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United States Government Security The Military

Plan C: The Cold War Plan Which Would Have Brought the US Under Martial Law 313

v3rgEz writes with this story of a top secret Cold War plan which would have brought the U.S. under martial law. Starting on April 19, 1956, the federal government practiced and planned for a near-doomsday scenario known as Plan C. When activated, Plan C would have brought the United States under martial law, rounded up over ten thousand individuals connected to 'subversive' organizations, implemented a censorship board, and prepared the country for life after nuclear attack. There was no Plan A or B....Details of this program were distributed to each FBI field office. Over the following months and years, Plan C would be adjusted as drills and meetings found holes in the defensive strategy: Communications were more closely held, authority was apparently more dispersed, and certain segments of the government, such as the U.S. Attorneys, had trouble actually delineating who was responsible for what. Bureau employees were encouraged to prepare their families for the worst, but had to keep secret the more in-depth plans for what the government would do if war did break out. Families were given a phone number and city for where the relocated agency locations would be, but not the exact location.
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Plan C: The Cold War Plan Which Would Have Brought the US Under Martial Law

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  • Urban legend? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zardus ( 464755 ) <yans@yancomm.net> on Monday January 26, 2015 @05:46PM (#48908237) Homepage Journal

    This reads like an urban legend... Every field office got a copy, (seemingly) lots of employees were notified, but it's only public 30 years later? Hmm...

    • The govt can actually keep secrets sometimes. Crazy, right?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        But things still get out.

        What's changed are the targets. In the '50s it was the leftists. Now the government targets right-wing groups.

        For example, a recent training exercise [examiner.com] involved "handling" a right wing group called "Free Americans against Socialist Tyranny".

        They don't actually exist, but the government is so paranoid of right wingers that they make up groups to train against.

        • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @06:25PM (#48908599)
          F.A.S.T. hey! thanks for the idea.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Well, considering the armed insurrection at the Bundy ranch, and the raft of armed right-wing gun-toters ready to confront law enforcement while using women and children as human shields, it would be extremely bizarre if they weren't running training exercises. One could say that they would be negligent if they weren't...
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            and the raft of armed right-wing gun-toters ready to confront law enforcement while using women and children as human shields

            Citation needed.

          • Re:Urban legend? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by PeeAitchPee ( 712652 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @07:37PM (#48909133)

            Well, considering the armed insurrection at Ferguson, and the raft of armed "activists" ready to confront law enforcement while using peaceful protesters as human shields while burning the property of completely innocent people to the ground, it would be extremely bizarre if they weren't running training exercises. One could say that they would be negligent if they weren't...

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Really? What about the Weavers where this asshole [wikipedia.org] killed an innocent woman by blowing fragments of her skull all over her infant.

            Of course, instead of starting a fucking firefight, they could have caught Randy Weaver when he drove into town for errands, but that's not sexy, now is it?

            Sorry son, try again. The government is the one that's out of control.

      • The govt can actually keep secrets sometimes. Crazy, right?

        The probability of a secret being kept is proportional to the reciprocal of the square of the number of people that know the secret.

    • Re:Urban legend? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @06:11PM (#48908455)

      This reads like an urban legend... Every field office got a copy, (seemingly) lots of employees were notified, but it's only public 30 years later? Hmm...

      It probably was just one of a multitude of government-produced silly guides about what to do in X unlikely (or hopeless) scenario. Anyone with even common sense would have known that any "plan" involving the aftermath of a true major-scale nuclear war between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. would be as worthless as the paper it's printed on (maybe good for starting a fire for a few unlucky survivors). No one probably took it seriously enough to bother leaking it.

      In the event of a major nuclear war:

      Call this number (all the phone lines are down),
      Stay tuned to this emergency TV station (no electricity),
      Go to this city (you mean the highly radioactive rubble of that city?),
      Stay in this bunker (and do what?),
      Arrest this person (everyone at this address is dead)
      Respect this authority (I can't even find safe food)
      etc.

    • Nothing in that plan seems all that implausible, given other extraordinary measures that have actually been effected (the detention of Japanese-Americans in WW2, the McCarthy commission, etc). And it's highly likely that various governmental organizations had plans on how to deal with imminent nuclear attacks.
    • Or mabey it did get out, but you most likely dismissed it as a conspiracy theory. Which is how most secrets are kept is getting people to dismiss them as conspiracy theories, and throw in aliens and reptilian overlords so you simply don't believe anything the mainstream news doesn't push, repeatedly.

    • by jddj ( 1085169 )

      Can't comment on exactly _this_ plan for doomsday, but my Dad was a highly-placed official in the Post Office Department/Postal Service during the 60s-80s, and there was a CoG (Continuity of Government) plan, at least for leadership.

