Iron Curtain descends and the Cold War begins; Berlin Wall falls and the Cold War ends

by Leslie Hossack

Blast Tunnel, The Diefenbunker, Ottawa 2010

© Leslie Hossack

Shown in the photograph above is the view seen as you exit the Diefenbunker, turn left into the blast tunnel, and begin the climb back to the surface. Thus, this series ends where it began – in the 378-foot-long blast tunnel designed to allow the pressure wavefront caused by a nuclear blast to pass by the entrance. The bunker doors are located at a right angle, midway down the open-ended tunnel. This design meant that an above-ground explosion would sweep through the tunnel without affecting the double airlock door at the front of the structure.

Just over 50 years ago, in December 1961, Canada’s Central Emergency Government Headquarters, aka the Diefenbunker, became operational. Built secretly between 1959 and 1961 just outside of Ottawa, the Diefenbunker was designed to protect government officials in the event of a nuclear attack. Nicknamed after Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker, the bunker was a massive complex of office spaces, sleeping quarters, dining areas, medical facilities and decontamination chambers, all of which can be seen in previous posts.

On August 21st 1958, Prime Minister Diefenbaker ordered the construction of the shelter at the height of the Cold War. The Central Emergency Government Headquarters was a four-story underground shelter located west of Ottawa, near the village of Carp. Although its construction was to be kept secret, the size of the project forced Prime Minister Diefenbaker to acknowledge that the government was building a nuclear fallout shelter for the country’s leaders.

After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the Cold War drew to a close. The Diefenbunker was shut down in 1994, after 33 years of operation. It is now Canada’s Cold War Museum and a National Historic Site. For more information, please visit Canada’s Cold War Museum and Parks Canada.

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