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|Missiles of the cold war and the contribution of Pershing II 56th Field Artillery Brigade Redesignated|
|Del 6 dicembre 2006|
The Question: What was the contribution of Pershing II (PII) to the peaceful end of the Cold War?
Describe the relevant National Policies concerning use of Nuclear Missiles in both East and West and the balance of Nuclear Forces. Describe and characterize the contribution made by PII and what were the key factors that resulted in the credible successful deployment. The deployment of Pershing II missiles to the Federal Republic of Germany along with Ground Launched Cruise Missiles in Great Britain was one of the seminal acts of the late Cold War. The political will demonstrated by both German and U.S. politicians in developing and implementing the so-called NATO double-track decision, of which Pershing II was a part, along with the restraint of American forces and German police, brought Soviet Premier Gorbachev to the realization that the U.S.-German partnership could not be shaken and that the Soviet Union would be unable to compete further with the West. The dismantling of the Eastern Bloc and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union was the result.
A brief review of the nuclear strategic situation at the time is in order here. Most American military planners thought that by the middle of the 1970's, the US and USSR had achieved rough parity in nuclear weapons. The US total of 1054 ICBM's and 656 SLBM's had been unchanged since 1967, although the US was adding some multiple independently (MIRV) targeted warheads. The USSR had a total 1,607 ICBM silos and 740 SLBM.
In the early 1970’s the USSR decided to replace its older intermediate range SS-4 and SS-5 missiles with the new SS-20. The SS-20, a mobile missile system with three independently targeted warheads and a range of 5,000 KM, enabled it to reach targets in Western Europe from bases in the USSR. This action caused considerable consternation throughout Europe, but especially among German decision-makers in all three major political parties at the time (CDU/CSU, SPD and FDP). This was because the SS-20 could potentially decouple Europe from the U.S. nuclear umbrella: In the event of an SS-20 attack on a NATO ally in Europe, the US President would have no theater nuclear option with which to respond. His only strategic nuclear response would have to be from the US arsenal of ICBM's and SLBM's triggering a full-scale nuclear conflict. The US President would be faced with a dilemma, would he risk exposing the US homeland to thermonuclear war in response to a Soviet nuclear attack limited to the European theater?
In response, in December 1979 the United States and its NATO allies negotiated a dual tracked agreement to improve the alliance's long-range theater nuclear force. One track was a decision to deploy the Pershing II (1800 KM Range) and the US Air Force's Ground-Launched Cruise Missile (2500 KM Range). The other track was a decision to offer the USSR negotiations to eliminate this class of missiles. The Soviets were informed that unless they removed their SS 20 and other intermediate range missiles from Europe, NATO would deploy the Pershing II and Cruise Missiles. In 1983, after having waited four years, it became clear that the Soviets did not believe that Europeans would support deployment of these missiles in the face of great public opposition and the SS-20 remained in place.
Courageously, leading European leaders, and especially German Chancellors Helmut Schmidt (SPD) and later Helmut Kohl (CDU) supported deployment. Pershing II was a significant advance in guidance, warhead and missile technology. Although early press reports on the missile had been very negative, it proved to be a very reliable and accurate system once deployed. Pershing II had a greatly improved single warhead with yields that could be set to small, medium and large, a range of 1,800 kilometers, and a radar correlation guidance system. This gave the missile an accuracy of within just a few meters and limited the amount of damage to only that necessary. At the same time, the system could be moved rapidly and fired quickly. Some opponents found exactly this disquieting: if it was so accurate, limited, and mobile, it would make it too easy to actually employ. Most importantly, however, Pershing II was critical because it ensured that the U.S. nuclear umbrella would remain over Europe. This was because a Pershing strike against the Soviet Union would necessarily result in a Soviet strike against the American homeland. Thus, in the view of U.S., European and especially German politicians, Pershing served to cement the alliance and maintain nuclear deterrence in Europe.
Battle in the Streets for Public Support
No sooner had the NATO Dual Track Decision been taken than strong opposition developed among peace groups and certain factions of political parties. The main focus of these groups was the GLCM base at Greenham Common in the UK and several Pershing facilities, especially Mutlangen near Schwaebisch Gmuend, Germany. These groups were well organized, well funded, and able to mount massive demonstrations designed to convince political leaders that they should reverse the deployment decision.