      Don't ask me who they thought was going to deliver the mail.

      Dad was supposed to abandon the family and head for a specific place in the mountains 90 or so miles west of the city. (There was plenty DC traffic in the '60s, but it wasn't anything like it is today - and the exurbs w

    • This reads like an urban legend... Every field office got a copy, (seemingly) lots of employees were notified, but it's only public 30 years later? Hmm...

      It was a classified document, even if it was widely circulated, so why wouldn't you expect it to not become publicly known for years if not decades? My Google-fu is weak ATM, but there have been authoritative accounts of President Eisenhower pre-designating significant power to various individuals in the event of a nuclear war and break down of communicat

  • by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <nosduharabrab>> on Monday January 26, 2015 @05:47PM (#48908241) Journal
    War Plan Red - The US plan to invade Canada [wikipedia.org].

    War Plan Red was developed by the United States Army following the 1927 Geneva Naval Conference and approved in May 1930 by the Secretary of War and the Secretary of Navy and updated in 1934–35. In 1939 on the outbreak of World War II and Britain's war against Nazi Germany, a decision was taken that no further planning was required but that the plan be retained.[3] War Plan Red was not declassified until 1974.

    The war plan outlined those actions that would be necessary to initiate war between Britain and the United States. The plan suggested that the British would initially have the upper hand by virtue of the strength of the Royal Navy. The plan further assumed that Britain would probably use its Dominion in Canada as a springboard from which to initiate a retaliatory invasion of the United States. The assumption was taken that at first Britain would fight a defensive battle against invading American forces, but that the US would eventually defeat the British by blockading the United Kingdom and economically isolating it.

    • by Fire_Wraith ( 1460385 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @06:12PM (#48908469)
      It was part of a series of contingency plans, each labeled with a different color, for various potential conflicts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_color-coded_war_plans

      Some examples:
      Green - Mexico
      Orange - Japan
      Black - Germany
      Gold - France
      Yellow - China

      Probably the most interesting (and dangerous) alternate history was War Plan Red-Orange, which postulated a war against Britain and Japan, who were allied at the time.

      The most appropriate for this subject, though, would be War Plan White, which dealt with domestic uprising and civil disturbances.
      • Hitler tried very hard to ally with the US (against GB and France) prior to the onset of WW2. Later on he tried to play everyone against each other to gain some time.

        This sort of thing happens all of the time.

      • I wonder if any of these plans are still being updated, even if it's only by some guy in a basement office someplace.

        Obviously China is still of interest, but most of them are extremely unlikely, although you wonder if there are times where it gets thought about. France after the attempt on De Gaulle or the possibility of a left-wing revolution in 1968, maybe even about Marine LePen. Mexico might warrant some kind of what-ifs around a failed state status. Germany and Japan are occupied by US forces now,

    • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @06:25PM (#48908597)

      War Plan Red - The US plan to invade Canada [wikipedia.org].

      Canadians are generally very nice, polite and reasonable, so I imagine we could simply ask them ... w/o the mess of actually invading.

      • I think you've only captured half of the Canadian mindset here.

        If asked politely, Canadians would agree and maybe even fly the stars and stripes... ...and then go back to life as normal and ignore anything the Americans attempted to do.

        Invading wouldn't be all that messy; the invaders would be welcomed with open arms, and then firmly sent back home with care packages and requests to say hello to common friends and family members. A guide might also be provided, if the invaders had any navigational issues.

        • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

          Depending on how the politeness lasted, they may end up back in the US, or wandering around the arctic circle.

          Follow the oowwwnnnnllly road, follow the oowwwnnnnllly road...

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @06:26PM (#48908603)

      Although a war with Britain/Canada seems implausible in hindsight, it was not always considered so unlikely. A decade prior to WW1, many British strategists considered rising American naval power to be the biggest threat to their empire. And they assumed that in a 20th century conflict with America, they could always rely on their historically ally, Germany.

      • And if memory serves, as recently as the 1860's, the Brits were supplying arms to the Confederacy, so in the late 19th century, it wasn't all smiles and sunshine the way it has been since WW2.
      • This is a prime example of why I went to school for history. It's filled with good laughs like this.

    • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

      It was a General Staff plan. It was just a fleshed out thought exercise. It could have been turned into action, if need be, but does not imply any sort of intent.

  • You don't survive widespread nuclear war without some pretty drastic measures. If the options were between martial law and severe curtailing of rights, or the complete collapse of society, I know which one I would pick.

