As we all prepare to hide away in our little vaults as Fallout 4 steadily approaches launch day, it's easy to let the excitement wash over us and ignore the message that the franchise has been attempting to knock into our heads for almost two decades now.
The threat of a nuclear bomb noisily interrupting the progression of a typical day may have lessened slightly after the ending of the Cold War, but that doesn't mean the nature of man has altered in any way.
We still build vaults, we still build weapons that could wipe our species off the face of the Earth in the mere blink of an eye. But as the the world grows closer and ever more connected, maybe we're finally beginning to realize that we need each other? "So let's leave the red button alone for now, lads."
Back when the society was considerably more paranoid than the placated state it's currently languishing in, people had to head underground for safety. Into cold, dank caverns that reeked of fear.
So now as you're about to set off on your journey out of the vault and through the terrifying wastelands of post-nuclear Boston, let us gaze back into the past at these five real-life vaults and see what honest, real-time fear looked like:
1. Burlington, Corsham, U.K.
Built in 1961, Burlington is a now defunct emergency relocation site for the British government in the event of a nuclear attack. It was built 37m underground, is 1km long and has over 97m of road networks. It was a bonafide underground city.
Built to accommodate the then Prime Minister Harold McMillan and his cabinet, civil servants and support staff, the bunker has been known by many code names; the most famous being 'Subterfuge,' 'Stockwell,' 'Turnstile' and most recently 'Site 3.'
Totally self-sufficient, up to 4,000 people could live in relatively serene isolation for up to 3 months in 22 separate 'districts.' An underground lake and treatment plant provided clean drinking water; there were hospitals, kitchens, bakeries, canteens and all of these were powered by four huge generators supported by twelve fuel tanks.
The bunker was so big, the quickest and easiest way to navigate its city grid styled network of roads was via battery driven vehicles like the one seen above.
Burlington's ventilation system had a butterfly valve which could be closed to prevent the bunker from becoming chemically contaminated, or flooded with nuclear fallout.
The storeroom was immense, and had to hold goods for up to 4,000 people. These goods would differ from glass ashtrays to toilet brushes, besides the fuel needed to run the bunker.
After rejecting a quote of £40 million for upgrade costs, in 1991 the bunker was decommissioned and slowly stripped of its lake, food, fuel and other life sustaining goods. It was eventually passed into the hands of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), and kept on standby until it was declassified in 2004.
2. Unnamed West German Bunker
Discovered by the urban adventurers over at Trails of the Apocalypse, this 3m deep bunker was used to provide secure communications to the German army in case of airstrikes or a nuclear attack.
Abandoned in 2010 when the army shipped out all equipment, the bunker is still in perfect working order; power is still supported by generators and air conditioning is functional.
But what really stands out about this particular bunker for me is the emergency lighting:
In case of a power outage, strips of paint containing white phosphorous glow in the dark when there's a lack of light. In the picture above, the photographer snapped the corridor with a long exposure of 30 seconds to truly capture the brilliance and uneasy feeling of a life spent in fear and underground.
3. Cape May Point Bunker, New Jersey
(image by he who shall)
Situated to the east of Cape May Point State Park, the bunker was built during the early days of WW2 for the purpose of scanning, locating and destroying any Axis forces that may have been lurking off the coast of the U.S.
(image by Chris Kelly)
Once a formidable stronghold with 26" guns and four 155mm coast artillery guns, the bunker was cleverly covered with sand in order to keep it obscured from the vision of enemy craft. Though the sea has long eroded the bunker's sandy cloak.
The bunker was successful in carrying out its duty, however. In May 1945, after Germany capitulated, a German U-boat carrying a crew of nearly 60 men surrendered 40 miles off the coast of Cape May. This made Cape May the toast of the country, a name on everyone's lips. And even if it doesn't manage to stand the test of time, its influence will be remembered forever.
4. Deer Trail Nuclear Missile Silo, Colorado
The Titan I was one of the very first "strategic, intercontinental ballistic missiles" created by the U.S. in 1959. It was 98 feet long, fueled by kerosene and liquid oxygen and was designed with the purpose of carrying nuclear warheads. A real fun piece of kit.
In Colorado sits 6 abandoned silos that housed these incredible machines, now suitably waterlogged and rusted. The silos are strictly off-limits due to their decrepit state.
But every year legions of intrepid spelunkers take the trip down into the depths of the past to sample the unseen architecture of war. For example, the next set of pictures come from inside Deer Trail's Titan silo.
(images via Boomerjinks)
Above is where the generators used to power the silo were placed. Apparently everything mounted to the floor was placed on springs and shock absorbers. Makes obvious sense, right?
(image via Boomerjinks)
Here pictured is an actual silo, which more resembles a never-ending portal into the very depths of Hell. It's roughly a 40 foot drop and filled with water and, more than likely, a cocktail of chemicals and fuels you shouldn't really be soaking in.
This is the opposite side of the silo...
And here are the blast doors at the top of the silo.
And...some miscellaneous goop. Speculate on that in the comments!
Here's a video of SeaproofTV's talented team of divers doing what they do best in a missile silo in Washington:
5. Ausländerlager Schönholz, Berlin, Germany
There are plenty of bunkers situated all over Germany's capital city, but few have as terrible a story as 'Luna Lager.'
Once a prosperous area made famous in 1750 by the planting of a mulberry plantation by Prussian Queen Elisabeth Christine, between 1940 and 1945 Schönholz was the location of one of Berlin's most renowned forced labor camps.
Come the end of 1942, 2500 Belgians, Croatians, French, Serbs and Ostarbeiter (meaning people from the Soviet nations) were held against their will. The first laborers were housed in the dining halls of the restaurant 'Castle Schönholz,' but were later moved to barracks built on the site of an amusement park called 'Luna Park.'
Hence how Luna Lager got its name, via despicable irony. The workers were forced to work 12 hour shifts, 6 days a week, crafting weapons and munitions. They were malnourished and exhausted by the work, and had to run the risk of death due to starvation and allied bomb runs.
The camp was eventually liberated by Soviet forces in April 1945, and, thankfully, next to nothing of Ausländerlager Schönholz remains. Nearly all remnants of the terrible past were torn down, barring the bunker and a small cemetery.