The Russian invasion of Ukraine has once again raised the specter of nuclear war as President Vladimir Putin‘s state grapples with the support provided to Ukraine by the U.S. and its western allies.
As foreign aid, including U.S. military equipment, has flooded into the country, Russia has held out the threat of nuclear weapons as its forces have struggled to achieve their aims.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned last week of the risk of “a full-fledged nuclear war” in the event of a conflict between Russia and the West, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has previously said Russia is using that threat to “blackmail the world.”
Many Americans are old enough to remember the looming threat of nuclear conflict during the Cold War when the U.S. government made plans for the continued functioning of the state in the event of a nuclear attack by the former Soviet Union.
Though many aspects of a U.S. reaction to a nuclear strike are understandably classified, one facility in Liberty Township in Adams County, Pennsylvania could play a key role.
The Raven Rock Mountain Complex has often been referred to as the “underground Pentagon” and it is believed that the U.S. government would operate from the complex if the nation’s capital were subject to a devastating attack.
In 2019, Russian state TV included Maryland’s Fort Richie in a map of potential military targets that also included the Pentagon and Camp David. This appeared puzzling because Fort Richie had been closed in 1998. Fox News speculated at the time that its proximity to Raven Rock was the reason for its inclusion.
A host on Russian state TV has recently refused to apologize for airing a graphic depicting a nuclear attack that would destroy the U.K. and Ireland, calling the destruction of Ireland, a traditionally neutral nation, “collateral damage.”
That kind of rhetoric may give facilities like Raven Rock renewed importance.
Raven Rock, which is also called “Site R,” was built in the early 1950s. It was also reportedly nicknamed “Harry’s Hole” after then-President Harry S. Truman, who ordered the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan in the first nuclear strike in history.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney is said to have spent time at the facility following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. That suggests that President Joe Biden could operate from Raven Rock if matters became desperate.
The Pittsburgh Press reported as far back as 1991 that the “enormous 260,000-square-foot bunker was the brainchild” of former President Truman, who ordered it to be built in 1949.
In 2018, Robert Stanley, the mayor of Fairfield, Pennsylvania, told Fox 43 that “most people have no idea what’s inside.” Fairfield is a borough near the classified site.
Garrett Graff is a journalist and author of the 2017 book Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself – While the Rest of Us Die. He spoke to PhillyVoice about the mountain complex the year his book was published.
“Raven Rock is the place where nuclear war in the United States would begin,” Graff said.
Graff also told NPR in 2017: “Raven Rock is this massive, hollowed-out mountain. It’s a free-standing city… with individual buildings, three-story buildings, built inside of this mountain. It has everything that a small city would—there’s a fire department there, there’s a police department, medical facilities, dining halls.”
“The dining facility serves four meals a day, it’s a 24-hour facility, and it was sort of mothballed to a certain extent during the 1990s as the Cold War ended and then was restarted in a hurry after September 11 and has been pretty dramatically expanded over the last 15 years, and today could hold as many as 5,000 people in the event of an emergency,” he said.
Below the Mountain’s Peak
Investigative journalist Eric Schlosser wrote about Raven Rock in his 2013 book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety.
Schlosser wrote that the complex “sat about a half a mile inside Raven Rock and another half a mile below the mountain’s peak. It had power stations, underground water reservoirs, a small chapel, clusters of three-story buildings set within vast caverns, and enough beds to accommodate two thousand high-ranking officials from the Pentagon, the State Department, and the National Security Council.”
The Raven Rock Mountain Complex received $45 million in government funding in 2018 and is still an operational military facility today.
When reached by Newsweek for comment about Raven Rock, a Department of Defense spokesperson said in a statement: “Raven Rock Mountain Complex supports the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other DOD officials, and enables the execution of DOD essential functions during emergencies.”
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