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The American Experience

Interview with Paul Fritz Bugas

Former On-site Superintendent
The Greenbrier Bunker

Paul Fritz Bugas Q:When did you first come to the bunker?

PFB: I came to the Bunker in 1970. I was the on-site director here from 1970 until the Bunker was compromised and went out of business. I came here because my predecessor unexpectedly passed away and they needed an on-site superintendent . And I happened to have the qualifications that they were looking for at the time and I happened to be available for an assignment here. I had just completed 20 plus years in the military. And I had the necessary clearance and background that they were looking for in terms of managing a facility of this nature and was selected as on-site superintendent for the project.


Q: How did the government manage to keep the bunker a secret?

PFB: The secrecy of the project was built into the construction facility right from the start. From the planning stage to the construction of the facility, as well as the maintenance and operation of the bunker--all was done under an umbrella of secrecy. The Greenbrier happened to be extending its guest facilities and was constructing a wing. They were also looking for space for their diagnostic clinic. And in so doing they built the West Virginia wing. Construction of the West Virginia wing was used as a cover for the building of the bunker. The facility was built directly underneath the West Virginia wing and was constructed at the same time that the wing was being built.

Once construction was completed--construction took place from '59 to '62-- the maintenance and operation of the bunker had to also be performed in secrecy. To help maintain this secrecy, Forsythe Associates, a cover company, was created.

The government employees worked down here under the cover of Forsythe Associates. We functioned as a concessionaire to the hotel, providing auto/video support to the hotel as requested by the Greenbrier. In doing that job, we spent about 15 or 20 percent of our time doing A/V work for the hotel and about 80 percent of our time doing the necessary work here in the government facility. All of this was done as Forsythe Associates. We melded into the community. We lived in the various little villages in and around the Greenbrier: White Sulphur Springs, Lewisburg, Ronceverte, Alderson. These are all towns within the Greenbrier Valley that makes up Greenbrier County. We lived in the various towns and functioned like everybody else. We had a job at the Greenbrier, living where we chose to live in the Greenbrier Valley, and we came to work and performed our duties for the Greenbrier Hotel. When, in fact, we were only doing that on a part time basis and we were really maintaining and operating the facility on a day in, day out basis.

There were about 12 to 15 government employees on-site on a permanent basis. To help maintain the bunker we got additional custodial and mechanical support from cleared hotel employees. Secrecy, denying knowledge of the existence of the shelter from our potential enemies was paramount to all matters of operation.


Q: How would you respond to questions about your work?

PFB: When somebody would ask me what I did at the Greenbrier, I would indicate to them that I was the Regional Manager of Forsythe Associates. And they would say, "What in heavens name is Forsythe Associates?" And I would proceed to tell them that we were a management/electronic consulting firm. We had a regional office located here in White Sulphur Springs that we had a contract with the White Sulphur Springs Company, as the Greenbrier was known, and that we performed certain audio/video support services to and for the hotel. And that the personnel that worked for Forsythe worked for me as the Regional Manager. Our "home" office was up in Northern Virginia. We performed our job at this location.


Q: Was there ever any suspicion about what was going on beneath Greenbrier?

PFB: Well, initially, going back to the time of the construction, probably the biggest blip you might say on the screen in terms of constructing the underground facility was the amount of concrete that was being poured. There was a lot of cement used. That did present a little bit of a problem. But it was openly acknowledged that the Greenbrier was expanding their conference service facilities and that an exhibit hall was being built, along with some meeting rooms. And that in so doing this, the Greenbrier also designated the exhibit hall as a fallout shelter. And it was so marked at the time.

Along with that, and because of rumor and speculation in terms of it being a fallout shelter, there were some beliefs that this would be a relocation site or a place for the President -- then President Eisenhower -- to come to in the event of a war. That type of rumor circulated during the construction period, but rumors as a whole dissipated after the facility was built and construction was completed.


Q: Were there any close calls?

PFB: No, not really. We had good internal security, good physical security. We had good document security. And everybody was very attuned to the security aspect of the project. And as such, we kind of blended into the hotel environment in such a way that by the time I got here, and I got here in 1970, it was pretty well established that we were doing something for the hotel, and that something was providing them with a certain service. And so people really didn't pay too much attention to us. We wore a pair of slacks and a shirt in much the same manner as every other employee of the hotel did, and so everybody kind of accepted us that way. So when you say or ask were there any close calls, not really because, again, we practiced security 24 hours a day on an ongoing basis.


Q: What was your reaction to the article that exposed the bunker?

PFB: When the Washington Post broke the story in late May 1992, my immediate feeling and reaction was one of devastation. The hurt was not only felt by me but by all on-site government employees. We felt a disservice had been done. I'm not talking to us personally, but to our country's security. We felt very strongly about what we had been doing. We had maintained and kept operational a facility ready for occupancy by the Legislative Branch of the government to be used in the event of a national crisis. The facility was very much in a constant state of readiness.

We took great pride in what we did. When all this was exposed in the newspaper it obviously hurt us a great deal. It was felt not only by the government employees but by the Greenbrier hotel and community as a whole and especially by those who worked so closely and intimately on the project.


