Nestled in the scenic Allegheny Mountains
in White Sulphur Springs
, West Virginia
, and about a five hour drive (250 miles) from Washington, DC
, lies the Greenbrier resort
. Operating since 1780, the Greenbrier is one of the older and fancier hotel/resorts on the United States of America
's East Coast
, and reflects a great deal of colonial-American style.
Beneath this resort, lies something that is not the least bit obvious unless you know what to look for. Hidden carefully from the resort's customers (and the prying eyes of the public) lies Casper (also known as Project Greek Island), the Continuity of Government facility for the relocation of the Congress of the United States of America in the event of nuclear war.
Construction began in 1959 during the Eisenhower administration, and lasted for two and a half years. Fifty-thousand tons of concrete went into the construction of the Casper bunker. In addition to being 20 feet underground, the walls of the facility are two feet thick steel-reinforced concrete, capable of keeping out a good deal of gamma radiation by itself. Entrance to the facility is through a vehicular and personnel entrance in the main Greenbrier resort area, and through a more extensive vehicular entrance in a secluded area of the Greenbrier property (used for resupply of the bunker at night).
The bunker was meant for 535 members of Congress and support staff, and has all the facilities thought necessary for Congress to carry out their Constitutional duties in the wake of a large scale nuclear attack.
- A chamber for the US Senate, another for the US House of Representatives, and a third large chamber for joint sessions.
- A large dormitory area with row upon row of bunk beds for congressmen. There were no private sleeping quarters, nor was space allotted for family members. One person who saw the interior of the bunker said that the sleeping area alone gave him nightmares for months.
- There was a dining room, along with kitchen facilities and cold storage. Murals and displays full of natural scenes and wildlife covered the walls (perhaps to discourage nuclear cabin fever)
- Small television and radio studio for communication with the remains of the country
- Generator room, in which were two 2-story diesel generators, and a Biological Waste Disposal unit (aka, a crematorium)
The (lack of) Plan
It was unclear exactly what the plan to evacuate Congress was. In the late 1950s, and early 1960s, it was current thinking that there would be ample warning of impending nuclear attack. This period would have allowed the congressmen to be rounded up and put on the five hour drive (or one hour flight) to the Greenbrier.
Project Greek Island was a highly secretive project. So secret, that most congressmen did not even know of its existence! This alone increased the potential difficulty of actually finding every senator and representative in Washington, DC a great deal. House and Senate leaders were given annual updates on the status of the bunker for many years, but by and large, Congress was unaware of the plans for them in the case of nuclear war.
As rocket technology marched on, missile speed and range increased dramatically, as did the threat of enemy ballistic missile submarines lurking off the East and West coasts. The window of warning of nuclear attack gradually shrunk every year, until the maximum time from launch detection to impact was down to less than fifteen minutes, hardly enough time for congressmen to even escape a nuclear device's blast radius.
Project Greek Island never enjoyed a great deal of support in Congress. The fact that congressmen's families would not be allowed was a major sticking point.
"I kind of lost interest in it when they told me my wife would not be going with me," O'Neill says. "I said, 'Jesus, you don't think I'm going to run away and leave my wife? That's the craziest thing I ever heard of' " said former Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O'Niell to the Washington Post.
Where is the Bunker Now?
Same place it's always been (haha). The Greenbrier resort and nuclear war bunker has received massive international media exposure, following an expose in the Washington Post. This recognition has driven the final nail into the coffin of the Greek Island project. Today, the bunker beneath the Greenbrier resort stands as a monument to Cold War nuclear fear, and confronts people with the very real possibility that it may have been necessary to make use of it. The idea of Congress trying to work in a fallout shelter, twenty feet underground, addressing the nation via television (would anyone be watching?), sleeping in a mass dormitory, and disposing of their dead in a crematorium is extremely sobering. The Casper bunker is an important part of American history, and is being preserved as a historic landmark...
"Public tours of the bunker are conducted on Sundays and Wednesdays at 1:15 p.m. Tours are $25 per adult and $10 per child ages 10-18. Children under 10 not permitted on the bunker tours. Length of tour is 90 minutes, comfortable shoes are recommended.
For more information about these tours and private theme parties, please call The Greenbrier at xxx-xxx-xxxx"
For more info: