When people think of Fort Knox, gold and other precious metals typically don't come to mind. The gold vault at Fort Knox is perhaps the most famous and mysterious depository of precious metals in the world. Few people have ever seen the inside of the vault, and even fewer have had the chance to touch the gold. The gold is kept in a huge underground chamber, and the entrance is guarded by armed soldiers. The gold is also protected by state-of-the-art security systems, including motion detectors, cameras, and alarms. Even if someone were able to break into the gold vault, they would likely be unable to move any of the gold bars due to their weight. In short, the gold vault at Fort Knox is one of the most secure places in America.

What we do Know About Fort Knox

Outside of Fort Knox showing fencing and gates surrounding building

It Holds Tons of Gold

Fort Knox is perhaps best known as the home of a massive gold reserve. As of 2019, the vault contains 147.3 million ounces of gold, with a book value of $6.22 billion. However, this figure does not take into account the current market value of gold, which would put the reserves at over $273 billion. The gold is stored in the form of 27-pound bars and coins. Although it is no longer used to back currency (the dollar was taken off the gold standard in 1971), it remains a valuable asset. 

Inside Fort Knox gold bunker rows of gold bars

Outsiders Rarely Get Inside

In 2017, then-Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin led a visit by a select few outsiders to take a peek at the gold reserves inside the Fort Knox vault. He was accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the two of them were photographed holding gold bars. Afterward, in response to concerned citizens voicing their theories online, Mnuchin had an answer: "Glad gold is safe!" he tweeted. The last time Fort Knox had opened its vault to civilians was more than 40 years earlier; however, in 1974, a congressional delegation and some journalists got a look at the gold. 

The Building is Impenetrable

Fort Knox is one of the most secure buildings in the world. Constructed in the 1930s, it is designed to withstand any kind of attack. The walls are made of reinforced concrete, and the roof is bomb-proof. The main vault door weighs 20 tons and is 21 inches thick. It is resistant to torches, drills and explosives. The door is set in position by a time lock that cannot be bypassed. Not one person knows the full combination to the lock. Even if an intruder were able to reach the building, they would not be able to get inside. Fort Knox is impregnable.

Other Precious Items Inside

When the United States entered World War II in 1941, there was a fear that Washington, D.C. would be targeted by enemy forces. As a result, many of the city’s most valuable artifacts were moved to an underground vault for safekeeping. Among the items stored in the vault were originals of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Articles of Confederation. Also included were Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address and drafts of his Gettysburg Address. In addition, a Gutenberg Bible and a copy of the Magna Carta were placed in the vault for safekeeping. The items remained in the vault until 1944, when they were returned to Washington, D.C.

America's Medicine Bunker

In 1955, the US government took an interesting step to ensure the nation had adequate supplies of opium in case of war or supply disruptions: they placed 68,269 pounds of it in the gold depository. This would have been enough to meet the needs of the entire nation for one year. However, as the cold war ended and concerns about supply disruptions abated, the remaining opium reserves were converted into morphine sulfate in 1993. Morphine has a longer shelf life than opium, extending the life of the stock. This decision was made in order to ensure that the nation would have adequate supplies of this vital medication in case of future need.

Outside view of Fort Knox with fence

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