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Greenbriar Resort

Congressional bomb shelter outlives usefulness

November 7, 1995
Web posted at: 12:15 a.m. EST

From Correspondent Ed Garsten

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, West Virginia (CNN) -- The Cold War is long over, but a relic of the days of a nuclear scare from behind the "Iron Curtain" is being revealed for the first time.


It is bliss buried in the mountains of West Virginia. Tucked beneath the perfectly groomed greens, the flawless tennis courts, the luxury of the five-star Greenbriar Resort, a 35-year secret has been lying in repose.

"Built beneath the West Virginia Wing on the Greenbriar Resort between 1959 and 1962 is a 112,000-square-foot relocation center," Ted Kleisner, president of Greenbriar Resort, told a group of visitors.

In fact, it was a high-tech fallout shelter for members of Congress in case of nuclear attack. The shelter existed not so much to save their lives, but to save the government.

"It was intended to house both houses of Congress, so continuity of constitutional government would be preserved," said Kleisner.


An exhibition hall was really an entrance to the bunker known as Greek Island. Small theaters were ready to be converted to House and Senate chambers. Congressional leaders would have special work and sleep quarters while the rest would be shoe- horned into bunks in 18 dorms for anywhere from a week to a month.


Everyone was to take meals of government rations from a cafeteria. Meanwhile three, 24,000-gallon water storage tanks were kept full, while high-tech communication systems kept Greek Island in touch with the outside world.

Except for the few people who were privy to the project, the outside world knew nothing of Greek Island.

"It became part of the regimen of the operations of the Greenbriar, something that was never discussed," said Kleisner.

Steel and concrete blast doors weighing 25 tons sealed the bunker. They were opened only for maintenance work, performed in the middle of the night.

Adding to the secrecy were the repairmen known only to the guests upstairs as those guys from Forsythe Associates who fixed their television sets. In fact, Forsythe was a cover for the small cadre of technicians who kept Greek Island afloat.

Fritz Bugas

Fritz Bugas was the man who ran Forsythe.

"It was difficult for the government employees down here because they did live a dual life," Bugas said.

Until the Washington Post revealed the existence of Greek Island in 1992. Their cover blown, the government officially decommissioned the shelter last July.

Still, the calendars are current, firearms and explosives remain in the bunker, and there are no definite plans for the Cold War relic.

Bugas, who kept the secret of the bunker for 35 years, finds it hard to admit, it's time to bury the past.

"The threat is still out there," he said.


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