Bunker Mentalities – Some of History’s Most Famous Underground Military Complexes

The Churchill War Room beneath Whitehall in London was the British prime minister's bomb-proof refuge during The Blitz. It's now a popular tourist attraction.

The Churchill War Room beneath Whitehall in London was the British prime minister’s underground headquarters during The Blitz. It’s now a popular tourist attraction. (Image via MilitaryHistoryNow.com)

“For those of use who can’t afford a survival shelter fit for Donald Trump, we can still at least visit some of history’s best-known wartime bunkers.”

EBOLA OUTBREAKS, NUCLEAR ARMAGEDDON, THE DREADED zombie apocalypse — none of it need worry America’s richest millionaires, thanks to a new up-scale condominium complex being built into a decommissioned Cold War nuclear silo complex.

A cutaway of a Kansas missile silo turned "survival condo". Click to enlarge. (Image courtesy SurvivalBunker.com)

A cutaway of a Kansas missile silo turned “survival condo”. Click to enlarge. (Image courtesy SurvivalBunker.com)

According to the property developers’ own website, two obsolete Atlas ICBM launch tubes near the town of Concordia, Kansas will be converted into the underground equivalent of a 15-story, high-rise apartment building. Individual units will be stacked on top of each other within the massive reinforced concrete cylinders. The entire facility will extend more than 300 feet below the Earth’s surface. Five-person dwellings start at $1.5 million, while a 3,200-square-foot unit that sleeps 10 will set you back a cool $4.5 million.

SurvivalCondo.com is marketing the fully decorated luxury apartments not as primary residences, but as five-star bomb shelters for the fabulously wealthy. According to the company, in the event of an emergency, clients and their families will be picked up at a series of pre-arranged locations throughout the U.S. and then ferried to the bunkers via privately operated armoured vehicles. Once safe underground, residents can wait out the disaster in both style and comfort. A 75,000-gallon water supply, power generators, hydroponic gardens and a state of the art air-filtration system will provide the necessities of life. Tenants can also avail themselves of the finer things like bars, restaurants, a movie theatre, a health spa, a swimming pool and even an indoor dog-walking track – all of it situated deep within the bowels of the installation. According to the company, one of the silos is already completely sold out and units in the second are going fast.

Of course, for those of use who can’t afford a survival shelter fit for Donald Trump, we can still at least visit some of history’s best-known wartime bunkers. Consider these:

Adolf Hitler emerges briefly from his Berlin bunker for the last time in April of 1945.

Adolf Hitler is photographed as he emerges briefly from his Berlin bunker for the last time in April of 1945.

Adolf Hitler famously made his last stand in a two-level, 3,000-square-foot underground complex beneath the bombed out ruins of his Berlin Chancellery. The Nazi dictator took up residence in the dank, 18-room labyrinth known as the Fuhrerbunker for the last 100 days of the Second World War. With his Thousand-Year Reich literally crashing down around him, Hitler and his ever-dwindling staff desperately waited for some last-minute reversal-of-fortune that might turn the tide in favour of the Axis. It never came. The Red Army finally captured the infamous bunker on May 2, 1945 — two days after Hitler had taken his own life in one of the complex’s secluded chambers. After the war, Soviet occupiers emptied the bunker and sealed all its entrances. In 1947, the communists even attempted to destroy the facility using demolition charges; the blast caused only moderate damage. Twelve years later, East German authorities partially collapsed what remained of the bunker and two years later erected the Berlin Wall almost overtop of it. The area remained unused until 1988 when construction crews excavated the grounds to make way for new apartment buildings. The surviving passageways were soon filled in and a park was placed on the site. In 2006, Berlin authorities erected markers overtop of where the bunker once sat. Rochus Misch, Hitler’s own personal bodyguard and the last Nazi to emerge from the bunker alive was even on-hand to officiate the dedication.

