May 5th, 2012 | By | Category: Cultural, Equipment, Military/LE, News, North America, Psychological, Sociological, Strategies, Tactics

If one more prepper on the Discovery Channel DOOMSDAY BUNKERS and National Geographic DOOMSDAY PREPPERS lauds and pines on and on about bunkers, or speaks glowingly of a new bunker purchase and installation, I’m going to SCREAM!

What is it with this bunker mentality? Every bunker that I’ve seen makes a great root cellar, and a very roomy coffin. Doesn’t anyone recall that the actual use of a bunker has never done anything to prevent people getting at you? If anything they’ve made it easier to find and bury you…


Bunkers became very big during the 1930s, when France built a whole string of them between them and Germany, that made up the Maginot Line. The Nazis just went around it. Then Hitler himself lived in a bunker the last few months of his life…

Bunkering-in is probably one of the worst things that a large force can consider, much less a small one; and that’s exactly what a family of one or two people is—a small force. Ask anyone who dealt with bunkers during Vietnam and they’ll tell you how bad the tunnels were, like around Cu Chi. “That was some scary shit!” is most often the response. Then there were the other guys who used to get off on the rush of sliding around in the tunnels on their hands and knees, a flashlight in one hand, a 1911 loaded and cocked in the other, never knowing what was waiting behind a bend, or down a hole: venomous snakes, ambusher, explosives.

After a lull of interest based on a variety of very solid evidence that bunkers make great places to die, now suddenly bunkers seem to be the go-to choice for survivalists and preppers. How and why boggles the mind: let’s take a look at how easy it is to compromise a bunker.


Let’s start with air. Everyone needs oxygen. Except for a few air tanks that might keep you going for a few hours, you’ll need that air delivered through some type of snorkel system. Also, because of how small that snorkel is in relation to the room and the number of people you have in the bunker, the air could get stale rapidly. Also remember, what comes in must go out. That’s when the scout with a dog, and I don’t even mean a perfectly trained Marine scout dog, I mean a little Bichon that comes snooping around and smells your human scent going out the exhaust pipe: whatever attempts you made to camouflage the bunker will be for naught.

So what happens when they find your bunker? First, they’ll try to reason with you to come out. Now, if they just want the food that you’d stored in your bunker, they might just take it and let you go. If you’re lucky, they’ll let you go with at least some rations for a few days. Forget that they’ll let you go with even a .22 rabbit gun to fend for yourself. If you resist and hope that they’ll just think it’s too hard to get in, that they’ll just forget you and go on their merry way, forget it.

If they have a smoke grenade, or better yet, a CS teargas grenade, they’re going to drop it down one of your many pipes that your engineer rightly told you you’d need to survive down in that large, concrete and steel rat trap. Now you may have planned ahead, like so many preppers I see fashioning on TV the latest gas masks from Vietnam and WWII. You and your family will don those masks that if you haven’t practiced shooting with them, will make any fighting a lesson in futility. But, you’ll sit and wait for the air outtake to pull the gas or smoke out and fill the bunker with fresh air. You’ll just sit tight and huddle like a rabbit hutch in a hole. The guys upstairs will act more like a fox or wolverine that knows, just knows, that there’s got to be something really good down there: why else wouldn’t you just come up and surrender, after all?

This is when it starts to get nasty. If they have high explosive (HE) grenades, they’ll toss a few down one of the pipes. If your engineers have the knowledge and military experience, and therefore planned correctly, they will have planned for such an attack and included a sump to take the grenade and the blast. Or, they might have even included a pressure valve that would redirect the blast back up a redirection pipe. If they didn’t, you’ll be lucky to survive the experience with only completely burst eardrums, and possibly trauma to your lungs, sinuses, and brain.

You might be knocked so senseless that you may not even be able to respond to their orders to come out—though by then you will wish you could. You’ll hesitate, and they’ll become more enraged. That frustrated fox digging at the hole to get a rodent won’t have anything on those aggressors trying to get you out. Their emotions will be running at such a high level that they’ll no longer be as preoccupied with getting your supplies as they will be with just getting you out and putting you totally at their mercy for your taking up their time.

