American Doomsday

blog post photo

by Charles Fitzgerald

My research for ‘American Doomsday” uncovered what I first saw as a Stranglovian world of nuclear paranoia, secret bunkers and elaborate “Doomsday” plans. It was bizarre.

But digging deeper I realized that America’s Doomsday plans were born of a very real and legitimate fear that if the Soviet Union launched a surprise nuclear attack, the nation as we know it may cease to exist.

Many Americans are aware of parts of the Doomsday plans. We’ve seen them in action, but probably don’t realize it. For example, we know that during the State of the Union, one member of the cabinet stays away from the Capitol; that on 9/11, Air Force One, with President Bush on board, flew a seemingly random pattern around the country; that Vice President Cheney frequently visited undisclosed locations after 9/11. It turns out that all of these are part of a massive plan to preserve our government’s very existence in times of trouble.

During production, we took our cameras to the old congressional Doomsday bunker under The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. And we were very fortunate that the U.S. Air Force opened up the doors to Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska where the E4-B, commonly known as the Doomsday Plane, is based.

Video Preview: “Inside the Doomsday Plane” — Follow Nat Geo on an exclusive look inside the federal govenment’s failsafe in the event of an attack—the doomsday plane.

We also examined years of press reports, declassified documents and spoke experts.

We were able to piece together a fascinating picture the presidential Doomsday bunker inside Mount Weather in Virginia and the alternate Pentagon inside Raven Rock Mountain in Pennsylvania.

These elaborate Doomsday plans and facilities were never used during the Cold War. And in the 1990s, they were put on the shelf. Then came September 11th, 2001. And they kicked into action for the first time. It’s a story of 9/11 I’d never heard.

Video Preview: “The President’s Secret Bunker” — The Eisenhower administration spent millions outfitting the executive branch with emergency plans—including a mountain bunker.

Don’t miss Explorer “American Doomsday” premiering November 8th at 10P et/pt.


  1. […] show’s producer, Charles Fitzgerald, discussed his experience with the material on the Nat Geo TV Blogs section of the National Geographic website […]