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Operation Greek Island
                          The Mystery

Shrouded within the protective isolation of the gentle mountains of southern West Virginia, a mystery lay hidden, for 35 years. At any rate, it was a mystery for any who would have taken note; but even here was a mystery, as little note was taken. The mystery settled upon the very small town of White Sulfur Springs. So what noteworthy observations may have created a mystery here? Well, for those who posses awareness of such things, there were several. This has always been a rather sparsely populated, rural area, with no particular industry, nor wealth of any note. The single entity of any interest has been the Greenbrier Hotel, and here, as it turns out, was the source of the mystery.
    Considering the nature of the area, a shrewd look might cause some confusion. This area has a 7500 foot runway, at what should have been a small local airport, rating little more than a grass strip. There was also the freeway. The Greenbrier area has it's own Interstate highway, which dead ends here, and would seem to have no other purpose than to convey traffic to the Greenbrier. But why would a tiny town, and a resort, rate a highway all to themselves? There is also a rail spur, and railroad station. Then there is the Greenbrier resort itself.
    The Greenbrier itself would seem to hold little scope for mystery. It is a classic, gracious resort/hotel, which has been patronized by the American upper class, and discriminating visitors from abroad for well over a hundred years. The resort was founded back in 1788, after The Revolution; but a year before the new nation was chartered. So there was neither a United States, nor a state of West Virginia at the time. This are was considered to be a sort of a wilderness area for the state of Virginia to expand into. Actually, the entire area would seem to be above suspicion, like something out of a Rockwell painting, or perhaps a Currier and Ives scene. There appears to be little possibility for intrigue or deception in such a place.

    The mystery deepens upon close examination of the Greenbrier itself, much of it residing behind a steel faceplate with an ominous "Danger High Voltage" sign affixed to a steel casing outside of a secluded section of the building. To the casual observer, this would appear to be part of the ventilation system, or perhaps a power transformer. Still, it is an oddly built facade, with curbs, and a high hinged door that would almost seem to be built to allow for the passage of trucks.

     Indeed, the entire west addition to the Greenbrier, which was begun in 1959, and finished in 1962, was a bit odd. In retrospect, many of the workers recall that there were some pretty amazing amounts of concrete used, and that footings were dug deeper than might be considered necessary. There was also something a bit odd, and isolated about the organization of certain sections of the new wing. Though many may have wondered, there was nothing to give any indication of what, if any, special purpose these sections of the new wing might serve. For certain other phases of the construction, however, there was clearly something going on, and there was no disguising it. A select few workers, sworn to secrecy, and required to sign non disclosure agreements, installed vault doors, air and water filtration systems, an extensive phone and alarm system, as well as the broadcast studios, and the secret entrances themselves.

     Though the walls are two feet think, and of reinforced concrete, this is not a bomb shelter, and could not withstand anything like a nuclear hit. For those who worked there, and who knew of it's function, this was "The Bunker". Such a designation brings to mind unfortunate images of Hitler hiding out in the last days of the Third Reich, with Berlin collapsing about his ears; but then, the facilities under the west wing of the Greenbrier were not meant to be used in happy times. In point of fact, a certain pessimism verging on hysteria filled the air during it's construction. Were it ever to be used, presumably Washington, as well as much of the rest of the country, would lay in radioactive ruins, with as much as a third of the population dead or dying.
     For guests of the resort, the whole thing passed largely unnoticed, though many of the hotel employees may have wondered at some of the strange goings on. Still, discretion is a part of the professionalism of any staff member in any first class resort. Employees who ask too many questions, talk too much, or do not know the value of discretion, do not stay long at places like the Greenbrier. For a select few, chosen to maintain and secure the facility, there was no mystery at all. Mainly these were employees of Forsythe Associates, a CIA front.

     In an after the fact interview, the head of Forsythe Associates revealed that He had 12 - 15 people on his staff, with perhaps 70 - 100 members of the 1600 strong hotel staff, sworn to secrecy assisting. The cover story for the Forsythe employees was that their function was to repair maintain, and update the hotel's televisions sets, cable communications, and phone service. This was what they spent about 15% to 20% of their time doing. The rest of their time was spent maintaining the bunker in readiness, and preventing it's discovery. Like something out of a spy novel, the back wall of the closet, of the television repair shop, opened into the bunker. This permitted the Forsythe employees to do their job without having to constantly be using the exhibit hall security door, or the outside entrance to the bunker. The repair shop itself had a triple lock, including a time lock. A photo of the shops is shown at right.

     So how do you go about hiding 12,544 feet of space on two floors, in a public facility? Well, mostly, you don't. Some of the largest spaces in the bunker were not hidden at all, and were even used by an unknowing public. The Senate chambers were known as the Mountaineer room, and the larger House chambers were known as the Governors hall. Both were used for presentations, and could be rented out as meeting rooms. During the holidays, movies were shown there for children of the employees. A huge exhibit hall, adjacent to the meeting rooms, with twenty foot ceilings, would have been where the work of government was carried out. This exhibit hall defines the boundary of the bunker, and can be closed off, from the hotel proper, by a steel vault door, hidden behind a wall panel.

