Monday, June 25, 2012

Early Presidential Emergency Facilities (PEF) (1965-1970)

Presidential Emergency Facility Sites
Cannonball Tower on Cross Mountain Pa.(note the tower on the summit)
Site Code Name
Other Name
Camp David
Thurmont, Maryland
Cross Mountain
Mercersburg, Pennsylvania
Roundtop Summit, WV
Fort Reno
Washington, D.C.
Mt. Weather
Berryville, Virginia
Site R (Raven Rock)
Waynesboro, Pennsylvania
Lamb’s Knoll
Frederick County, Maryland
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Continuity of Government (The Undisclosed Location Disclosed)

When terrorists struck the morning of September 11, 2001, Vice President Richard Cheney was whisked from his Washington office to a secure “undisclosed location.” Cheney’s undisclosed location is rumored to have been a Cold War era facility buried deep beneath Raven Rock Mountain near the Pennsylvania-Maryland border. Located east of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, the Raven Rock Military Complex is also known as Site R and it was designed as the Alternate Joint Communications Center (AJCC) where senior military officials were to be taken in the event of a nuclear attack. Site R was among the first relocation facilities built in the 1950s and early 1960s as federal planners conceived of and realized a Federal Relocation Arc extending outwards from Washington where key documents and people could be sheltered during and after a nuclear exchange.

The Text Content of an article in The Hagerstown Morning Herald, July 25, 1977 is:

That silo isn’t for cattle

To the casual observer driving down Maryland Route 67 southwest of Boonsboro, the distant object on lop of South Mountain looks like a farmer’s silo.

Closer inspection would reveal that it is indeed a silo, but not the kind used to store cattle feed. This particular silo belongs to the US Navy and is one of at least three similar Top Secret Navy facilities in the Tri-State area. Two other silos are located atop mountain ridges in Pennsylvania and in West Virginia. Just what goes on inside the silos the Navy isn’t saying?

After repeated requests to the Navy for information on silos spokesman Ron Black gave this reply, “No information can be released its classified”.

According to residents of the area the Boonsboro silo was built sometime during the late 1960s. Like the others it is served by a narrow but a small road complete with guard rails. Although the Boonsboro silo is still in daily use the one located on Cross Mountain just inside the Pennsylvania state line north of Mercersburg was open earlier this year. The high chain link fence surrounding it has been ripped down and a heavy steel blast door leading into the silo was ajar recently. The silo is equipped with an elevator to each of its eight floors. Although much of the equipment inside has obviously been removed, much remains... Heavy air conditioning equipment, air filters and electrical panels are still in place. In an apparent effort to blast proof the equipment the panels arc mounted on heavy springs with coiled wire lo take up movement. The silo apparently housed offices. On the ceilings are fluorescent lamps. The floors are tiled.

Whatever goes on inside the silos it is not related to the Alternate National Military Command Center near Blue Summit Pa.? Sources at the Pentagon responsible for The Rock say they do not know anything about the Navy silos.

And until the Navy decides to talk its mysterious silos will remain one of the government secrets in the area.

The White House Communications Agency (WHCA) would play a key role in the implementation of Continuity of Government (COG) plan. The Continuity of Government is the principle of establishing defined procedures that allow a government to continue its essential operations in case of nuclear war or other catastrophic events. In 1954 a plan to implement emergency communications was developed and presented to the Secretary of Defense. A major element of this plan was an emergency relocation strategy which provided for the dispersal of essential elements of the Federal Government. This plan also addressed the necessary communications need by the President, and other Governmental agencies. Because little or no reliable communications were available in the emergency relocation areas, the Army Signal Corps was tasked with the planning, designing, engineering, installing and maintaining the communications support of this program.

These sites were constructed very quietly and actually hidden from the Public but in reality were in plain sight and visible from miles around, several of these Continuity of Government sites were built in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C., these sites were designed to house large numbers of federal officials in underground bunkers while the exposed concrete towers that housed sophisticated radio equipment kept communications open among the survivors, the military, and civilian populations. These were among the first relocation facilities built in the 1950s and early 1960s as federal planners conceived of and realized a Federal Relocation Arc extending outwards from Washington were key documents and people could be sheltered during and after a nuclear exchange.

The Federal Relocation Arc included above- and below-ground sites located within a 300-mile radius of the nation’s capital. These sites were administered through the Executive branch’s White House Military Office (WHMO), while the communications personnel were attached to the White House Communications Agency (WHCA). The Early Presidential Emergency Facilities (PEF) were literally holes in the ground, deep enough to withstand a nuclear blast and outfitted with elaborate communications equipment, funds to support the sites wound their way through a circuitous route in the Defense Department. All oversight for these facilities originated in the White House Military Office.

These sites in the Arc were the key to ensuring open lines of communications were built in a network that relied upon line-of-sight microwave technology, i.e., each transmitter and receiver had to have an unobstructed line-of-sight between its nearest neighbors for the network to be viable. These microwave hops were usually no more than fifty miles apart. I’m assuming that when they did their studies they knew specifically where the main terminals were going to be and they looked for locations that they had line of sight.

The microwave system connected the primary relocation facilities and key to this new communications network plan were:

  1. The White House and Camp David near Thurmont Md.
  1. The hardened Alternate Joint Communications Center (AJCC) at Ravens Rock, near Blue Ridge Summit, Pa. and Ft Ritchie, Md.
  1. The hardened Emergency Command Post and Relocation site for the Executive Branch of the Government at Mount Weather, near Winchester Va.
The microwave network would provide non-secure voice circuits terminating on manual switchboards, to be located at each of the primary relocation sites. The network would also provide secure teletype including the famous Moscow to Washington Hotline, and the Red Phone voice circuits between the President and the heads of all sensitive agencies. Finally the network would be capable of carrying broadcast video interfacing with the Emergency Broadcast System.

Cannonball Tower atop Cross Mt. near Mercersburg PA
Access rd. to Cannonball Tower (2010)
The concrete microwave towers would become known as the Presidential Emergency Facilities (PEF) and was built during the late 50’s early 60’s. Construction included the cylindrical tower and in some cases underground bunkers used to relocate the President, Vice President, Secret Service, and key members of the White House Staff. These facilities were all capable of withstanding a nuclear attack. The towers housed all of the communication equipment necessary to provide the emergency voice, radio and teletype communications required to continue inter-departmental communications.

Each of the sites included a 100-foot cylindrical tower, two-thirds of which was solidly built to house transmitters and receivers, supply rooms, and quarters for the skeleton staff which oversaw the facilities around the clock. The upper portions of the towers held parabolic antennas aimed towards the next facility in the network. These antennas were shielded by radio frequency-transparent Plexiglas that protected the antennas from the elements and concealed them from view while enabling radio waves to pass through. Some of these towers were connected to elaborate underground bunker complexes and entry to all of the facilities was through massive blast doors.

The microwave network which would connect Mount Weather with Camp David and Site R would be operated and maintained by the White House Army Signal Agency (WHASA). WHASA already had personnel in place at these principle relocation facilities and in 1962 would become the White House Communications Agency (WHCA). The communication network was developed, installed and maintained by WHCA, and all of the towers in this network were staffed by WHCA personnel on a continuous basis.

Locator Map

Location of the Presidential Emergency Facilities.
Because the towers were highly visible yet top secret, no official explanation of their functions were ever released. Locals near the Cannonball Tower and Camp David’s Cactus site were believed to be water tanks. People around Mercersburg thought it was a water tower. We used to buy water from the City of Mercersburg and we had a water tanker that we’d haul water back up to the mountaintop so they saw that and they saw the water tanker and they just figured that they were getting better water pressure that way.
According to Cold War communications enthusiasts, the concrete towers were designed to deflect the force of a nuclear blast, all of the towers were constructed of solid reinforced concrete and the air system was filtered so that if anything did happen all the he air intakes would be shut down and you had a filtration system. Everything was engineered with the concrete structure able to withstand a nuclear attack. All of the towers were located in remote areas so the effects of a nuclear blast would be minimal. Now there was always a possibility of problems with the antenna decks but we had spare microwave dishes that could be put in temporarily if a blast was close enough to tear off some of the dishes. We had spare dishes that we could replace any damage in a fairly short period of time.

Sites like Cactus, Crystal, Creed, Cartwheel, Corkscrew, Cowpuncher, and Cannonball were critical Continuity of Government sites during the Cold War. Their highly visible towers became part of an industrial landscape defined by telecommunications infrastructure essential to the information-based third industrial revolution. Beyond their highly function roles in the ubiquitous military industrial complex, they also were places where people worked and lived daily.  I had a lot of fun even though it was a job, I just had had a lot of fun working there. You know, the funny thing about it, I worked with people that were at Crystal, and Cadre for years after we closed down those sites. But we never discussed what went on at those locations.
The microwave systems were the major reason for the construction of the towers; however each tower was equipped with other radio systems. There were VHF FM base stations installed for the use by the Presidential motorcade. The Secret Service and the White House Stall also used these 2 way FM handheld mobile units. There was also an HF single sideband (SSB) radio system installed in every location capable of interfacing with the Air Force One, and other airborne commutations centers like Silver Dollar worldwide. The SSB radios could transmit voice on the upper sideband and TTY on the lower sideband. Finally UHF radios to communicate with Marine One.

We closed down Cannonball in 1970 shortly after significant upgrades were installed. Changes in communications technology and Continuity of Government plans obviated the 1950s facilities. Most of us were transferred to other WHCA facilities. 

Mt. Weather remains a top secret facility and Cannonball was abandoned with its tower exposed to the elements and vandals. The tower at Cactus (Camp David), and Cowpuncher Tower were demolished and Creed Tower and both Crystal Towers have been abandoned in place at Site R and Mt. Weather respectively.

The communications equipment at Cannonball, Cowpuncher and Crystal facilities was removed in the mid 1970’s, Cadre/Creed was deactivated and all of the PEF tower facilities were officially closed on or about 1990.

Cartwheel Washington DC
Corkscrew Boonsboro MD
The emergency Continuation of Government plan was approved in 1954 and evolved into the seven locations that that would become the core Presidential Emergency Facilities (PEF) they were all cylindrical towers. The primary source of voice communications was the use of microwave radio systems interconnecting these seven locations. The microwave routes were installed to connect relocation sites at Mt. Weather, Camp David and the Pentagon (Site R) directly to the President wherever he might be at the time of the emergency.

WHCA Communications Facilities

Site 1 Cactus (Camp David, Thurmont, MD.), the tower had eight floors plus two levels of Plexiglas to cover microwave dishes and other antennas. The Tower was above ground level.

Site 2 Cannonball (Mercersburg, PA.), the tower had eight floors plus two levels of Plexiglas to cover microwave dishes and other antennas. The Tower was above ground level.

Site 3 Cowpuncher (Martinsburg, WV.), the tower had eight floors plus two levels of Plexiglas to cover microwave dishes and other antennas. The Tower was above ground level.

