By Jim Campbell
June 29th, 2021
It’s a safe bet to suggest it’s been far longer.
Remember the saying, “Power Corrupts, Absolute Power Absolutely Corrupts.”
One of the great vestiges of the Cold War is the Green brier bunker, a facility built to house all 535 members of Congress in the event of a nuclear attack.
In 1955, Dwight D. Eisenhower instructed the Department of Defense to draft emergency plans for Congress in case of a nuclear strike.
A private room inside the bunker.
I do find it interesting that the federal government would build a bunker to house all the members of the House of Representatives and the United States Senate their families and the president and vice-presidents with little concern for their constituents.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV – JULY 29: The front facade of the hotel at the Greenbrier Resort on July 29, 2010 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Inside the Bunker
The Green brier bunker is buried 720 feet underground. It would not survive a direct nuclear strike, but is capable of weathering a blast 15-30 miles away and protecting its occupants from fallout.
The two-level facility is 112,544 square feet, roughly the size of two football fields on top of one another.
The bunker has four doors, all made by the Ohio-based Mosler Safe Company and shipped to Greenbrier by railway.
The two largest, known as GH 1 and GH 3 and weighing 28 and 20 tons respectively, require 50 pounds of force to open.
Once sealed, the bunker would have had enough air to last 72 hours, after which a ventilation system would filter air from the outside.
Although most of the bunker was a closely guarded secret, its largest halls—intended for sessions of Congress—were actually part of the Greenbrier hotel and would have been sealed off only in the event of an attack.
The largest, Exhibit Hall, was designed to host joint sessions of Congress. A Greenbrier brochure from the 1960s advertised the hall to guests: “The floor is finished with a beautiful plastic terrazzo designed to support unlimited weight.”
Just off of Exhibit Hall are two smaller auditoriums: the 440-seat Governor’s Hall, intended for the House of Representatives, and the 130-seat Mountaineer Room, which would have hosted members of the Senate.
Joe would have gotten fried as he missed the high voltage sign.
A hidden passage, marked by a door which reads, “Danger: High Voltage Keep Out,” leads to the rest of the bunker.
In the event of an attack, congressmen would have first been ushered to the decontamination room, where they would have stripped, showered, and put on uncontaminated clothes.
The dormitories consist of 18 rooms, each built to house 60 people in metal bunk beds.
There is also a kitchen and a 400-seat cafeteria, which was at one point decorated with fake windows featuring scenic views.
The upper level contains storage space and offices for congressional leaders.