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Update, 12/2008: I note that most of the links included in this post from July 2006 as to the Greenbriar Inn and associated “bunker” are now broken links — however, not of my doing. It appears that the destination links have been removed while my links in this article remain as they were at one time, functional when published. Some remain functional but as to those now broken, consider searching the Greenbriar Inn and Bunker on your own.

“…I was 11 at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. I remember believing that I would not grow up to be a man. I remember crouching under my desk at school and being told to face away from the window when the blast hit. I remember too the jet-black newspaper headlines that each day suggested we were moving closer to the precipice, the grainy photos with arrows pointing to long objects on the decks of Soviet ships. I wondered why I’d been born into the first generation that had to grow up in the shadow of the Bomb.” — Ted Gup, The Washington Post, “The Ultimate Congressional Hideaway” — May 31, 1992

And here we are again, the bomb, the recurring crises, the recurring need to confront or to avoid the confrontation, depending.

Like Mr. Gup in that article of his from 1992, the very same article that exposed the once-top-secret shelter for Congress constructed beneath The Greenbrier Inn in White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia, I have childhood memories of those classroom “duck and cover” rehearsals, although I was more candid later in life than I’d been when very young during the Crises itself, more candid in later years in admitting that where I was during those childhood exercises, that Crises, would have resigned me and the whole region to obliteration had any nuclear attack taken place — no amount of ducking and covering would have made any difference, given my proximity during the Cuban Missile Crises by only a few miles to Cape Canaveral, FL and I was acutely aware of that during my youth, but at least adults attempted to keep reality at bay for me and my childhood peers as much as possible, despite my knowing at that very young age (very early gradeschool) that what I was being told to duck and cover from was immediate and ultimate doom.

In retrospect, I knew at the outset despite my young years during that Crises that the circumstances were final; I only practiced along with my classmates to indulge the teacher — and afterward, I would cry all the way home from school on several days and imagine the world as realistically hostile and deadly and potentially reduced to ashes as I stumbled along amidst the image of my gasping self being roasted by the unseeable but hideously awful radioactivity, a little child walking home amidst fears about the end of the world, wondering what the point was to be going anywhere.

And so began the reality of life that ultimate warfare was ever present and it seems that it has not changed since then: we as a population have lived since the Sixties — and always will live since that time forward — with the reality that nuclear war was and is possible and that it was and is also a terribly final act, at least for much of individual life.

The notion that some people are prepared to survive a global catastrophe such as this — particularly those individuals who might represent the continuation of our civilization (which would be nearly anyone, under the circumstances) — is encouraging but in a cryptic sense: some human survival and civil continuation is the best hope, however grim, is my point, because the alternative of species annihilation is certainly not one I like to consider.

And, to refer to our United States Constitution (I paraphrase), “those who have the ability to defend (democracy, our nation as a democracy, the Constitution) have the responsibility to protect/defend it (all).”

I’ve always worried about the survival of other species, too, other life, given the idea that such a terrible thing as global, nuclear war might ever occur. Plant and animal life gone for, perhaps, many thousands of years — it would take that for plant life and a modest degree of animal life to reappear and proliferate following such an event — does not describe a very probable environment in which human life would be able to maintain itself, even desperately, so the notion is, indeed, just as fatal that a group of human hangers-on in some bunker somewhere would survive to return to a world devoid of other life. A horrible set of options, no less.

But as to the point of this: it is the rogue maniacs who refocus our world upon the dreadful reality that global nuclear war is on our horizon of possibilities, as it was the maniacs who nearly made nuclear war occur in the Sixties (Kruschev and Castro, specifically, although we all must wait additional decades before we can know more as to certain realities affecting the Cuban Missile Crises associated with John Kennedy, known only so far to a very few but pending release by document to the public in, I believe it will be, 2050). It is the maniacs among our human populations who seek the flame and flare and disregard the day after. What’s worse today, however, than at crises times past, is that the population of maniacs among us is growing.

