During the cold war, America’s ICBM program was the key to America’s safety. The certainty that if our nation’s enemies decided to unleash nuclear hell within our shores, we possessed the arsenal and willpower to decimate those enemies was a tenuous, but powerful, way to assure a public that grew up with the threat of nuclear war looming over their heads. In a perfect world, American children wouldn’t have grown up practicing for nuclear war, hiding beneath their desks and chanting “duck and cover,” but in our imperfect reality, mutually assured destruction was the preferable alternative to nuclear winter and the end of mankind as we knew it.
In order to ensure America could strike back at foreign enemies even after the bombs had hit, nuclear bunkers and ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) silos were constructed all throughout the country. Often, these massive structures were housed entire beneath the surface of the ground, hidden from American citizen and enemy spy alike. They were designed for their sparse crews to survive nuclear detonations on American soil, return fire, and sustain themselves within the bunkers long enough to hopefully begin rebuilding the American nation. This somber duty came with a single saving grace: the understanding that one’s position within the nuclear arsenal guaranteed you a place among the survivors, and possibly one of the few remaining roles in the American government or military.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, America’s nuclear arsenal began to change shape. Smaller, tactical warheads were favored over giant sky scrapers of national destruction (at least to an extent) and many of these hardened facilities found themselves without a missile to house, and further, without an impending nuclear threat to warrant its continued, and expensive maintenance. Many were left empty and unattended for decades, only to be rediscovered in recent years by real estate developers.
My recent article about what not to do in a zombie apocalypse prompted some well thought out and intelligent discussions not only about the logistics of a real emergency situation, but the psychology behind the seemingly uniquely millennial fervor for a world ending of some sort. Our popular culture is saturated with various forms of Armageddon, and it’s created a subculture in America that wants to purchase supplies, equipment, and even real estate to ensure they are prepared for the worst.