'Doomsday' US-style

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The Independent Online
NEW YORK (Reuter) - A 'Doomsday Plan' devised in the 1950s to rescue US leaders and cultural treasures from nuclear catastrophe included underground bunkers, secret rescue teams and a vault full of cash, says the latest edition of Time magazine.

The report says an elite unit of helicopter pilots was assigned to rescue the President in the event of a nuclear war. Its orders were to land on the White House lawn if an attack was imminent and fly the President and his advisers to one of several hollowed-out mountain sites or a heavily reinforced communications ship off the Atlantic coast. There was a shoot-to-kill order to prevent family members and unauthorised personnel from gaining access to the ship or bunkers.

The plan listed cultural and historical treasures which would be evacuated and stored away for posterity. They included Leonardo da Vinci's Ginevra de'Benci, a painting housed in Washington's National Gallery of Art, a Gutenberg Bible and the Gettysburg Address from the Library of Congress, and the Declaration of Independence from the National Archives.

The scenario also contained provisions for salvaging the US economy. The Federal Reserve Board built a huge radiation- proof vault which until the 1980s held 9ft stacks of cash to be used for the purpose.