In Mutlangen, one of the first actions occurred from September 1 to 3, 1983 by a group called “The Prominentan Blockade” including such leading lights of the German cultural and political scenes as Inge Aischer-Scholl, Heinrich Albertz, Heinrich Boell, Guenther Grass, Walter Jens, Robert Jugk, Horst-Eberhard Richter, Dorthee Soelle, Erhard Eppler, Oscar Lafontaine, and Klaus Vack. While this demonstration and many subsequent mass demonstrations remained peaceful,small radical groups managed to create significant friction. In December 1983, a small band broke into a U.S. motor pool armed with hammers and bolt cutters. They caused damage to some missile equipment and garnered considerable news attention. Some Americans also joined in the demonstrations, including such prominent names as “Father” Berrigan and Petra Kelly. Demonstrations, blockades of the gates to facilities and a ‘Press Hut’ (Pressehuette) became part of the everyday landscape. Things could have rapidly gotten out of hand but for two factors: the brilliant work of the German Police under the leadership of Leitender Polizeidirektor Willi Burger of the Baden-Wuerttemberg police and the restraint of U.S. soldiers in the face of sometimes severe provocations.
LPD Burger, who was responsible for all security outside the fence line of U.S. facilities, established extremely close liaison with the Command. He kept himself fully informed of all Pershing operations and maintained permanent police patrols at threatened facilities. Although some contemporary police deployments in the UK and Germany resulted in violence, there were never any major violent confrontations between police and activists in Baden-Wuerttemberg—primarily as the result of effective police organization, training and deployment.
At the same time, Pershing soldiers had been briefed by their leaders to expect these harassing actions and trained to react calmly, without confrontation or violence. Training sessions were conducted with role playing to give soldiers the experience of doing the right thing before they had to face blockades, taunts or aggressive actions.
Accidental Ignition of Missile Motor at the Waldheide operations site in Heilbronn, Germany Fuels Controversy
On 11 January 1985, during a training assembly operation, one of the two motors of a Pershing II Missile accidentally ignited. The accident occurred in the afternoon and by 2200 that same day the Pershing Brigade Commander held a press conference stating that no nuclear components were involved and informing the public that an investigation had been directed to determine the cause. This accident gave opponents a major new issue in the campaign against Pershing: the safety of local citizens. This accident was not only a major public affairs challenge to the Pershing Command, but also to the elected officials at all levels of government. While supportive of US Forces, they also had to demand answers on the issue of missile safety. The deputy leader of the Heilbronn City Council declared that in light of the accident, “It is clear that we are less threatened from the Russian SS-20 Missiles than we are from the Pershing II.”
Pershing Missile Command Public affairs Program
These circumstances created a critical situation for Pershing and for the NATO alliance as a whole. If the deployment of PII could not be completed successfully — and the Soviet leadership clearly hoped deployment would fail — the U.S. nuclear umbrella would be questionable. This would in turn cause such internal dissension and rancor that NATO itself would be seriously weakened and in danger of ripping apart at the seams. Such a circumstance would have had dire consequences.
In an attempt to counter negative publicity and political unrest, the US Pershing Command, established early on a policy of meeting with the press, with elected officials at all levels of government and even with representatives of all opposition political parties. The Command actively and extensively solicited meetings with those involved in public health and safety, fire departments and police. Led by the German-speaking commander, Brigadier General Raymond Haddock, a contingent of German-speaking officers was deployed to brief local officials and answer questions. Approximately 100 such discussions were held throughout southern and southwestern Germany where a frank exchange of ideas and concerns was the norm.
Although many opposition politicians and peace movement activists remained highly skeptical of the Pershing as a weapon, it became increasingly clear that the opposition would not be able to stop the deployment. It also became increasingly clear that successful deployment would indeed lead to negotiations that had the potential to eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons.
As a result, the anti-Pershing demonstrations dried up. Soviet leaders had hoped that they could mobilize enough opposition in Western Europe to stop Pershing, but they had seriously miscalculated. In the end, the German population supported the deployment and the opposition was unable to create the conditions that might have resulted in delays or cancellation of the deployment.
Throughout this period Pershing tactical units continued to conduct readiness training both at the missile storage sites and throughout the German countryside, xhibiting a high state of readiness if ever required to execute their theater mission.
This rapidly brought the Soviet Union to the negotiating table. In February 1987, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev proposed to President Reagan that they proceed with negotiations to eliminate all Intermediate Nuclear Force (INF) missiles. As a result of these negotiations, a treaty was eventually signed and all Pershing II and SS-20 missiles were destroyed by May 1991.
In February 1990 German Chancellor Helmet Kohl, met with President Mikhail Gorbachev to discuss unification of Germany. In a casual conversation, the talk turned to the Pershing II missile issue. President Gorbachev reportedly told Chancellor Kohl, “Mr. Chancellor, I’ve got to tell you, a very important factor that caused the Soviet Union to change its policies towards the West, was the successful fielding of the Pershing II missile system.”