     Though these large rooms were hidden in plain site, there were other portions of the bunker, who's functions could not be so easily disguised. Foremost among these spaces were the dormitories, the television and radio stations, security areas, and telecom, decontamination areas. There were also 18 dormitories in the bunker, that could each sleep 60 people, in steel framed bunk beds which would be familiar to anyone who had served in the military. Though it would have been impossible to hide the entire bunker, every public facility has certain areas which are off limits. Every hotel has engineering spaces, storage areas, and service areas which are locked and can only be accessed by the people who work them. A visitor to the exhibit hall, or to one of the meeting rooms, heading towards these more secure areas, would have encountered a high security door, presumably opening onto machinery rooms. A hotel employee would simply know that the area was off limits, and that if he wanted to keep his job, to stay out. Behind this door were the smaller, more personal, and more secure areas of the bunkers. In time of war, the big steel vault door to the exhibit hall would have been closed off, sealing the entire bunker off completely.

     The legislative branch would have had roughly 60 days of food and water, in this little piece of paradise.  There was no room in the original shelter, for family members; but latter on arrangements were made to modify the regular hotel portions of the west wing, to positive overpressure. What this means is that these areas are sealed against the outside, and that filtered air is forced through them, at higher pressure than that outside. This is the same system used in tanks, ships, and in structures that may be subject to nuclear, biological or chemical attack. Though there would not be any blast or radiation protection, inhabitants of these spaces would be breathing uncontaminated air, and would presumably have some access to the food and water of the bunker. These areas would, however, be outside of the steel bunker doors. This area would be set aside for the families of those housed in the bunker, though these family members would not be allowed by security personnel to pass through the vault doors. Up to 1400 people could be housed in these modified spaces, adjacent to the bunker. This provides room for about two and a half dependants per bunker resident, which was about the average family size at the time. Some members would have more and some less; but presumably it would all even out.

     The hotel was protected by it's isolation, and by the shield of the surrounding hills.  It was about a two hour drive from Washington D.C., perhaps a bit less by rail. In today's environment, this may be too long; but back in the time that it was built, it took two to four hours for an ICBM launch, and even longer for a nuclear bomber to reach it's destination. Today, there might be as little as 30 - 45 minutes warning of a nuclear attack. Still, this might be enough to get away from the impact area, and then survive to reach the bunker latter. So even in the ICBM era, the bunker remained a somewhat viable option.

      This was, it turned out, a pretty widely known "Secret". The construction crews, hotel staff, and most of the area residents knew that something having to do with the Cold War was going on here. The existence of the bunker was pretty commonly known here, and it's probable function was fairly easily guessed. Still, even with the all of these people knowing, the secret was never revealed outside of the area, for thirty years. The people of southern West Virginia are, it seems, decent, patriotic, trustworthy, and honorable. Unfortunately, this is not the case everywhere in the country. The people who run, and work for  the washington post have none of these fine qualities.

     In 1992, Ted Gup betrayed the secret to the washington post, which cheerfully revealed it to the world. This was nothing new for the post. It had regularly undermined the interests of the country (as it still does) even to the extent of compromising the identities of American intelligence agents, and putting their lives in danger. This was a new low though, even for the post. Here they had revealed the emergency location of the government, making it subject to targeting during war. The government has spent the equivalent of billions of dollars, in today's money, on a facility that was now compromised and useless for it's intended function. In addition to this, the Greenbrier itself would now be out the money that it was regularly being paid, by the government, for use of the facilities. The original article can be found at

     With the compromising of the secret of the bunker, the hotel had all of this unused space which was no longer generating income.  What was ultimately decided upon, was to take advantage of the secure and hardened nature of the site, to offer secure storage facilities. This generated a pretty fair income. Tour groups, being led through at $30 a head, produces more, so the old bunker appears to still be paying it's way, though no longer through government service. So what about the Congress, in time of emergency? Well, presumably, there has been another spot chosen and readied, in case the worst should happen. The secret of the bunker was revealed in 1992; but the bunker itself was not closed down until 1995, giving the government three years to prepare another place. Construction of the Greenbrier facility took three years, from 1959, until  1962 --- the same amount of time. It makes you wonder.

The Tour

      In 2002, the Bunker was remodeled, and partially converted for other uses.  The most significant change was to convert the old dorm rooms into secure record storage, and then lease these secure facilities out to various corporations. This is about as secure a storage facility as can be had, these days. The old cafeteria has been converted into a gourmet center, while the meeting rooms, and exhibition hall remain unchanged. A portion of one of the side rooms has some of the old bunks, and other materials from the pre conversion bunker, and has been turned into a mock up display of what the shelter had once been like.

