In the best-selling 1962 spy thriller SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, the

Joint Chiefs of Staff plot to overthrow the U.S. president. Their
conspiracy centers on a place called Mount Thunder, a secret
subterranean command post where government leaders would go in the
event of a nuclear attack.
On December 1, 1974, a TWA Boeing 727 jet crashed into a fogshrouded mountain in northern Virginia and burned, killing all
ninety-two persons aboard. Near the wreckage was a fenced
government reserve identified as Mount Weather.
Mount Weather is a real place; eighty-five acres located
forty-five miles west of Washington and 1,725 feet above sea
level, near the town of Bluemont, Virginia. In the event of allout war, an elite of civilian and military leaders are to be taken
to Mount Weather's cavernous underground shelter to become the
nucleus of a postwar American society. The government has a secret
list of those persons it plans to save.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) runs Mount
Weather. When it has to talk about the place, which is rare, it
calls it the "special facility." Its more common name comes from a
weather station that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had
maintained on the mountain.
The authors of SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, Fletcher Knebel and Charles
W. Bailey II, were Washington journalists who learned a lot about
the then-quite-secret post. Few readers of Knebel and Bailey's
fiction could have imagined how close to the truth it was. The
novel gives detailed highway directions from Washington:
...the Chrysler wheeled onto Route 50,
heading away from Washington....
In the jungle of neon lights and access
roads at Seven Corners, Corwin saw Scott bear
right onto Route 7, the main road to Leesburg.
The two cars moved slowly through Falls Church
before the traffic began to thin out and speed
At the fork west of Leesburg, Scott bore
right on Route 9, heading toward Charles
Town.... They began to climb toward the Blue
Ridge, the eastern rim of the Shenandoah
West of Hillboro, where the road crossed
the Blue Ridge before dropping into the
valley....Scott turned left. Corwin followed
him onto a black macadam road that ran
straight along the spine of the ridge.
...Because of his White House job, Corwin
knew something about this road that few other
Americans did. Virginia 120 appeared to be
nothing more than a better-than-average Blue
Ridge byway, but it ran past Mount Thunder,
where an underground installation provided one
of the several bases from which the President
could run the nation in the event of a nuclear
attack on Washington.
Knebel and Bailey disguised the directions slightly. You
continue on Route 7 west of Leesburg, turning left on Route 601
just west of Bluemont. It's Virginia Route 601 that runs right up
to the gates of Mount Weather. Residents have long known there is
something funny about that road; it is always the first road

" In the late 1960s an unidentified "hippie" is supposed to have stumbled upon the facility and sketched it from a tree.S. Senator John Tunney (D-Calif. and hikers can get close enough to see signs and flashing lights. "I don't understand what they're trying to hide out there. maps or graphic representations of this area or its activities are prohibited." Mount Weather has been owned by the government since 1903.) charged that Mount Weather held dossiers on 100. That is presumed to be safer than any point on the ground. Caldwell. Government geologists selected the site because it has some of the most impregnable rock in the United States. At one point. the president is supposed to board a Boeing 747 National Emergency Airborne Command Post ("Kneecap"). The shelter was started in the Truman administration. There is a whole chain of shelters for leaders and critical personnel. A sophisticated computer system gives the installation access to detailed information on the lives of virtually every American citizen.000 or more Americans. The club had to go to the main gate to get the dogs back. citing far-fetched speculation that Mount Weather's radio antennas may have interfered with the jet's radar and caused the disaster. One sign reads: "All persons and vehicles entering hereon are liable to search. The Federal Relocation Arc." Tunney complained that Mount Weather was "out of control. His drawing turned up in the QUICKSILVER TIMES. The POST published a picture of the facility. former governor of Florida. That is where Mount Weather comes in. No one believes it offers any real protection from a nuclear attack on Washington. Mount Weather got more unsolicited publicity in 1975. how many people work there. or how long it has been in its current use. staff director of the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights." Douglas Lea.cleared after a snowstorm. an underground newspaper in Washington. In World War I it was an artillery range. The Appalachian Trail runs right by Mount Weather. FEMA has elaborate plans for getting the president and other key officials out of Washington should there be a nuclear attack. and it took years to tunnel into the mountain. Mount Weather as an alternate capital seems to have been the idea of Millard F. After the TWA crash. Residents also tell of the time a hunt club chased a fox onto the site and triggered an alarm. It is guarded around the clock. when the site was purchased by the U. drawings. Tunney claimed. But it is all but impossible to keep such a place secret. and during the Depression it was a workfarm for hobos. a spokesman "politely declined to comment on what Mt. The entrance is said to be like the door to a bank vault." the WASHINGTON POST reported. Then its engine will conk out for lack of oil. Mount Weather personnel stonewalled question after question in two Senate hearings. In that event. only thicker. There is a fallout shelter under the East Wing of the White House. "Mount Weather is just closed up to us. You don't get into Mount Weather without an invitation. however. set into a mountain made out of the toughest granite in the East. Weather was used for. the government asked the local paper not to print any articles about the facility. Department of Agriculture. said. The president's plane can be refueled in the air from other planes and may be able to stay airborne for as long as three days. Photographing. making notes. a system of ninety-six . Calvin Coolidge talked about building a summer White House there.

