Underground Structures of the Cold War, The World Below

B1725

The first question on picking up this well researched book is; why has no one addressed this subject before? The Cold War was a conflict every bit as significant as any war fought before. In parts of the world it was a very hot war as East and West attempted to use conflict to gain advantage without escalating to a major nuclear exchange. A fascinating and absorbing book

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NAME: Underground Structures of the Cold War, The World Below
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
FILE: R1725
DATE: 230512
AUTHOR: Paul Ozorak
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
PAGES: 363
PRICE: £25.00
GENRE: Non fiction
SUBJECT: Cold War, nuclear conflict, fortifications, bunkers, command and control, missile silo, radar, radiation monitoring
ISBN: 1-84884-480-8
IMAGE: B1725.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/dxz4c9u
LINKS: http://tinyurl.com/
DESCRIPTION: The first question on picking up this well researched book is; why has no one addressed this subject before? The Cold War was a conflict every bit as significant as any war fought before. In parts of the world it was a very hot war as East and West attempted to use conflict to gain advantage without escalating to a major nuclear exchange. On several occasions, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War came very close to turning into a global nuclear exchange. Over the coming years, the controversy will continue as historians attempt to evaluate what the Cold War achieved and what it prevented. There can be no conclusion because there is no example of how a nuclear war turned out. The dropping of atomic bombs on Japan provides no real evidence of the effects of nuclear warfare, only how a great gesture can force an enemy to review the prospects. This lack of actual combat may go some way to explaining how we have neglected lessons and failed to appreciate the place of technology and techniques developed in preparation for the terror of nuclear war. However, the situation is more complex. Historically, fortifications have mostly been visible and served several purposes. Castles survive from ancient times. Portchester Castle demonstrates how a Roman foreshore fort has survived almost two millennia and been used as an important Medieval defence with the addition of a Norman keep. Edward I’s great castles still stand as testament to his military architects and the part they played in intimidating potential rebels. Around the world military fortifications have survived the centuries, been studied extensively and become tourist attractions. They have also been tested by combat and the results have also been much analysed by historians. In most cases, they have been in use for prolonged periods and served several purposes. Many have served as prisons or seats of government, royal palaces, or buildings used within a community. In contrast, Cold War fortifications were built mainly underground, used briefly and never tested in combat, remaining unknown even to those living close by. The bunkers vary enormously in size. In Britain, the smallest were built for Royal Observer Corps personnel and catered typically for a two man crew who had a primary task of monitoring and reporting the spread of radioactive plumes from bomb bursts. They were augmented by personnel using a room in a traditional home, where they had no protection and their special telephone instrument and hand cranked siren would have provided little practical value. They were part of a series of communications networks linking the small bunkers and unprotected sites back to Group headquarters that were sited in underground bunkers that were provisioned for extended use, but incapable of surviving a close strike even by a smaller tactical nuclear bomb. Apart from periodic exercises of a few days duration, the Group bunkers were rarely used and the permanent staff were usually accommodated in wooden huts on top of the bunkers. Even close neighbours were often unaware of the underground bunkers and the mundane surface accommodation was notable only when the telescopic radio masts were raised and the diesel generators test run. Several countries built similar monitoring networks as part of their military forces or for civil defence organizations. Much larger underground facilities were constructed as military headquarters, often very deep underground and the size of small towns. There were also natural underground caverns that were not truly part of the underground fortifications of the Cold War, but were earmarked for the storage of valuable artwork and other heritage items, and in some cases to accommodate civilians as air raid shelters. The failure to reach any consensus on probable survival rates meant that the civilian population was largely neglected and left to their own devices. At periods of increased tension, some families dug out part of the garden and built a shelter, while some purchased prefabricated shelters to be buried in their gardens. Whether these private fortifications would have been effective is debatable, but they were certainly better than the official advise of building one inside the house or relying on a sturdy kitchen table and suitcases filled with earth. Military command centres and missile silos were well constructed and many would have resisted a near miss. As their effectiveness was never tested in combat it is impossible to know how realistic they would have been. Certainly, those hardened aircraft shelters that were build around airfields would have provided protection from blast waves generated by explosions away from the airfield and provided protection against ground attack aircraft using conventional weapons. Less convincing were the governmental command centres that were build by governments to provide some level of government services for any survivors. Regional and national centres provided accommodation for essential personnel and some provided accommodation for the immediate families of these people. A typical government bunker would be built at medium depth, usually with the entrance disguised as an innocuous private home, or some other mundane structure. The author has produced what looks like an impressively comprehensive list of Cold War bunkers across the spectrum of sizes and given some indication of their eventual fate. A few, such as RAF Ash near Dover, have been sold to Internet companies who have used the bunkers for secure servers with high levels of physical protection against likely attack risks and enhanced the original standby power systems to produce long term independent and carefully regulated power. A few bunkers have been preserved as historic sites, but most have been back filled with rubbish and sealed. Some bunkers, such as the ROC Group facility at Norwich, UK, have been broken up in the hope of using the land for some commercial purpose. Breaking up a bunker is generally prohibitively expensive because the structure was designed to withstand extreme forces. The author has extended his coverage to include sites in Europe, North America, Africa, Asia, The Middle East and the Far East. In the process some sites will have evaded him because they are still in use and their very nature means that they are still protected secrets. However, it does not appear that he has missed any typical examples across the range of Cold War fortifications. Future generations may have difficulty in understanding why more of these facilities have not been preserved as heritage sites. The main reason for rapid disposal of bunkers and the very limited re-use for other purposes is due to the cost of maintaining the bunkers. Deep bunkers are typically equipped with sewage ejectors that pump waste material up to the surface and into existing drains or treatment plants. If they are not regularly used, they become blocked and useless. In many cases water seeps into the bunkers and when they were in regular use, the water drained into sumps, from where it was pumped to the surface to flow off into existing drainage systems. Without continuing pumping, the bunkers would very quickly flood. Ventilation systems were particularly complex because they were forced air systems that could maintain a higher pressure than the atmosphere outside to prevent poison gas or radioactive dust seeping into the bunker. That required some very complex filtration systems and powerful compressors. The problems are most extreme for those bunkers that were deep mined and accessed by vertical shafts, as for a coal mine. The alternative site presented fewer problems because it was burrowed into the side of a hill or mountain. The entrance rose towards the bunker which was buried in the mountain but higher than the valley outside, reducing the risk of flooding or of heavy gas entering. As a heritage centre, a bunker would therefore be costly to maintain in a safe condition to allow visitors to enter. For other uses, the bunkers were often located in remote places to make commuting and communications costly. The author has provided most of the answers and reported an important part of the mechanisms of Cold War, without which it is difficult to understand the nature of the conflict and the thinking of those who had to prepare for the possibility of nuclear war. A fascinating and absorbing book.

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