Site 4 Cartwheel (Ft Reno Park, Washington DC.), the tower had eight floors plus two levels of Plexiglas to cover microwave dishes and other antennas. The Tower was above ground level.

Site 5 Crystal, East and West Towers (Mt Weather, Winchester, VA.), both towers had eight floors plus two levels of Plexiglas to cover microwave dishes and other antennas. Both of the towers only had the two top levels above ground and were accessed through Mt. Weather.

Mt Weather (Crystal West and East Towers)
Site 6 Creed Tower (Site R, Blue Ridge Summit, PA.), Creed tower had eight floors plus two levels of Plexiglas covered microwave dishes and other antennas. The tower only had the two top levels above ground. Creed Tower was a separate facility near Site R which housed all of the microwave equipment as well as the HF and FM radio equipment and had a separate entrance into the tower through its own blast door and tunnel at the base of the tower.

Site 7 Corkscrew (Boonsboro, MD.), the tower had eight floors plus two levels of Plexiglas to cover microwave dishes and other antennas. The Tower was above ground level.

Cactus (Camp David Thurmont Md.), Cactus had a two level bunker that was adjacent to the tower. The WHCA switch board and communications center was located within the bunker as well as sleeping quarters, water, food, and necessary supplies needed for survival. There was also a bunker built near Aspen Lodge specifically for the President and First Family.

Government Relocation Facilities

Relocation support functions in the event of a nuclear attack, was to be provided to key members of the Government and the Military at:

Cadre (Site R, Blue Ridge Summit Pa.), Cadre was a part of the underground facility at Site R. and was located on the 2nd floor of building C. This area housed the WHCA switchboard and communications center plus the Presidential Quarters if needed due to any emergency relocation.

Entrance to Site R (Cadre)
Corkscrew (Boonsboro Md.), Corkscrew had a two level bunker that circled the towers base. The WHCA communications center was located within the bunker.

Crystal (Mt Weather, Va.), Crystal was part of the Mt. Weather underground facility. The east and west towers were accessed by inter connecting tunnels. The WHCA switch board and communications center was part of the underground facility and located in Building 13.

Cartwheel (Washington DC), Cartwheel had a two level bunker that circled the Towers base. The WHCA secure switchboard and communications center was located within the bunker.

Crown (Washington DC). The White House
The White House (Crown)
The communications equipment at Cadre, Cannonball, Cowpuncher, and Crystal facilities was removed in the mid 1970’s. Primarily because of advancements in communications technology, these fixed locations became obsolete and were replaced in 1970 by strategically placed Communications Contingency Teams (CCT) at San Clemente CA, Key Biscayne FL, Ft Ritchie MD. and Andrews AFB MD; they were very mobile and could be deployed at a moment’s notice.

The microwave systems between Cactus, Cartwheel and Corkscrew were left in service at least through 1986, but they were only used as backup for the landlines to the White House. At least one system of the Raytheon KTR-1000 in each route was upgraded to a newer version that was partially transistorized but the rest of the systems remained all electron tubes.

During the Reagan Administration a new UHF system (AN/GRC-103 UHF FM radio with TD-660 Multiplexer 24 voice channels) was installed between Cartwheel, Corkscrew, and Cactus, but the microwave still remained operational. Cadre/Creed, although inactive all of the equipment in the tower was still operational and fully maintained.

All of the microwave routes were phased out in the early 1990's I can only assume that the FAA took over Cartwheel and Corkscrew at this time and when the tower at Cactus was demolished this brought to an end the communications network that started in 1954 and played such a major role in the Cold War.

WHCA Microwave Network Route Map (1965)
The microwave network was designed to provide reliable communications for the President of the United States. This network was also designed to act as relocation facilities and was designed to withstand a nuclear attack. During national emergencies the President would be able to communicate through these facilities and address the American people.

Each microwave route in this network consisted of three systems that could carry voice, video and secure voice/teletype.

A typical line-up three transmitters, video patch panels and three receivers (front view)
A typical line-up three transmitters, video patch panels and three receivers (rear view)
System #1 was dedicated to voice. A Raytheon KTR 1000A microwave RF system carried AN/TCC-13 voice multiplexing equipment to all locations in the network. Every facility in the network had a working communications center capable of providing encrypted TTY utilizing KW-7 and KW-26 transmitters/receivers providing 100 wpm secure teletype on the voice system.

System #2 was used for video. Cactus was equipped with an RCA video switcher and was capable of producing live broadcast video. The emergency broadcast system could also be accessed through Crystal at Mt. Weather.

System #3 was the spare route.

TCC-13 24 channel Multiplexer, audio and TTY DC patch panels (front view)

TCC-13 24 channel Multiplexer, audio and TTY DC patch panels (rear view)
The following facilities were in the Presidential Emergency Network that was operated by the White house Communications Agency. All terminals in the network had manned switchboards to handle voice traffic and also had manned communication centers that handled secure voice and all TTY traffic. The relays in the network were through points with a few drop and insert voice channels. All relays were equipped with a communications center that would become active in the event that an emergency was declared.

Site 1 Cactus (Camp David, Thurmont, Md.) Terminal: Cactus contained a fully equipped, switchboard, and communications center with secure telephone and TTY. In Emergency situations live Presidential addresses could be broadcast over these systems. Cactus had direct shots to Cadre, Cartwheel (thru a microwave RF relay in Damascus Md.), Corkscrew and Cannonball. Cactus could also be used as a relocation site with a fully functional underground Shelter.

Site 2 Cannonball (Mercersburg, Pa) Relay: Cannonball was a relay in the Cactus to Crystal microwave route. Cannonball had direct shots to Cactus, Cowpuncher and Corkscrew. There was also a standby communications center equipped with secure TTY that could be activated if an emergency existed.A buried cable connected Cannonball to the AT&T site at Hearthstone Mountain where traffic could be routed into their underground facilities.

Site 3 Cowpuncher (Martinsburg, WV) Relay: Cowpuncher was a relay in the Cactus to Crystal microwave route. Cowpuncher had direct shots to Cannonball and the Crystal west tower. There was also a standby communications center equipped with secure TTY that could be activated if an emergency existed.

Site 4 Cartwheel (Washington DC) Terminal: Cartwheel had three systems each to Cactus (thru a microwave RF relay in Damascus Md.), Corkscrew, and Crystal. Cartwheel also had a fully operational switchboard and communications center with secure telephone and secure TTY. There was a microwave route from Cactus to Cartwheel, and because there was no line of site, Site D in Damascus was used as an RF relay. There were also one or two microwave systems to Crown. Since there was no line of site to the EOB or the White House, a passive dish was installed on the real water tower at Tinley Park, which was a hundred yards or so from Cartwheel, and the routes terminated in the EOB. Cartwheel was also directly connected to The White House by AT&T cable routes.

Site 5 Crystal (Mt. Weather, VA) Terminal: Crystal had two towers that were built substantially underground, only the top two antenna decks were above ground. The west tower had a direct shot to Cowpuncher and the east tower had a direct shot to Cartwheel. The towers were physically connected by tunnels and accessed through the Mt. Weather facility. Crystal interfaced with Mt Weather‘s underground facility and contained a fully operational switchboard, communications center with secure telephone and secure TTY. Crystal also interfaced with The Emergency Broadcast System at Mount Weather which was capable of live broadcast video and audio over the network

Site 6 Cadre/Creed (Site R. Blue Ridge Summit, Pa) Terminal: Cadre was located within Site R the Pentagon’s underground facility and contained a fully operational switchboard and communications center with secure telephone and TTY. Creed tower was a separate facility located about a mile from Cadre which was connected to Creed by cable and coax. Creed Tower had direct microwave routes to Cactus. The tower was substantially underground, only the two antenna decks were above ground.

Site 7 Corkscrew (Boonsboro Md.) Relay: Corkscrew was a relay location that had direct shots to Cactus, Cannonball, and Cartwheel. There was also a standby communications center equipped with secure TTY. Corkscrew could also be used as a relocation site with a fully functional underground Bunker.

Crown: The White House was the final destination of all the traffic generated from the PEF’s over the microwave network and terminated on the WHCA operated the Signal switchboard and communications center.

Presidential Emergency Facility Site 1 - "Cactus” (1965-1970)

Camp David at Catoctin Mountain, Md.
Catoctin Mountain site of Camp David with Cactus Tower in the background
 1,900 ft. (579.1 m)
 Frederick County, MarylandUSA
 Appalachian Mountains
 +39.648333N -77.466667 W

Camp David was originally built as a camp for federal government agencies and their families, by the WPA, starting in 1935, opening in 1938. Winter at Camp David

In March 1942 President Roosevelt directed the National Park Service to investigate locations reasonably close to the Washington area for use as a Presidential retreat. After studying several locations, the National Park Service selected three tentative sites: One in Shenandoah National Park, in Virginia, and the other two in the Catoctin Recreational Demonstration Area, in Maryland. The President chose Camp Number Three or Camp Hi- Catoctin, by using the existing buildings that were there; the retreat could be completed in the shortest possible time and at minimum cost. The camp also occupied a perfect location, atop Catoctin Mountain at an altitude of about 1,900 feet above sea level; this location experienced a consistently lower temperature than Washington DC; and was only about 70 miles, or a 2-hour drive, from the White House.

Tower History and Purpose

Cactus was built on the Presidential Retreat at Camp David Md. The White House Communications Agency (WHCA) was responsible for the installation and maintenance of all of the communications equipment at the facility. The staff at this facility was assigned to The Defense Communications Support Unit (DCSU) and they were permanently stationed at Camp David.

WHCA provided non-emergency communications to all visitors that stayed at the facility, including all of the non-secure telephones terminating on a three position manual switchboard. They also provided the television sets and stereo equipment installed in all of the guest cabins as well as Aspen Lodge. The Secret Service and the White House Staff used two way FM radios to communicate with each other. Communications to Marine One was accomplished by using a two way UHF radio system. There was also a surface to air radio link for direct voice communications known as Echo Fox the AF1 Presidential Communications Network. This nationwide system was maintained by AT&T. The Communications Center provided all secure voice and TTY. WHCA also maintained the electronic fence surrounding the Camp.

WHCA personnel were also responsible for the communications equipment installed on the Presidential Train’s communications cars “Crate” located just outside Harrisburg Pa.

The Cactus facility consisted of a cylindrical tower and a two level bunker. The construction of the tower and bunker was completed during the mid to late 50’s. It was one of the first Presidential Emergency Facilities to be completed. There was also an Underground Bomb Shelter built near Aspen Lodge. This facility was designed to provide emergency shelter for not only the President and First Family, but also for select members of the White House staff and the Secret Service in the event of a nuclear attack.

Cactus was part of a microwave network designed to provide emergency communications to the President of the United States, Secret Service and visiting dignitaries while at Camp David. This microwave route connected Camp David, the Pentagon (Site R) and Mt. Weather directly to the President or White House.

