Saving the Government After It Blows Up the World

The Feds Plan To Save Themselves During a Nuclear War

by Adam Young

During the 1950's how did the United States government plan to survive a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union? By sacrificing the people and imposing war socialism, of course.

In an issue of Time Magazine from August 10, 1992, Ted Gup reported on the then newly disclosed plans that the federal government had developed for salvaging the state in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States by the Soviet Union. Mr. Gup served 8 years as a investigative reporter for the Washington Post before joining Time Magazine in 1987, chronicling such stories as the trade in poached ivory, the spotted owl, and the plight of the West Virginia coalminer.

Perhaps reflecting the statist strain of thinking in the 1950's – or perhaps just that of Time Magazine – the story was introduced with this byline: "How times change. Though the Soviet Union is gone, Washington was once convinced that World War III could break out without warning… and in case of nuclear attack the U.S. government hoped to save the President and keep the country running by relying on … THE DOOMSDAY BLUEPRINTS." Unfortunately, if Doomsday had arrived, the idea of a President running the country would have followed the mass devastation and murder of a nuclear war with mass starvation and social extinction from central planning.

Mr. Gup reports that these doomsday plans have not been rendered obsolete even with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union; he writes: "Nor is it a matter only of remote historical interest. Many of these doomsday regulations would still be put into effect after a nuclear attack, and while preparations for rescuing America's leaders and cultural treasures remain in place, efforts to shield the civilian population were virtually abandoned decades ago."

The doomsday planners of the 50's envisioned a post-apocalyptic urban America largely in ruins and darkened under the breakdown of private-sector and governmental services and the imposition of martial law, food rationing, price controls, censorship and the curtailment of individual liberties. They also envisioned outright federal dictatorship, too. In a 1955 top-secret memo to advisors, then President Eisenhower wrote: "We would have to run this country as one big camp – severely regimented." What happens to a country and its people by being run as one big camp should have been uppermost in President Eisenhower's mind from his then relatively recent experience in Germany and Poland after the war. Later on, he asked "Who is going to bury the dead? Where would one find the tools? The organization to do it? We must not assume that we are going to handle these problems with calmness… We will be running soup kitchens – we are going to be taking care of a completely bewildered population. Government which goes on with some kind of continuity will be like a one-eyed man in the land of the blind." Yet this is the same government that was planning on taking over every major activity of society after the nuclear holocaust.

The estimated dead would run into the tens of millions, with the major cities of the United States in ruins or in ashes. But in addition to the millions of civilian casualties, would be another, more prominent casualty. The pretence of constitutional government. The Doomsday Blueprints were developed in the early and mid-50's during the Eisenhower administration and the doomsday central planners were charged with developing a vast and secret comprehensive plan with one single-minded mission – to save the federal government which would then preserve and restore law and order and prime the pump of the devastated economy. To achieve these ends, the doomsday planners labored to create a vast and secret doomsday bureaucracy shadowing their vast and secret master plan. Mr. Gup described their plan's effects with these words: "Confronted with the potential horrors of atomic warfare, they drafted detailed contingency plans and regulations that, while trying to save constitutional government, would have radically tranformed the U.S.'s political and social institutions." Indeed, no where in Mr. Gup's piece – and maybe in the Doomsday Blueprints themselves – is the State and local governments mentioned at all. Presumably they would be steamrolled over in Washington's – or rather the White House's – drive to impose war socialism on the ashes of American society.

The Doomsday Blueprints elaborated a comprehensive national survival plan developed by the President, the National Security Agency and various crisis agencies, most recently the Federal Emergency Management Agency and that encompassed every federal agency and department. The Blueprints were elaborated in a series of regulations – running into several hundred pages-called the Code of Emergency Federal Regulations. Action plans based on them were held by all agencies and duplicates were kept at each relocation site. The plans relied on redundancy. If one location was vaporized, others would take up the slack. Officials were divided into three squads – Alpha, Bravo and Charlie – and one team would remain at headquarters while the other two redeployed at other sites.

