Midway, fought between 4-7 June 1942, is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign during World War Two.  Six months after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy defeated an Imperial Japanese Navy attack against Midway Atoll, crippling the Japanese fleet irrepairably and turning the tide of battle.

Images by Forest & Kim Starr

(Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

More than six decades later, what was once the scene of intense fighting is now a haven for birds and other wildlife, although marine debris and problems caused by lead based paints used on the buildings continue to present environmental challenges.

Palmyra Atoll

Images via Google Earth and Clarkma5

Once privately owned by American citizens, including Hawaiians, the U.S. Navy set about building an air base in 1941 after Palmyra Atoll was placed in its charge.  Three large runways were built, with Palmyra used primarily as a staging post for aircraft flying between Hawaii and Australia during World War Two.  Many of the original buildings remain overgrown in the jungle, while the main runway is still used to ferry scientists to Palmyra Atoll – now a research centre in the study of global warming.

Tern Island, French Frigate Shoals

Images via Google Earth, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest & Kim Starr

(Bottom right image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

In terms of appearance, Tern Island in the French Frigate Shoals is one of the most amazing island airfields in the world.  From the air, it resembles an aircraft carrier, with almost every acre of land taken up by runway.  The base was built in 1943 as a reserve landing ground for Naval Air Station Pearl Harbor, but was swept clean by a tidal wave in 1946.  It has since been used by the U.S. Coast Guard, and is now a wildlife reserve.

Guam Northwest Field

Images via Google Earth and U.S. Air Force

Construction began on Guam Northwest Field in 1944 to support the massive B-29 bomber.  The base had two large runways (still relatively intact today), although taxiways were not initially completed and aircraft had to be towed to their parking spaces over rough coral.  Guam Northwest Field was abandoned after 1958, but is difficult to access since it comes under the jurisdiction of nearby North Field, now Anderson Air Force Base (below).

Images by U.S. Federal Government and Google Earth

Since its constuction during World War Two, Anderson Air Force Base continued to play a key role as a strategic bomber base throughout the Vietnam War and upto the present day.  Today it is home to regular detachments of the sinister B-2 Spirit bomber, as well as the mighty B-52.

Johnston Atoll

Image via Google Earth

Johnston Atoll is perhaps the most impressive looking of the remaining island airfields.  The island’s military days are now over, and nature has reclaimed the land under the auspices of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.  Read our full article about Johnston Atoll here.

Related Articles:
Six Lost American Air Bases in Britain
Abandoned Aircraft, Airfields, Airbases and Airport Terminals


Around the web

  • http://www.urbanghostsmedia.com Tom

    Brian thank you and sorry for the late reply! This is a great find and thanks for putting it on our radar.

  • Sagebrusher

    Check out Kanton Island, too… a former airline re-fueling stop and military base, many abandoned houses, etc, with a tiny resident population that was almost forgotten by the world a few years ago. I think someone has many photos from few years ago on Flickr.


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