Technology obsolescence of the microwave radio network was the primarily reason that the tower was closed and the advancement of communication technology especially satellite systems and fiber optic cable.

I know that the tower at Camp David was taken down sometime in the mid 90's. They also tore down the old U shaped barracks, mess hall, DCSU Headquarters, Radio Shop and Garage. I think they still maintain part of the bunker but I cannot verify that.

The new DCSU headquarters is a large office building with satellite downlink antennas out toward the back gate near where the old Log Periodic, HF antenna was located. You can clearly see the building on Google earth; you can also see a satellite dish behind the new mess hall. I can't be 100% sure that it's not for cable TV. Also if you look closely at the last building it appears to have a flat roof with some kind of white radome, could this be the down link? Of course I don't know for sure, but all the speculation is that the bunker under Aspen Lodge has been expanded and manned full time.

Facility Map of the presidential Retreat at Camp David
Google Earth view of Cactus Tower and bunker (1988) see shadow in foreground

AT&T Site on Hearthstone Mt. in MD.

The Text Content of an article in The Hagerstown Morning Herald, July 25, 1977 is:
Arial view of AT&T on Hearthstone Mt. looking at the ridge line
 to Cross Mt.and Cannonball Tower

Hello, Hello

If there ever is a nuclear war restoring the nation’s telephone network might be one of the first orders of business.
That’s one of the reasons why American Telephone and Telegraph Co has buried a telephone switching station high atop Hearthstone Mountain four miles north of Clear Spring and just two miles from the Navy’s silo on ross Mountain.
Although it’s not as secret as some government facilities around the area officials explain that the installation is designed to withstand the effects of a nearby nuclear blast.
The station which consists of 70000 square feet in a two and a half story underground building is made of concrete.
The delicate telephone gear inside is mounted on shock absorbers and the outside antennas about the only thing visible from a distance are en-cased in concrete pods
Access to the building is gained huge steel blast doors. Like other hardened sites the station has its own food and water supply. Filtering would remove nuclear particles from the air in the event of an attack.
The Hearthstone station is one of 65 around the world that provides routine telephone global com for the US military.
According to operations manager Bruce Parr the station normally handles only military traffic and in a busy hour it can relay thousands of telephone messages. But the equipment inside the station is standard telephone switching gear and Parr says it could be used to handle emergency or commercial traffic. Two other underground stations are also located in the area. One is at Monrovia in Frederick County and the other at Drainsville, VA near the Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia borders.
Parr says Hearthstone was picked as a site primarily because of its high elevation a, factor vital to reliable microwave communications. The 5.5 million dollar facility was built in the mid-1960s and is manned 24 hours a day by about 30 people according to Parr.
He says doesn’t pretend that nobody knows where or what the station is but he explains that the facility is not open to the public for “safety and for the protection of the personnel who work here”.                                                                     

Presidential Emergency Facility Site 2 "Cannonball" (1967-1970)

Cross Mountain Pa.
 View of Cannonball from the access rd.
 2,062 feet (628 m)
 Franklin County, PennsylvaniaUSA
 Appalachian Mountains
 39.728313 N -77.992115 W

Cross Mountain is the highest peak in the Bear Pond Mountains, a sub range of the Appalachian Mountains. This grouping of mountains straddles the Maryland and Pennsylvania border. Cross Mountain and Hearthstone Mountain 2,021 feet (616 m) which is on the Maryland side, form a unique geologic formation known as the "Punchbowl". This feature was created by the weathered shale’s of the Ordovician age in the center of a south-plunging anticline, having been eroded to expose a large amphitheater like feature (punchbowl). Cross and Hearthstone Mountains are made of hard resistant quartzite of the Tuscarora Formation of the Silurian age. Cross Mountain is also the site of a deactivated microwave relay station that was used during the Cold War. The unit was encased in a 103 ft. tower, and known as the "Cannonball" site 2. The site was closed in 1977. Access to the summit is still restricted.

Tower History and Purpose

Construction of Cannonball tower was complete during the late 50’s to early 60’s. Originally named "Concrete", the cylindrical tower, renamed "Cannonball" in 1965, was built on the site that once was a fire-watch tower and had a fire-tower legacy two-room cabin within the PEF security fence. The concrete M/W tower was part of a Presidential Emergency Facility microwave network designed to provide communications to the President of the United States and emergency communications in the event of a nuclear attack. The M/W network connected Camp David and other key bodies of government directly to the White House.

The Cylindrical Tower

The Cannonball tower is approximately 103 feet tall and 25 feet in outside diameter, constructed of reinforced concrete with walls about 15 inches thick. It has no windows and entrance is through a single exterior door (not shown).The recessed section at the top is a two-level antenna deck, which was completely enclosed by two circular rows of Plexiglas panels, coated with opaque paint. Behind each row of panels is space for mounting the       parabolic microwave antennas ("dishes"), six feet in diameter, which linked Cannonball with other stations in the network. The panels allowed radio waves to pass through but prevented the curious from seeing where the dishes pointed, and thus locating the other towers. Due to vandalism, only fragments of the panels remain in place. The dishes themselves are gone, too - as is all of the tower's communications equipment.

Cannonball appears to have a single basement level which is of the same diameter as the above-ground floors. However, this could not be positively determined because the space was almost completely full of water.

The Doorway

The tower's sole entrance was secured by a heavy steel blast door - essentially a vault door - which was welded shut when the tower was abandoned in 1977. Despite that precaution, the door has been stolen. Only the frame and attached hinges remain.The circular opening above the doorway is the exhaust for the tower's ventilation system.The rectangular outline surrounding the doorway and the vertical pieces of lumber attached to the wall with the bolts protruding from the wall and stoop suggest that the tower had an enclosed porch.

The "Foyer"

This photo shows the tower's entrance area, as seen from just inside the       exterior doorway. The rusted door frame at the extreme left leads into what was probably a decontamination booth. The two vertical bars in the background, at the center of the image, are guide rails for an electric elevator which ran from the basement to the floor just below the antenna deck. The doorway at the center, under the "snakes" graffito, gives access to the ground floor's main room.

                                                  Decontamination Booth

This small room is immediately to the left of a person entering the tower. The operation of its door (now missing) was coordinated with that of the exterior door by a mechanical linkage in the doorframe, so that both doors could not be open at the same time.

Note: The Cannonball facility is now located on private property and not accessible to the public. It was visited and photographed by special permission from the owners.  The tower has deteriorated very badly over the years since its closing.                                                            

Entrance way into Cannonball Tower (2011) 
Entrance way into Cannonball Tower (2011)
Near Mercersburg Pa. on Cross Mountain, a peak in the Bear Skin Mountain chain, are the remains of a cylindrical, poured concrete tower.  This facility was a hardened, manned communications relay station operated by the US Navy in the 1960s and part of the 1970s.  The site was a Presidential Emergency Support Facility, operated by the Navy’s Special Programs Office on behalf of the White House Military Office and the White House Communications Agency (WHCA).

 It doesn’t look too impressive from the air, but the tower is 103’ tall (atop a 2062’ mountain)
& has a diameter of about 30’, people worked and lived inside here 
While this mountaintop site is easily visible from miles away, finding the access road that leads up the steep slope to it is a different story.  Once the access road is located, the next problem is gaining legal access to the property, especially since the road is securely gated.  I obtained legal access several years ago, and briefly explored the site.  About 50’ feet up the road from the gate is an old sign indicating something along the lines of “No Trespassing, US Government Reservation.”  The sign had been taken down and was lying next to the sign post.  The paved road is narrow and very steep, winding on for about three miles from the bottom gate to peak.  The view from the peak is quite extensive (and of course even greater from the top of the tower).

 Entrance Gate to Cannonball Tower (2011)
 Access Rd. to Cannonball Tower (2011)
The grounds near the tower consist of a flat grassy area that was treeless (probably a former grass helipad or low/high frequency antenna site), the foundation of a former garage/maintenance structure, and a concrete pit approximately10’ x 12’ and 10’ deep that were filled various pieces of junk, an old bed mattress, miscellaneous chemical drums, etc.  The original use of this pit was to house the power transformers and the emergency generator.

The emergency generator was located it this pit.
The power transformers were located it this pit.
The generator pit filled with debris

Transformer vault (2011)
Most of the surrounding area was wooded; with evidence of recent logging activity probably someone getting firewood. One concrete block with an eye ring in it was observed about 50 feet from the tower, it was probably an old antenna guy wire anchor block. There was also evidence of an old gate that would have crossed the access road just prior to reaching the clearing (helipad) at the top of the Mountain.

The helipad and tower from the front gate
The old garage floor and foundation  
Sole entrance/exit (blast door is missing) in 1999
Sole entrance/exit (steel plate covers entrance) in 2011
The tower was entered by walking up one or two concrete steps, through an entrance way that based on the door frame, once had a vault-like door. The first chamber entered was the decontamination room, where you'd remove contaminated clothing & shower, then be let into another small room (walled with pink tile, ROBERTSON 39 MADE IN USA cast on the back of the tiles) to put on clean clothes before finally entering main ground floor area. There was a 1'x l' window which would allow someone inside the second room to observe a person entering the bunker and decontaminating before they were allowed into the second small room.

 First floor entrance
Decon room with pass through and changing area 
The main ground floor at the entrance was mostly open, with an old elevator on the far wall, and small (frail) metal loops built into another wall forming a ladder which would let you climb up to next floor level. A metal hatch could close off each level from the ladder way. This was probably to prevent someone on an upper level accidentally falling through if walking in the vicinity of the ladder opening.

 Decontamination changing station
(Otis) elevator shaft, Note all of the misc. water/ pipes, power, and air ducts. 
There was at least one level below ground, but it was of indeterminable size due to it being flooded. US Army Corps of Engineers records indicate it was small and just used for storage.

 Ladder way on second floor 
 Second floor at Cannonball
However a second-hand report from a local person is that the basement level was large enough that a friend of his used to ice-skate in it during the winter, when whatever quantity of water in there at the time had frozen! Another source claims to have explored the site in the late 1970s, shortly after it was vacated by the government recollects the basement level as being “... large, with lots of old equipment in it."

Exterior walls consist of steel reinforced concrete, with a thickness of approximately 16 inches and the interior diameter of the structure is about 29.9 feet. The tower had approximately 7 interior levels above ground, each having a 9 foot height. Floor/ceiling slabs are about five inches thick. All floors were explored by me, though I couldn't spend a lot of time in each because I needed to get out of there and head back down the treacherous access road before dark. Each level had at least an inch of dirt and bird or bat guano on the floors. layout was usually the same, except for one or two levels that apparently had a living area and galley, with storage closets.

Ariel view of Cannonball tower
These levels were painted with a light green hue (probably supposed to be psychologically appealing), and were divided into smaller rooms and closets with normal 2x4s and plasterboard.