Q: Could you give us an overview of the facility?

PFB: This facility would have been ready for receiving the occupants within a four to eight hour period of time. There was a detailed plan for relocating the Legislative Branch from Washington to this particular location. The means would be either rail, air or ground transportation.

As people entered the facility they would have gone through a decontamination area, which is essentially nothing more than a shower. There you'd rid yourself of any sort of contamination on your body, dispose of your clothing and be given a fresh issue of clothing. You would then enter the bunker proper. You would come in and there would be 18 furnished dormitories ready to be used. Each dormitory sleeping 60 individuals. You had a cafeteria with a regular institutional type of kitchen that would have fed 400 at a seating. You had meeting rooms for the House of Representatives and for the Senate. They were identified as the Governor's Hall and the Mountaineer room. In the same general area you had the clinic, you had some lounge space and your rest rooms.

On the second level was storage support area as well as the leadership office work area for the Senate, and the same for the House of Representatives at the far end. These were quasi or semi-private facilities where the leadership could conduct meeting and conferences.

Plans were also developed--subsequent to the construction of the facility--for the Congressmen to bring family to this location. It was assumed that most Congressmen were older and probably had grown children. But the facility could have accommodated every Congressman, his or her spouse, plus dependent children--generally thought to be one or two children under the age of 18.

To handle the added occupants, plans called for the use of an area immediately adjacent to the bunker that was also pressurized. Obviously Congress would make the decisions as to how they were going to occupy the facility once they got here. But there was adequate space to take care of 1400 dependents


Q: How is power provided to the facility?

PFB: The power plant is more or less the heart and soul of the whole facility. You have emergency generation in there, you have three, 675 kilowatt Fairbanks Morris diesel generators. You have two low-pressure steam generators. You have two, 175 ton chiller units located there and a filtration system. It is self-contained so that if you lost commercial power, you could access emergency generators. The emergency generators are manually operated. It would take an operator a few minutes to start one, convert it from the commercial mode to an emergency mode, and then you would be running the entire facility off those generators. Any one of the generators could provide the necessary power to run the system.

Your chiller units simply condition the air throughout the shelter. You have NBC filters, nuclear, biological and chemical filters on the upper level of the power plant, plus a myriad of other types of filters that literally filter out any incoming contaminants before the air is processed with the indoor air and is distributed throughout the bunker.

You have major storage areas downstairs. The water is provided from an infiltration gallery or a well about three-quarters of a mile from the Greenbrier. There are three water holding tanks. Each tank contains 25,000 gallons of water. It is processed when it's needed and distributed throughout the facility.

In addition there are three, 14,000 diesel storage tanks located here. You have enough diesel fuel, 42 plus thousand gallons, to sustain the operation for 40 to 45 days.


Q: How would occupants receive medical treatment?

PFB: There was a complete medical facility located here, including a dental office and laboratory, an ICU room and an operating room. There were fourteen beds in the ward area. You could do major surgery here. A compliment of approximately 30 to 35 individuals would have operated the clinic. The medical equipment was reviewed annually.


Q: Describe the West Tunnel and the other entrances to the facility

PFB:The West Tunnel entrance is about 430 feet in length. You have roughly three feet of concrete surrounding you and you have anywhere from 25 to almost 100 feet of dirt on top of that concrete. This tunnel leads into the main part of the shelter, entering in the west entrance.

There are four ways to get into the facility, the West Tunnel entrance is one of them. The other two entrances are at the east end of the shelter, one leading into the hotel and one leading out behind the hotel. The fourth entrance is through a blast door located in the air intake tunnel.


Q: What was stored in the Record Storage area?

PFB: The record storage area was a vault area, which in this instance means a restricted area. It's a reinforced area and there's generally more security provided for this type of area. In this 20 x 20 room, you had a series of storage containers that had the necessary documentation to operate Congress from this location--in the event Congress relocated to this facility. And along with that, stored within this room were some weapons.

The weapons were essentially riot gear and riot control weapons used for physically safeguarding the facility. When the contract was drawn up, this facility was only to be used in the event of war or imminent threat of war. So by the time that it would be activated and go from a dormant to an activated condition, you had a situation where we were at war. As such, the contract called for the government to take over the entire Greenbrier facility. And in so doing, you would have a security force -- and the idea of the weapons being here was just to have them available in the event that security personnel had to perform physical safeguarding and/or any sort of riot control duties.


Q:What was the role of the Communications Area?

PFB: The Communication Area was almost as vital as the power plant facility. You had a myriad of communications available--from the unclassified to the classified, from telephone to radio, etc. You had an ADP capability that was, at the time of compromise, second to none. We were right on the cutting edge there. It was a facility that could handle and could communicate with other relocation facilities wherever they might be, and would put the Legislative Branch of government in touch with the Executive Branch. And, of course, the idea of the whole program was that in this period of national emergency the Executive, Legislative and the Judicial Branches of government, should they have had to relocate from Washington, could have been in communication with each other and could continue with the business of government.

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