Clearly, therefore, and perhaps more than any other single missile system, the successful deployment of Pershing II served to maintain for Europe the nuclear protection offered by the American strategic umbrella, strengthened NATO, united the political will of the United States and Germany, assisted Gorbachev in finding a peaceful means to reduce tensions and even contributed to the resulting reunification of Germany.
Submitted by Raymond E. Haddock, Major General USA Retired
Commander of the Pershing II Deployment from June 1984 to August 1987
United States Commandant of occupied Berlin and Commander US Army Berlin -
From June 1988 to Unification on 30 October 1990
56th Field Artillery Command (Pershing) 17 January 1986 Commanded by Brigadier General Raymond E. Haddock Last Revision 6 Dec. 2006
The Maunsell Forts of
the Thames Estuary
|Del 6 dicembre 2006|
At the outbreak of World War II, the Port of London was the busiest port in the world. As such, a large proportion of supplies to the UK entered by ships navigating the Thames. The German Navy quickly sought to put a stranglehold on this route, and to this end, utilised a new secret weapon – the magnetic influence mine. Whilst there were different variants of this mine, in simplistic terms, the mine was detonated by the presence of a large magnetic object – such as a steel hulled ship – passing in close proximity, without having to make physical contact. So successful was this that in the first few months of the war, over one hundred ships were sunk in the Thames Estuary alone.
It was clear that urgent action was needed to stem these losses, and as most mines were laid by aircraft, ships were requisitioned and used as mobile anti aircraft units. However, this was not altogether successful, and a more satisfactory solution was needed.In the early years of the war, Guy Maunsell, a civil engineer, had produced plans for offshore defences. At the time his ideas were considered somewhat eccentric, but he was asked to submit plans for an offshore fort as an effective means of dealing with the laying of the mines. Plans were drawn up, and after some modification, approval was given for the manufacture and installation of four offshore forts. These were of mainly reinforced concrete construction, built on land on a lozenge shaped reinforced base, and towed out to sea where they were sunk onto the seabed. Each fort accommodated approximately 120 men, housed mainly within seven floors of the 24’ diameter twin reinforced concrete legs. These forts were under the control of the Navy, and were individually known as HM Fort Roughs Tower, Sunk Head Tower, Tongue Sands, and Knock John. They were all placed in position between six and twelve miles offshore between February and June, 1942. They became operational immediately.In early 1941, Maunsell was contacted by the Admiralty to design defences in the Liverpool bay area of the Mersey. Seabed conditions dictated a different form of construction. Each tower was built off a reinforced concrete base of ‘Oxford picture frame’ design. Four hollow reinforced concrete legs of 3’ diameter supported the 36’ x 36’ steel house of two floors, with the military equipment installed on the top deck. Each fort comprised seven towers linked by tubular steel catwalks. In addition to the Mersey forts, three forts of similar construction were built in the Thames estuary, between May and December, 1943. They were known as the Nore, Redsand and Shivering sands Army Forts. Each fort accommodated up to 265 men.Both Army and Navy forts successfully acquitted themselves during the war years.
Whilst the Mersey forts never fired a shot in anger, the Thames forts shot down 22 planes, 30 flying bombs, and were instrumental in the loss of one U-boat, which was scuttled after coming under fire from Tongue sands tower.After the war the forts were placed on ‘care and maintenance’. However as the need for their continued use diminished, they were abandoned, and the guns removed from the Army forts, in 1956.The Nore fort was dismantled in 1959 being considered a hazard to shipping [two towers were lost following a collision in 1953] whilst one of the Shivering Sands towers was similarly lost in 1963.In 1964, Radio Caroline began broadcasting from a ship moored outside UK Territorial Waters. Other broadcasters followed with pop star Screaming Lord Sutch establishing Radio Sutch on the Shivering Sand Towers – much to the embarrassment of the Government. Radio Sutch became Radio City, whilst other forts were occupied to become Radio 390 [Redsand], Radio Essex [Knock John], and Tower Radio [Sunk Head]. The forts fell silent after a number of prosecutions in late 1966/67. It was accepted that all were within territorial waters, other than Roughs and Sunk Head. Sunk Head was destroyed by the Royal Engineers shortly after the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act became law, although Roughs has been occupied since 1967 to this day as the quasi independent Principality of Sealand. Tongue Fort collapsed following a severe storm in 1996, although had been abandoned as long ago as 1947, after the reinforced pontoon base broke its back, and one of the legs developed a list.The remaining Army forts had their catwalks removed for safety reasons, and apart from some usage by the SAS as simulated oil rig assault training, all have remained largely unchanged, and are viewed from the coast as a curiosity on the horizon, by the casual observer. As a result of German mining activity at the outbreak of war in September 1939, an urgent need arose to protect the waters of the Thames Estuary from small naval craft aircraft sowing magnetic mines. The initial answer was the placing of four Naval Sea Forts, each armed with two 3.7” Heavy AA guns and two 40mm Bofors guns, in the Estuary, located as follows: one 7 miles off Harwich, Essex, one 7 miles off Frinton on Sea, Essex, one 5 miles off Margate, Kent and one 12 miles off Herne Bay, Kent. Each of these Forts was manned by 120 men and three officers with crews rotating every six weeks to shore bases at Harwich for the Essex forts and Sheerness for the Kent Forts. These four Naval Forts were placed in the Thames Estuary between February and August 1942 and served throughout the war until abandoned in 1956. Of the four Forts, only two now exist, Roughs Tower off Harwich, now known as the Principality of Sealand and occupied by “Prince” Roy Bates and his family and Knock John, abandoned and unoccupied off Shoeburyness. Sunk Head Fort off Frinton on Sea was blown up on Government instructions in the 1960’s to stop the Radio Pirate activity and Tongue Sands off Margate collapsed into the sea during a storm in 1966. As a result of German activity it was decided to build another type of Fort to deter German aircraft from using the River Thames as a navigational aid to find the centre of London and the hugely important Dockland area of that period.