Most floors apparently had a center equipment rack hanging down from the ceiling via springs (shock-mounts). Though it wasn't apparent during my exploration, the flooring on each level was also mounted on springs to help absorb the shock of a nuclear blast. Personnel assigned to the site gradually got accustomed to walking carefully to avoid causing the floors to bounce. Each level had the elevator shaft running up a side, with various ventilation ducts, old electrical paneling and with pipes that apparently contained electrical conduit.

The top level was reached by climbing a makeshift wooden ladder near the center of the previous floor -- the original access method had been removed, probably for safety reasons. This Penthouse level had a large doorway (door missing) leading to an exterior 'balcony' which went all the way around the structure, and a small circular hatch also leading out. The circular hatch for this level was found on the ground, and was made by a company that made hatches for the US Navy. This floor level had approximately 20' from floor to ceiling, with an interior metal gangway going around at about the halfway point. Approximately 6' and 15' above the floor in a ring around the wall were large 'porthole' type openings, spaced about 2' apart. They were used for mounting microwave antennas. The exterior balcony area at one time was enclosed with a 1/2" thick Lexan or Plexiglas type material (samples taken), which was coated on one side by a bluish-gray material. Jagged pieces of Plexiglas are still in place on the tower, and extreme care must be taken when on the ground in the vicinity of the tower so as not to be hit with a piece that might fall off! Interior walls near the upper gangway area had signs painted onto the walls, but the lettering was blackened out. I am assuming the blacked out lettering identified other classified sites --perhaps some still in operation-- that each microwave antenna was aligned with.

The top two floors were the antenna decks 
The top two floors were originally enclosed by Plexiglas 
The exterior had a metallic support loop with platform/gantry way also, apparently to allow workers access to upper tier of microwave antennas. The 360 degree view from the exterior of the top level of the CANNONBALL facility was breathtaking. Factoring the mountain plus tower height above sea level, the visual horizon is 45.696 miles away, and the maximum VHF or UHF line of site distance is 65.803 miles. Of course, since the region is quite mountainous, those numbers are more theoretical than practical.

The top tiers were home to microwave antennas, protected behind a Plexiglas cover (busted but shreds are still in place, and fall to the ground occasionally!) You can see the doorway on the upper left, which allowed personnel to adjust the antennas. It was a blast door, The flat open land clearing to the right was a helicopter landing zone, a large log periodic antenna was in-between the tower and the helicopter landing pad.

Plexiglas protected the microwave dishes on the top level from weather elements, and it was coated on the inside by a special, RF-transparent paint manufactured by Sherwin-Williams. The paint was purely an operational security measure -- it prevented anyone in the vicinity of the tower from seeing where the microwave antennas pointed and having clues as to where other classified sites linked by microwave with Cannonball were.

Cannonball Tower (2011)
Cannonball Tower (2011)

The specific mission of the CANNONBALL site was a manned microwave relay and part of The WHCA network supporting the governments COG activities, however it seems to have also been a National Command Authority communications relay site for use during Trans and post nuclear war scenarios. Communications systems known to have been in use at this and similar sites include VLF/LF, HF, VHF and UHF (microwave) radio. Some sites additionally had small telephone switchboards. Perhaps these sites were redundant communications outlets for other senior command facilities in the area such as Site-R or Camp David. And/or perhaps they were primary communications relay sites for secret emergency relocation centers, and linked Site-R, Camp David, Mount Weather, the Greenbrier Bunker, and the National Emergency Command Post Afloat,

As a Navy operated communications facility under the operational control of the White House Military Office and White House Communications Agency, this presidential emergency communications station had the CANNONBALL codename, which was probably also used as a static radio call sign for the site. For communications over long haul high frequency radio nets normally operated by Army Strategic Communications Command on behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Cannonball tower was allocated the "audio call sign WAR-45. Other similar sites (also deactivated) are known to have been located in or near Camp David Maryland, Mount Weather Virginia, and Brandywine West Virginia. 

 103' tower, "The broken Plexiglas layer at the top is quite visible.
 A sharp piece falling from the top could kill! 
Cross Mountain (note the tower on the summit) 
In March of 1967 I was permanently assigned to a microwave relay site named Cannonball. It was located on Cross Mountain, near Mercersburg Pennsylvania. I was assigned permanently along with a Navy Seabee (Al Jensen). I was responsible for the overall operation and communications and Al was responsible for maintenance of the tower and grounds. Two Microwave maintenance men would rotate in on a weekly basis from Cactus. They would be confined to the site for that week.

While we were TDY at Cannonball cooking was the pits, especially when you lived off of TV dinners and Bologna sandwiches, but when I was assigned permanently to Cannonball I could at least go home and eat good cooking. I can remember some of the Guys broke into the C-rations that we stored on site for emergencies, just to get to the 20 year old Chesterfield, Pall Mall, and Lucky Strike cigarettes. They had to have been desperate and I guess they considered it an emergency, to smoke those things although he never admitted it I know it was Denny McLeod. 

I can also remember that the worst sound in the world was the GQ (General Quarters) alarm, especially when it went off in the middle of the night while we were sound asleep. I am surprised that we didn’t suffer some sort of hearing loss! I can remember that the reset button didn't always work, was on the 8th floor and the bunks were on the 6th floor so that thing continued to ring until someone made it to the 8th. Floor and reset it. There were detectors on the roof for percussion, flash, and radiation (nuclear blast) and sometimes during storms lightning would find ways to set off the flash and/or percussion sensors. What a nightmare when up there in your underwear and the monster just wouldn't shut up! 

The gate that allowed entrance to the site as was located at the top just as you entered the clearing with the chopper pad on the left and on the right there was two silver I-beams with a chain stretched between them this was to block access to the ridge going across to the AT&T site. The perimeter fence ran along the tree line and enclosed the entire grounds surrounding the tower. At the time there was no gate at the bottom of the mountain in 1970. Of course the gate was locked and the fence had three strands of barbed wire on top. There were several telephone poles with red beacon lights just outside of the fence that marked the pad for night landings and there were two red beacons on the top the tower. There were only a couple of night landings while I worked at Cannonball. It appears that everything was removed or cut down from recent photos.

The chopper pad looking at the front gate from the tower 
The Front Gate from the Tower
All of the PEF sites had an area that was usable to fly in personnel, equipment or supplies as needed by chopper.  There were marker lights installed at Cannonball and Cowpuncher that could be used for all night landings, The Executive Flight Detachment would regularly fly training exercises where Marine One or Army One would practice landings and takeoffs.  Each site had a UHF radio to communicate with the aircraft.  When they were five minutes out we would go into the garage and wheel a fire extinguisher down to the edge of the pad and standby in case of a problem.  There was one emergency landing that took place on one of these flights, the aircraft sprung a leak in one of their hydraulic lines and had to make an emergency landing. They then called Ft. Belvoir for help. While they were waiting for the maintenance crew to arrive, everyone wiped down the chopper the pilot told me that the last thing they wanted to do was damage the paint job on a Presidential Helicopter!  That’s one of the more exciting things that happened up there, was usually pretty mundane.

It was a routine beautiful day and Al Jensen our resident Seabee was out doing maintenance on the red aero lights on the poles by the perimeter fence (for night helicopter landings).  Eventually someone said "I wonder where Al is" so I went out to see.  I went back into the tower and said to Jim Wallius "you have got to come out and see this".  I picked up got a long handle shovel and we walked out to see Al.  As we stood there laughing, Al unleashed his entire Navy and New Jersey list of swear words at us.  There was a sizable timber rattlesnake at the base of the pole that Al was on.  After a bit (Al thought it was forever), I chopped off the head of the snake with one quick swing and Al shakily climbed down from his perch.   Al had a few encounters with varmints.

There was the old cabin next to the garage? We used it for storage and Al had it pretty organized at the end of his tour of duty. In early 1967 the cabin was a mess; everything was just thrown in there and basically forgotten about. Al got the idea that we needed to clean out the cabin, so in he went, well he suddenly found himself face to face with a skunk. The skunk let it fly and so did Al. It took a couple of weeks before you could even open the door and go in for a few seconds. Decon was the bait and it finally got the skunk.

There was hardly any preparation for the ORI that was conducted at Cannonball in 1967 by the Military Aides Office. At the time we didn't have a printed SOP the procedures were quickly developed by Terry Fields and I just before it happened, we were notified in advance that it was going to take place.  To the best of my knowledge there were none of the other locations involved in the exercise.  All we did was to restore the microwave routes check the telephone system and check the FM radios. I think it was for show to the military aide, but it was fun.  I didn't remember everyone that came up the mountain that day.  Jim Wallius, Al Jensen (our Navy Seabee), Terry Fields (my predecessor), myself and one other TDY duty man got to play games for a few hours.  I can't remember who else but Hugh Robinson the Army Military Aide, Mr. Fontaine and others joined us to simulate a nuclear attack and observe the procedures we had in place to respond to this emergency. They simulated a total power outage and we went through the tower making sure that all systems restored when the generator kicked in.  If I remember correctly only one fuse blew on eight and that was replaced quickly.  Poor Al had to check for any damage that might be accessed to the generators and transformer vault, as well as the outside HF antennas.  This meant he had to dress in all of the CBR protective clothing including gas mask, booties, coveralls headgear etc. Now this was early summer and was warm day. So Al took some tools and a portable Able radio for communications and out he went.  The first thing that happened was the radio died and I could not raise him, after about 10 min without knowing if he was still in the game, we decided to dress someone else (it could have been Jim) to go out and see what happened. About then Al came back in and went through the Decon chamber and the exercise was over.  I GUESS WE DID ALRIGHT BECAUSE NONE OF US WERE TRANSFERRED.  There was never another ORI ran again and I did not hear of any other location going through one. . I Talked to Terry Fields (my predecessor at Cannonball) only once after he left but like so many people that you knew and worked with you lose touch.  

 Tower viewed from access rd. (2002)
There's not a lot that I know about the AT&T Project Office at Hearthstone Mountain. It is an AT&T underground hardened site and is known as Hagerstown #2. On my first TDY trip to Cannonball in Jan. 1966 a 100 pr. underground cable that connected the two facilities was just turned up and tested. We had voice circuits going over there from Cactus but I never knew where they went once they got on to the AT&T network. I would test the circuits monthly with the AT&T guys and we talked about a few things. These guys were local and were most curious about the touch and go landings that the Presidential White Tops would do. I was over at Hearthstone there several times but no offer of a tour. I know that this was strictly a communications site and no missiles were ever installed.

I never saw any satellite dishes or antennas at least none that were visible from the ground. I do know that WHCA looked at several of these locations nationwide for possible relocation sites. When I was in San Clemente I visited a hardened site in San Louis Obispo to see if it would be a suitable location. All of the equipment was on floors that were shock mounted and all of the environmental equipment was underground and safe from contamination.

