• Located on New York City’s Rockaway Peninsula, Fort Tilden is a former US Army base that housed nuclear missiles during the Cold War.
  • Remnants of wartime structures remain, including towering gun batteries and crumbling artillery pieces.
  • It’s steps from the beach, where crowds congregate in the summer, but its battlements are hidden by thickets of coastal vegetation.
  • Here’s what it’s like inside.
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Steps from several of New York City’s busiest beaches, and hidden by tangled overgrowth studded with poison ivy, are the dystopian remains of a US Army base that once housed Cold War-era nuclear missiles.

Fort Tilden is tucked between bustling seaside communities on the Rockaway Peninsula, where city beachgoers flock in the summertime. The site dates back to the War of 1812, but major fortifications weren’t built until the US entered World War I in 1917 — the same year that it was named after former New York governor Samuel J. Tilden.

Batteries and artillery pieces were quickly erected, and during World War II, they were casemated to better withstand aerial bombing. When the Cold War rolled around, anti-aircraft guns and nuclear Nike Missiles were added to the arsenal.

From the shore, none of the towering gun batteries are visible. A former army bathhouse —  gutted, sand-filled, and located right on the dunes — was demolished in 2016. Unless you’re actively looking for a glimpse of Fort Tilden’s military history, it can be easy to miss altogether.

There are millions of visitors to the Rockaways each summer, but the trails that snake through the rugged coastal scrubland, connecting the abandoned bunkers, are often empty. Here’s what it’s like inside.

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