Guy Maunsell was again asked to design a suitable structure to meet this need. This time he came up with a totally different answer in the shape of seven towers joined together by catwalks. The seven towers consisted of a Bofors Tower with two 40mm Bofors guns, four towers with 3.7” HHA guns, a Contol Tower housing predictors and radar and a Searchlight Tower. The towers were built at the Red Lion Wharf site in Gravesend, towed down river and lowered by hand winch onto the sea bed, each tower taking up to eight hours to be placed in position. The first set of towers were placed at the Nore between May and July 1943, the second set, the Redsand Fort between July and September 1943.
The final set, the Shivering Sand Fort between September and December 1943. Crewed initially by 165 men, this figure was increased to 265 after June 1944 when the German Luftwafe started to use the V1 Flying Bomb (Doodlebug). These new weapons were much faster than aircraft of that period and it was necessary to have men at their gun positions to have a chance of hitting them. The period on board for the crew was four weeks followed by a ten day break ashore at the Drill Hall, Gillingham, Kent. The unit was known as the First A.A. Fort Regiment R.A. (Thames) which was disbanded at the end of the war and replaced by the “Fort Maintenance Detachment R.A”. In wartime, supplies were ferried out to the Forts by the R.A.S.C. Water Transport Company from Sheerness in Kent using small armed trawlers. During the wartime period all the Forts in the Thames Estuary were responsible for shooting down 21 aircraft and 30 plus “Doodlebugs”. The maintenance crews were in occupation from May 1945 until April 1956 when it was decided to remove the guns and abandon the Forts. On March 1st 1953 a ship, the “Baalbeck” ran into the Nore group of towers in thick fog and knocked over the Bofors Tower and a gun tower killing four of the installed maintenance crew. The Army seemed more concerned with the loss of equipment, two Bofors guns, a 3.7” gun and a large amount of equipment and stores, then the personnel whose relatives were paid paltry sums as compensation for the loss of their loved ones. Subsequently in 1959 the Nore group of towers were removed and scrapped.
Another accident happened in 1963 when in June a ship the “Riberborg” crashed into the Shivering Sand Fort and demolished a gun tower. Fortunately, no one was on board at the time and there were no casualties. Thus, Shivering Sand Fort today consists of only six towers. This left the Redsands and Shivering Sand Forts remaining out of the three sets and following a period of occupation by the Radio Pirates from 1964 to 1967 the Forts were sanitized by the Admiralty who removed access ladders and catwalks to deny people access. Today, Redsand Fort as the only complete structure as built in wartime is the focus of attention by Project Redsand, a group of enthusiasts with the aim of reinstating the Fort to its original built condition. Having had an underwater survey carried out by the Port of London Authority at a cost of around £5,000, work has progressed to installing a new access system to the G1 tower thanks to the generosity of Mowlem Marine (now Carillion) of Northfleet. Built at a cost of approximately £40,000, the access system enables project members to board the tower to commence restoration. A new survey of the above water structures is being conducted by Taylor Woodrow and once this is complete, a museum and other installations will enable the Fort to take its place as a monument to the ingenuity of Guy Maunsell who used the Army Fort design to pave the way for oil and gas exploration rigs in the North Sea in the 1950’s. NB. Military equipment installed on the Forts consisted of 3.7” guns Mk 2c with automatic loaders by Mollins of Deptford. Radar No 3 Mk 2 subsequently updated and modernised to Radar No 3 Mk 7. Sperry Predictors No 11 and Searchlight No 2 Mk 2. Copyright Frank R Turner, 2006.
