A History of Underground Bunkers

Bunkers have long been the escape route for many countries’ leaders in case of war. They are a strategic hideaway; a safeguarded place to conduct business, generally buried into the side of a mountain or underground. While they vary in size, they are purposefully placed all across the globe to house dignitaries, presidents and heads of state from attacks. Many bunkers from previous wars are just being located for the first time in decades, while others are being used as storms shelters.

Possibly the most infamous story about a bunker is the one about Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun, his wife. Fearing that the Russians were closing in on him at what would be the beginning of the end of World War II, Hitler and Braun retreated to his bunker where his death was witnessed by the other bunker survivors. Not only did they eat take a cyanide capsule, but Hitler made sure the job was done by shooting himself in the head. His body was found in the bunker by Russian troops. During that same timeframe, famed English leader Winston Churchill, as depicted in the new film “The Darkest Hour” used an elaborate bunker as a war room, as well as a means to protect himself and his trusted advisers.

The bunkers that were constructed for safety against bomb attacks were specifically constructed to withstand the blast and subsequent shock. They were built to block radiation and situated underground so they soil could be used as a buffer against shock waves. Some of the bunkers were built over coiled springs to absorb any ground shock from a bomb blast.

Just recently, a number of underground tunnels and bunkers built by the Nazis were found in Austria. The Nazis were using these bunkers to develop an atomic bomb and their location was found by an Austrian filmmaker who used radiation tests to reveal the bunkers’ hidden locations. Determined to be built by Nazi captives, the tunnels ran from a nearby concentration camp called Mauthausen-Gusen to an underground factory used to build fighter planes. It was so well hidden, in fact, that the Allies didn’t even find it when they inspected the various Nazi buildings after the war was over. The site is projected to be the largest weapons facility held by the Nazis in World War II and several artifacts have been recovered in the underground bunkers.


Makeshift bunkers were used by families to avoid bombings during the war. Families would sleep underground as the shelling went off around them, with no protection other than a basement with metal placed with dirt to protect those in the basement bunker. Of course, by the time nuclear warheads were introduced, these makeshift bunkers were obsolete. With the threat of the Cold War, deep underground bunkers were constructed to protect from the initial blast and fallout radiation. These bunkers were much more intricate; the owners would have to plan to be underground for an extended period of time, unlike the makeshift bunkers that protected families at night during air raids. While the threat of nuclear war still looms, people are taking to bunkers today to prepare for the collapse of society. Many people, called “preppers” use these shelters to stockpile food, water, ammunition; whatever they feel they might need if there is a sudden apocalypse. By maintaining a shelter underground, they can protect themselves and family members from a home invasion, looting and the proposed violence that would accompany such a societal breakdown.

Bunkers have been such a part of the infrastructure of so many countries that the declassified ones have become somewhat of a tourist attraction. In England, a defunct bunker built for the Royal family in the 1950’s is 35 acres and could house up to 400 people for up to three months. The bunkers were so elaborate, they resembled an underground city, complete with battery powered vehicles and dental offices and a private suite for the Prime Minister!

Even Russia is rumored to have a top secret bunker called The Metro 2. Supposedly located in the labyrinth of the Moscow subway system, its existence is neither confirmed nor denied by the Russian government. It is believed that this bunker and transportation system was intended for Russian authorities for use during wartime and can accommodate up to ten thousand people, using the subway as a shuttle system.

The United States has many, many bunkers, most of which date back decades. The Raven Rock Complex, situated between Pennsylvania and Maryland and is set up as an asylum for the Pentagon. There’s also a several mile tunnel that connects to Camp David, the Presidential retreat, and the Raven Rock, the 300,000 square foot bunker.

Another bunker, in Colorado, is the previous site of NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, otherwise known as the agency that tracks Santa Claus’s flight each year. The Cheyenne Bunker, as it is called, is 2000 feet underground and is embedded on those previously noted coils. This bunker has it all—coffee shops, a fitness center, literally an underground city. Since NORAD relocated a decade ago, the Cheyenne bunker has been used as a training facility.

The most interesting bunker in the U.S. has to be the Greenbrier Bunker. Initially a luxury hotel, the Greenbrier was a resort located in West Virginia. In addition to being a hotel that housed several presidents, it was also used as an army hospital and a detention center during World War II. Its locale was a perfect spot for protecting government officials, so the Greenbrier was not only a resort, but underneath a bunker was built. The bunker was built to hold over 1000 people, including an auditorium built specifically for Congress to hold their sessions. While the Greenbrier Resort was still in use by regular guests, they did not know about the bunkers underneath. Its double duty was exposed by a reporter and the whole structure was quickly decommissioned.

Bunkers have a varied history, all across the globe, and are still an important part of our current government’s plans. In the event of any disaster, the president and other elite members will be whisked away to the safety of an underground, secret bunker.



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