How did the U.S. Government plan for nuclear war without you? with Garrett Graff
My Nuclear LifeJune 28, 2022
00:42:5839.34 MB

How did the U.S. Government plan for nuclear war without you? with Garrett Graff

Underground nuclear bunkers, the birth of FEMA, secret government plans for the end of the world, and more in this episode. Garrett Graff discusses his book Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself -- While the Rest of Us Die.
Shelly Lesher
Shelly Lesher

Welcome to the My Nuclear Life podcast! In this episode, host Shelly Lesher speaks with Garret Graff, an accomplished journalist and author with multiple books about governmental history. When Shelly discovered his book Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan to Save Itself–While the Rest of Us Die, she knew she had to read it. Listen as they discuss this book and more.

The book goes into great detail about the presidents and who does what when. Part of the weirdness of the U.S. government’s doomsday plans, Garret explains, is the expectation that the president dies in the openings of a war. In the event of a nuclear war, we would end up seeing the presidency end up in teams A, B and C, and everyone would scatter for relocation facilities. Part of what made the Cold War so fascinating is that the U.S. spent an enormous amount of time, money and thinking trying to plan for nuclear war. The U.S. government assumes that someone will still be in charge of the military on the other side of a nuclear war. The U.K., however, assumes that as an island, the entire country could be wiped out within the first few minutes of a nuclear war. When a prime minister takes office, the first thing they do is write out what are known as the handwritten letters of last resort. These are instructions for the missile sub commanders in the event that all of the U.K. is lost. The letters are then sealed inside the safe in each of the submarines and meant to be opened only in the event.

Garret reveals that the internet grew from the U.S. Defense Department’s attempt to build a decentralized communication system that would survive nuclear war. We still plan very much for continuity of government. Many people would be surprised to learn that the daily operations of the president’s doomsday plane are still active. Though it’s been renamed several times, the FEMA central locator service is also still in place. Garret shares that there is even a Subway sandwich shop in one of the bunkers. There is a theory that in response to the word, the American government opted to spread citizens out rather than having them concentrated in a few key areas. The structural racism of Cold War planning is worth mentioning in this context, as the whole fallout movement is geared towards white suburban families who have homes with basements. In an all out global nuclear war, we would likely lose 80-90% of the American population. Though this seems like a huge number, it would mean that there would still be 60 million people. As the conversation wraps up, Garret identifies the most important bit of research he discovered while writing this book. This was how thoroughly the U.S. government actually planned and envisioned a post-apocalyptic government, going as far as assigning responsibilities to the government organizations still standing in the aftermath.


Purchase Garret’s book, Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan to Save Itself–While the Rest of Us Die

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Production costs for this episode were provided through National Science Foundation Grant PHY-2011267.