Main Content

Securing the White House

Copyright © White House Historical Association. All rights reserved under international copyright conventions. No part of this article may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Requests for reprint permissions should be addressed to

When the United States entered World War II in December 1941, White House security became a much more serious concern than it had been in the past. Bulletproof glass in the three south windows of the Oval Office and a "bomb-barrier," concrete poured along the West Wall of the Executive Office Building, were installed. Special outdoor lighting was designed by General Electric to dimly illuminate the grounds without casting a glare on the house itself. Despite protests from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, an air raid shelter was also built under the newly constructed East Wing. In 1942, Roosevelt ordered an East Terrace cloakroom called the "Hat Box" converted into a movie theater. Here the president enjoyed watching news reels and took special interest in the battles fought in Europe and Asia.

The “Hat Box” as it appeared in 2008.

White House Historical Association