Dec 15, 2016
The Kennedy Bunker at Peanut Island
Peanut Island and the Kennedy Bunker 50 years ago, a nuclear fallout shelter was built for the president off Riviera Beach in the Intracoastal Waterway during the lead-up to the Cuban Missile Crisis. This relic fallout shelter, located on Peanut Island, is known as The Kennedy Bunker, was constructed in December 1961. According to published reports and documents, President Kennedy visited the bunker at least twice when drills were taking place.
The bunker was constructed in just two weeks by Navy Seabees. According to Anthony Miller of the Palm Beach Maritime Museum, Navy Seabees pretended to install tanks for the Coast Guard station as they were working on the bunker. Miller holds the federal lease for the six-acre land in which the Coast Guard station and the bunker are located.
One of the Seabees who was brought in to do the finishing work in the bunker, Larry Millwood was only 18 years old at the time. He was a part of the Seabees’ ‘Detachment Hotel’ unit which was responsible for building the hideouts for many presidents including the second bunker in Nantucket for President Kennedy. The top secret orders Millwood received to build the bunker are now on display on a wall in the bunker.
The bunker is accessed via a corrugated metal tube. At the end of the tunnel, the diesel generator that would have powered up the bunker’s air scrubbers and lights can be seen. A decontamination room complete with Geiger counters as well as showers is located to the left. The shower opens up to the command center which is a large hut that could have slept up to 30 people for up to 30 days. According to Miller, The Kennedy Bunker is actually a fallout center that would not have survived a direct hit.
The 88-acre Peanut Island was built in 1918. The dredged material used to create the Lake Worth Inlet was used in the construction. The 1,500 square-foot shelter was abandon after the President’s assassination in 1963. It was on the path to ruin until the Palm Beach Maritime Museum took over the site in the 1990’s who cleaned up the bunker and refurbished it. Today, Peanut Island is a popular destination for history buffs. The island is accessible via a water taxi or a boat. The Kennedy Bunker is located on the island’s southern end. If you wish you can also explore the lovely Peanut Island Park that offers a wide array of activities including fishing, boating, swimming, and camping.
Photo Source: The Palm Beach Post