In pursuit of its plans, the United States government issued nearly 55 million wallet-sized instruction cards on what to do during an attack. Senior government officials were given a special emergency phone number to call in the event on an attack which bypassed the commercial phone networks and connected directly to crisis operators. Users had a secret codeword – "FLASH" – that indicated to the operators that the call was "essential to national survival." Kept with the President at all times were the Presidential Emergency Action Documents and "Plan D" – a summary of the new dictator's options for responding to the surprise attack – without a Congressional declaration of war, of course.

The doomsday planners secret bureaucracy planned and built a network of relocation sites for the federal government in a ring around the capitol that became known as the Federal Arc. Amongst these there were Raven Rock, code-named "Site R" – or the "Underground Pentagon" as it was more commonly called – a 81,000 sq.ft complex located near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and Mount Weather, a 61,000 sq.ft mountain bunker near Berryville, Virginia, where the President and the Cabinet would be relocated, and which was code-named "High Point." The director of Mount Weather was given a simple commission directly from President Eisenhower: "I expect your people to save our government." Buried underneath the 5-star Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, was built the relocation center for the entire United States Congress. Built with its own replicas of the House and Senate chambers – and a vast hall for joint sessions of Congress – this site was code-named "Casper." Only a half dozen members of Congress at any one time knew it even existed. Of course, even the Federal Reserve Board had its own relocation site. A 43,000 sq. ft radiation-proof facility dug out of Culpeper, Virginia which was stocked with a 30-day supply of freeze-dried food to be served up on fine bone china. The facility was also equipped with a cold storage tunnel for bodies until they could be buried. (This facility was not mothballed until July 1992.)

Mount Weather was the primary relocation site for both the cabinet and other bureaucrats and became the de facto relocation site for the President himself. As such, the administration of Mount Weather tracked the men who were in direct line of Presidential succession. In the event of an attack the Cabinet Secretaries, the Supreme Court Justices and the President himself would be airlifted to this bunker. Once past "Bluegrass Tower" (the helipad control tower's code-name) and inside, the passengers were required to present special ID cards before they were cleared passed the 6-ft thick steel blast door. The facility was equipped with a series of radioactive sensors. If the government officals arrived after the attack each would be checked for radiation. Anyone radioactive would trigger alarms – a bell and a flashing light – either yellow or red, depending on the level of radioactivity detected. Decontamination showers and medicated soap awaited those exposed. Incinerators awaited their clothes and their bodies if they died. All occupants were issued military coveralls. The facility was equipped with a subterranean hospital, which would shuttle patients around in electric "ambulance" golf carts.

Following the President's lead to run the country as one large camp, the Mount Weather site would be ruthless. Except for the President and his successor, no individual was deemed to be indispensible. Patients with injuries which were considered to time or resource consuming to treat were to be flagged with a blue toe tag and left to die naturally. And thenafter, cremated. An armory was installed on site stocked with automatic rifles. The security forces in the bunker were instructed to shoot-to-kill to prevent unauthorized people from entering – even the family members of officials and local employees already in the bunker. Suspected saboteurs and any troublemakers were to be thrown outside – no matter what the radiation count was.

The bunker could house several thousand people, but only the President, the Cabinet Secretaries and the Supreme Court Justices had private quarters. Interesting how the Vice-President – the actual constitutional successor – is not mentioned (and it is also interesting to note how the executive and judicial branches were to be housed together, perhaps demonstrating how the Supreme Court's function has long since been as the legal sanctioner for Presidential aggrandizement). In case the ordeal of the attack resulted in mental breakdown, Mount Weather was equpped with a padded isolation cell – that soon was dubbed the "rubber room" – and sedatives and straitjackets.

Mount Weather was also equipped with an underground weather monitoring network that issued daily reports over the decades reporting wind direction and speed, trying to anticipate radiation dispersal patterns. And at the disposal of the President was a television studio which was prepared to provide the President or his newly-minted successor with the ability to annoy a national audience (or what would be left of it and its TV sets) using the Emergency Broadcast System.