|Is this Bush's secret bunker?|
|Da theguardian.com del 28 agosto 2006|
di Tom Vanderbilt
Mount Weather is a top-security underground installation an hour's drive from Washington DC. It has its own leaders, police, fire department - and laws. A cold war relic, it has been given a new lease of life since 9/11. And no one who's been inside has ever talked. Tom Vanderbilt reports
'Actually, you may want to just put those down a minute," Tim Brown is telling me, as I peer through binoculars at a cluster of buildings and antennae on a distant ridge. "The locals might get a bit nervous." A Ford F-150 cruises by, and the two men inside regard us casually as they pass. We are sitting, hazards blinking, in Brown's BMW on a rural road in Virginia's Facquier County, a horsey enclave an hour west of Washington DC. The object of our attention is Mount Weather, officially the Emergency Operations Centre of the Federal Emergency Management Authority (Fema); and, less officially, a massive underground complex originally built to house governmental officials in the event of a full-scale nuclear exchange. Today, as the Bush administration wages its war on terror, Mount Weather is believed to house a "shadow government" made up of senior Washington officials on temporary assignment. Following the collapse of the USSR, Mount Weather seemed like an expensive coldwar relic. Then came September 11. News reports noted that "top leaders of Congress were taken to the safety of a secure government facility 75 miles west of Washington"; another reported "a traffic jam of limos carrying Washington and government license plates." As the phrase "undisclosed location" entered the vernacular, Mount Weather, and a handful of similar installations, flickered back to life. Just two months ago, a disaster-simulation exercise called Forward Challenge '06 sent thousands of federal workers to Mount Weather and other sites. Mount Weather is not hard to find. From the White House, we take Route 66 west until it meets Highway 50. Fifty miles later, we turn off on Route 601, a small twolane rural feeder that snakes up a ridge. That road seems to be going nowhere until suddenly, at the crest, we come into a clearing, bounded by two lines of tall, shiny, razor-wired fencing, marked with faded signs that say: "US Property. No Trespassing." Behind sits a grouping of white aluminium sheds and a few cars. We have arrived at the edge of the known republic. What lies beyond is obscured by Appalachian scrub and the inky black of government classification. No one has ever been allowed to tour the underground complex at Mount Weather and tell of what they saw. Occupying 500 acres of Blue Ridge real estate, it functions like a rump principality, with its own leaders, its own police and fire departments, and its own set of laws. Mount Weather is more easily viewed from outer space than down the block. Earlier in the afternoon, I had been looking at grainy 1m-resolution aerial images of Mount Weather assembled by Brown, a national security researcher and aerial imagery expert. He pointed to small notches on the side of a hill (tunnel entrances), helipads, and a series of "military-style above-ground soft support housing". The mountain straddles the two entrances, he noted. "It's something like 200ft of shelter on top of you at the highest point." Just driving round the perimeter of Mount Weather, you can see the traces of recent work. "See how they've obscured this," he says, pointing to the black sheeting threaded through a length of fence. "You used to be able to see the helipad through that fence." He gestures towards the new entrance. "Look at the truck barriers. When you turned, there'd be no time to build up speed. They got smart." The changes to its exterior landscape - not to mention the gossip among local residents - are just one sign that that something very important has been going on at Mount Weather, a level of activity not seen here since the days when Eisenhower and his advisers trooped out here during drills. For some, this is a sign of prudent planning in a world where the security calculus has been for ever altered; for others, it is the symbol of an administration with a predilection towards exercising power in secret. As we pull away from Mount Weather, Brown says, "I wouldn't want to be driving a rental truck and have it break down in front of the gate." Mount Weather first caught the American imagination on December 1 1974, when a Dulles-bound TransWorld Airlines 727, struggling through heavy rains and 50mph winds, crashed into the top of the mountain, less than a mile and a half from the site. The crash briefly severed the underground line linking to the Emergency Broadcast System, and teletype machines in news offices across the country began spitting out garbled transmissions. The story might have died there. With Vietnam and Watergate in the air, however, the words "secret government facility" did not exactly induce a frisson of patriotic glee. The Progressive, in 1976, published an article, entitled The Mysterious Mountain, which said Mount Weather, a place little known even to Congress, was home not only to a replica mini-government, but to files on at least 100,000 Americans. In 1991, Time published the fullest exposé, describing (based on conversations with retired engineers) a sprawling underground complex bristling with mainframe computers, air circulation pumps, and a television/radio studio for post- uclear presidential broadcasts. What information has emerged about Mount Weather has always been rather sketchy. At some point in the 1950s, however, it seems that a drilling experiment into the mountain's rugged foundations