About our ability to "blend in” ‘we were all on "civilian status" and never wore military uniforms even when we were on military installations.  None of the vehicles were marked in any way or even resemble a military vehicle. I had less trouble blending in with the general public (although we are talking the 1960's here) than I did on military installations. We had a Green 4WD International Scout and a later a Blue 4WD Dodge Ram (The Blue Beast) to drive up and down the mountain. The 4WD Dodge Ram truck had a blade on the front, but the access road was very steep and narrow and we were lucky to reach the top with chains on all four tires.  There was so much snow that the only way to push it over the side was to plow downhill.  We had some pretty exciting times during the winter months.  We also had a 5 ton snow plow to keep the access road clear during the winter. We had a 2.5 ton water tanker at Cannonball, and we would haul water up the mountain whenever we needed to top off the 8,000 gallon storage tank. Both vehicles were kept in a Butler Garage just outside the main entrance.

Bud Evans ready for the drive to Cannonball with the Blue Beast behind him.
Tower viewed from access rd. (2002)
Access rd. to Tower in (2011)
The water truck and the snow plow did not have radios, but we would take a portable radio (Able) with us just in case we had problems. I experienced several ice storms while at Cannonball, I can remember one that was so bad that we could only get half way up the mountain because the weight of the ice on the tree branches caused them to touch the ground and we just couldn't see the road.  When we got to the top we had to break the ice off of the lock on the main gate and found everything covered with at least an inch of ice.  The elements on the beam antennas were drooping so badly that they looked like a U the triangular towers were covered from top to bottom.  I can remember that we all wore steel pots while we broke the ice off of the two towers. We kept them on when we plowed and salted the access road and retrieved the Blue Beast.  Winters there were so much fun, I will never forget the daily trips up and down the mountain.  I don't believe that anyone ever got snowed in and couldn't leave to go home when they were scheduled to go.

 Entrance Gate to access rd. January 2011
Entrance Gate to access rd. January 2011
We had quite a few construction projects take place during the 1968 thru 1970 one was the construction of some Log Periodic HF antennas.  The 80 ft. tower was equipped with a winch which allowed us to raise and lower the tower and antenna for maintenance. We spent a couple of months building the LP at Cannonball and adding a second three element beam to the rear of the garage.  The plan was to have Cannonball become the remote transmitter site for Cactus. We also installed a four channel Multi-coupler on the fifth floor.  I am not sure of the exact time frame but Cactus was also constructing a similar LP antenna I think it was going up behind the barracks and Mess Hall.   I think the plan was to add additional transmitters because I was sent to the Naval Station at Norfolk VA., in May of 1969 for training on the AN/URT 23 and the AN/URR 1051(these units would become part of the CCT packages); however we would never receive any additional systems.  Unfortunately we would never have the opportunity to really use the system as a remote transmitter because in the fall of 1969 during a severe storm the LP antenna was severely damaged and was never repaired. 

 Base of the LP Antenna
Anchor for one of the Guy Wires 
Another large project that we completed in 1969 was the shock mounting of the tower. Part of this project consisted of re-cabling the entire tower. We had a cable tied from the bottom of the elevator car to an old screw type cable terminal on the fifth floor inside the elevator shaft, which continued down to the MDF in the basement.  On the inside of the car I wanted to replace the old, two line telephone with a key telephone set and I was making a box to put on the inside of the car to house the handsets and speakers for ABLE and the UHF radios so we could monitor calls and while we were at it I wanted to extend the alarms from the TCC-13's with both visual and audible indicators. I also decided to change out the old connecting block and put in a 66 type punch down block in the shaft.  I think that Dan Maribelli was on the top of the elevator with me and Dennis McLeod was in the basement.  Are you still with me? Off we go on top of the elevator to the fifth floor. I wedged myself in the water pipes, called down to Dennis to make sure that everything was unplugged on the key system and proceeded to cut out the old cable!  Did I mention that the dykes that I used did not have insulated handles, well I got the shock of my life, and every time I tried to turn loose of the dykes I would hit another water pipe and my grip would tighten. Now I don't know how long this went on but Dennis hearing the pipes rattling started to look around and remembered we had 10 Hz, 105vac power supply mounted by the elevator control cabinet and pulled the plug. The absence of AC then allowed me to release the dykes but shot me out of the pipes and across the top of the elevator thank God that Dan was there to catch me! After collecting my faculties we finished the change out, but I bought 25 pairs of red plastic handle covers and put them on every tool we had in the tower with a cutting edge. All of the coax runs were also replaced during the tower shock mount project.

I can tell you we spent six months "shock absorbing" the tower in early 1969; we moved all of the equipment floor by floor first down to the third floor then moved it back when the floors were finished. They were made of I beams covered with steel plates, the floor was then suspended with humungous springs that attached to the ceiling by cables. The floors could be adjusted so they could be leveled and suspended. I was weird because you could bounce and swing at the same time. They reinforced the elevator shaft and spring mounted all of the air handling units. Any one that came up there during this period of time can't forget this gem of a project especially living through all the equipment moves and the construction dirt. We actually completed the project swung all of the floors and returned to normal just before we closed down the facility. What a waste of time and resources because I am sure that someone was already planning this long before we actually completed construction. I believe that Cowpuncher was finished, but I was told that both towers at Crystal were complete but were closed without swinging the floors.

We were barely complete with the shock mount project when we were told that we would repave the access road and add quite a bit of new guard rail. This project lasted about a month. Quite an ambitious program considering that in a little more than a year later we closed down everything and Cannonball was officially closed in June of 1970. 

Annotated Google Earth View of Cannonball Tower on Cross Mountain (2010) 
Floor by floor Description of Cannonball

Ninth Floor/Antenna Deck: There were two levels that needed to be accessed. The lower external area was accessed through a single blast door a ladder then allowed assent to a catwalk which circled the tower. Internal access to the upper antenna area and the roof was accomplished by climbing a ladder first to a catwalk circling the interior wall then a ladder to the pressure hatch in the roof. Three eight foot parabolic reflectors (dishes) were mounted either on the upper or lower levels pointing towards Cactus, Cowpuncher, or Corkscrew and each dish was connected to the associated systems via waveguide to the eighth floor. There were three foot dishes stored inside to be used for emergency replacement, should there be any damage to the permanently installed six foot dishes.

The two antenna decks on the ninth floor
Internal access to the upper antenna area and the roof was accomplished by climbing a ladder first to a catwalk circling the interior wall then a ladder to the pressure hatch in the roof to access all of the FM base station antennas (folded dipoles) and a 32' whip HF antenna, as well as the EMF and flash detectors.  

HF antenna on roof (32’ vertical)       
Eighth Floor:  Eight systems of microwave equipment were installed on this floor. Three systems went to Cactus, three systems went to Cowpuncher and two systems went to Corkscrew.  The lineup to Cactus was configured with three transmitters, the video patch panels, the order wire, a multi burst generator to test video and three receivers. On the other side of the room was an identical lineup that went to Cowpuncher.  At the end of the Cactus and Cowpuncher lineups were the two systems to Corkscrew.  This line up consisted of only two transmitters, the ladder going to the ninth floor, two Receivers, and the video patch panel.

A typical microwave lineup on the eighth floor (Raytheon KT R-1000A)                   
All maintenance spares for the radio equipment was stored on this floor.  The facilities main power panel, for the emergency generator, air conditioning and lighting systems.  All of the equipment in this room was mounted on a shock proof floor which was suspended from the ceiling by heavy steel springs.

Seventh Floor: This floor contained the dining area, the kitchen(Stove, Refrigerator and sink) with a pantry full of C rations, and a rest room with shower. Typically two microwave repairmen would spend a week confined to the facility. Since the tower was manned 7/24 this was the most used area in the facility.

Sixth Floor:  Contained bunks and bedding for up to twelve people.

Fifth Floor:  All of the voice multiplexing equipment for the microwave routes terminated here on voice patch panels. Since Cannonball was a relay, there were two channels that were drop and insert, which were used for communications to Cactus and Crystal.  

Typical Motorola FM base station installation 
The FM mobile base stations and UHF air to ground terminal were also located on this floor. Able frequency was installed and used for internal WHCA communications and Baker/Charlie was installed for USSS use. The UHF system was used to communicate with Marine One and Army One as needed for landings and departures. All of the radios were remoted to the elevator so site personnel would have access regardless of their location within the tower.

SSB Console

SSB transmitter, receiver and SSB converter
The Single Sideband (SSB) console was equipped with two R390-A receivers, two CV-157 SSB converters with audio patch panel for all upper sideband (USB) voice traffic with phone patch capabilities and lower sideband (LSB) TTY traffic. The TMC-GPT-750 was a 1KW transmitter and was installed in all of the towers and used primarily for support on overseas trips.

ASR-33 100wpm TTY Terminal 
All TTY circuits had associated frequency shift keying (FSK) equipment with a DC patch panel and interfaced with various TTY terminals like the ASR 33. 

                   KWM-2A SSB system 
The Collins KWM-2 was also a 1 KW transmitter but because of its size and portability was sent overseas with the support teams. Later the URT 23-A replaced the KWM-2 and became part of the overseas trip packages.

URT23-A with R390-A receiver
A four channel RF multi-coupler interfaced with a 32 ft. telescoping whip on the roof, a 40 ft. supported tower with a  rotating  three element beam, a 60 ft. supported tower with  a rotating three element beam and a 60 ft. self-supporting steel lattice tower supporting a rotating log-periodic antenna.  The primary use of this system was to provide presidential communications with worldwide communications as well as for any emergency situation..  All of the equipment in this room was mounted on a shock proof floor which was suspended from the ceiling by heavy steel springs.

Fourth Floor: Was a secure Cryptographic Comm. Center. The entrance from the elevator was a steel door with a combination lock and the area around the floor hatches and ladder was enclosed by a steel wall and door.  All lines coming into the comm. center were filtered from Radio Frequency Interference (RFI).
KW-7 Secure Cryptographic TTY Terminal
There were two equipment racks of KW-7 and were two equipment racks of KW-26 encrypted TTY systems with associated printers/keyboards. These terminals could be routed over the microwave circuits or patched to the lower sideband (LSB) of the SSB equipment on the fifth floor. With this equipment we could provide secure TTY to any WHCA support team worldwide.

KW- 26 Secure Cryptographic TTY Terminal 
All of the equipment in this room was mounted on a shock proof floor which was suspended from the ceiling by heavy steel springs.

Third Floor:  The administrative office area contained work stations for four people.  All necessary supplies were stored on this floor. This area would provide administrative support for the Comm. Center as needed.

Second Floor:  This floor was the facility workshop; it was stocked with spare parts for all of the mechanical equipment. Tools necessary to complete any repair activity was also available for use.

First Floor and Entrance:  The entrance was a 12 inch thick steel blast door that opened by using a hydraulic system.

Decontamination changing station 
The first floor also had a radiation de-contamination station which consisted of a dressing room and a shower. There were supplies such as gas masks and other equipment necessary to detect or combat any Chemical, Biological or Nuclear contaminants.