And every year the gevernment conducted elaborate test drills with thousands of bureaucrats in mock nuclear strike exercises. As it happened it was during one of these annual drills where Eisenhower and the Cabinet were meeting in Mount Weather when he was presented with a note that the Soviet Union had just shot down a U-2 Spy Plane. (Eisenhower exclaimed: "I'll be a son of a bitch.") Several plans were hatched on how best to evacuate the President and the First Family from the White House. One proposal involved compensating for the total destruction of Washington, D.C. – including the Potomac River. Edward Beach, a Naval aide assigned to devise Eisenhower's escape route, early on realized the results should Washington be hit by a Soviet hydrogen bomb: "It would eliminate the Potomac River, but it would sure raise hell and dig a deep hole where Washington had been. We would have a deep lake there, so shelters in Washington would have been counterproductive. Even if you survived the blast, you'd probably drown." Accordingly, Mr. Beach's agency purchased a refurbished PT boat and docked it at the Washington Navy Yard on the Potomac River. When the time came, President Eisenhower would've been whisked from the White House in a special black Cadillac limosine retrofitted with a tank engine to meet up with the waiting PT boat at a pre-arranged meeting point on the River. Once safely beyond the blast zone, Ike would've been met by Secret Service agents and transported to one of three underground command posts. The PT boat, as well as the secret command post buried underneath Camp David, were secretly maintained by elite commandos under the innocuous sounding name the Naval Administrative Unit. (During one doomsday drill, a Presidential convoy to Mount Weather was halted on the narrow road by the sudden appearance of a farmer's truck loaded with pigs, which was forced to laboriously inch in reverse back up the road until it passed the entrance to the bunker. Such are the best laid plans of central planners overturned.)

One avoided boondoggle was the brief consideration of the idea for retrofitting a Polaris submarine to function as a mobile undersea presidential command post by removing the missile tubes. No doubt the planners scuttled the idea once they realized that the sub would then be useless for any possibility of supersecret presidential revenge sneak attacks on the Soviets from underneath the polar ice caps.

The main plan that was actually settled upon and implemented – and that was in effect until 1970 – was code-named Outpost Mission. In the mid-50's an elite unit of helicopter pilots and crewmen called the 2857th Test Squadron was organized and stationed at Olmsted U.S. Air Force Base in Pennsylvania, diguised as a search and rescue team. Stationed just outside the blast range of Washington, only the pilots and base commander knew their real purpose. When the time came the unit's helicopters would swoop in and whisk the President and other officials and family off the White House lawn and away to Mount Weather or another of the underground command posts, or to a heavily reinforced communications warship, the U.S.S. Northampton, lying off the east coast.

However, the plans called for the team to be prepared to extract the President in the event that Washington had been hit. Under the White House below the East Wing the Presidential White House bunker was constructed, complete with food, communications equipment and cutting torches. The 2857th Test Squadron's rescue plan involved stocking the helicopters with decontamination kits and crowbars and acetylene torches to cut through the walls of the underground Presidential bunker. The unit would fly test runs dressed in full gear – wearing dark blast visors to protect their eyes from the atomic flash, and dressed head-to-toe; boots, gloves, and rubber bodysuits saturated with lead – a total of 20 lbs per man. Extra radiation suits were included for the President and the First Family. In the event that the helicopter units couldn't penetrate the rubble to reach the bunker a backup unit stood ready with heavy equipment – including cranes – to extract the President. In the 1960's the squadron was moved to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware – a sure sign of the increase in the destructive yield of state weaponry – and was decommissioned entirely in 1970. Yet another sign that there would be no survivors – and no bunker left at all. Indeed, a 1962 Pentagon study tracked the day-and-nightime locations of the dozen men in line to the Presidential succession and all were well within the kill zone of a nuclear strike on Washington. The study found that with a 100-megaton weapon, any helicopter within 50 miles of the White House would be vaporized in flight.

