Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Off-Season: Killing Time at Mount Weather

The massive top secret government relocation site known as Mount Weather (aka the Classified Location) has been featured in political thrillers since at least 1962 (its debut was as the thinly disguised “Mount Thunder” in the novel Seven Days in May by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II), but some of its more mundane, real life functions may surprise readers. Indeed, CONELRAD recently discovered a “Weekly Schedule of Activities” for the legendary Cold War super fortress that has all of the excitement of a corporate retreat agenda. But what makes this document of particular interest is that it is from the extremely tense early 1960s when one would have thought more would have been going on. But perhaps even government bunkers have off-seasons.
harvard club
If nothing else the memo proves that the Classified Location had a war room and showed cool old (even for 1961) propaganda movies. For the weeks covered in the schedule, the Raymond Massey-hosted Seconds for Survival (1959) screened at 10:45 AM on November 7, 1961 and the NBC television documentary Nightmare in Red (1955) ran at 9:00 AM on the following day. There are also unidentified movies that ran at night which may have been from an entirely different genre (one not featuring the likes of Mr. Massey). 
Classified Location-CU-2
And what taxpayer funded getaway would be complete without church services and a bus ride home? 
Church Services
Mount Weather Weekly Activities: 1961

Figures mentioned in the document:

Walter L. Mazan (1921-1991)
Project Director, Programs
Classified Location

Frank J. Muckenhaupt (1922-1992)
Director, Operations Classified Location

Jack R. Scott (1921-2008)
Director, Classified Location

J. Leo Bourassa (1917-2000)
Deputy Director, Classified Location

George Grace,
Project Director, Emergency Operations, Classified Location

E. McKay,
Project Director, Plans and Readiness, Classified Location

G.H. Chandler Tredick (? – 1984),
Director, Administration and Security, Classified Location.

William Kittel,
Director Passive Defense Office Corps of Engineers

Joseph P. Sahm (1914-1991), Technical Director, U.S. Army Interagency Communications Agency

E. Allen Aime,
Meteorological Consultant, Classified Location

Dr. Joseph D. Coker,
Director National Resource Evaluation Center

John Richardson,
Operations Classified Location

Source: National Archives, College Park, Maryland. Records Group 306, Records Pertaining to Emergency Planning. Box 3, Folder O-113, OCDM / CL Schedules.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Radioactive Rest Stops: Cold War Billboard Planning


“Use [of billboards] during tactical warning, actual attack, and between attacks seems impractical.”

-- Civil Defense official Lewis E. Berry, 9/27/1960

The Dwight D. Eisenhower administration raised civil defense planning to a paranoid art form (the Operation Alert drills of the Fifties were nothing if not theatrical) and helped transform America into a nation of low-budget motorized tourists with the Interstate Highway System. It is fitting then that the Cold War contingency drones viewed the medium of billboards as an especially appropriate tool to convey pre and post-apocalyptic propaganda to a car crazy citizenry. Recently CONELRAD found evidence of this unique strategy buried in a box at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland and we are delighted to be able to share the material here.

CD Billboards-CU-1 
On September 28, 1960 Deputy Administrator of the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization Lewis E. Berry (1914-2005) sent a letter to his management detailing his efforts concerning billboard messaging with attached “Preattack” and “Postattack” sample text. Needless to say, the latter category is far more amusing (and frighteningly Orwellian).

CD Billboards-CU-6 
The previous day, September 27, 1960, Mr. Berry composed a longer draft of his memo that is noteworthy for its optimism (the CONELRAD emergency broadcasting system would not be needed after an attack, Berry reasons, because normal radio frequencies would return to the air) and the author’s mastery of the obvious: “Use [of billboards] during tactical warning, actual attack, and between attacks seems impractical.”

CD Billboards-CU-7 
The following is the entire document containing the billboard copy suggestions that Berry’s team came up with. Unfortunately, CONELRAD could find no paper trail to suggest that this concept ever materialized as proposed (although there are some examples of public service civil defense announcements via billboards that we have included in this post). We would have loved to have seen an artist rendering of the post-attack signage.

Prearranged Civil Defense Billboard Messages: 09-28-1960

Source: National Archives, College Park, Maryland: Record Group 396: Office of Emergency Preparedness A1 (P-95), Folder L-8, Lewis E. Berry Memorandum RE: Prearranged Emergency Billboard Messages, September 28, 1960.

CD Billboard-1955-Lo