of Precambrian basalt was turned into an exercise in underground city building, with the army corps hollowing out of the "hard and tight" rock a complex of tunnels and rooms with roofs reinforced by iron bolts. The base formed part of a "federal relocation arc", an archipelago of hardened underground facilities, each linked by a dedicated communications system and equipped with amenities ranging from showers to wash off nuclear fallout to filtration systems capable of sucking air clean down to the micron level. The sites, staffed by "molies", were spartan steel-and-concrete expanses, subterranean seats of power: the president could repair to Mount Weather; Congress had its secret bunker under the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia; the Federal Reserve had a bunker in Culpeper, Virginia; the Pentagon was given a rocky redoubt called Site R in the mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania; while the nation's air defences were run out of Norad's (North American Aerospace Defence Command) Cheyenne Mountain facility. "The nuclear age has dictated that these men carry out their responsibilities inside a solid granite mountain," wrote the defence command. Mount Weather's secrecy was never absolute. In the 1957 novel Seven Days in May, the authors referred to a shadowy facility called Mount Thunder, all but revealing its location. Driving around those Blue Ridge byways today, a curious mixture of secrecy and openness still prevails. On Route 601, an Adopt-a-Highway sign is sponsored by employees of the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Centre. But pull off toward the entrance of that facility, and things get a bit strange. Looking for the home of a local resident, I hail an exiting Mount Weather employee. As we begin to chat, cars side by side, I suddenly hear a strange, siren-like sound and notice that a black SUV has loomed into my rear-view. The occupant, wearing sunglasses, hastily points me in the right direction. This contradictory world of sunshine and shadow is at one with the parallel nature of the facility itself. On the one hand, it is, as Fema describes it, "a hub of emergency response activity providing Fema and other government agencies space for offices, training, conferencing, operations and storage". Less discussed is Mount Weather's obliquely assumed status as one of the key "undisclosed locations" of the Bush administration. "Look, there are two Mount Weathers - there's the Fema one and the Mount Weather one," says John Weisman, a writer of military and spy thrillers and a neighbour of the facility. "I wouldn't be at all surprised if [the vice-president, Dick] Cheney had been here before, and if [the secretary of defence, Donald] Rumsfeld had been here before, because they were part of some hugely sensitive stuff that was going on in the 1980s." Weisman is referring to a series of classified programmes, described by the journalist James Mann in The Rise of the Vulcans, in which Cheney and Rumsfeld were said to be "leading figures". According to Mann, the resurgence of tensions with the Soviet Union during the Reagan administration lent new urgency to "continuity of government" programmes. With a secret executive order, and an "action officer" in the form of Oliver North, top officials pondered such constitutional quandaries as whether it would be necessary to reconstitute Congress following a nuclear attack (the answer was no). On September 11 2001, Mann writes, the long-dormant plan was activated, and any number of top officials - possibly including Cheney himself - were shuttled to Mount Weather. Residents on the mountain did not need to read the newspapers to discern that something was going on there. Joe Davitt, a retired civil servant who lives in a small A-frame house a mile or so away, told me that on September 11 2001 his wife was returning home from Florida. At the bottom of the hill, he says, she was stopped by state troopers, who asked for identification. At the facility itself, he says, "The Mount Weather guards were not only armed, they had their guns in firing position." John Staelin, a member of the Clarke County Board of Supervisors, says that on September 11, the county's 911 line received a call from an agitated local woman. "She said, 'I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, but the whole mountain opened up and Air Force One flew in and it closed right up. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.' So they said, 'Yes, ma'am.' " Whatever else, Mount Weather makes for an interesting neighbour. "My God," says Davitt, as we sit on his back porch, "they put a plough up there at the first forecast of snow. They've always been good at keeping the road ploughed." "We call our house ground zero," says Weisman. "This mountain has its interesting moments, between the helicopter flights and the people coming and going." Where for years "Mount Weather was nothing but a sleepy little byway", Weisman complains that the post-9/11 security adjustments have only served to draw attention to the facility. "It now says, 'Boy, am I important!' " The local people are, by and large, perfectly happy to talk about Mount Weather. Sometimes, however, a veil of secrecy descends. When I asked about Mount Weather at the Daily Grind coffee shop in nearby Berryville, a woman smiled nervously and told me one woman she knew saw "missiles" being taken there. I was forwarded an email from a mountain resident (with the .mil domain that suggests a military background) that contained complaints about late-night helicopter flights, as well as recent episodes of nocturnal machine-gun fire and even a "massive explosion" that