The Doomsday Blueprints

How times change. Though the Soviet Union is gone, Washington was once convinced that World War III could break out without warning. Children practiced hiding under desks, parents built bomb shelters, 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

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Gallagher says he wrote a memo for the site's triage teams making it clear that except for the President and his successor, no individual's life was to be considered more precious than any other's. Patients with blast wounds or burns whose treatment was so time consuming that it would have been at the expense of others' lives were to be marked with blue toe tags and given no extraordinary lifesaving measures. The facility was equipped with a crematorium. Automatic weapons were stored at the site, and Bourassa says he would have implemented a shoot-to-kill order to prevent anyone not on the site's roster -- even family members of officials or locals -- from gaining access. He also instructed the staff that saboteurs and troublemakers were to be ejected. "Radiation or not, throw them the hell out," he says he told the staff. "I don't give a damn what the radiation count is."

Mount Weather could hold two, even three times as many people as there were bunks -- several thousand in all. Only the President, Cabinet Secretaries and Supreme Court Justices had private quarters. Eisenhower had family pictures on his desk. A therapeutic mattress was installed for Kennedy's bad back. For those who could not cope with the stress, the facility had sedatives as well as a padded isolation cell, complete with an observation window. One official dubbed it "the rubber room" and said there were straitjackets on pegs outside the door -- something Gallagher denies. So complete is the site's inventory that it now includes birth-control pills -- not because of any anticipated sexual activity but so that female officials would not have to interrupt their pill-taking cycles.

Up until last May, an underground meteorological station at the site issued daily reports on wind direction and speed, plotting potential radiation patterns. The site's television studio is prepared to provide the President -- or his successor -- a national audience over the Emergency Broadcast System. Throughout the Eisenhower Administration -- and for years after -- a vault held tape-recorded addresses by both Eisenhower and celebrity Arthur Godfrey. The prerecorded message was concise: The country has come under nuclear attack, but the government continues to function. In addition, a number of prominent newsmen who had taken oaths of secrecy had agreed to accompany the President to the relocation site of his choosing and lend their familiar names and faces to help calm the surviving audience.

In another room was the top-secret Bomb Alarm, a system of sensors and copper wires that crisscrossed the country and reacted to overpressure, heat and brilliance. On a huge U.S. map dotted with hundreds of tiny light bulbs, a red light would go on to mark the site of a nuclear explosion. Atop the mountain a series of remotely operated cameras and radiation sensors monitored the area. A nearby nuclear hit would vaporize those devices, but the site was equipped with backup radiation sensors that could be pushed out of the mountain. There were also human "probers" from among the security force, who would don rubberized radiation suits and venture out to test the air.

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