 (Otis) elevator shaft, Note all of the misc. water pipes, power, and air ducts.           
There was also a hot water tank located on this floor which serviced the seventh floor shower as well as the decon shower and the first floor latrine.

Basement:  All of the facilities mechanical equipment was located here. The HVAC power panel, the air purification system, the elevator control panel, the water system pump and water chiller for the air handling units located on each floor.  All of the telephone cables from external sources including a 100 pr. underground cable from the AT&T site at Hearthstone Mt. entered the building and terminated on the main distribution frame (MDF). The sites telephone key system was also located in the basement.

Buildings and grounds:  The site had a fully functional helicopter pad, an emergency generator and garage, and an old two room cabin used to store equipment. The site had a 5 ton dump truck with snow plow and salt spreader to keep the access road passable in the winter.  There was also a 1000 gallon 2.5 ton water tanker to keep the water supply at capacity.

Three element beam mounted on the garage 
A 40 ft., TV tower with a three element rotating beam antenna was attached to the rear of the garage  and a 60 ft. TV tower with a three element rotating beam antenna was attached to the front of the garage.

LP tower stood just beyond the trees   
 In the clearing between the tower and helicopter pad was a 60 ft. self-supporting, steel lattice, rotating, and log-periodic antenna.  This antenna could be lowered to the ground as required maintenance dictated.

The  base of the LP tower

Cross Section View of Tower

White House Military Office Memorandum on “Cannonball” (Site 2) Radio Relay Station  
31 May 1988


Sub:    Current information on abandoned Site 2 (Cannonball) at Cross Mountain in Franklin County, Pennsylvania.

            Encl: (1) Plan View of site2
                     (2) Pictures of Site 2

1, The Special Purpose Office (SPO) initiated an investigation of site 2 ­to determine If the White House Military Office (WHMO) or the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Chesapeake Division(CHESHAVFACENGCOM) is responsible for the restoration  of this abandoned, and in particular, the removal of an abandoned fuel tank at the facility. To date, our findings are that neither WHMO nor CHESHAVFACENGCOM is responsible for the existing facilities or able to fund safety and environmental improvements to this abandoned facility. However, it is imperative that both safety and environmental improvements occur soon.

2. On April 4, 1988, Ken Morin (CHESHAVFACENGCOM) and John Maxwell (SPO) visited site 2 to determine the status of an 8,000 gallon fue1 tank shown on Disclosure 1. The site investigation determined that the fuel tank and the rest of the facility are abandoned and deteriorating. After visiting the facility, it is our opinion that the environmental problems associated with an abandoned fuel tank pale in comparison to the life-safety hazards associated with the abandoned 103 foot high tower.

3. Enclosure 1 is a copy of a site plan, with notes describing the existing conditions.  Enclosure 2 contains a number of photographs showing the current conditions. Below is a list of some of the environmental and safety hazards found at the site?

a. The tower is readily accessible to anyone that can get up the mountain and there are a number of signs which reveal that the tower has been visited by others.  For example:
1. Pictures 1through 3 show that the plexiglas surrounding the top ring of the tower is almost completely broken off. This is not due to weathering or age, but rather is more likely due to vandalism from inside the tower.

2.   Pictures 4 through 5 shows that the ground level entrance door is missing. It is our understanding that the blast doors to such facilities were welded shut prior to abandonment. To remove such a door takes a great deal of effort.

3. Pictures 6 and 7 show the elevator shaft and the existing "stripped" condition within the facility. The wall finish insulation shown in Picture 6 is potentially asbestos material

4.  Pictures 8 and 9 show the opening in the floor leading to the basement.  Since there is no hatch here, this is a very hazardous situation for someone or something cou1d fall through this opening and be seriously injured. Note that the ladder, typical or ladders within the facility, is no longer attached to the wall.  Henry Keyser (the young man that got us in the gate at the bottom of the hill) said that he and some friend’s skate on the ice that forms in the basement during the winter.  Mr. Keyser also said that he climbs the tower regularly.

5.  Picture 10 shows graffiti written on the wall of the towers ground floor.

6.  While at the site, Mr. Morin and Mr. Maxwell climbed to the top of the tower using the access ladder, during the climb we found garbage, a rope to ease top floor access, a missing rung that had been replaced with a tightly pulled coat hanger and there is total darkness on floors four through seven. Additionally, the ladder going up the tower is deteriorating, and when on the top floor of the tower, one feels a “swaying” sensation.

b. Pictures 11 through 15 are of the fill cap of an abandoned 2,500 gallon water tank.
c. Pictures 15 through 18 are of the old transformer and generator vaults.  Pictures 17 and 18 shows that a lot of debris has been accumulated in these vaults over the years.  This area should be investigated to make sure that no PCB’s were spilled when the potentially PCB filled transformers were removed.  An open pit like this is a serious safety hazard.

d. Pictures 18 and 19 indicate that the 8,000 gallon fuel tank for the generator was abandoned in place.  This area should be checked for possible soil contamination and the tank should be removed.

e. For some reason, a number of trees in the cleared area are dead.

4.  As a minimum, the following short term steps should be taken:  (1) secure the tower by permanently closing the ground level entrance. (2) Test for fuel contamination in the soil around the fuel tank (3) test for PCB contamination in the old transformer vault, and (4) remove the abandoned fuel tank (note that abandoned fuel tanks are to be reported to the EPA on an annual basis by statute).  In the long run, the entire facility should be demolished and the site restored to natural conditions.  The questions that must be answered prior to the accomplishment of these recommendations are (1) Who presently owns and is responsible for the property and (2) whose and/or what funds are available for the clean up/restoration (this question is at least in part dependant upon who currently owns the property).  SPO has been trying to determine ownership over the last two months.

5.  There are (4) leases and (1) deed of easement associated with Site 2 and they are as follows:

a. USACE lease #DA-49-080-ENG-4645 between the US Army Corps of Engineers and Earl and Centha Brant.  From the description of the land leased, it is probably part of the roadway in Pennsylvania that leads to the tower. Our file contains an unsigned copy of the original lease dated 1 July 1959 and a signed original dated 11 August 1976.  The original lease states that for no reason would it extend beyond 30 June 1984.

b. USACE lease #DA-49-080-ENG-4368 between the Corp of Engineers and C.C. Glaser and Richard M Wolf.  From the description of the land leased it is probably part of the roadway in Pennsylvania leading to the tower. Our file contains an unsigned copy of the lease dated 22 July 1959 and a signed original of the cancellation of lease dated 11 August 1976.The original lease states that for no reason would it extend beyond 30 June 1984.

c. USACE lease #DA-49-080-ENG-4675 between the Corp of Engineers and J Randall and Hallie G. Mattern.  From the description of the land leased, it is probably part of the roadway in Pennsylvania that leads to the tower. Our file contains an unsigned copy of the lease dated 24 August 1959 and an unsigned copy of the cancellation of lease dated 11 August 1976.The original states that for no reason would it extend beyond 30 June 1984.

d. USACE lease #DA-49-080-ENG-4676 between the Corp of Engineers and Clifton M. and Cora M. Keefer.  From the description of the land leased, it is probably part of the roadway in Pennsylvania that leads to the tower. Our file contains a signed copy of the lease dated 24 August 1959 and an unsigned copy of the cancellation of lease dated 11 August 1976.The original states that for no reason would it extend beyond 30 June 1984.

e. USACE lease/deed of easement #DA-18-020-ENG-3736 between the Corp of Engineers and the Rattle Run Gun Club. The land leased is the roadway leading to the tower from Maryland.  Our file contains a signed copy of the signed deed dated 7 October 1965 and the DD 1354 where we transfer the property back to the Corp of Engineers.

f. USACE lease #DA-49-080-ENG-4675, supplemental agreement # 1, between the Corp of Engineers and J Randall and Hallie G. Mattern. The land leased under the supplemental agreement definitely contains the parcel of land that site 2 was constructed and portions of the roadway leading to the site.  In some of the documentation it is referred to as the “main site”.  Our file contains a copy of lease dated 26 February 1965.
6.  From the incomplete documentation in our files, it appears that the Government believes that it has returned the property to the Mattern’s.  In a phone conservation on 27 May 1988 with Mr. Andrew Knapka of the Julian Post Office ((work) 814-355-0811, (home) 814-355-----), Mr. Maxwell found out that Mr. J. Randall Mattern died in 1970 and his wife Hallie died in 1976.  The chances are that the Mattern’s never knew that the property had been returned to them.

  7.  Mr. Knapka also gave the following information:

a. When the government first leased the property from the Mattern’s there were other people with claims to the property.  The Mattern’s signed the lease because the government felt that they had the best claim to the land at the time.
b. Mr. Knapka indicated that he would share the information in his file on the land and the various claims to it.

c. The Mattern’s have a son, Lt. Col. Henry K Mattern, USA, Retired and living in Huntsville, Alabama.

  8.  During our research of the facility, the following points of contacts have been established. 

          a. Pete Digel (301-962-3551).  Mr. Digel works for the Army Corp of Engineers real estate division and had been researching the property prior to SPO involvement; however, he had completed his investigation, concluding that present ownership appears to be vested in no identifiable individual(s).  Mr. Digel has been informed of all our findings and will be provided with a copy of this memo.

b. Bill Piccirilli (301-962-3631).  Mr. Piccirilli is an engineer with the US Army Corp of Engineers.  His office is responsible for completing the Inventory Project Report (IPR) which determines if a project is eligible for funding under the Defense Environmental Restoration Program.  Mr. Piccirilli indicates that his office cannot conduct an IRP until ownership is established. If it is determined that the facility is the property of the US Government, the site clean up would not be eligible for funding under the Defense Environmental Restoration Program and Mr. Piccirilli’s office would not handle the contract.  Mr. Piccirilli work address is:

                                             US Army engineer District, Baltimore 
                                              P.O. Box 1715 
                                              Baltimore, Md 21203-1715

c. Bob More   Mr. More is the individual that will receive the IPR from Mr. Piccirilli’s office if completed.  Mr. More’s office does the paper work to get a particular project funded for design and construction under the Defense Environmental Restoration Program. Mr. More’s address is:

              Commander Huntsville Division 
              US Army Corp of Engineers                                                      
                                               Attn: Bob More
                                               P.O. Box 1600 
                                               Huntsville, Al. 35807-4301 

d. Carol Robinson (home) -----------.  Ms. Robinson works at the AT&T facility at Hearthstone Mountain about 1 mile from site 2.  Ms. Robinson was very helpful in finding information about the Cross Mountain site.

e. Roderick Rohrer (work 301-223-7872; home ------------).  Mr. Rohrer is president of the Rattle Run Hunting Club.  He felt that it would not be a problem for us to use his road if we chose to do work at the site and that he will bring the issue up at the next meeting of the hunting club.

f. Mr. Atherton and son, Henry Keyser ------------.  Both live near the locked gate at the bottom of the mountain on the Pennsylvania side and have a key to the gate.  Henry Keyser took Mr. Morin and Mr. Maxwell to the site on April 4th.