They might have brought some gasoline with them. Or, they might have just raided your vehicle you kept in the garage. They’ll pour a gallon of it down one of the pipes. They’ll give you one more warning—you’ll start getting light headed from the gasoline fumes. If you’re lucky, they’ll wait to see if you’ll actually answer: you haven’t said a word from the moment that they found you. If you’re not so lucky, they’ll just drop a match down the pipe. The following explosion and the flames, not to mention the fumes will turn you into what we euphemistically used to call a “Crispy Critter”.

Along those same lines, they might not give a damn who you are, or what you’ve got. All they want to be sure is that you’re a dead threat. They’ll take a note from the Marines on Iwo Jima, who had to deal with Imperial Japanese coming out of tunnels cut into the mountain. They’ll just bring up a bulldozer and bury your ass! Please pardon my frustration at what we’re seeing on TV: as I’ve said before, it’s going to get you killed, and just so someone can keep making metal containers—before it was shipping containers and pools, now it’s your heavily marketed Doomsday Bunker.

You won’t even get a chance to fire a shot. They’ll just keep pushing dirt hill, upon dirt hill over you. They’ll turn the earth around you into a moat pushing that dirt on top of you. They don’t even have to use a bulldozer. All they have to do is chain the hatch closed and then build a small mound around and over your air intakes—you’ll be dead from suffocation within hours. And all you folks thinking  you’re safe in your former-missile base bunker? Get real!

In order to defend a site like that, you need personnel. Lots and lots of personnel. You’ll need more people to defend that site than can be comfortably housed within that bunker—the reason there weren’t that many personnel on hand to defend the missile bases during the Missile Crisis of WWIII, was that there were enough at nearby bases to jump in if needed. You won’t have that luxury. A US Army Special Forces Forward Observation Base being overrun along the North Vietnamese border in 1968, will seem like a cakewalk in contrast to how easily you’ll be wiped out.

Let’s be clear what bunkers are all about. Even for Hitler when he killed himself in one. Even Saddam Hussein, when he hid in a one-man version. Over and over the theme of some cavalry coming to the rescue keeps creeping into people’s consciousness and actions. When the SH!+ REALLY Hits The Fan…there won’t be anyone coming to bail you out. There won’t be anyone to save the day. Even the FOBs that were manned and defended by some of the most daring and courageous Americans in Vietnam, did so with the understanding that all they had to do was hold out until the might of American airpower rained down on the attackers, keeping them at bay until the just as powerful of the Big Green Machine came to relieve them. A lot of those bases were still overrun by the NVA…


It’s time to get away from bunker mentalities and thinking that you’re going to get bailed out by someone else. You will be on your own. That means you’re gonna need to learn how to think like your grandparents, great-grandparents and way back through history. You’re gonna need to know how to relate to people and build networks—something all these new communications devices have retarded so much in people, that kids can’t even talk to parents anymore, unless through cell phone texts. You’re gonna need to know how to work a plow. You’ll need to know how to read a farmer’s almanac…and that’s if you’re lucky enough to have one.

Yes, you’ll even need to learn how to shoot. And I don’t mean how to kill paper. I mean kill people trying to kill you: yes, those people you only see in news, but are increasing in number from what the news reports touch on–those we call bad people. No, shooting people is not the same as shooting paper: neither in tactics, nor in psychological responses. The problem is that like with bunkers that in the short term help a construction company make a bit more money during what is the hint of an economic collapse getting ready to snowball (something many foreign and domestic political factions, enemies of the United States have planned for, and have begun taking advantage of for their own agendas, just like the Nazis in Germany during the 1930s), or make someone who can afford a private bunker feel the false sense of security he or she needs, the reality is that it’s all hogwash: both the reasonings for prepper bunkers, and the idea that it’s preparing for the collapse, or some true Doomsday event.