One sceptical commentator about the ability of the government to work miracles was a government man himself. Bud Gallagher was a Strategic Air Command pilot and was Squadron Commander of Outpost Mission from 1958 to 1962 and three years later was appointed as director for Mount Weather – a post he held for 25 years. Gallagher was what was known as an "atomic-cloud sampler." In 52' and 53' he flew straight through 13 mushroom clouds to test the amount of radiation passing through his body. To do this, he was given a small X-ray plate coated in vaseline to swallow – to be removed with a string that hung out of his mouth. Commenting on the preparations he spent his life being a part of in Mount Weather and elsewhere, Mr. Gallagher stated:

"Through the years, we always reacted like we could handle an all-out nuclear attack. I don't think people – even our top people in government – have any idea of what a thousand multimegaton nuclear weapons on the U.S. would do. We'd be back in the Stone Age. It's unthinkable."

Yet these top government people believed they could work miracles. The same government that had just brought the human race to the brink of extinction. In 1956, Mr. Gallagher sat in the cockpit of his F-84 Thunderjet on the airstrip of Bentwaters Royal Air Force Base in England. Strapped under the plane was an atomic bomb. In the middle of the Suez crisis, Mr. Gallagher sat waiting for the order to launch, and the target was a Finnish airfield assumed to be one that the Soviets would otherwise use to launch a first strike. "I don't think people realize how close we were to nuclear war." he later said.

So, what would've happened? How did the Doomsday central planners envision their plans would unfold? What would the government do in its new blank slate utopia in the late 1950's after they dropped the big one?


From coast-to-coast the top-secret Bomb Alarm inside Mount Weather would register impacts from nuclear strikes. The Bomb Alarm's network of sensors and copper pressure wires that crisscrossed the country and registered heat, light and pressure changes would display these changes on a giant map of the continental United States. Hundreds of tiny red light bulbs would light up to mark the sites of atomic impacts. Washington. New York City. Chicago. Los Angeles….

Once the attack commenced the Doomsday Blueprints would come into full effect. Before leaving the White House the President would have removed the executive orders from the vault, already signed and authorized long before, that would impose martial law.

Using the Emergency Broadcast System, recorded messages from both President Eisenhower and entertainer Arthur Godfrey would be broadcast to the people. The message would be stark: "The country has come under nuclear attack, but the government continues to function." In an attempt to sooth the psyche's of a shattered people, celebrity newsmen who agreed beforehand to accompany the President in retreat would lend their voices and names to the effort to calm the survivors, testifying to the heroism of the fourth estate.

Later the Presidential address would most likely inform the people on how the government was going to work to improve their quality of life through martial law, state planned production and rationing. And maybe that the American people have two-out-of-three branches of government still working for them, which isn't too bad. Options for a counterstrike would be decided upon almost immediately.

Atop the mountain of the Mount Weather bunker, remote cameras and radiation detectors would monitor the air. If destroyed in the attack backup portable units would be pushed outside the bunker and men from the security force would venture outside insulated in rubberized radiation suits to probe the air.


From nuclear exile the surviving bureacracy would swing into motion. Publication and distribution to the public of the Emergency Federal Register would begin that would inform the survivors of the emergency laws and regulations now in effect, including martial law.

The Civil Service Commission would enact a regulation to designate government employees who are reported dead to be "on administrative leave until the reported date of death." The Post Office would announce that postage stamps would no longer be needed to send letters and postcards to the recently depopulated areas. Special delivery would be phased out except for medicines and surgical dressings.

The Treasury Department would order surviving banks to remain open during normal hours of business, but would confiscate property by imposing withdrawal limits "to prevent hoarding." The Treasury would move to oversee private-sector price and wage controls for rent and salaries. Following an agreement with private companies "in non-critical target areas," they would begin printing checks. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation would order surviving bank examiners to report at once to the nearest surviving Federal Reserve Bank "where they can assist in the reconstruction of the banking system."


The Federal Reserve Governors from the safety of their Culpeper hideout would continue their function as the central counterfeiting agency. Deep inside the Fed's bunker forklift's would begin moving out a mountain of the governments stored worthless paper currency. Inside the Fed's vault sat tons of 5, 10, 50 and 100 dollar bills in shrinkwrapped packages forming a wall of pre-printed fiat money standing almost 9 ft tall. This gigantic vault still housed this wall of the governments currency into the late 1980's – ready at a moment's notice to prime the pump of the hollowed out post-nuclear economy.