9.  From the Available records on this site, SPO has been unable to determine ownership of the question property; however, the fact that is some individual(s) or sovereign (i.e. either the US Government or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania) does possess legal title.  Regardless of the question of legal title, the fact remains that the US Government was responsible for the construction of a facility on this property and would appear to have some responsibility (moral, if not legal) for the various hazards associated with this abandoned facility.  Therefore as a minimum, the following actions should be undertaken:

a. As a temporary solution the US Government should have the tower entrance closed and secured.  SPO could assume this responsibility, using resources using resources available to us.

 b. WHMO should encourage the Corp of Engineers to make this project a high priority and secure the necessary funding to demolish the abandoned facility and to restore the ground to natural conditions.                                         

 John C Maxwell III

Copy to: 
 1) Pete Digel, Real Estate Division, US Army Corp of Engineers
 2) Bill Piccirilli, Baltimore District, Us Army Corp of Engineers

Enclosure 1: Cannonball Facility Layout
Engineering Drawings of the Cannonball Buildings and Grounds
Enclosure 2: Photos of Cannonball Tower

Photo #1
Photo #2
Photo #3

Photo #4
Photo #5

Photo #6

Photo #7
Photo #8
Photo #9

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Photo #13
Photo #15
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Photo #18

Photo #19

Presidential Emergency Facility Site 3 - “Cowpuncher”                                                                       
Round Top Summit, North Mountain
North Mountain's Round top summit site of Cowpuncher Tower in the distance seen from Shanghai, WV...
 1,673 ft. (509.9 m)
 Berkeley County, West VirginiaUSA
 Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians
Topo map
 + 39.419821 N -78.08889 W

North Mountain is a mountain ridge within the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians in the U.S. state of West Virginia.  The span consists of 20 miles (32 km) of ridge line and is noticeably higher in elevation, containing the mountains highest point of 1,673 feet (510 m) above sea-level at its Round Top summit near Arden in Berkeley County, West Virginia. North Mountain, as early settlers in the eighteenth century referred to the stream as to the "back" of the ridge when approaching it from the east. . North Mountain’s Roundtop Summit is also the site of a deactivated microwave relay station that was used during the Cold War. The unit was encased in a 103 ft. tower, and known as the "Cowpuncher".  The site was closed in 1977 and has been demolished.

Tower History and Purpose             

Construction of Cowpuncher tower was complete during the late 50’s early 60’s. Originally named Copper the cylindrical tower was renamed Cowpuncher in 1965.  Cowpuncher was exactly the same construction and served the same purpose as Cannonball.  The tower was part of a microwave network designed to provide communications to the President of the United States and emergency communications in the event of a nuclear attack. The Microwave route connected Camp David, Mt Weather, Site R and other key bodies of government directly to the White House.

Google Earth view of Cowpuncher Tower near Martinsburg WV. Site has been demolished
 Google Earth view of Cowpuncher Tower near Martinsburg WV. Site has been demolished

Cross Section View of Tower 

Presidential Emergency Facility Site 5 -"Crystal" East and West

Mt Weather near Winchester, Va.
Crystal East tower on the left (2015) at the Mt. weather PEF

 1,670 feet
 Loudoun County, near Winchester Virginia
 Blue Ridge Mountains
  39° 6′ 40″ N, 77° 50′ 2″ W

The Mount Weather Special Facility is a civilian command facility in Virginia used as the center of operations for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Also known as the "High Point Special Facility" (HPSF), its preferred designation since 1991 is "SF".

The facility is a major relocation site for the highest level of civilian and military officials in case of national disaster, playing a major role in U.S. continuity of government (per the Continuity of Operations Plan).

 Mount Weather is the location of a control station for the FEMA National Radio System (FNARS), a high frequency radio system connecting most federal public safety agencies and U.S. military with most of the states.   FNARS allows the president to access the Emergency Alert System.

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, access to the operations center is available via Virginia State Route 601 (also called Blue ridge Mountain Road) in Bluemont, Virginia. The facility is located near Berryville, 48 air miles from Washington, D.C. The underground facility within Mount Weather, designated "Area B", and was completed in 1959. FEMA established training facilities on the mountains surface ("Area A") in 1979.

The above-ground portion of the FEMA complex (Area A) is at least 434 acres (1.76 km2). This measurement includes a training area of unspecified size. Area B, the underground component, contains 600,000 square feet (56,000 m2).

Tower History and Purpose

The famous Mount Weather Special Facility, a federal Continuity of Government installation and a Presidential relocation site, featured a White House Communications Agency (WHCA) switchboard and communication center, and two hardened microwave towers linking it to the other White House emergency sites. This Facility also interfaced directly with the Civil Defense Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) located at Mt Weather allowing video interface with the WHCA microwave network.

These cylindrical concrete towers were similar in design to the Cannonball facility, but were almost completely underground except for the plexiglas-covered antenna decks which comprised the two uppermost levels of the towers. The towers were connected by tunnels to Mount Weather's main underground complex.

The Crystal towers are located on the east and west sides of Mount Weather; the east tower's microwave link connected to the Cartwheel facility, and the west tower's microwave link communicated with a relay station code-named Cowpuncher, located on Roundtop Mountain west of Martinsburg, WV. Cowpuncher was identical to the Cannonball tower, but it has been demolished and no evidence of it remains at the site.

The Crystal towers are still intact and their environmental systems are operational, but all of their communications equipment has been removed.

The WHCA operation was located in Mount Weather's Building 13. The location of that building is unknown to this author, but since the above-ground buildings at Mount Weather have numbers greater than 100, it is reasonable to assume that 13 is in the underground space. There is informed speculation that the building is on the east side of the site.

(Crystal West and East Tower)
Crystal West Tower
Crystal East Tower
Cross Section of the East and West Towers 

Presidential Emergency Facility Site 4 -"Cartwheel"

Ft Reno Park, Tenleytown, northwest Washington, DC 

Ft Reno Park (site of Cartwheel (PEF)
 409 feet
 Tenleytown neighborhood of Washington, DC

 N 38.95198 and W 77.075922

Fort Reno Park is a park in the Tenleytown neighborhood of Washington, DC. It is the highest point in the city, and was involved in the only Civil War battle to take place in the District of Columbia Fort Reno Park is also the site of a deactivated microwave terminal station, that was used during the Cold War. The unit was encased in a 103 ft. tower, and known as the "Cartwheel" site 4. 
Tower History and Purpose                                                       

Cartwheel (Ft Reno Park, Washington, DC.), had a Tower with nine floors plus two levels of Plexiglas to cover microwave dishes and other antennas.  The Tower was mostly above ground level; but it also had a two level bunker that circled the towers base. Construction of Cartwheel tower and bunker was completed in 1961.

A WHCA operated switchboard, a secure switchboard and communications center was located within the bunker.  Cartwheel had microwave routes to Cactus (via Damascus), Crystal, Corkscrew and Crown.

This facility was part of a microwave network designed to provide communications to the President of the United States and emergency communications in the event of a nuclear attack. The Microwave route connected Camp David and other key bodies of government directly to the White House.  

Construction Photo's of the Cartwheel Site, at Ft Reno Park in Washington, DC (1961)
Construction of the Cartwheel Site, at Ft Reno Park in Washington, DC (1961) 
Construction Photo's of the Cartwheel Site, at Ft Reno Park in Washington, DC (1961)
Main Entrance into the Tower (1961) 
Construction Photo's of the Cartwheel Site, at Ft Reno Park in Washington, DC (1961) 
Stairs at the Main Entrance into Cartwheel
Working on the elevator
Pie shaped room on the lower level
Google Earth view of Cartwheel (2010)

Cross Section View of Tower 

Presidential Emergency Facility Site 6 -“Cadre/Creed”

Raven Rock Mountain Complex near Blue Ridge Summit Pa. 

 Raven Rock, Site of Creed Tower a PEF
 1,516 feet (462.08m)
 Adams County, Pa
 Blue Ridge Summit USGS quad
 +39° 44' 2.40", -77° 25' 8.40"

The Raven Rock Mountain Complex (RRMC) is a United States government facility on Raven Rock, a mountain in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. It is located about 14 km (8.7 miles) east of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, and 10 km (6.2 miles) north-northeast of Camp David, Maryland. It is also called the Raven Rock Military Complex, or simply Site R.   Colloquially, the facility is known as an "underground Pentagon” or ‘The Rock”.

Ravens Rock is also the site of a deactivated microwave terminal, which was used during the Cold War. The unit was encased in a mostly underground tower, and known as "Creed” site 6. The site was deactivated in 1977.  It was connected to Site R: but, access is still restricted.                

The Text Content on Page 1 of the Hagerstown Morning Herald, July25, 1977 is:

The Rock

Buried in the bowels of the underground Pentagon a mountain waits for war
By PAUL BERTORELLI Blue Ridge Summit Pa

If a nuclear war breaks out Joe Bowman may find out about it as quickly as the President of the United States.

Just a hundred yards from Bowman’s backyard at the base of Raven Rock Mountain lies a helicopter pad.  The landing pad would be the main arrival point for top government and military leaders who would staff the military command center buried inside the mountain. 

The secret facility known officially as the Alternate National Military Command Center (ANMCC) is commonly called The Underground Pentagon or more simply The Rock.  Located just off of Pennsylvania Route16 between Blue Ridge Summit and Gettysburg, The Rock is designed to be the nerve center for the US military if a similar center in the Pentagon is knocked out, it is well prepared to do the job Buried deep inside a mountain made of the hardest rock on the East Coast.

The Rock can support 3000 persons for a month it includes apartments for the President and top government officials, it has its own water electrical and air filtration systems it has communications facilities that permit military leaders to communicate with US forces across the globe as easily as if they were linked by telephone. 

Even though it is a backup center the AMNCC is manned 24 hours a day seven days a week. Intelligence data from all over the world is funneled into the mountain and stored in a computer for safe keeping. But for all its sophistication The Rock isn’t invulnerable

When the military built it at the dawn of the nuclear age in the early 1950’s it was thought to be virtually bombproof Since then however improvements in the accuracy and power of Soviet nuclear weapons have made it unlikely that the facility would survive a direct attack against it.  Still military leaders say The Rock is and will remain a mainstay in the US defense network.  For without a command center capable of surviving at least the opening rounds of a nuclear exchange the US arsenal of bombers missiles and submarines would be turned into so many useless clay pigeons.

