1. Pagan island in the Commonwealth Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)
Pagan is located north of Saipan and is made up of two volcanoes. The northern one, Mt. Pagan, is still active.
The U.S. Navy announced in March it would begin preparing the island for live fire training.
Pagan was once home to the Chamorro people and is also an environmental wonder.
2. Bikini Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands
In 1944, after extensive fighting on Kwajalein and Enewetak Atoll, these islands were “captured from the Japanese” by U.S. military along with Bikini Atoll.
On Bikini Atoll, the U.S. military conducted 23 nuclear weapons tests.
The largest nuclear test the U.S. ever conducted was at Bikini Atoll.
The people of Bikini were convinced to move, believing they’d be able to return after the tests were over.
Because of the radiation left behind on Bikini, people were relocated many times and most Bikinians now live on other islands or have moved to the U.S.
3. Enewetak in the Republic of the Marshall Islands
Enewetak consists of forty small islets and atolls, spread out into the shape of an oval ring.
Between 1948 and 1958 more than forty nuclear tests conducted at Enewetak.
The U.S. military tested its first hydrogen bomb in 1952 as part of Operation Ivy at Enewetak. The test obliterated the islet of Elugelab.
In 1977, the U.S. military began a cleanup process that mixed contaminated soil and debris with cement and buried it in a crater created by an atomic test on Runit Island in Enewetak Atoll.
After the cleanup, many of the islands in Enewetak were declared safe and some residents returned as early as 1980.
4. Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands
In 1986, the Compact of Free Association with the U.S. provided aid and defense to the Marshall Islands in exchange for continued use of the missile testing range, known as the Reagen Test Site, on Kwajalein Atoll.
Kwajalein Atoll spans about 90 islets and the military owns 11 of the islands.
The Reagen Test Site spans multiple islands.
In 2012, the U.S. military performed the largest and most complex missile defense test at Kwajalein Atoll.
5. Culebra in Puerto Rico
In 1903, the Culebra Naval Reservation was established by the U.S.
In 1939, the U.S. Navy began to use Culebra as a bombing practice site.
In 1971 the people of Culebra began the Navy-Culebra protests, demanding the removal of the U.S. Navy from Culebra.
By 1975, the use of Culebra by the U.S. Navy ceased.
All operations were moved to the nearby island Vieques.
6. Vieques in Puerto Rico
The U.S. military owned about two-thirds of the island and operated there from 1941 until 2001.
The U.S. military used the island for training exercises, involving ship-to-shore gunfire, and bombing by naval aircraft.
There is a roughly 900-acre area designed for targeting by live ordnance.
A series of protests set of by the accidental bombing of a civilian in 1999, led the U.S. military to withdraw completely by 2003.
The former navy land is now a national wildlife refuge. Numerous beaches on the island still retain the names given by the navy, including Red Beach, Blue Beach, Green Beach and others.
7. Amchitka in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska
Many of the U.S. military’s sites were in the Aleutian Islands, which extend westward from Alaska. On Amchitka island, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission detonated three nuclear blasts between 1965–1971, including the United States’ largest underground nuclear test, the Cannikin test which was 385 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Amchitka is now part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.
Despite an extensive cleanup, many contamination issues remain, and the Department of Energy continues to monitor the site.
8. Makua Valley on Oahu in Hawaii
Military presence in Makua Valley began in the 1920s. The valley has been used for live fire training, which includes firing mortars and artillery shells.
The cleanup crew pulled 1000-pound bombs out of the valley.
The military still owns and operates Makua Valley.
9. Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) on Big Island
The military conducts live arsenal training over vast stretches of Pohakuloa Training Area, which is located in the high plateau between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanic mountains.
PTA encompasses 108,792 acres and is the Army’s largest training area in the Pacific.
It is home to Native Hawaiian historic sties and a high density of threatened and endangered plant and animals.
10. Kaho’olawe in Hawaii
Starting in World War II, Kaho’olawe was used as a training ground and bombing range by the U.S.
In 1965 the U.S. Navy conducted an explosives test called Operation Sailor Hat in which they detonated 500 tons of TNT. The blast was so big it created a crater.
Kaho’olawe was turned into bare rock by military testing, and much of the island remains inaccessible because of unexploded bombs buried in the soil.
After decades of protests, the U.S. Navy ended live fire training exercises on Kaho’olawe in 1990.
Today Kaho’olawe can be used only for Native Hawaiian cultural, spiritual, and subsistence purposes.
11. Kiritimati and Malden Island in the Republic of Kiribati
Kirimati, also called Christmas Island, and Malden Island were used as nuclear test sites for Operation Grapple by the British and U.S. military between 1957–1962.
The Partial Test Ban Treaty, signed in 1963, brought an end to U.S. and British testing in the region.
Subsequently foreign servicemen as well as local islanders have claimed to have suffered from exposure to the radiation from these blasts.
12. Johnston Atoll
This atoll was under U.S. military control for 70 years.
It was used as an airbase, a naval refueling spot, a nuclear weapons testing site, and a chemical weapons dump.
In 2004 the military base was closed, and Johnston Atoll became an unincorporated territory of the U.S. administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service