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Fort Knox

Many people have used the phrase, "It's like Fort Knox," to describe a place where security is so high it's just about impenetrable but how many of us know exactly what Fort Knox is and how it earned its reputation as the most secure place in the world?

Based in Kentucky, Fort Knox US Bullion Depository is one of six US Mint facilities, where a large amount of the country's gold bullion is stored - located next to the US Army Garrison Fort Knox, around 30 miles from Louisville. The other Mint locations in the States include those in Denver, Philadelphia, West Point and San Francisco.

Construction of the Fort Knox Depository began in 1935 and ended in December 1936. The facility cost $560,000 to build - around $37 million today - and contained 4,200 cubic yards of concrete, 16,000 cubic feet of granite, 670 tons of structural steel and 750 tons of reinforced steel. Equipped with the latest security equipment (which was continually updated over the years) it also included the most technologically advanced, state-of-the-art security system.

The United States Department of the Treasury's procurement division supervised the construction and when it was completed, the depository was placed under the Director of the Mint's jurisdiction. The first gold bullion arrived by rail in January 1937.

The US Postal Service shipped the gold, as this was the only way it could be properly insured - with the USPS accepting liability, should the gold be lost en route. Shipping of the first batch of gold was successfully completed in June 1937, when the US Bullion Depository became fully operational.

The bullion at Fort Knox is made up of bars that are almost pure gold and coin bars made from melted gold coins. At around seven inches long, 3.5 inches wide and 1.75 inches thick, the bars are about the same size as a house brick.

Security staff at Fort Knox are hand-picked at the US Mint Headquarters in Washington and include the Officer in Charge who is responsible for the bullion's security, and officers from the United States Mint Police. Officers are subjected to a thorough background investigation and a rigorous training programme at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centre in Glynco.

The depository is often called the “Gold Vault” and its security has reached legendary status, with very few people knowing the complete structure and security measures of the facility. No one person knows all of the procedures required to open the vault and visitors are not permitted to enter.

Today, the depository holds more than 147 million ounces of gold, valued at more than $186 billion. Several films have set the action at Fort Knox, most notably the 1964 James Bond film, Goldfinger, when agent 007 (played by Sean Connery) was tasked with foiling a fiendish plot by a twisted tycoon bullion dealer, Auric Goldfinger, to raid Fort Knox and wreck the world's economy.

Fort Knox is shrouded in secrecy to such a degree that only one US president, Franklin D Roosevelt, has ever entered the vault, while just two political delegations have visited: a Congressional party entered in 1974 and in 2017, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, and other politicians were permitted to visit. It was the first visit by a US Treasury Secretary since 1948.

This has enhanced its reputation as being the world's most secure facility and the saying, "It's as secure as Fort Knox."

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