Tuesday, January 29, 2008

So Much for Surviving the Nuclear War in Comfort and Style

You know the Greenbrier? The famous resort that formerly housed the Emergency Relocation Center where Congress would have ridden out the nuclear war?

Despite their best efforts, they just can't get that fifth star back.

Since this is one of the things I study, I feel compelled to launch into a little explanation of how the Greenbrier fit into United States Civil Defense. In brief, the Greenbrier, and its companion facility Mount Weather, were not really civil defense facilities per se. This is because they are continuity-of-government facilities, and for much of the Cold War this was the responsibility of non-civil defense authorities. Under Truman and the first Eisenhower Administration, CoG was the responsibility of the Office of Defense Mobilization, a largely-forgotten government agency that was endowed with extraordinary powers. Although the Federal Civil Defense Administration has received the bulk of attention from historians, the ODM was in fact far more important, and its records clearly indicate the utter seriousness of US nuclear war planning in the 1950s. In 1958 the ODM and the FCDA were merged into a single organization- the OCDM. Ostensibly this was to improve planning for nuclear war by reconciling the often contradictory plans cooked up by the two organizations, but I suspect that it was in part an attempt to neuter the ODM. Anyhow, in my own research I have attempted to determine how the construction of the massive CoG facilities built in the OCDM period was financed, and I have concluded that there is no way the could have been funded out of the OCDM's minuscule budget. I suspect that their construction was funded and managed through DoD somehow, especially as they had built a CoG bunker of their own a few years earlier.

This is not to say that civil defense lacked its own bunkers from which to direct the post-nuclear recovery. The OCDM built a small one in Texas, but it was tiny compared to Mt. Weather. There was also a facility called the National Damage Assessment Center, which was built by the ODM in the mid-1950s. I am not sure where this facility was located, although I know it was in the same "arc" around Washington as the other CoG facilities. It must have been pretty elaborate, however, as it housed an IBM computer that was probably tube-based, and must have had a power supply and environment control that could deal with such a monster. The original purpose of the NADAC (I believe I read that this was its acronym) was to manage post-nuclear economic recovery. I do not know what became of it in the JFK/LBJ years.

I'd love to know more about the Soviet equivalents of all these facilities, but anything more than anecdotal evidence is hard to come by. Interestingly, there is a Cold War museum in Moscow that is housed inside a disused blast shelter. But I know of no account in either English of Russian that gives even the roughest outline of Soviet CoG planning.

3 comments:

onur said...

hi,

I am a ph-d candidate at columbia sociology. I am working on along with a group centered at Berkeley on the genealogy of civil defense in the US. We have been focusing on Office of Emergency Preparedness for the most part and we have run into a center called National Resource Evaluation Center which is the descendant of National Damage Assessment Center you are mentioning in your post.

I have been working on analytical models that have been developed by NADAC, but were used in NREC in the mid-60s to do nuclear war simulations. I was wondering if you have any sources on NADAC that you can direct me to. So far I have only found very little on NADAC.

thank you very much.
onur

onur said...

hi,

I am a ph-d candidate at columbia sociology. I am working on along with a group centered at Berkeley on the genealogy of civil defense in the US. We have been focusing on Office of Emergency Preparedness for the most part and we have run into a center called National Resource Evaluation Center which is the descendant of National Damage Assessment Center you are mentioning in your post.

I have been working on analytical models that have been developed by NADAC, but were used in NREC in the mid-60s to do nuclear war simulations. I was wondering if you have any sources on NADAC that you can direct me to. So far I have only found very little on NADAC.

thank you very much.
onur

onur said...

if you would like to email me you can use oo2002@columbia.edu