In the aftermath of World War II there was a shift in the balance of power around the globe. The British empire had long been the dominant power, yet due to its losses in the war was now crumbling. The United States was in a position to capitalize after the war given its military and economic might. There’s no better metric that shows the power gained than the number of overseas US military bases by world region.
During the war the US military fought in theaters around the globe. These operations required bases to organize troops and supplies. The logistics behind these bases were incredibly complex. At the height of the war over 100 US bases were being built around the globe each month.
At the end of the war, many of these bases were shut down as US troops returned home. However, as you can see in the chart, there were still a huge number of bases that remained open, including 1,139 in 1947. This included the Tempelhof Airfield, a US Air Force base in West Berlin for over 5 decades.
Number of US Military Bases by World Region Post-WWII
These bases largely remained open due to the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the various conflicts that sprung as a result. The US policy of “Containment” to prevent the spread of communism required the military to be ready to intervene at a moments notice. The hundreds of bases scattered around the globe were used as deterrents prevent hostile actions in US friendly nations.
Despite the Cold War ending nearly three decades ago, nearly 800 US overseas bases still remain today. The US has been reluctant to close these bases, relying on them as a sort of “forward strategy” to prevent attacks on US soil at all costs.
Some of the military bases are like their own cities, hosting a massive presence with schools, hospitals, civilian housing, etc. Others may consist of a small airfield or just house drones, weapons and supplies. Nevertheless, the upkeep of these bases comes at a massive cost to the US taxpayer. It’s estimated that nearly $150 billion is spent each year maintaining facilities and personnel abroad.
Source: Monthly Review