The Diefenbunker – Canada’s Cold War Museum

Yesterday (18th) I was about to be on the move again. I was headed to Denver a couple of days ahead of Stuart to visit my Denver Family. Unfortunately, the first leg of my one-stop flight (out of Ottawa) was first delayed then cancelled. So, making the connection in EWR (New Jersey) was impossible. Stuart circled back to the airport to pick me up after I changed my flight to the same as his on Thursday afternoon (the 20th). Instead of going to Denver, I went to the Tuesday Night Kanata Cruise-in car show, which was pretty cool anyway. But why is air travel so unreliable nowadays?

Entrance to the Diefenbunker

The pictures today are from the Diefenbunker, which is The Canadian Cold War Museum. It is located very close to Ottawa in a small town called Carp. If you have the chance to visit this museum, it is well worth your time. The Diefenbunker was built under the purview of Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker as a response to increasing nuclear threats during the Cold War involving the West and the Soviet Union. The bunker is buried 75 feet in the ground with 4 levels of work- and living-space totaling 100,000 square feet. Its blast-proof roof construction was built to withstand a 5-megaton bomb falling a mile or so away. Construction began in 1959 and was completed in 18 months. After completion, the facility was used as a small military station with a staff ranging from 100 to 150 people living on site. However, the facility was intended to house approximately 550 people who were to keep the Canadian government going and support restarting the country after a nuclear war. The Diefenbunker became a historic site in 1994. It was most likely acknowledged as a folly years before that, since the chosen people would not have time to get to the bunker before nuclear obliteration, nor would 30 days of sequestration be long enough for them to hunker down before emerging to rebuild.

Diefenbaker himself never entered the bunker, even at the ribbon cutting. According to the guide, he said he would never be going there once he learned that his wife Olive was not on The List. The List had back-up people for each of the 550-odd positions, so if Person 1 didn’t make it, Person 2 took his/her (mostly his) place, etc. How Person N would know Person N-1 wasn’t going to arrive? What happened if Person N-1 arrived late and Person N already was inside? Were cabinet ministers cross-trained as cooks?

The contents of the bunker have been updated since 1961. For example, there were desktop computers that could read 5-inch floppy discs, and IBM Selectric typewriters in some of the offices – and not a keypunch machine or card sorter to be seen. We were told the museum is working to recover artifacts, which is great.

Blast tunnel

The entrance to the Diefenbunker looks like a large garage with a hill behind it. Upon entering the side door, you see the blast tunnel, which designed to direct the atomic blast energy through and away from the bunker. The inside of the bunker, which is a square underground building, is a warren of hallways, workrooms, living quarters and meeting rooms.

Office space with IBM Selectric and cubicles

The color scheme of the hallways, walls and furniture were in what interior decorators believed to be “calming colors” (in the 1960’s) and the striping of floors and walls was thought to give the illusion of space.

The change to blue in the hallway signified the entry to the women’s quarters.

The picture below is of the Prime Minister’s bedroom. Single bed. No Olive. Note the calming effect of the orange drawer.

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