#3. Johnston Atoll
You know what the problem with that last trip was? You just didn't go far enough away. The whole appeal of the desert is the deserted part. If you really want to get away from it all without falling headlong into an aircraft carrier orgy or something, you just need to open up a map, spin the globe and pick a spot in the middle of the damn ocean. Aaaand hey, of course it's a military base. A completely vacant military base in the middle of the ocean. Of course.
The far left is where Vader stores his helmet polish and cape starch.
Johnston Atoll, an island located 750 miles west of Hawaii, was basically the Area 51 of the Pacific Ocean in its day. But everything has its uses, and a time when those uses end: In 2004, it was decommissioned and abandoned. What's the big deal? So we left the island and a bit of tarmac behind when we were finished, so what?
So we built the whole damn thing -- island and all -- almost from scratch, that's what. This whole thing is artificial ... or at least most of it is. The island was enlarged so much as to be almost unrecognizable from its original form.
Though the exact cost of the project is unknown (aquatic Area 51, remember?), a comparable project in scope and scale would be the Japanese Kansai Airport. That was another artificial island built to support a landing strip, and it cost around $20 billion. Sure, the Kansai Airport was larger, and built entirely from scratch, but it was also right next to a major metropolis, where building materials could easily be driven, ferried or lifted right over to the island in relative peace. Johnston Atoll was built in the middle of friggin' nowhere, where everything from building materials to cranes to the gasoline to run them had to be shipped thousands of miles out into the open ocean ... right in the middle of one of the most conflicted periods in world history.
Via Google Maps
"Going for a beer run. Is it closer to just go to Australia or swing up through Japan?"
#2. Missile Silos
Ahhh, the majestic Pacific Northwest. The subtle swish of the forest in the wind, the crisp snowfall crunching beneath your feet, the 150-foot-deep hole you've just fallen through that apparently leads to the buried ruins of The Jetsons' Orbit City.
Astro is buried somewhere underneath that second dome.
That's a Titan 1 missile complex. One such complex consists of 16 underground buildings and several aboveground support structures sprawling over 57 acres in central Washington. The Titans were built at a cost of about $170 million (roughly $1.26 billion in 2011 dollars) apiece. The bases themselves were only operational for a span of about five years, but during that time they would have been able to keep 150 men alive for up to 30 days without any outside support in the event of a nuclear war. After they were made obsolete by new, portable missile-launching systems, all of the installations were decommissioned, and without regular maintenance, most of them completely rusted out or flooded due to ground water leakage. Seriously ... everybody just straight up left; they closed the doors on their comic book style super fortresses, engaged the deadbolt and then just walked away forever, presumably while whistling a carefree tune.
Not all of them, though, and the Feds did eventually remember the billion-dollar sci-fi set pieces they left scattered all across America. So they auctioned the surviving structures off ... by listing them on eBay.
"And this here is the 'I Am Your Father' Room, built solely to re-enact the pivotal scene from Empire."
That's right: They went from the 1960s all the way up until the invention and popularization of the internet before ever checking to see if anybody was maybe interested in living in the closest thing to a real life moonbase.
#1. Tank Graveyards
Let's take a little hike in the forest, shall we? We'll commune with nature, get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and just enjoy a good old-fashioned holy shit tank war! We call T-80s!
Oh, like you could resist!
When the shit first hit the fan in Afghanistan -- no, not the American conflict, the one before that. No, no not the British invasion either, the other one. The Rambo one. The Soviets! Yeah, that's the ticket -- toward the tail end of that conflict, the Russian army was forced to leave in a hurry, abandoning tons of military hardware to rust away outside the Kabul airport. These particular tanks were abandoned hastily, out of desperation, but if you're thinking this is the military equivalent of you forgetting your cellphone -- all frantically patting down their pockets and realizing they forgot a whole fleet of armored death machines back there, then cursing themselves for it the whole way home -- you should know this is apparently standard practice. In 2010, it was discovered that the Russians left over 200 functional tanks unguarded for four months in a forest near the city of Yekaterinburg. As one local gleefully put it:
WARNING: INFINITE DICK JOKE LOOP. SYSTEM FAILURE! SYSTEM FAILURE!
After all the publicity, a military spokesman did come forward and claim the tanks were actually being guarded by elite special patrols the whole time, although the drunken Russian dudes playing hide and seek all up in their military hardware would beg to differ. Military officials, in a shocking first for this article, decided to err on the side of caution and hastily relocate the tanks anyway.
That's right: You guys wouldn't let them have pretend special military patrols, so they took their toys and went home. Good job, jerks, now nobody gets to play Tank-Tag.
For more ridiculous government projects, check out Nuke the Moon: 5 Certifiably Insane Cold War Projects and 5 Projects You Won't Believe the US Government Is Working On.