The Cold War may be of a bygone era, but its legacy lingers far beneath the surface of the United States. Scattered across the nation lies a network of fortified underground facilities, a testament to a time of looming nuclear threats and global tensions. These four enigmatic bases, shrouded in secrecy, serve as a critical line of defense and a reminder of the lengths nations go to in times of crisis.

Cheyenne Mountain Complex: A Cold War Colossus

One prominent example is the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, nestled within Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain. Carved deep within the granite heart of Colorado Springs, this facility is a marvel of Cold War engineering and a testament to American military foresight.

Construction began in 1961, driven by the urgent need for a fortified command center in the face of a growing Soviet nuclear threat.

Imagine the colossal undertaking – hollowing out a mountain over a five-year period, removing enough rock to fill 2.2 million dump trucks! The resulting behemoth boasts over 150,000 square feet of floor space spread across three floors strategically nestled within the 5.1-acre mountain.

The crown jewel of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex was undoubtedly its role as the home of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

nuclear bunker blast door
A 25-ton North blast door at Cheyenne Mountain Complex circa 2006. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

During the tense decades of the Cold War, NORAD personnel within this hardened facility served as the watchful eyes and ears of North American airspace. Advanced radar systems and sophisticated tracking technology allowed them to monitor for any potential aerial threats, be it incoming bombers or rogue missiles.

The complex’s hardened shell, designed to withstand a direct nuclear attack, ensured NORAD’s ability to maintain continuity of operations even in the most catastrophic scenarios.

However, Cheyenne Mountain wasn’t solely focused on defense against aerial threats. It housed elements of the US Strategic Command, US Air Force Space Command, and US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) throughout its operational history. This concentration of military might under one roof solidified the complex’s position as a vital hub for coordinating various defense efforts.