Did you know there was an underground U.S. military base?
A top-secret United States Army program of the Cold War, the aim was to build a network of mobile nuclear missile launch sites under the Greenland ice sheet. The objective of placing medium-range missiles under the ice — close enough to strike targets within the Soviet Union — was kept hidden from … the Government of Denmark.
Details of the missile base project were secret for decades, but first came to light in January 1995 during an enquiry by the Danish Foreign Policy Institute (DUPI) into the history of the use and storage of nuclear weapons in Greenland. The enquiry was ordered by the Parliament of the Kingdom of Denmark following the release of previously classified information about the 1968 Thule Air Base B-52 crash that contradicted previous assertions by the Government of Denmark.
To test the feasibility of construction techniques a project site called “Camp Century” was started by the United States military, located at an elevation of 6,600 feet (2,000 m) in northwestern Greenland, 150 miles (240 km) from the American Thule Air Base. The radar and air base at Thule had already been in active use since 1951.
Camp Century was described at the time as a demonstration of affordable ice-cap military outposts. The secret Project Iceworm was to be a system of tunnels 4,000 kilometres (2,500 mi) in length, used to deploy up to 600 nuclear missiles, that would be able to reach the Soviet Union in case of nuclear war. The missile locations would be under the cover of Greenland’s ice sheet and were supposed to be periodically changed. While Project Iceworm was secret, plans for Camp Century were discussed with and approved by the Kingdom of Denmark, and the facility, including its nuclear power plant, was profiled in The Saturday Evening Post magazine in 1960.
The “official purpose” of Camp Century, as explained by the United States Department of Defense to Danish government officials in 1960, was to test various construction techniques under Arctic conditions, explore practical problems with a semi-mobile nuclear reactor, as well as supporting scientific experiments on the icecap. A total of 21 trenches were cut and covered with arched roofs within which prefabricated buildings were erected. With a total length of 3,000 metres (1.9 mi), these tunnels also contained a hospital, a shop, a theater and a church. The total number of inhabitants was around 200. From 1960 until 1963 the electricity supply was provided by means of the world’s first mobile/portable nuclear reactor, designated PM-2A and designed by Alco for the U.S. Army. Water was supplied by melting glaciers and tested to determine whether germs such as the plague were present.
Within three years after it was excavated, ice core samples taken by geologists working at Camp Century demonstrated that the glacier was moving much faster than anticipated and would destroy the tunnels and planned launch stations in about two years. The facility was evacuated in 1965, and the nuclear generator removed. Project Iceworm was canceled, and Camp Century closed in 1966.
The project generated valuable scientific information and provided scientists with some of the first ice cores, still being used by climatologists today.
Great documentary (27 minutes) here–