The US has one of the strongest military in the world with more than 500 military bases on foreign sites across every continent other than Antarctica. The United States not only maintains these military bases to establish its global presence, but the facilities are used for training and troop deployments as well as for weapons system testing, research and education, and aircraft testing.
Many of the military bases in the world were initially established as a practical war-time necessity and were named after servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. In our article today, we will be walking through some of the largest military bases in the world.
How Many Military Bases do the US Have?
According to the US Department of Defence 2015 Base Structure Report, the US has about 562,000 facilities, including single buildings and structures, across 4,800 sites/military bases worldwide including 513 active installations worldwide. This covers more than 24.9 million acres of land. In terms of troops deployment, the US deployed 173,000 troops to 159 different countries.
Largest Military Bases in the World (US)
Fort Bragg is based in North Carolina and just west of the city of Fayetteville. This United States army base is not just the biggest in terms of overall population, but it is also the largest military base overall and includes all give of the military branches.
For many military enthusiasts, Fort Bragg is considered as the center of the military realm and accommodates more than 260,000 people, of which approximately 54,000 of them are active troop members.
Fort Bragg has an area size of 163,000 acres, which is equivalent to 254.6 square miles. Nearly 90% of the entire installation – about 146,000 acres – is dedicated to training.
Soldiers can use the Fort Bragg grounds to train and refine their necessary skill sets for use in war battlefields, which have included World War I, World War II, Vietnam War, and other missions like Operation Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. The main base post in Fort Bragg spans 19 miles which is as big as about 123 football fields.
Fort Bragg was first founded in Fayetteville town in North Carolina back in June 1918 by Col. Edward P. King and his partner T. Wayland Vaughan. The base was initially known as Camp Bragg and was mainly used to support artillery training.
The need for military buildup in 1917 and the movement of the doughboys in 1918 pushed Camp Bragg to be turned into a military base thanks to the availability of clean water supply, good soil, adept rail system, and favorable weather that could accommodate year-round training.
Camp Bragg became a home for long-range artillery testing and later became a training center for National Guards, complete with all the balloon detachments and aircraft necessary. The military base was renamed to Fort Bragg in September 1922 and converted into a permanent military installation.
Since then, Fort Bragg expanded and was further strengthened with more permanent fixtures like brick barracks and paved sidewalks before eventually becoming one of the most critical facilities used during World War II.
After the war, Fort Bragg was turned into a home for the 82nd Airborne Division and XVIII AIrborne Corps. This is where the nickname “Home of the Airborne” came about. Today, Fort Bragg houses the Womack Army Medical Center, US Army Special Operations Command, US Army Forces Command, and US Army Reserve Command.
Fort Campbell is located right on the shared border between Kentucky and tennessee. This military base was established in 1941 and named after Army Brigade General WIlliam Bowel Campbell. The Fort Campbell military base is home turf to the 101st Airborne Division of the Army and has grown significantly in terms of population.
According to recent data from the website Military Installations, Fort Campbell houses an active duty military population of 26,587 soldiers and nearly double that amount in family members with 50,812. Number of civilians and military retirees in the vicinity are at 6,500 and 70,445 respectively.
As the second largest military base in the world, Fort Campbell is capable of supporting over 249,580 people. However, it’s estimated that two thirds of the assigned soldiers in that miliary base live off-site in neighbouring counties like Christian County and Stewart County.
Nonetheless, Fort Campbell even has the potential the overtake Fort Bragg in population as the United States Army is looking to add 144 three and four-bedroom homes over the next five years and renovate 170 properties in Fort Campbell.
Fort Campbell served as a training ground for the 12, 14, and 20 Armed Divisions and even acted as the headquarter for the 26th Infantry Division and IV Armored Corps until the end of World War II.
The military base also housed the elite 101st Airborne Division (also known as “Screaming Eagles” training) for air assault. It also supports the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment in its military base.
Fort Hood was built one year after Fort Campbell and this military base is located in Killeen, Texas. Fort Hood was established in September 1942 and was named after honorable General John Bell Hood, who served during the Civil War as part of the Confederate Army.
The base was extended and acquired a new name “North Camp Hood” as it housed roughly 40,000 troops and 4,000 prisoners during WWII.
In 1970s, Fort Hood was converted into a training and testing ground for new organizations, tactics, and equipment before acting as a place for anti-war activity during the Vietnam War and War on Terror.
Today, Fort Hood acts as the biggest armored post featuring active-duty military and occupies 214,000 acres of space for all-year training on the air and ground. Fort Hood also facilitates the Tank Destroyer Tactical and Firing Center.
Fort Hood actually has a much larger area compared to Fort Bragg at roughly 214, 968 acres which is equivalent to 340 square miles. The footprint of the military base is so large that it straddles both Bell County and Coryell County. In fact, Fort Hood is the only military base that can station and train two full armored dividisions.
