Being viewed as the world's most powerful nation is fun during international flag-waving spectacles such as the opening Olympic Games ceremonies or a rare United Nations event. But that status symbol also makes us the target of many countries that either want the crown for their own or, in most cases, just want to see us fall.
Before the advent of modern artillery and airborne weapons, American families hid in their basements, attics or haylofts to escape enemy invasions from foot soldiers. After Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima, we went through over a decade with a sense of security, convinced no one would dare threaten a nation that had retaliated against Japan with such deadly force.
As we rested on our laurels, the development of nuclear weapons progressed. Even more distressing was the fact that some of our biggest enemies had the weapons we feared most and were taunting us with threats of attacks that would wipe us off the map.
Thus began the fallout shelter craze. Around 1950, Popular Science magazine started publishing blueprints, diagrams and detailed instructions on how to build home fallout shelters. These underground structures promised to protect people from a nuclear attack. The threat was so real that President John F. Kennedy appointed America's first civil defense chief, lawyer Steuart Pittman, to orchestrate the construction of enough fallout shelters to protect everyone in America if we were the target of an atomic attack.
Endless and angry debates ensued for three years over the cost, principles and viability of the program and it disappeared. However, private citizens built bomb shelters, as did corporations and government agencies. Thankfully, they've never had to be used but they still exist in the US as well as in other countries.
10 Burlington Bunker, UK
9 Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado
8 Denver International Airport, Colorado
If Cheyenne Mountain is booked solid, check out Denver International Airport a little over an hour's drive away. The massive airport covers more than 53 square miles and sits atop a pretty remote plane, making landings more thrilling than most. Fairly reliable sources claim there are bunkers built under or near the airport that would protect people from a nuclear attack. Hopefully one of those sources will be able to lead people to safety if Armageddon materializes.
7 The Greenbrier Bunker, Virginia
6 Iron Mountain, Massachusetts
This 10,000 square foot space in a 1,000 acre limestone mine is believed by many to be one of the safest places on earth. Although it wasn't formally built as a bomb shelter and it's been used for commercial digital data storage for decades, its physical structure hasn't been compromised, making it one of the nation's best fortresses in which to seek refuge from nuclear war. It might be a little crowded but it beats the alternatives if you need quick shelter in Massachusetts.
5 Mount Weather, Virginia
4 The Moscow Metro, Russia
3 Raven Rock Mountain Complex, Pennsylvania-Maryland
2 The Shanghai Complex, China
1 Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Norway
Often affectionately dubbed the Noah's Ark for seeds, this huge vault is located inside a sandstone mountain on Spitsbergen Island. Designed to store and safeguard innumerable kinds of seeds from all over the world, it ensures the protection of vegetation in perpetuity. Since the vault protrudes deep inside a mountain, it would likely protect people as well. If not, you can try to make it to the North Pole a little over 800 miles away and throw yourself on the mercy of Santa and his wife.
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