The reality of nuclear combat's devastation was clear as soon as the first atomic weapons were dropped during World War II, leading the U.S. government to develop a "doomsday plan"out of perceived necessity. In the Cold War era, the threat of impending nuclear warfare – and the fear it caused in the American citizenship – escalated even further. Politicians played on this fear, and the government began planning for a potential attack. Testing bombs on mock cities in the Nevada desert – constructed to assess potential damage – was only part of the doomsday strategy. The U.S. also secretly dug giant bunkers into mountains, allegedly to protect the American way of life.
Only through a fluke was one of these hollowed-out mountains, the Raven Rock complex, discovered by journalist Gerrett Graff. His investigation into the elaborate compound yielded some surprising finds.
Washingtonian journalist Garrett Graff was given a peculiar ID badge by a colleague who found it in a parking lot. Mysteriously, the badge appeared to have directions written on the back.
Graff checked Google Maps and noticed that the directions led down a road that ended at the side of a mountain, although there were "big concrete bunker doors... [a] little guard shack, chain-link fence, and... [a] set of concrete bunker doors beyond."
Graff began researching the bunkers – the idea behind them, when they were built, what they were intended to do, how extensive they were, and how many existed – and was particularly impressed by Raven Rock, a sister bunker to the one he'd found at the end of some West Virginian back roads.
Sanctioned by President Truman, construction on Raven Rock began in 1951. Raven Rock Mountain Complex, also known as Site R, the Underground Pentagon, and the Alternative Joint Command Center, is located in Pennsylvania and was intended to be a relocation site for the Pentagon in the event of a nuclear attack.
The first of many bunkers built during the Cold War, Raven Rock includes everything one could need in the face of a nuclear catastrophe: five three-story buildings, a dining hall that can serve four meals a day, fire and police departments, a post office, and medical facilities. There are roads, power plants, and ventilation systems in place, as well.
In the event of a nuclear event, the facility would be totally self-sufficient, and the personnel inside would have enough provisions for 30 days. Two blast doors, 34-tons each, and 1,000 feet of tunnel would withstand any blast, protecting the occupants.
Each bunker was intended for a specific purpose, and Raven Rock was supposed to be where the President of the United States and the highest government officials went in the event of a nuclear attack. The president's Cabinet and their secretaries were on the guest list, but their wives were not invited.
When Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren was handed his ID badge to get into Raven Rock, he asked where his wife's pass was. When he was told there was no badge for Mrs. Warren because only the country's 2,000 most important people were allowed to take shelter, he handed his back and said, "you’ll have room for one more important official."
One of the other functions of the bunkers was historic preservation; two bunkers were designated for the task, Raven Rock and Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center near Bluemont, Virginia. In order to keep United States history alive, artifacts needed to be chosen, moved underground, and saved for future generations.
The two items at the top of the list to moved to Raven Rock were the Declaration of Independence and a portrait of George Washington, both saved by Dolly Madison from the White House during the War of 1812. The Gettysburg Address was slated to be saved over George Washington's military commission, and a team of park rangers was organized to save the Liberty Bell.