Project Iceworm was the code name for a top secret US Army program during the Cold War to build a network of mobile nuclear missile launch sites under the Greenland ice sheet. The ultimate objective of placing medium-range missiles under the ice - close enough to Moscow to strike targets within the Soviet Union - was kept secret from the Danish government. To study the feasibility of working under the ice, a highly publicized "cover" project, known as "Camp Century" was launched in 1960. However, unsteady ice conditions within the ice sheet caused the project to be cancelled in 1966.
Political background 
Details of the missile base project were classified for decades, first came light in public in January 1997, when the Danish Foreign Policy Institute (DUPI) was asked by the Danish Parliament to research the history of nuclear weapons in Greenland during the Thulegate scandal.
To test the feasibility of construction techniques a project site called "Camp Century" was started, located at an elevation of 6,600 feet (2,000 m) in northwestern Greenland, 150 miles (240 km) from the US Thule Air Base. The American radar and air base at Thule had been in active use since 1951.
Camp Century was described[by whom?] 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 USSR 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 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 US 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 building 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 the PM-2A and designed by Alco for the US Army. Water was supplied by melting glaciers and tested to determine if 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 cancelled and Camp Century closed in 1966.
Size of proposed missile complex 
According to the documents published by Denmark in 1997, the US Army's "Iceworm" missile network was outlined in a 1960 Army report titled "Strategic Value of the Greenland Icecap." If fully implemented, the project would cover an area of 52,000 square miles, roughly three times the size of Denmark. The launch complex floors would be 28 feet below the surface - and the missile launchers themselves even deeper - and clusters of missile launch centers would be spaced 4 miles apart. New tunnels were to be dug every year, so that after 5 years there would be thousands of firing positions, among which the several hundred missile could be rotated. The Army intended to deploy a shortened, two-stage version of the US Air Force's Minuteman missile, a variant the Army proposed calling the Iceman. The entire "Project Iceworm" idea must be viewed with the context of U.S. military inter-service rivalry of the late 1950s, as the US Army competed against the Navy and Air Force for a share of America's new, and expanding nuclear deterrent. The Army's nuclear power program, authorized in 1954, gave the Army the stepping stone it used to reach for greater nuclear clout.
Sheet ice elasticity 
Although the Greenland Icecap appears, on its surface, to be hard and immobile, snow and ice are visco-elastic materials which slowly deform over time, depending on temperature and density. Despite its seeming stability, the Icecap is, in fact, in constant, slow movement- spreading outward from the center. This spreading movement, over the course of a year, causes tunnels and trenches to narrow as their walls deform and bulge, eventually leading to a collapse of the ceiling. By the summer of 1962 the ceiling of the reactor room within Camp Century had dropped and had to be lifted 5 feet (1.5 meters). During a planned reactor shutdown for maintenance in late July 1963, the Army decided to operate Camp Century as a summer-only camp and did not reactivate the PM-2A reactor. The camp resumed operations in summer 1964 using its standby diesel power plant, the portable reactor was removed that summer, and the camp was abandoned altogether in 1966.
See also 
- "Greenland during the Cold War. Danish and American security policy 1945-1968". Copenhagen: Danish Institute of International Affairs. 1997-01-17. Retrieved 2009-04-26.
- "The Iceman That Never Came: 'Project Iceworm', the search for a NATO deterrent, and Denmark, 1960-1962", by Nikolaj Petersen; Scandinavian Journal of History, Vol. 33, no. 1 (March 2008), pp. 75-98; official purpose and size & length of Camp Century tunnels given on p.78; accessed 20 March 2012.
- Camp Century (1 of 4), YouTube
- Dansgaard, Willi (2005), Frozen Annals, Greenland Ice Cap Research, Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark, pp. 54–63
- Petersen, "The Iceman That Never Came" (March 2008), page 80.
- Petersen, "The Iceman That Never Came" (March 2008), page 79.
- Article "Aukstajā karā uzvarēja ledus" ("Ice won the Cold War") (in Latvian) in magazine "Ilustrētā zinatne" ("Science Illustrated"), issue No. 34, September 2008, page 85. ISSN 1691-256X. Published in Riga, Latvia. Part of "Bonnier Publications International A/S", Copenhagen, Denmark.
- Grant, Shelagh (2010). Polar Imperative: A History of Arctic Sovereignty in North America. Douglas & McIntyre. ISBN 978-1-55365-418-6.
- Article "The Iceman That Never Came: 'Project Iceworm', the search for a NATO deterrent, and Denmark, 1960-1962", by Nikolaj Petersen; Scandinavian Journal of History, Vol. 33, no. 1, March 2008, pp. 75-98.
- Suid, Lawrence H. (1990). The Army's Nuclear Power Program: Evolution of a Support Agency. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-27226-3.
- Camp Century and its PM-2A reactor covered by Suid in "Chapter 5: The Nuclear Power in Full Bloom", pp.57-80.
- Weiss, Erik D. (2001). "Cold War Under the Ice: The Army's Bid for a Long-Range Nuclear Role, 1959-1963". Journal of Cold War Studies 3 (3, Fall 2001): 31–58. doi:10.1162/152039701750419501.
- Camp Century, Greenland, Frank J. Leskovitz (inc good pictures and diagrams)
- The Story of Camp Century - The City Under Ice, US Army film, 1961 (via YouTube)
- US Military Buildup of Thule, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
- Camp Century, thuleab.dk
- Elmer F. Clark, Camp Century: Evolution of Concept and History of Design, Construction and Performance (6 Mb), Technical Report, US Army Materiel Command Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, October 1965
- Atomic Insights Nov 1995 Comments on army film.
- Glacialogical Studies in the Vicinity of Camp Century, Greenland
- Video on YouTube