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Project Greek Island

The Project Greek Island bunker was kind of like that, only much, much bigger!

iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Disguises normally hide people, but not always. Sometimes, a building can be used to conceal something within its walls or under its floors. The Greenbrier, a luxury hotel located in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., has been a favorite disguise of the U.S. government for decades. During World War II, the State Department leased the hotel to hide away hundreds of German, Japanese and Italian diplomats and their families until they could be exchanged for American diplomats stranded overseas. Then, in September 1942, the hotel's lavish architecture served as a 2,000-bed army hospital.

But the biggest deception came during the Cold War, when the government sought a suitable location for an underground bunker to house members of Congress in the event of a nuclear holocaust. Once again, Uncle Sam looked to The Greenbrier as a solution. To keep the project a secret, bunker construction was timed to coincide with a major addition to the hotel -- the West Virginia Wing. In 1962, the facility, code-named "Project Greek Island," opened for a business it hoped it would never conduct. The bunker had four entrances, each protected by steel and concrete doors able to withstand a nuclear blast 15 to 30 miles (24 to 48 kilometers) away [source: The Greenbrier]. It also featured a self-contained power plant, 153 rooms and a total of 112,544 square feet [10, 456 square meters] on two levels [source: The Greenbrier].

It remained a top-secret installation until May 31, 1992, when The Washington Post published a story exposing it. Three years later, the facility was fully decommissioned and opened to public tours.

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