The Federal Highway Administration would fan out to attempt to protect motorists from nuclear fallout. The Department of Agriculture would act to implement its national food-rationing program. Establishing decrees on what every person what be allowed to consume, each civilian would be restricted to a maximum caloric intake of 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day. Among the weekly rations for civilians were six eggs and 3 and a half quarts of milk. (Not mentioned is any plans for confiscating surplus food to facilitate rationing and "prevent hoarding," but this would seem, given everything else planned, a sure likelihood.)

The Department of Housing and Urban Development would enact its regulations to relocate and house the surviving population. These regulations were code-named "Asp," "Bear," "Cat" and "Dog." and contained elaborate plans for how HUD planned on housing millions of displaced Americans – defacto refugees. (Mr. Gup makes no mention of the possibility of resorting to forced labor to bury the dead or to build temporary housing for the survivors, but this would also seem like a likely eventuality.)

Long ago established regulations would come into effect for producing goods and services deemed to be vital to national survival. The upper management of major companies from their bunkers – where regularly updated company records were stored and rooms were available for the excutives and their families, along with dining halls, security vaults and radio-communications equipment – would put into effect their "unified emergency plans." Although private producers would be shackled with controls, the plans would prevent outright nationalization of surviving industry, but would subordinate private production to the production dictates of the doomsday bureacracy. What and in what amount and where it would be distributed and at what price would be determined by the state.

And coordinating all of the Doomsday Blueprints activities would be the Wartime Information Security Program, or WISP (as in Whisper) – the national censorship office. CBS Vice-President Theodore F. Koop agreed to act as the national censor with a staff of 40 civilian executives in a secure facility located well outside Washington and stocked with censorship manuals and regulation codes. The site was equipped with its own communications and broadcasting center. (Although the existence of the censorship office was exposed to the public in 1970 and the public was told that it had been shutdown, its duties were transferred to yet another arm of what an internal memo referred to as "the shadow government.")

Who would've thought that the government that came of age in the war against Hitler would end up having more Presidential bunkers – like the Fuhrer bunker where he met his own end – than Hitler could've ever dreamed of.

This enormous waste of resources, manpower and time. All the unknown lost potential that was destroyed by the statism that the Cold War so vividly represents. The absurdity of the government's assumptions and elaborate planning to treat people like cattle. And although some of the sites are being converted into document storage and office space and some procedures have been rendered obsolete, Mr. Gup winds up his cover story with an admonition from the doomsday planners themselves "that new dangers abound – nuclear proliferation, the resurgence of ethnic nationalism, and the renewed threat of terrorism – and that only the dead have seen the last of war." Obsolete bureaucracy's, as we all know, are only really productive in inventing new reasons for their own continued existence.

How different the 20th Century might have been if people – "the people" – had understood the arguments for peace and freedom. Sacrificing human liberty at the cost of state power has had only disastrous results. The antidote to war – and total war and the total war mentality – is liberty, not slavery. But of course this goes against the entire grain of statist thinking. The goal of the Doomsday Planners – like all central planners and bureaucracies – was the continued survival of the government and its rule over the survivors of the very same holocaust that it brought about. Violence and the destruction of property and human lives is unfortunately, something they understand all to well. The ways of bureaucracy and the even more perverse mentality of total war, which deliberately targets innocents in order to "demoralize" their will and ability to fight, only brings out the very worst in the human spirit.

Recently the musings of the United States government to provoke a third world war in 1952 by launching a preemptive nuclear strike on the Soviet Union – with or without the support of the NATO alliance – were revealed to the public in a new book The Hidden Hand by Richard J Aldrich, a Professor of Politics at Nottingham University; musings which simply speak for themselves. Revealed in it is the report of British Vice-Admiral Eric Longley-Cook that was so top secret that only six copies were produced. In it one US general was quoted as saying that the West could not afford to wait until Europe or even America was devastated by a nuclear holocaust. "We have a moral obligation to stop Russia's aggression by force, if necessary, rather than face the consequences of delay. We can afford to create a wilderness in Russia without serious repercussion on Western civilisation."