had shaken the house. My email seeking further comment received an immediate, terse response demanding that the sender not be associated with the story. Inquiries to Fema yield little more light. "There's been a general upgrade of security at all federal installations around the country, and Mount Weather is one of them," says spokesman Don Jacks. "I answered your question in a very general way. We're not going to talk about Mount Weather, period. It's not that I can't, we just don't." A request to talk to Reynolds Hoover, the director of Fema's Office of National Security Coordination, dies on the vine. And forget about James Looney, Fema chief at Mount Weather. "To talk to Mr Looney you would have to talk about Mount Weather," Jacks reminds me. "And we don't talk about Mount Weather." One afternoon, I went to have lunch with Jim Wink at the Horseshoe Curve, a saloon tucked away near the hamlet of Pine Grove. It has been the unofficial canteen of Mount Weather for as long as anyone can remember. "I've seen Seabees [members of the US Navy Construction Battalions] come out of the tunnels at the end of the day and come down to the bar for a few beers," says Weisman. A Comanche pickup in the parking lot has a bumper sticker that says Terrorist Hunting Permit. "I checked you out last night," Wink says by way of introduction. "So did Ray." He's talking about Ray Derby, a former Mount Weather employee whom I had visited the night before, who has suddenly appeared today. Wink, an Irish-blooded South Philadelphian with a tight smile and a steely, penetrating stare, does not seem like a man of whom you would like to run afoul. A retired counterterrorism expert with stints in the CIA, the Secret Service and any number of other agencies, he seems to have been in every place in the world at the most politically sensitive time. He was one of the last several hundred US personnel in Vietnam in April 1975, until he heard the song White Christmas - a coded message to get out of the country. His office is filled with memorabilia culled from the more occluded arenas of US foreign policy; there is a plaque signed by the team tracking the Shining Path leader, Abimael Guzman, in Peru; a collection of Wink's identity cards from various intelligences agencies around the world (he's wearing sunglasses in most of them); and, among other souvenirs, a photograph of the slain drug lord Pablo Escobar. "There's your richest man in the world," he says, handing me a snapshot of a bloated, blank-eyed corpse. "He did not die a good death." There's a Vets for North sticker on one wall, and, on another, one that says: "Even My Dog is Conservative." Wink came to Mount Weather in the 1980s. "I needed a training facility and they offered a great deal up here." When he came with the Secret Service one day to the Curve for a beer, he met his future wife, Tracee, whose grandfather had owned the bar. "Cheney and Rumsfeld, they've been here," he says, gesturing to the bar. "And Ollie. We all worked here together years ago. She can even tell you what they drank." His eyes shift toward his wife, behind the bar. "When I used to run exercises we'd bring 1,000 people," he says. "Most of the things we did, they didn't let 'em off the post." He talks vaguely of one training exercise. "We had to do the psychology of being locked up," he says. "We started with submarines." There have been curious visitors to Mount Weather from the start, he says, including the Russians. "The State Department, in their infinite lack of wisdom, allowed the Russians to have a R&R center on the river here, right below Mount Weather." The Curve, which sits off an entrance to the Appalachian Trail, attracts wayward visitors. "One hiker came in and said he was hiking all the facilities. Said you could get closer that way. He was trying to find out a little too much." Local people, Wink says, like to help Mount Weather maintain its low profile. "They won't talk about it," he says. "As a matter of fact," he says, fixing his eyes on me, "you might meet a local cop if you ask too many questions about it. Many of the men around here served in the second world war," he continues. "Consequently they don't discuss those things." I had encountered a similar line of thinking the night before from Derby, a long-time federal emergency coordinator and civil defence officer who is now retired and living in nearby Winchester. "All the employees of Mount Weather have always been told, rightly so, that no matter what someone asks you, just don't say if it's true or not true. Just ignore the question. You'll get that if you ask," says Derby, a chain-smoker with neatly Brylcreemed hair who drinks what he calls "martoonis" out of a tumbler. His office, in the upstairs of his split-level suburban home, is filled with various presidential commendations, as well as a photograph of what looks like a emergency conference room. "I designed that," he says, peering through a dense curl of cigarette smoke, "but I can't tell you where it is".
Da nytimes.com del 21 marzo 2006
For decades it waited in secret inside the masonry foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge, in a damp, dirty and darkened vault near the East River shoreline of Lower Manhattan: a stockpile of provisions that would allow for basic survival if New York City were devastated by a nuclear attack. City workers were conducting a regular structural inspection of the bridge last Wednesday when they came across the cold-war-era hoard of water drums, medical supplies, paper blankets, drugs and calorie-packed crackers — an estimated 352,000 of them, sealed in dozens of watertight metal canisters and, it seems, still edible.
