Whether it’s a dollar bill or a lost winter glove, finding something on the cold cement of a parking garage floor isn’t likely to change your day all that much. Still, every now and then, a seemingly worthless item can turn into something so much more—just ask Garrett Graff.
A historian and political author, Graff didn’t think much of the item one of his work colleagues found on the floor of a parking garage. But upon a closer inspection, he saw something on the object that piqued his journalistic curiosity. What followed was a life-changing, multi-year hunt into some of America’s most deeply buried secrets…
Political writer Garrett Graff covered a lot of hot-button issues in his lifetime, from the War on Terror to the 2008 U.S. presidential election. But perhaps his most eye-opening research started when his friend handed him something peculiar.
“It was a government ID for someone from the intelligence community,” Graff said, “and he gave it to me since I write about that subject, and he’s like, ‘I figure you can get this back to this guy.’” The friend, he noted, had found the ID on a parking garage floor.
Right away, Graff noticed something peculiar about the ID: step-by-step driving instructions covered the back of it. So Graff, inquisitive journalist that he was, used Google Maps to locate the direction’s end destination—and the results surprised him.
The directions led him to a mountain peak just over 70 miles outside of Washington D.C. There, at a peak known as Raven Rock, the road just… ended. It led to the face of the mountain and then, nothing.
Graff recalled everything else he saw once he made the trip out there. “You can see very clearly these big concrete bunker doors,” he said. “This little guard shack, chain-link fence, and then this set of concrete bunker doors beyond.” What had he just found?
“It was a facility that I had never heard of that wasn’t on any map,” Graff elaborated. His inner historian and journalist totally freaking out, he started researching what he’d found as soon as he could.
He didn’t know it when he first stumbled upon the structure, but the directions had led him to Raven Rock Mountain Complex, also known as ‘Site R’. To put it more bluntly, he’d found a nuclear fallout shelter!
Graff’s research turned up plenty of information on the United States government’s nuclear war contingency plan—some of it comforting, some of it horrifying, and all of it fascinating. For example…
The Truman administration sanctioned construction on the bunker in 1951 once the Cold War with the Soviet Union started warming up. They used a construction team who’d carved out New York City subway tunnels to do the job. So how’d they keep it secret?
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