is Mount Weather. and hospitals. The most surprising of Pollack's revelations is that Mount Weather has a working back-up of U. Mount Weather is much more than a fallout shelter. Labor. Secretary. a writer for PROGRESSIVE magazine.shelters for specific U. Once a year they pull out all the stops and have a super drill in which REAL Cabinet members and White House staffers fly in from Washington. food storage. Miniature versions of the Selective Service. "All important staff meetings were conducted via color television as far back as 1958.hammocks intended to be occupied in three eight-hour shifts. the Federal Power Commission. Installed at Mount Weather are nine federal departments. speaking under the promise of strict anonymity. "Protocol even demands that subordinates address them as 'Mr. and the Treasury. General Leslie Bray. interviewed a number of persons who had been associated with Mount Weather. told me that each of the federal departments represented at Mount Weather is headed by a single person on who is conferred Cabinet-level official.S. There are office buildings. The Mount Weather folks set great store by visual aids and retain artists and cartographers at all times. An Office of the Presidency is ensconced in an underground wing known as the White House. Until then. Interior. making Mount Weather an eerie doppelganger of the United States. There are private apartments as well. Government EVEN NOW. Undisclosed persons there duplicate the responsibilities of our elected leaders. A futuristic color videophone system is the basic means of communication within Mount Weather's subterranean world. Housing and Urban Development. Commerce. sweeps through North Carolina. and power plant." What do all these people DO? Twice a month. the Post Office. the Veteran's Administration. Health and Human Services. The Situation Room. Mount Weather has its own waterworks. a circular chamber. and a battery-powered subway. a staffer appointed by FEMA would be carrying out duties said to simulate those of the real president. the Civil Service Commission. it is a troglodytic Levittown. and the place where the top civilians would go. The administrative center of the whole system. Mount Weather stages a war game to train its personnel and explore various dire scenarios. sidewalks. would be a nerve center in the time of war." Pollack reported. The elected president or survivor closest in the chain of command would make his way there and take over the reins. Transportation." one former staffer bragged. director of the Federal Preparedness .S. Many of the 'secretaries' have held their positions through several administrations. Maryland. West Virginia. cafeterias. In the mid-1970s Richard Pollack. According to them. Virginia. Mount Weather is an underground city with roads. too.' Each of the Mount Weather 'Cabinet members' is apparently appointed by the White House and serves an indefinite term. and Pennsylvania. Government agencies. Large dormitories are furnished with bunks or "hot cots" -. and the Federal Reserve are there. A spring-fed artificial lake gleams in the fluorescent light. long before it was generally available to the public. their very names ironic in the context: Agriculture. A duplicate of the Pentagon is located at a site called Raven Rock in Maryland. "High-level government sources. the Federal Communications Commission. A "bubbleshaped pod" in the East Tunnel houses one of the most powerful computers in the world. State.

wholesale and retail services. energy and power. provide he survives his Kneecap command. little is known and the few existing accounts conflict. housing shelter. The Survivor List  In 1975 General Bray told the Senate that the Mount Weather survivor list had sixty-five hundred names on it. medical and educational institutions. Furthermore. manufacturing. told the Senate that Mount Weather has extensive files on "military installations." Additional information is kept in safekeeping at other shelters in the Federal Relocation Arc. sanitary facilities. transportation. The vice-president and Cabinet members are on the list because they take part in the annual dry runs." for postnuclear sessions of Congress. what about Congress? General Bray said that his responsibilities included the executive branch only. not Congress or the Supreme Court. REQUEST FULL ASSISTANCE AND UNRESTRICTED MOVEMENT BE AFFORDED THE PERSON TO WHOM THIS CARD IS ISSUED. but multiple strikes could blast the mountain away. the Mount Weather analysts reasoned. Earl Warren is said to have been invited when he was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Who might be included? The president." General Bray admitted that some others such as telephone company technicians are included. Warren refused because he was not allowed to take his wife. Each person on the survival list has an ID card with a photo. FEMA's predecessor. and a very strategic one if the relocation works. The Soviets tried to buy an estate near Mount Weather as a "vacation retreat" for embassy employees. But in an interview in 1976. and stockpiles. communications. agriculture. of course. Pollack said he heard stories that some construction workers were on the list "because. manpower. Senator Hubert Humphrey insisted that he had visited the shelter as vicepresident and seen "a nice little chamber. The vast majority of the persons on the list are believed to be ranking bureaucrats from the nine federal agencies with branches at Mount Weather. . financial. The State Department stopped the sale. population. For instance. government facilities. rostrum and all. The "toughest granite in the East" may have offered some protection in Eisenhower's time.Agency. The protocol for ordering persons to Mount Weather specifies that messages not be left with family members answering the phone. excavation work for mass graves would be needed immediately in the aftermath of a thermonuclear war.and almost certainly knew long before the Western press did. What would a bomb do? The Soviet Union knows exactly where Mount Weather is -. It was reported that the TWA jet crash knocked out power at Mount Weather for two and a half hours. The card reads: THE PERSON DESCRIBED ON THIS CARD HAS ESSENTIAL EMERGENCY DUTIES WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Mount Weather is a non-movable target. Beyond that. There is a body of opinion that considers Mount Weather obsolete.