Even in tumultuous times, individuals with serious doomsday plans are viewed with healthy doses of skepticism and judgement. A few decades ago, however, such apocalyptic preparation was the norm, and the United States government has maintained several well-known Presidential security plans since the conclusion of World War II - to be used in the event of a nuclear war that once seemed almost inevitable.
Every modern president - from Truman to Trump - has had a multitude of locations to escape to if an attack were to occur. That’s led to some pretty strange features on Air Force One, but the US government once looked to a different sort of vehicle when it came to the president’s nuclear getaway ride.
As the ‘40s turned into the ‘50s, the era of World War II concluded and the nations of the world dug in for a decades-long Cold War. On the American side of things, President Harry Truman recognized the stakes had been significantly raised after the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - for the first time in human history, global annihilation was now a distinct possibility.
In an effort to prepare for doomsday, Truman ordered the creation of the Federal Civil Defense Administration, which operated under the premise that a nuclear war didn’t have to be the end of the road for certain US citizens.
The Federal Civil Defense Administration had a number of goals and aims, but its chief mission statement was to ensure the continuity of the United States government in the event of a nuclear war.
To achieve this aim, the government created several alternate command posts that could be used to house the president’s administration and military leadership. If the White House or Pentagon were ever threatened - or outright destroyed. These highly secretive locations were the most important assets of the United States’s official doomsday plan.
The United States went on a bit of a bunker-building spree as the ‘50s began, so there have always been a number of places in which the president and other government officials could wait out a nuclear bombing.
However, a bunker only ensured the survival of political leadership, not the “Continuity of Government” mandated by the creation of the Federal Civil Defense Administration, so Americans began the hunt for Alternate Joint Communication Centers (AJCCs) that could safely house the president’s administration and military higher-ups in the event of a nuclear war while simultaneously allowing them to continue leading the country.
To qualify as an AJCC a site had to meet three key criteria: the president had to be able to reach it safely, it had to be relatively well protected from the effects of nuclear war, and it had to have secure communication links no matter the circumstance.
In the name of “Continuity of Government,” the US built several Alternate Joint Communication Centers to house the president and other members of the country’s leadership in an emergency. They constructed multiple super-bunkers like The Greenbrier, “Site R” under Raven Rock, and Cheyenne Mountain, but their stationary measure made them vulnerable to a direct attack.
Boeing planes were outfitted to serve as National Emergency Airborne Command Posts - codenamed “Night Watch” - but aircrafts can only remain in the air for so long. In lieu of these issues, the United States government remained on the lookout for an apocalypse-proof solution.