And as to that BUNKER beneath The Greenbrier Inn in West Virginia — I am sure that our government has replacements available for this now multi-million-dollar-tourist-attraction (and I am glad that they do, assuming they do) — I hope someone else has an Arc (of sorts) prepared (or is working on the preparation of one) to host the survival of other species, either below ground or in outer space (ideally possible, certainly impractical). Even with plant seeds available, there’d be the need for non-radiated soil in which to grow them at some point, along with a suitable environment, and a supply of non-contaminated water inorder to sustain their growth, along with our own. All of that would require a lot of time following a global, nuclear war, and circumstances would likely not be hospitable nor survivable for a long time following, so there’s the liklihood of survival-inorder-to-survive but only for a threatened period of time afterward. The BUNKER idea is at least a start, however grim the options, but to be effective it would need to provide a sustainable habitat — for human life and also for plant and animal life.

(View: The BUNKER slideshow.)

The area surrounding The Greenbriar Inn and BUNKER today offers new homes and homesites for sale, and the Inn remains in service as elegantly as ever from what I am told, while the BUNKER is available for public, paid tours (after initially offering tours in 1995, the tours were suspended while The Inn underwent modifications and have resumed this July 2006); and, The Inn has begun making BUNKER group meeting rooms available — a peculiar format, certainly.

However, as with the BUNKER (or any bunker), what is the point of new homes and building sites being available if you can’t reach them — this property is out of economic reach to many U.S. citizens, and certainly the BUNKER at The Greenbrier is/was beyond the practical reach of most anyone anywhere (including Congress at that time or even today given the distance of the BUNKER from D.C.) other than those already in the bunker(s) at the outset of nuclear war. Which equals: a mere few survive (or would have) and survive to questionable survival conditions afterward if ever our country — and along with it, our Constitution and Constitutional principles — met with destruction, just as they were threatened with during the Cuban Missile Crises and others. Some things are worth fighting for and fighting to survive inorder to protect. Question is, to what extent, and how.

Over the 30 years that it was an active facility, communications and other equipment were updated, keeping the bunker at full-operation status. The location of the facility, critical to its effectiveness, remained a secret for more than three decades.

…Until its closure, The Bunker was kept in a state of constant readiness, with foodstuffs and a pharmacy with the active prescriptions for every member of Congress.

…On May 31, 1992, The Washington Post published an article, “The Last Resort” which exposed the facility. In 1995, the US government ended the lease agreement with The Greenbrier…

About that:

Details of the design and construction of the facility, of course, are scarce. But Randy Wickline, who hauled concrete to the site, remembers seeing the name “Mosler” on the enormous doors that were installed at the entrances.

“Mosler” was Mosler Safe Co., an Ohio-based manufacturer famed for its vaults and safes. In the ’50s and early ’60s it also had a flourishing “nuclear products group” that used the company’s expertise to build massive doors for government relocation centers and bunkers. The company believed it’s doors could survive the impact of an atomic bomb blast, or at least a near miss. A Mosler vault door withstood a nuclear blast some two-fifths of a mile away at the government’s Nevada Test Site in 1957. ”

“…Two of the four doors ordered were gigantic, built to shield vehicular entrances. One was designated “GH 1,” the other, “GH 3.” With it’s frame and assembly, GH 1 weighed more than 28 tons and measured 12 feet 3 inches wide and 15 feet high. The other vehicular door, GH 3, weighed more than 20 tons. The doors were 19 1/2 inches thick. Each was hung with two hinges. Those hinges alone weighed 1 1/2 tons, according to Mosler’s records. Yet the doors were so delicately balanced that they could be opened and closed with the application of a mere 50 pounds of force against their bulk. Two other doors were also built: a hatch-like door measuring 3 feet by 3 1/2 feet, and a “personnel door” 7 feet wide by 8 feet high.

It will need to be a very secure Arc, whatever and wherever it is. Or, better yet, maybe we should just keep and maintain well the one we already have: our island Earth. And build better weapons, ones that target the maniacs and not the global population of life.

C O M M E N T S : now closed