To step inside the vault — a dank and lightless room where the walls are lined with dusty boxes — is to be vividly reminded of the anxieties that dominated American life during the military rivalry with the Soviet Union, an era when air-raid sirens and fallout shelters were standard elements of the grade-school curriculum. Several historians said yesterday that the find was exceptional, in part because many of the cardboard boxes of supplies were ink-stamped with two especially significant years in cold-war history: 1957, when the Soviets launched the Sputnik satellite, and 1962, when the Cuban missile crisis seemed to bring the world to the precipice of nuclear destruction.
"Civil defense agencies were building fallout shelters all over the country during the 1950's and stocking them with supplies of food and water and whatnot," said John Lewis Gaddis, a historian at Yale and a pre-eminent scholar of the cold war. "Most of those have been dismantled; the crackers got moldy a very long time ago. It's kind of unusual to find one fully intact — one that is rediscovered, almost in an archaeological sense. I don't know of a recent example of that." The Department of Transportation, which controls the bridge, has moved to secure the site while figuring out to do with the trove of supplies. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has been contacted to handle the drugs, which include bottles of Dextran, used to treat or prevent shock. City workers commonly find coins or bottles when repaving streets, fixing water mains or probing sewer drains, said the transportation commissioner, Iris Weinshall. "We find stuff all the time, but what's sort of eerie about this is that this is a bridge that thousands of people go over each day," she said. "They walk over it, cars go over it, and this stuff was just sitting there."
The room is within one of the arched masonry structures under the main entrance ramp to the bridge, not far from the Manhattan anchorage. Three city officials gave a brief tour of the room yesterday — taking care to step gingerly over broken glass and fallen wooden boards — on the condition that the precise location not be disclosed, for security reasons. The most numerous items are the boxes of Civil Defense All-Purpose Survival Crackers. Printed in block letters, on each canister, was information about the number of pounds (6.75), the number of crackers per pound (62) and the minimum number of crackers per can (419). Joseph M. Vaccaro, a carpentry supervisor at the Transportation Department, estimated that there were 140 boxes of crackers — each with six cans, for a total of some 352,000 crackers. The officials would not open any of the supplies because of safety concerns over germs, but Mr. Vaccaro said that one of the canisters had broken open, and inside it, workers found the crackers intact in wax-paper wrapping. Nearby were several dozen boxes with sealed bottles of Dextran, made by Wyeth Laboratories in Philadelphia. More mysterious were about 50 metal drums, made by United States Steel in Camden, N.J. According to the label, each was intended to hold 17.5 gallons and to be converted, if necessary, for "reuse as a commode." They are now empty.
For the officials who gave the tour, the discovery set off some strong memories. Judith E. Bergtraum, the department's first deputy commissioner, recalled air-raid drills — "first it was under the desk and then it was in the hall" — at Public School 165 in Queens. Russell Holcomb, a deputy chief bridge engineer, remembered watching Nikita Khrushchev pounding his shoe at the United Nations in 1960 on television. Several of the boxes in the room have labels from the Office of Civil Defense, a unit of the Pentagon that coordinated domestic preparedness in the early 1960's. State and local governments often appointed their own civil-defense coordinators, said Graham T. Allison, a former assistant secretary of defense who teaches at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Dr. Allison acknowledged that fallout shelters would probably have been ineffective in the event of nuclear war but that the precautions were comforting. "At least people would think they were doing something, even if it didn't have any effect," he said. In 1950, the city's Office of Civil Defense, the predecessor to today's Office of Emergency Management, was formed to prepare for a possible atomic attack. In 1951, during the Korean War, floodlights and barbed-wire barriers were set up on and around the city's bridges, and bridge operators were organized into defense batteries, as part of an overall civil-defense strategy aimed at deterring sabotage.
Mayor Robert F. Wagner, who served from 1954 to 1965, appointed several civil-defense advisers. In 1959, a federal report concluded that two hydrogen bombs dropped near the Brooklyn Bridge would kill at least 6.1 million people. Kenneth T. Jackson, a historian at Columbia University and a former president of the New-York Historical Society, said he was curious about how the stockpile got there. "Is this a secret cache of supplies the city was trying to put together, without warning the community of a serious threat?" he asked. "What surprises me," he added, "is that we have all these little nooks — that in this huge city with people crawling everywhere, we can find rooms still filled with stuff, 50 years after the fact." by Sewell Chan