Going under

Even as the radioactive dust settled after the first nuclear blast over Hiroshima in 1945 American defense planners knew they would soon face a new reality The US mainland long protected from its enemies by oceans would be vulnerable to a quick and devastating attack with nuclear weapons. And Pentagon the main command center had become a sitting duck

So after World War II military leaders began looking for a place to bury a command center that could be made They settled on a 1100 acre site on Raven Rock Mountain It was located 60 miles from Washington far enough from the capital to escape the effects of an attack there but within quick flying range.  Raven Rock had another advantage it was only five miles from the US Army’s Ft Ritchie an installation that had been used during World War II for top secret training.  Since it was a relatively secluded base close by Ft Ritchie got the job of being The Rocks logistical and technical support base.

After the site was agreed on men and machines converged on the mountain in January 1951. The contractors toiled at a feverish pace.” We were real busy all right.  We worked 24 hours a day blasting and hauling rock out of there” recalls one worker who drove a truck at the site. Half mile long tunnels were drilled into the center of the mountain and were curved gently to reduce effects of a blast.

Inside the caverns at the end of the tunnels the military constructed five windowless buildings set in shock resistant foundations. According to a US Army Corps of Engineers report published at the time 500,000 cubic yards of stone were eventually hauled from the tunnels. As work inside the mountain drew to a close in 1953 a separate but related project began on a tract of government land near Sharpsburg, “A great field of giant poles 150 feet high has sprung up 10 miles south of this Western Maryland community” a1953 Washington Post report from Hagerstown said.

That project along with a similar one near Greencastle Pa was built as a communication system for The Rock. Known as Site B and Site A respectively both were abandoned in the 1960’s when communication improvements made the facilities obsolete. Today according to military sources The Rock can communicate with any part of the world without the use of antennas located anywhere near Raven Rock.

The heart of The Rock

The heart of The Rock is right out of Dr. Strangelove. It is the Emergency Conference Room the place where a command to launch a nuclear attack might someday be given. Inside this room is a large rectangular conference table lined with chairs for the President and his top advisors. On the walls of room, six huge screens are available to display the latest intelligence information. Two on either side of the screens stand ready for officers who would give a description in “Huntley Brinkley” style according to a Pentagon source

Also inside The Rock is the Current Action Center a military intelligence unit that keeps a constant watch on all parts of the globe.  If trouble flares in a coastal South American country for example the CAC can warn American ships or planes in the area of possible danger. “The Current Action Center in the Pentagon acts as a trip wire. It alerts the Joint Chief of Staff and the Secretary of Defense of events in the world which may require the use of US forces” explains Anderson Atkinson the Air Force general who oversees The Rocks communications.  If the CAC signals a crisis of major importance Emergency Conference Room would be manned and orders would then be sent out over its extensive com network.

So far all of the nation’s major crises have been handled through a command center at the Pentagon which is identical to the one inside The Rock.

But on several occasions a rise in world tension has prompted the military to send senior officers to The Rock” to spread them around just in case” If the Pentagon were threatened or knocked out the President could quickly helicopter from the White House to Raven Rock Military sources won’t say how fast the President could get to The Rock but they say its “fast enough”. At any rate command can be swiftly shifted from Washington to Raven Rock “In less than a second we can push the button here and they have it command up there at the alternate” says Gen Atkinson.

The Rock is equipped with the same kind of computer and radio equipment that the Pentagon has and the steady stream of information gathered by military intelligence is sent to both centers. Briefings given frequently at the Pentagon center are broadcasted simultaneously to The Rock via closed circuit television. “They are nearly identical in operation. The only thing they don’t share is the coffee pot” says one Pentagon source.

From rock to rock pile

For all the efforts taken to protect it the Soviet Union is known to have bombs big enough and missiles accurate enough to wipe out The Rock.  A probe by the House Committee on Armed Services last year concluded that most military command centers and their communications networks would not survive a nuclear attack directed against them. The Rock was included in that finding.

The military apparently has foreseen that problem and acted to correct it.  In addition to building command centers at the Pentagon and inside The Rock it has equipped three Air Force 747s - “the so called doomsday planes” - to serve as airborne nerve centers.

 But Gen Atkinson says The Rock is by no means obsolete because there is no certainty it would be successfully attacked...  Some military strategist believes an enemy might spare command centers in a surprise attack.  With no command centers they reason the US would be unable to call back a massive retaliation strike.  Still the military has continuously devised schemes to improve The Rock Atkinson says he had seen a number of proposals to make underground command  post harder than it is.  He declines to discuss house plans are.

 Rep Bob Daniel of Virginia a member of the investigations committee agrees with military planners who argue that even though The Rock isn’t bomb proof it would be unwise to rely solely on the aircraft for command. “I wouldn’t recommend its destruction now” Daniel says.

The military has reviewed the House report and is expected In September to present its own recommendations to the Congress for better command and control.  Military officials refuse to say if improvements to The Rock will be among those recommendations.

 Whether improvements are suggested or not may be irrelevant when it comes to the future of The Rock.  The military so far hasn’t come up with anything to beat the Raven Rock Mountain installation. And until it does The Rock is liable to stay put. Says Atkinson” I feel very comfortable with the system I’m convinced we can direct our forces and I live with every day”.

Joe Bowman lives with it every day too although worries about how The Rock might survive a nuclear attack are the farthest thing from his mind.’ Well there isn’t much use to worry about it.  Once it happens there won’t be much left here anyhow” says Bowman.

Tower History and Purpose

"Site-R" is the location designator for a major US military bunker located inside Raven Rock Mountain, next to the community of Fountain Dale, near Blue Ridge Summit in Adams County Pennsylvania. The complex is also known as "the underground Pentagon," and affectionately to its personnel as "the Rock" or "the Hole" but the official name is the Alternate Joint Communications Center (AJCC).

Planning for the site began in 1948.  After the Soviet Union detonated its first nuclear weapon in 1949, a high priority was established for the Joint Command Post to be placed in a protected location near Washington, D.C. for swift relocation of the National Command Authorities and the Joint Communications Service.  The selected site is near Camp David (then known as "Shangri-La"). In 1950, President Harry S Truman approved making Raven Rock part of Camp Albert Ritchie, Maryland. This new site was named the Alternate Joint Communications Center (AJCC) Site R. Construction of the facility began in 1951, and in 1953 it became operational  Ft Richie is now Abandoned and is owned by a private developer.

Main Gate
Parade Field
World War II Barracks
Construction of Creed tower and the Cadre facility was completed during the mid-50 and early 60’s.  The cylindrical tower was named Creed has nine floors underground with only the two floors that contained the microwave parabolic reflectors and other antennas above ground.  The site that was named Cadre was built as part of the Site R underground complex.  Cadre facility consisted of the WHCA switchboard and the communications center.  During this period of time, WHCA personnel from this location also maintained the communications installed at the Eisenhower farm in Gettysburg Pa.

The interior of Site R consists of five, three story buildings: A, B, C, D, E. Cadre was located on the 2nd floor of building C, along with the Presidential quarters.  To visit Cadre you would enter the tunnel, all vehicles were searched at a station outside.  The vehicle was parked above a submerged area like an old gas station repair facility, so the inspectors could see clearly underneath the car.  Inside Site R were two blast doors: one for the pedestrian traffic and a much larger one to let in vehicles.
Map of Site R including approx location of Creed Tower

The Creed tower could be accessed via a road leading to the base of the tower and park in a designated area outside the blast doors.  Entrance into the tower was through the outer blast door and down an access tunnel to the inner blast door then into the tower.  (See below)

           Entrance to Creed Tower and Parking Lot                            Exposed Portion of Creed Tower 
Google Earth View of Creed Tower on Raven Rock Mountain (2010                               
Note:The tower today is abandoned and without any electricity to power the sump pumps the tower has flooded.

The Creed tower was part of a microwave network designed to provide reliable communications to the President of the United States and also emergency communications in the event of a nuclear attack. The Microwave route connected Camp David, Site R, Mt. Weather and other key bodies of government directly to the White House.

Cross Section View of Tower

Presidential Emergency Facility Site 7 -Corkscrew"

On Lambs Knoll, South Mountain near Boonsboro (Maryland) 
Lambs Knoll near Boonsboro, Md.
 1,758 ft. (535.8 m)
 Frederick CountyMaryland
 South Mountain Blue Ridge Mountains
 +39.448712 N  -77.62749 W

Lambs Knoll is a peak of South Mountain on the border of Washington County and Frederick County in the state of MarylandUnited States. The 1,758 feet (536 m) peak is the second tallest on South Mountain in Maryland behind Quirauk Mountain.

The peak is located to the south of Fox and Turner's Gaps, and marks the beginning of geographic change in South Mountain from a solitary narrow ridge to a broad highland plateau, as it nears the convergence with Catoctin Mountain.  Lambs Knoll is also the site of a deactivated microwave relay station, that was used during the Cold War. The unit was encased in a 103 ft. tower, and known as the "Corkscrew” Site 7. 

Tower History and Purpose
Corkscrew was one of several presidential emergency facilities and related communications relay stations constructed in the early 1960s in the Washington, DC region. Construction of Corkscrew tower was completed in 1965.  Named Corkscrew, the cylindrical tower and bunker was used as a potential relocation site for key members of the White House.  The tower was part of a microwave network designed to provide reliable communications to the President of the United States and emergency communications in the event of a nuclear attack. The Microwave route connected Camp David and other key bodies of government directly to the White House.

The installation is no longer in service as a presidential shelter, and is now used by the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA has altered the exterior (and, presumably, the interior) of the facility for its purposes. These alterations include the addition of a self-supporting steel lattice tower supporting a large high-frequency (shortwave) rotating log-periodic antenna for backup radio communications. The FAA's most recent construction project included adding and replacing several surface structures and converting the grass helicopter landing zone into an asphalt-paved parking lot.

The FAA compound is a restricted area and is protected by security personnel and systems. Visitors are not admitted unless on official business.

For at least some it’s operational life, the PEF shared the mountaintop with two unrelated facilities: an AT&T microwave relay station and a fire-lookout tower. The AT&T facility was made obsolete by fiber-optic cables and has been demolished. The fire tower was converted to a radio tower serving multiple Maryland state and local government agencies. That tower, which was in very poor condition, has been replaced by a modern tower and building performing the same function.

 Corkscrew Tower
Arial view of Lambs Knoll
Google Earth view of Corkscrew on Lambs Knoll
Corkscrew Tower
Arial view of Lambs Knoll
This annotated image shows the installations on Lambs Knoll as of August 2006.

  Cross Section View of Tower



  1. Well John, it can be said, and which nobody can deny, you've done a heck of a job on this Cold War saga of the PEF facilities. Excellent job. It reminds me of a book I wrote (on a different matter) that took 6 years to sort of complete.

    The only thing you got wrong was the map with the little red dot showing the Creed Tower outside entrance A of Raven Rock. The pictures are correct, the map location is wrong. The tower is at the south end of the property at -


    And the Creed Tower underground entrance is 458' away to the NW at -


    1. Richard, Perhaps you could correct the map for me and I will change the Blog page. Send it to

      Thanks for your help
      John Cross