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Newly Released Cold War Documents Reveal Federal Plans in Case of Capital Attack

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Newly Released Cold War Documents Reveal Federal Plans in Case of Capital Attack

The late 50s and right through the 60s and 70s were tense times across the world. The USSR continued to tighten their hold on eastern-bloc countries in Europe and encouraged and helped the spread of communism across several continents.

NATO was planning for every eventuality including an attack on the US.

One has to wonder what exactly happens to a country that is functioning fine one day and then has its capital city destroyed. How does the command structure stay in place and how do they respond?

The US government were taking no chances and, according to these newly declassified documents, an entire command system, both military and civil would have been established almost immediately should Washington have been attacked either by long-range ballistic missiles or worse; nuclear weapons.

FBI Establishes Relocation Centers

The FBI were tasked in 1957 to locate and secure several ‘emergency relocation centers,’ which would take the place of the capital’s various Departments. These included the FBI, military command centers, communication centers and the President’s residence.

For example, Shepherd College (now a University) in West Virginia was chosen to house ‘essential’ FBI staff that would keep operations going. Here they installed many thousands of dollars worth of equipment, such as emergency telephone and teletype systems which were locked away and kept top secret within the college.

The FBI were also given the job of quickly recovering from an attack (within several minutes) and beginning the evacuation of essential people (civil defense leaders, FBI staff, Office of the President etc…) to the designated locations.

This would have been a massive task and one which required training for a worst case scenario.

Nuclear Emergency Training Missions

Training missions were carried out which simulated an attack and a hasty evacuation. Of course, these training scenarios couldn’t be conducted openly for fear of giving away the locations of the relocation centers.

Therefore, according to the memos, they were conducted covertly (although there were slip-ups involving departments not getting memos and personnel arriving fully-uniformed and very much  ‘overt’).

The actual training itself entailed getting to the locations in a certain amount of time and establishing a communications and a command structure quickly.

This would be absolutely crucial in order to prevent and respond to further attacks in a situation where Washington DC, the nerve center for all theoretical cold-war operations, would have been knocked out.

Underground Virginia and Maryland Sites Finished

As the cold war dragged on and no attack came, new emergency plans were formed as construction of underground government sites in the mountains of Virginia and Maryland finished.

Soon, the plans outlined in the now-declassified documents fell from being a primary emergency plan to a secondary plan. Not long after that they fell into disuse and the FBI began to decommission the buildings they had selected as relocation centers.

Several of the buildings now have alternative uses. For example, a courthouse in Martinburg is now used as an arts center. The current occupiers report having moved into the building only to discover evidence of activity, which goes against the official record of being an FAA records storage facility since the early nineties.

Strange Activities in “Storage Facilities”

Upon taking over the building, it immediately became apparent to the new residents “that something had gone on here besides records storage,” said Mary Lewis, president of the Arts Centre’s board of directors.

Bunk-beds were discarded on the third and fourth floors, a stage-like platform with stairs on either side was also found, along with evidence of activity from “a different era” in the basement.

These released documents make great reading. The vast majority of them include memos between various departments detailing the procurement of the sites, their regular inspection, installation of equipment, running the sites and plans for training exercises.

These are a must read for anyone interested in Cold War government activity.

Originally published on

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