Operation Water Supply

Manzano Weapons Storage Area (WSA) was located at Kirtland Air Force Base and consisted of several facilities (as of 1992) including 41 "magazines" tunneled into Manzano Mountain. Kirtland AFB covered an area of 52,600 acres on the southeast boundary of Albuquerque, New Mexico, according to 1993 United States Air Force data (Department of Energy).

"Portions of America's nuclear stockpile was stored in Manzano (the Spanish word for apple) Mountain for 40 years, and nuclear weapons are now secured in a modern underground complex at Kirtland Air Force Base. A presidential emergency relocation center was built deep inside Manzano Mountain as a command post for President Eisenhower" (Manzano Base).

Presidential Emergency Facility

The timeline concerning Manzano WSA's use as a presidential emergency facility is problematic. Presidential emergency facilties (PEF's) are often hardened sites, though they need not be. While Cheyenne Mountain Complex is a hardened site tunneled into solid rock and available for emergency use by officials of the military and government, its existence is not classified and it has not been identified as a PEF per se; although the President certainly could utilize it. It was not built specifially as a PEF. PEF's are not necessarily hardened to withstand a nuclear blast, and may rely upon being covert for their survival. Similarly, the facility at Greenbrier relied upon secrecy for survival - it was not built to withstand direct targeting by the Soviets.

Presidential Emergency Facilities in the 1950's

Reports indicate Manzano reached operational capability in 1950. A PEF was constructed for President Eisenhower sometime after 1950. However, "it retained this function until the advent of thermonuclear weapons, by which time it was no longer regarded as a survivable site" (Manzano Base). Both the United States and the Soviet Union began acquiring thermonuclear weapons by Eisenhower's second term. By 1957 also, construction of Mount Weather was well under way. Site R became operational in 1953, at the beginning of Eisenhower's first term. Neither facility was known to have been officially deignated a PEF per se. Mount Weather was intended as the emergency relocation site for the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization (OCDM), and Site R generally as an Alternate Joint Communications Center and a Department of Defenseemergency relocation site (Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center).

Confusion and Similarities

The fact that a PEF may have existed at Mount Weather only further confuses the issue. A better example of a purpose built PEF would be the facility formerly designated CANNONBALL (Former Presidential Emergency Facilities). Additional confusion arises with respect to Federal Regional Centers constucted in Colorado, Texas, and Washington. Again, these were primarily intended as emergency back-up facilities for successor agencies of OCDM, not as PEF's. Certainly though, nothing would preclude Presidential use.


The mystery concerning the demise of the Manzano PEF is: "what happened to its replacement?" Planners clearly recognized the value of a PEF West of the Mississippi. As it happened President Bush did not use either Site R or Mount Weather on September 11 - the airspace was not deemed secure. Instead Air Force One went first to Louisiana, then Nebraska. Nevertheless, no documentation has surfaced suggesting any replacement for Manzano as a PEF in the Western United States. One would have expected a replacement would be highly valuable.


Construction on Manzano began in June 1947, "and the facility became operational in April 1950. Under the top-secret project designated Operation Water Supply, construction crews carved out tunnels and blast-proof underground steel vaults to protect the small stockpile of atomic weapons" then retained by the United States (Manzano Base).

"On 11 April 1950 a B-29 aircraft departed from Kirtland Air Force Base (Albuquerque, NM) at 9:38 PM and crashed into a mountain on Manzano Base approximately three minutes later killing the crew of thirteen. Detonators were installed in the bomb on board the aircraft. Both the weapon and the capsule of nuclear material were on board the aircraft but the capsule was not inserted for safety reasons" (Manzano Base). Albuquerque is located approximately 200 miles of NW of Roswell, New Mexico.

Works Cited

"Manzano Base - United States Nuclear Forces." GlobalSecurity.org. April 27, 2005. March 4, 2006. http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/facility/manzano.htm.

LaFrance, Albert. "Former Presidential Emergency Facilities." A Secret Landscape - The Cold War Infrastructure of the Nation's Capital Region. June 4, 2004. March 4, 2006. http://coldwar-c4i.net/PEF/index.html.

LaFrance, Albert. "The Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center - Bluemont, VA." A Secret Landscape - The Cold War Infrastructure of the Nation's Capital Region. August 29, 2003. March 4, 2006. http://coldwar-c4i.net/mt_weather/index.html.

United States Department of Energy. "Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Continued Operation of the Pantex Plant and Associated Storage of Nuclear Weapon Components." GlobalSecurity.org. April 28, 2005. March 4, 2006. http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/report/enviro/eis-0225/eis0225_55.html#6536.

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