The White House Has a Bunker. Who Knew?

History is full of bunkers and the US has several.

The riots following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25 have spread to other US cities and other cities worldwide. In Washington, DC, protesting crowds outside the White House Friday night made President Donald Trump seek refuge in a bunker located deep under the East Wing. Many Americans did not know the White House had an underground bunker.

The White House bunker is not the first — and won’t be the last. Perhaps the most mentioned bunker in history was Adolph Hitler’s bunker in Berlin. Originally an air raid shelter, it became the Führerbunker in the final stage of World War II and is where Hitler is said to have committed suicide. No body was found.

As our resident historian, James Anderton, reveals plans for an underground bunker for the White House were laid out by Franklin D. Roosevelt during WWII. The US was afraid of German bombers over the nation’s capital. While the original design may have been adequate for the bombs of the time, the nuclear weapons that came later may have forced the bunker to go deeper and be hardened – though the exact details remain secret.

As the White House would be choice target for a nuclear decapitation strike against the US, it is highly unlikely the US president could safely seek refuge there, given the devastation the site would suffer, according to Anderton. Perhaps most likely is the president would be whisked to the air on US Air Force 1, as George Bush was after 9/11.

Vice President Cheney went underground to the White House bunker during the 9/11 aftermath before realizing the US was not in any additional danger of air attack.