    • by TheGavster ( 774657 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @05:55PM (#48908329) Homepage

      We survived for centuries with the number of people and level of industrialization that would remain after a widespread, devastating war, without resorting to these measures. In fact, we have measured the society that this plan seeks to "protect" by the rights and freedoms that the average citizen has gained.

      I don't know what "society" means to you, but to me it's the structure by which we all agree that other people exist and have rights; martial law means that society has already fallen.

      • I don't know what "society" means to you, but to me it's the structure by which we all agree that other people exist and have rights; martial law means that society has already fallen.

        Under martial law we'd bitch about how oppressive the government is and how much we hate martial law. Under the collapse of society scenario we wouldn't bitch about anything because we'd be dead of disease, starvation or random violence.

        Anarchy != Happy Fun Peaceful Cooperation Land

        • I think this is why it managed to say 'secret' for so long. When you were briefed into the program you realized that:
          1. The plan was incredibly unlikely to ever go 'live'
          2. If the plan DID have to go 'live' things were so FUBAR that it was the best remaining option.

          We need continuity in government. So long as the military command(majority of surviving government due to being designed to survive attack) gives command back over to civilians in a reasonable timeframe*, we're good.

          *2-4 years? Enough for a

    • by unrtst ( 777550 )

      You don't survive widespread nuclear war without some pretty drastic measures.

      Exactly. My gut response was, "GOOD!" Do you have any idea how many companies do NOT have a disaster recovery plan? No one ever wants to use it, but you'll be MUCH better off with it than without.
      It could have been a lot worse; Their plan C could have been:
      * Let's put enough food/water for 10 years in a secure bomb shelter and plan to store the top 0.005% of the population. After they run out of food, who cares.. let's just make sure we can remain fat for a little longer than everyone else.
      * Launch everythi

    • You don't survive widespread nuclear war without some pretty drastic measures.

      Follow Bert the Turtle's example and you will be just fine.

      If the options were between martial law and severe curtailing of rights, or the complete collapse of society, I know which one I would pick.

      Did this nonsense also come from the federal civil defense administration?

  • C? (Score:4, Funny)

    by JohnVanVliet ( 945577 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @05:49PM (#48908263) Homepage

    plan "c" what about "Plan R" !!!!

  • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @05:49PM (#48908269)

    I would have been more worried if they had ditched the first 8 plans.

    Anyway .. there is probably a modern day equivalent kicking around somewhere now.

  • I have seen Plan B (Score:4, Informative)

    by paiute ( 550198 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @06:04PM (#48908391)
    This scenario involved flying saucers powered by strings. Bela Lugosi was to have been put in charge of the interim government, but this plan was deemed unworkable when the principal contact with the alien subcontractor concluded that earth people were stupid.
  • by xtal ( 49134 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @06:08PM (#48908423)

    Freedom, and everything else, is a privilege given to you by your betters; when the chips are down, that's all out the window. Never forget that.

    It's for your own good, you know.

    Wish more people read history.

    • If they (which includes the author of TFA) had read history, they would already know that Lincoln did all that and more during the Civil War. That we might do so again goes without saying.

    • by solios ( 53048 )

      No amount of history education is going to stop the herd mentality from handing your privacy over to some domestic intelligence type claiming it's Required to combat terrorism or pedophelia or both. Don't want to hand over your rights? THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

      (watching this happen in the UK is predictably hilarious)

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @06:22PM (#48908563) Homepage

    Because short of the martial law of troops in the streets with body armor and M16's..... Oh wait... Our COPS have those now.
    Well they dont have assult vehicles...... Wait....
    Nor do they have grenade launchers...... Welll.....

    So basically they have been planning on the shit we have today for decades?

    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      I guess we'll be well prepared for nuclear war then. Lets get right on that. Or maybe not.
    • No, see, infantry are actually trained on how to use military weapons and equipment. Cops just get handed a grenade launcher and told to go tear-gas some protesters. So we'd actually be better off with martial law.

      * I'm exaggerating, but only slightly.

  • I wonder who they were?
    • by khallow ( 566160 )
      Agreed. That's the nasty thing about proscription lists [wikipedia.org], you tend to find out who's on them the hard way. I think it'd be educational to see how such a process would have worked in the 1950s.
  • Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sootman ( 158191 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @08:06PM (#48909373) Homepage Journal

    And yet somehow we survived with these 10,000 people with connections to subversive organizations roaming freely in our midst. Amazing.

    Dear ALL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES: *THIS* is why we don't want you to have infinite surveillance. Because those 10,000 people you had files on did EXACTLY NOTHING. You want to wiretap someone, go get some ACTUAL FUCKING EVIDENCE. Not just "he read this book and knows this guy and likes to encrypt his files."

A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson

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