In terms of population living in Fort Hood, there are a grand total of 36,329 members of active-duty soldiers stationed according to Military Installations, putting it second place in terms of active duty soldiers.
However, Fort Hood’s ability to accommodate more than 500,000 of service members, military families, and civilians makes it the largest military base in terms of capacity.
Lewis – McChord Joint Base
Joint Base Lewis-McChord is one of the newest installations in the United States and acts as a home for I Corps and the 62nd Airlift Wing. The Joint Base is a result of melding Fort Lewis and Fort McChord back in October 2010. Both Fort Lewis and Fort Mcchord Air Force Bases have been around since 1917 and 1947 respectively.
Camp Lewis was named after Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and supported troops through both World Wars, Vietnam War, Cold War and Gulf Wars. McChord on the other hand acted as an open airfield north of Forth Lewis and was named after Colonel William Caldwell McChord.
Fort McChord was the biggest US bomber training installation during the second world war and was also used to organize attack and destroying a Japanese submarine.
The consolidation of these two military bases has allowed for more people to live in what the Department of Defense describes as the “premier military installation on the West Coast”. Based on the Joint Base Lewis-McChord website, the installation is currently accommodating 40,000 active duty service members, 60,000 family members, and 15,000 civilian and contract employees.
In terms of area, Joint Base Lewis-Mcchord is actually much bigger than Fort Bragg with an area size of 647 square miles. However, a significant part of that area is being used up by the Yakima Training Center.
Fort Benning is another one of the military bases that occupies land in more than one state. This United States Army base takes up a land size of more than 182,000 acres. While the fort’s physical address is in Georgia, its territory extends into Alabama.
Fort Benning was founded in October 1918 and was named after Brigadier General Henry L. Benning, who served during the Civil War for the Confederacy. The base was used as a training ground for personnel and delivered the nation’s leading infantry training program by the 1950s.
Fort Benning also launched air assault an dranger schools for members to hone their skills. In 2005, the military base housed the Maneuver Center of Excellence. today , Fort Benning is referred to as the ‘House of the Infantry’ where it accommodates U.S. Armour and Infantry members.
In terms of population, Fort Benning accommodates approximately 107,600 people including 3,250 civilian employees, 14,100 off-post active duty, 13,250 career retired, and 27,436 active duty military personnel according to Military Installations website. Fort Benning features a variety of health care and educational services, making it an ideal base to raise a family.
Camp Humphrey’s is located in Pyeongtaek, which is about 45 miles south of Seoul, South Korea. The site is a result of a massive expansion project that began more than 10 years ago and cost almost $11 billion.
Covering about 1,210 acres of land and houses 650 buildings being built, including several churches, four schools, an exercise facility, and an 18-hole gold course, Camp Humphreys is the United States’ largest military base outside of the 48 states.
In the future, the site is expected to reach 2,328 acres and 3,538 acres of land size and is anticipated to house approximately 45,000 service members as well as military families and civilian contractors. As with the other forts and military bases discussed above, Camp Humphreys is an Army base that also served as a station for the Marines during the Korean War.
The United States has maintained an active presence in South Korea since the signing of the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1953 to signal the end of the Korean War. Since then, both South Korea and the United States have maintained an ongoing relationship.
Thule Air Base
Thule Air Base is located in Greenland and is approximately 930 miles south of the North Pole. The Thule Air Base is the northernmost US military base and also the highest port in terms of global positioning. According to MilitaryBases.com, approximately 3,000 flights take off from Thule Air Base every year.
Thule Air Base was opened for military use during World War II and is currently maintained by the Air Force. The site hosts the 21st Space Wing, 721st Support Group and 821st Air Base Group. While the Thule Air Base houses U.S service members, the harsh climate makes it inhospitable for military families as temperatures can reach negative digits, reaching as low as -47.
However, the lack of population does not mean a small site as the base makes up for in land area with slightly over 233,000 acres of land. Considering the location, it’s not surprising to find that much of the land is undeveloped with the nearest village being over 65 miles away from air base.
Naval Station Guantanamo Bay
The Guantanamo Bay Naval Base also known as Gitmo is located on the far southern coast of the United States in Cuba.
The naval station has been leased by the United States for more than 120 years since the 1903 and has provided the Navy with a variety of uses, including fleet training, migrant operations, humanitarian relief, disaster assistance, and even served as a detention center.
Gitmo acts as a U.S. seapower platform in the Caribbean and provides decision makers with an outlet for interagency operations when and if required. The station is takes up over 28,800 acres of land area and hosts about 6,000 people, including civilians and military members.
Camp Fuji is among the oldest US installations in the world and was once used as a training ground for samurai warriors. The camp is located roughly two hours from Tokyo on the island of Honshu and is located at the base of Mount Fuji.
The camp is primarily run by the United States Marine Corp. However, it’s also bee used by the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force and also hosts the Japanese National Youth Center.
