Johnston Atoll’s Abandoned Military Base

Johnston Atoll pic
Johnston Atoll pic
Johnston Atoll

Since 1986, Dr. Ronald H. Kienitz DO has served as the medical director for Honolulu’s Concentra Medical Centers. In addition, he serves as a clinical associate professor of occupational and family sciences at the Western University of Health Sciences. Dr. Ronald H. Kienitz DO also spent time as a staff physician and interim chief medical officer at the Johnston Atoll Dispensary between 1986 and 1990, where he dealt with toxicological emergencies that can sometimes be caused by chemical munitions.

Until the early 2000s, the Johnston Atoll retired military base was a central location for storing and destroying chemical weapons. The base had a military police company, headquarters unit, chemical company, and a civilian group called the Johnston Atoll Chemical Disposal System. Together, these groups are said to have destroyed rockets, mortars, mines, bombs, and 2,000 tons of chemical blister and nerve agents.

The base is a part of the isolated Johnston Atoll group of islands in the central Pacific Ocean. For a time, the Atoll was a wildlife sanctuary. Later, the area was used as a site for nuclear weapons testing, until 1975. Today, the base is abandoned, and a landfill there still contains plutonium debris from a failed test in 1962, as well as chemical residue from the Vietnam War and the former Soviet Union. The area is now under the jurisdiction of the Fish and Wildlife Service.


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