Thursday, July 9, 2015

Project Greek Island: The Bunker

This post includes history, but no family history about which I am aware. We toured the facility this past Memorial Day weekend and found it fascinating!

Project Greek Island was the code name for the Government Relocation Facility located under the West Virginia wing of the Greenbrier hotel. The facility is more familiarly known as the Bunker, though 58 different bunkers were built within a 300-mile radius of Washington, DC, during the Cold War.

It was a top secret of the Cold War designed to accommodate both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in the event of a national emergency. Planned by the Eisenhower Administration, in cooperation with the leadership of the U.S. Congress, the facility was built under the Greenbrier between 1958 and 1961. Once completed, it was maintained in a state of readiness by a small cadre of government employees working as Forsythe Associates, the company responsible for the audio and visual needs of the Greenbrier resort.

Construction of the bunker and West Virginia wing. Since a project this
size could not be hidden from satellites, it was hidden "in plain sight."
The Greenbrier issued a press release indicating they were adding another
wing and underground conference facilities to the resort; photograph
courtesy of the Greenbrier

During the life of the facility, continual updating of communications and other equipment and recycling of supplies was affected so that the facility was always in a current full-operation status.

One of the 18 dormitories. The facility housed 1,100 people. After each
election the beds were reassigned. The senior member from each state
got the bottom bunk; photograph courtesy of the Greenbrier.

The secrecy of its location, paramount to the facility's effectiveness, was maintained for more than 30 years until 31 May 1992, when The Washington Post published a story effectively exposing it. The day after the story was published, the facility began to be phased out, a procedure that was finalized in July 1995 with the termination of the lease between the U.S. government and the Greenbrier. During the phase-out period, almost all of the equipment and furnishings were removed from the shelter and reassigned to government facilities around the country.

One of the blast-proof steel-and-concrete doors,
which weigh tons; photograph courtesy of the

The former U.S. Government Relocation Facility is a protected substructure (bunker) buried 720 feet into the hillside under the West Virginia wing of the hotel. It is surrounded by ceiling and walls that are three- to five-feet thick reinforced concrete. In addition, there is 20 to 60 feet of dirt cover between the substructure and the West Virginia wing.

The facility has three entrances, each protected by a large steel and concrete door designed to withstand a modest nuclear blast approximately 15 to 30 miles away, and to prevent radioactive fallout from entering the facility when it is sealed off. Both the West and East entrances are vehicular tunnels into the facility; a third entrance is through the Exhibit Hall Foyer. Included in the facility are 44 separate locations with 1530 rooms making up a total of 112,544 square feet.

Schematic of the Government Relocation Facility under the West Virginia
wing; drawing courtesy of the Greenbrier

If you ever find yourself in southern West Virginia, I highly recommend taking this tour.

The text for this post is from the Project Greek Island: The Bunker brochure produced by the Greenbrier.

Memorial Day Traditions

No comments:

Post a Comment