The base takes up close to 33,400 acres wih a training facility that’s over 300 acres in size. The camp undergone several renovations and updates, including the addition of barracks, maintenance buildings, medical clinic, and a post office. These additions have made the camp a more enjoyable installation for military members and civilians living there.
Camp Hansen is located on the northern tip of Okinawa and is also maintained by the U.S. Marine Corps. Similar too Camp Fuji, Camp Hansen is a shared fort that houses both U.S. and Japanese troops throughout the year and is used primarily for training purposes.
This site was named in honor of Dale Hansen, who took part in the Battle of Okinawa during WWII. Camp Hansen has since then hosted several regiments and battalions over the years, including the 3rd law Enforcement Battalion, 3rd Intelligence Battalion, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, and the 9th Engineer Support Battalion.
In terms of population, Camp Hansen is home to a few thousand marine service members and is expected to add at least 100 buildings in an effort to consolidate existing military facilities.
Countries with US Military Bases
- Bosnia – Herzegovina
- S. Korea
U.S Air Force
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- S. Korea
- Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri & Dhekelia
- United Kingdom
U.S Marine Corp
- S. Korea
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- S. Korea
- The United Arab Emirates
- The United Kingdom
- U.S Coast Guard
- The Netherlands
U.S Space Force
Names of US Military Bases
- USAG Benelux Brussels (Belgium)
- U.S Army Garrison Benelux (Benelux, Belgium)
- U.S Bavaria Hohenfels (Hohenfels, Germany)
- U.S Army Garrison Ansbach (Ansbach, Germany)
- U.S Army Garrison Stuttgart (Stuttgart, Germany)
- U.S Army Garrison Bamberg (Bamberg, Germany)
- U.S Army Garrison Garmisch (Garmisch, Germany)
- U.S Army Garrison Wiesbaden (Wiesbaden, Germany)
- USAG Bavaria Grafenwoehr (Grafenwoehr, Germany)
- USAG Rheinland-Pfalz Kaiserslautern (Kaiserslautern, Germany)
- USAG Rheinland-Pfalx, Baulholder (Aulenbacher Str. Baumholder Germany)
- U.S Army Garrison Livorno (Tirrenia, Italy)
- U.S Army Garrison Vicenza (Vicenza, Italy)
- U.S Army Garrison Schinnen (Schinnen, Netherlands)
- Camp Bondsteel (Kosovo)
- U.S Army Garrison Humphreys (Republic of Korea)
- U.S Army Garrison Casey (Republic of Korea)
- USAG Red Cloud/Casey (Republic of Korea)
- USAG Yongsan (Republic of Korea)
- K-16 Air Base (Republic of Korea)
- USAG Daegu (Republic of Korea)
- Torii Station (Japan)
- Camp Zama (Japan)
U.S Air Force
- Ankara (Turkey)
- Incirlik Air Base (Turkey)
- Izmir Air Station (Turkey)
- Aviano Air Base (Aviano, Italy)
- Kleine Brogel Air Base (Belgium)
- Ramstein AB (Ramstein, Germany)
- Spangdahlem AB (Spangdahlem, Germany)
- Geilenkirchen Nato Air Base (Neuteveren, Germany)
- Moron Ab (Moron de la Frontera, Spain)
- Raf Fairford (UK)
- Raf Alconbury (UK)
- Raf Mildenhall (UK)
- Raf Croughton (UK)
- Raf Lakenheath (UK)
- Raf Menwith Hill (Harrogate, UK)
- Misawa (Japan)
- Yokota Air Base (Japan)
- Kadena Air Base (Okinawa City, Japan)
- Kunsan Air Base (Republic of Korea)
- Osan Air Base (Republic of Korea)
- Canberra (Yarralumla, Australia)
- Camp Fuji (Japan)
- Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni (Japan)
- Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler (Japan)
- U.S Navy
- Naval Support Activity Souda Bay (Greece)
- Naval Air Station Sigonella (Sigonella, Italy)
- Naval Support Activity Naples (Gricignano di Aversa, Italy)
- Naval Support Activity Naples Department Geta (Gaeta, Italy)
- Naval Staton Rota (Rota, Spain)
- Naval Support Activity (Bahrain)
- Naval Support Facility (Diego Garcia)
- Commander Fleet Activities Sasebo (Japan)
- Fleet Activities Okinawa (Japan)
- Fleet Activities Yokosuka (Japan)
- Navy Region Singapore (Singapore)
- Fleet Activities Chinhae (Republic of Korea)
U.S Coast Guard
- Far East Activity (Japan)
Why Does the US Have So Many Military Bases?
Each base set by the US serves its own purpose, usually for a specific security goal or for regional stability overall. Some bases were also created to support allies in the event of a conflict.
The primary bases can be traced back to the stabilization efforts right after WWII. Overall, the U.S. foreign bases help to contribute to the nations’ relationships where the host countries typically receive financial and/or relationship support from the US.