   The tour starts at a community center in White sulfur Springs. Tours are by reservation only, and cost $30. A bus pulls up to the back door, and takes the visitors a few blocks, to the Greenbrier. Visitors are dropped outside the tunnel entrance, while the guide explains some of the history of the place. Unfortunately, cameras are strictly prohibited, though this has not always been the case. For a while, tours were being given to guests only, and photography was allowed. The Bunker was also, at that time, in pretty much its original condition. Today things are a bit different.

     The CSX railroad owns the Greenbrier, and it's I.T. subsidiary CSXIP has converted the dorms into secure storage areas for sensitive data.  Various large corporations lease out space here. What these means is that photography is no longer allowed, as part of the security arrangement with CSXIP clients, and the dorms may no longer be viewed in their original state. What the hotel has done, is set up some mock up areas, using original bunks and lockers, in a corner of one of the display rooms. Other changes have been made as well, particularly to the old cafeteria. So the place is not exactly as it was, during the Cold War; but is still more than worth seeing. If nothing else, the price of admission gets you into the grounds, and inside of one of the world's great resort hotels.

Visitors meet here, to be taken to the Greenbrier bunker. This is the community center, adjacent to the high school.
A greenbrier bus takes us from the community center, the several blocks up to the resort, and past the gate.
This false front, and the sign it wears, gives the illusion that you are looking at a machinery room, complete with cooling vents. In point of fact, the cooling vents are functional, though they are not for cooling. A series of powerful fans on the other side of the door are able to draw air through the entire bunker.
Once through the camouflage door, the visitor is confronted by this 28 ton concrete filled steel door, built by the Mossler safe company. The door can only be locked or unlocked by turning the wheel from the inside. The 28 ton door requires only about 50 pounds of force to push it open or closed. The round structures above the door are covers for a set of powerful ventilation fans. In photographs, the shadows cast by the heavy bolts holding them in place, almost make them look like clocks, or dial indicators.
The back side of the fans, just above the 28 ton door.
A look down the 430 foot corridor. During the Cold War, this corridor would be filled with food, and other supplies. The shelter was stocked for a two month stay.
A side view of part of the huge water tankage here. These areas are in the lower portions of the bunker.
Part of the water filtration and distribution system.
Part of the huge electrical panel which distributes the power generated at the facility.
The incinerator, which also doubles as a crematorium. This has the fearsome look of something out of a nazi concentration camp.
The hallway in the private, secure portion of the bunker. This was behind a security door and was never seen by the public. Only the Forsythe employees, and a very few members of the hotel engineering and custodial staff ever laid eyes on this place.
A view down row after row of bunks, in one of the dormitories. This is where the senators, and congressmen would have slept. Though hardly the lap of luxury, it would be preferable to most of what would be outside. Each bed is wrapped in plastic, with bedding and other personal items inside of the plastic wrap.
This is another one of the dormitory rooms. all together, there were 18 such dormitories. men and women slept in separate dorms. The pink beds indicate that this was a woman's dormitory. The darker colored beds in the above photo are in a men's dormitory. Such niceties seem almost humorous, in retrospect. On the other hand, this place was an attempt to keep the government, as well as the nation and the culture, alive and functional. So perhaps such niceties are more important, under such circumstances. the trappings of civilization become more vital, when it hangs by but a thin strand.
A close up of a pair of plastic wrapped bunks. The bunker was set up to house the Senate, the House, and the staff members who served those two bodies. family members might be brought to the Greenbrier, if there was enough time; but they would not be sleeping here. Instead, all non official personnel would be in a specially enhanced section of the west wing of the hotel, outside of the bunker area, on the other side of the vault doors.
The governors room, which was often rented out to the public as a meeting room or auditorium. In the event of a nuclear war, this would be the chamber room for the house.   
The small meeting room, or press room. This would be used for press conferences, briefings, and the occasional television broadcast.    
The security monitoring center. The panels above are  intruder detectors. The console below controls the various security cameras throughout the bunker area.  
This is a portion of the communications center. There are cryptograph machines here as well as telephone, and  radio gear. To the right can be seen part of the booth and controls for making radio or television broadcasts.  
A nation at war, particularly during a nuclear war, is not a secure place. This is the weapon room for the security personnel. Note that this is riot gear, rather than military weaponry.
A part of the extensive medical facilities in the bunker.  
This is the entrance to the exhibit hall, and thus the bunker, from the hotel. Note the thickness of the bunker walls. The place is built like a fortress, because that is what it is. The large panel in the wall conceals a 25 ton safe door. A floor to ceiling panel on the opposite side conceals the door frame into which the vault door fits. These panels are kept locked, and were not generally given a second thought, by unknowing guests and employees.