Much of the Churchill War Room remains as it looked in 1945. (Image via MilitaryHistoryNow.com)

Much of the Churchill War Room remains exactly as it looked the day the Second World War ended in 1945. (Image via MilitaryHistoryNow.com)

Winston Churchill also had his own underground bunker complex beneath the streets of Westminster. The prime minister and his cabinet ran the British war effort from the cramped passageways all throughout the London Blitz and right up until the end of the war. The entire 30,000-square-foot site, which was hardened by a five-foot thick concrete ceiling, was finally abandoned on VJ Day, with most of the furniture, maps, radio equipment and charts being left in place by staff as they vacated the premises. The site was preserved largely ‘as is’ by the British government who later turned it over the Imperial War Museum. The War Room was opened to the public in 1984 and continues to be one of London’s most popular attractions.

Lesser known than the Churchill War Room is a Cold War facility in Scotland known simply as The Secret Bunker. During the 1950s, military engineers hollowed out the chamber more than 100 feet beneath a rolling pasture near the town of St. Andrews. Two three-ton blast-proof doors protected the concrete-reinforced facility, which is reportedly the size of two whole soccer fields. The whole facility served as a command and control center and was designed to withstand a Soviet nuclear attack on the United Kingdom. The multi-million dollar installation contains a headquarters, living space for 300 personnel, and even an emergency BBC radio station. It was converted into a museum in 1994 and has been a boon for the local tourist trade ever since.

Bunker-42 was once a refuge for Kremlin kingpins. It's now an underground entertainment complex. (Image courtesy of Bunker-42)

Bunker-42 was once a refuge for Kremlin kingpins. It’s now an underground entertainment complex in the heart of Moscow. (Image courtesy of Bunker-42)

Ironically, much of the massive underground shelter intended to protect the Soviet Union’s communist leadership from nuclear annihilation during the Cold War is now something of a shrine to capitalism. The top-secret, 70,000-square-foot Tangansky Protected Command Point complex situated more than 200-feet below the streets of Moscow was designed in 1951 to house the Politburo, top brass and up to 3,000 personnel for up to six months after a Third World War. In 2006, the government sold parts of the decaying facility to private developers who transformed it into a for-profit neon playground filled with restaurants, rentable banquet rooms, nightclubs and a laser tag field. It’s now known as Bunker-42.

Canada's 100,000 square-foot Cold War military bunker now serves as a museum and event facility.

Canada’s 100,000 square-foot Cold War military bunker now serves as a museum and event facility in that nation’s capital. (image courtesy the Diefenbunker.)

Canada’s version of the Moscow bomb shelter is also open to the public. In fact, the once-top-secret 100,000-square-foot cavernous dugout is now that country’s best-known Cold War museum. Built just outside Ottawa in 1959 under a cloak of total secrecy, details of the four-level 300-room command post soon leaked to the press corps. Reporters promptly dubbed it the “Diefenbunker” after John Diefenbaker, the prime minister that ordered it built. The entire complex, which was designed to sustain a five-megaton nuclear blast, was closed in 1994. Three years later, it re-opened as a museum. The facility also hosts art shows, whisky tastings and even kids’ birthday parties.

One of the National Redoubt bunkers at Pfäfers, St. Margrethenberg, Switzerland. Photo courtesy the Creative Commons via Kecko.

One of the National Redoubt bunkers at Pfäfers, St. Margrethenberg, Switzerland. Photo courtesy the Creative Commons via Kecko.

While Switzerland may be best known for chocolate, wristwatches and army knives, the famously peaceable country could also be described as the ‘bunker capital of the world’. No nation on Earth has more impregnable defenses concentrated into such a small area. More than 20,000 bunkers, shelters and casemates dot Switzerland’s alpine interior [1] – that’s roughly one fortress for every 400 citizens. Throughout the 1940s, Swiss military planners fearful of Nazi invasion oversaw the production of the vast network of dugouts. Known collectively as the National Redoubt, the chain of fighting positions was expanded during the Cold War to include nuke-proof aircraft hangars, command and control centers and air defence systems. Many of the facilities were hollowed out of the sides of mountains. While this impressive chain was never tested in battle, much of it has been reclaimed for civilian use in recent years. Swiss bunkers now act as  wedding halls, R&D labs, spas, hotels, military-themed camping facilities and even vaults for the national gold reserve.

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