Doomsday means you’ll be on your own. Look around, people. There are people who have been in combat. There have been people who’ve been as close to observing over the years a variety of Doomsday scenarios on a national level in foreign countries that are as close as coming to it without the whole world falling under its weight. Seek them out, get properly trained, and save the money you’d waste on a $150,000-plus metal and concrete coffin. Spend the money on what you’ll really need: medical supplies, non-hybrid vegetable and fruit seed, and again training–your mind is the most powerful weapon and tool ever imaginable for preparing for what’s coming down the pike. Problem is that so many squander it by feeding it mush and keeping it occupied with idle priorities, like how to find and purchase the best new doo-dad, doo-hicky…and bunker. Put that $150,000-plus into rural land that can be easily cultivated and turn it prosperous now—don’t wait until you have to bug-out of the city to get it started.

If you have already purchased and installed a Doomsday bunker, turn it into a root cellar. It’ll serve you much better keeping your vegetables and fruits, and canned goods, through winter, than serving as a place to hide out until things blow over…This isn’t a John Wayne movie: it ain’t going to blow over, and the cavalry isn’t coming.

Cork Graham is the publisher of GCT Magazine and Cork’s Outdoors. A former CIA paramilitary operations officer and combat photographer, he wrote the international best-selling Vietnam prison/treasure hunt memoir The Bamboo Chest. For his latest books, writings, and appearances, follow him at www.corkgraham.com, Facebook and Twitter. He is a co-instructor with ETS, for more information visit: www.emergencytacticalskills.com

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Wesley says:

    Your article, while it has some good points, offers no alternatives.
    You opine how foolish these bunker owners are, then throw in a few historical references to try to show everyone that they should be as smart as you.
    You criticize people for building bunkers as last resort shelters, yet do not say what would make a better, or more defensible shelter.
    You speak of armed mobs with dogs sniffing out your hidden dwelling, but an above ground house is not exactly what I would call difficult to locate.
    You mention these invaders are armed with smoke grenades, CS grenades, HE grenades, and bulldozers.
    Granted, bunkers can be breached, buried, bombed, or burned. I submit, however, they are a BOATLOAD more secure than an aboveground structure.
    How in God’s name do you think defending a wood frame house will be any easier than defending an earth covered structure against heavy machinery, or high explosives, or even small arms? Wood burns VERY easily. Dozers can LEVEL a house in seconds. Bullets can go through several walls very easily.
    Regardless of which type of structure I lived in, if I were under attack, I would be shooting with everything I have. I would rather have feet of dirt between me and my attackers than a couple of inches of wood.
    You finish by saying that people would be better off spending the thousands of dollars on land, instead of bunkers. I agree that land is much more useful, and much more productive. While that is true, people must have SOMEWHERE to live. They need SOMEWHERE to store their precious food and water. Where?
    If someone has the money to spend, more power to them. I don’t, but I don’t begrudge them anything.
    I live in Texas, and I can guarantee you that if there were no power, I would rather live in a shelter under several feet of cool dirt, than in a 100+ degree sweatbox. That’s why root cellars ARE underground.
    Only a fool would think a bunker was invulnerable, but with proper defensive measures, and proper camoflage, they are far superior to remaining concealed, and are more defensible than typical houses.
    It’s hard to hide a house, and it’s hard to armor a house. By their very nature, bunkers are both, to some degree.

  2. Frank says:

    Dear sir,

    That is why a “secret” base is a secret. Sure there can be pitfalls to one having a very obvious bunker with a visible hatch and venting, though when care is taken to prevent detection, one may be in a better stance to avoid detection in the case of a local unrest. Though as you’ve pointed out it has it’s drawbacks if undiscovered it has major advantages as well. In the case of such a standoff the tunnels of Vietnam offer some complexities that might be well documented to the special forces trained, would not be patent to a mob of post apocalyptic despots. Escape shaft and tunnels which can allow for flanking to be performed on the unsuspecting lot. Just saying….I would like a bunker and a secret tunnel + an underwater sub grotto.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.