Review of ‘Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself– While the Rest of Us Die’ by Jim:
Raven Rock is one of the Cold War “hardened” facilities built to ensure a continuity of government in the face of a nuclear war and gives the book its title.
The strategy the gov’t has employed for defending the “nation” or government against destruction since the advent of nuclear weapons can perhaps be best described as: vacillating, confused, and inconsistent. All of that stems from a constantly changing emphasis on what constitutes the “nation”. Is that the government, physically? the constitutional FORM of govt? the military and its ability to “respond” to attack, or is it the populace? Efforts to address a nuclear threat from foreign enemies have to be catered to this definition of “nation” and what is to be preserved.
The military stepped up handily to develop the means to wage war, and early efforts by the government amounted to providing the means to direct the war and preserve the “services” of govt by building shelters for govt officials, and the communications and command centers needed to wage a war. Little to no thought was initially given to what would occur AFTER the bombs had fallen. As COG advanced this changed with departments such as the IRS working on methods to collect taxes post holocaust and the Federal Reserve stockpiling physical money in vaults to ensure that the economy could be propped up enough to ensure rebuilding of infrastructure could occur. Civilian civic and business leaders were brought into the effort to ensure that industry had a place in COG (I wonder how multi-national corporations view the obligations to this effort now…)
Largely, it was determined that at least a fair percentage of the population of the country would survive the initial war, and since protecting large numbers of people would be too large of an undertaking, efforts would be most efficiently used ensuring the survival of gov’t personnel and structure. Civil Defense fell by the wayside as the speed of a nuclear war would outpace the ability to evacuate cities or shield people in place; nukes can be delivered, now, within fractions of an hour, by running, as the saying goes, you would only die tired.
The book describes the process through which the gov’t worked to arrive at this conclusion. It describes the building of military forces, and shelters for Congress, the Presidency and many of the departments of government; each having its own shelters and fall back locations.
Chapters address each successive Presidential administration’s efforts at understanding how and what to preserve and describes how much importance each placed on continuing or contributing to the COG efforts. (it may come as a surprise that President Carter revived the efforts greatly and provided much needed focus and improvement). The ebb and flow of the energies devoted were influenced by co-incidental and related and unrelated world/national/political events each administration had to deal with which in some cases provided impetus to continue and sometime distractions from COG efforts. The rapidly changing weapons technology also influenced preparations; what would have worked at the onset of the Cold War was rendered moot by improvements in weapons and communications.
A lot of effort was put in to describing the facilities the government erected for each of the many departments; places like Raven Rock, Mount Weather, Cheyenne Mountain and more. It also describes how these places fell into disuse through the ennui and complacency born of occupying these doomsday fortresses perpetually staffed but never used, The author also tells how events such as 9/11 kick started these programs that were well on the way to being moth-balled and abandoned. One can imagine what Kim Jung Un and all of the talk about the resurgent Evil Russian Empire is doing to COG efforts and strategies.
While it is very informative, the book is not a page-turner and may not appeal to some.