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North American Air Defense Command

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1961–1966, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Parsons Brinckerhoff with A. J. Ryan and Associates. 3.5 miles west of Colorado 115

Here, in a sci-fi fantasy burrow inside the granite bulwark of Cheyenne Mountain, the United States and Canada monitor the skies for enemy missiles. NORAD is perhaps the most unusual small town in the state, complete with heating and power plants, fire and police departments, health and consumer services, and recreational facilities. Its huge, blast-proof steel gates can snap shut in thirty seconds. A cavernous 4.5-acre community, created by removing 693,000 tons of rock, consists of fourteen metal buildings, eight of them three stories tall, and all cushioned atop springs made of 3-inch-diameter steel and shock absorbers to ease vibrations from enemy warheads. Two rock-walled reservoirs hold 1.5 million gallons of drinking water and 4.5 million gallons for industrial use. Six locomotive-size diesel engines, with fuel reserves for thirty days, power an air filtration system for emergency use. A complex communications network connects this center with outposts throughout North America and enables the president of the United States to launch nuclear Armageddon from this control center. NORAD's fantastic structure can house some 425 of the 1,100 men on round-the-clock duty, as well as several hard rock miners who continually patrol the cave to tighten the 100,000 rock bolts that pin wire fabric mesh to cavern walls. As the development of more powerful missiles and the end of the Cold War have made this facility obsolete, it has become as useless as the Maginot Line.

Writing Credits

Thomas J. Noel

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