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Lecture 20/21 - 2005 One Nation Under Ground Civil Defense in the U.S. Meet Bert the Turtle from a 1950 civil defense film.

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Presentation on theme: "Lecture 20/21 - 2005 One Nation Under Ground Civil Defense in the U.S. Meet Bert the Turtle from a 1950 civil defense film."— Presentation transcript:

1 lecture 20/ One Nation Under Ground Civil Defense in the U.S. Meet Bert the Turtle from a 1950 civil defense film

2 lecture 20/ Civil Defense in the Atomic Age Merging of Cold War military ethics with the cult of domesticity. Allows us to see larger currents of American history –Ex: should the gov’t encourage public shelters (“communistic”) or private ones (American- style)? –What was the proper amount of militarization of civilian society? Consider this all in light of gov’t response to 9/11

3 lecture 20/ Civil Defense Institutionalized Prior to 1950 – little attention to civil defense. This changed with Joe-1 and Korea. January 1951 – Truman creates the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA). –Motto: “Survive, Recover, and Win” –Role: Education and training; raise America’s “bomb consciousness” with practical matters of implementation left to state and city level (shades of 9/11?)

4 lecture 20/ Question of civil defense touched on many other issues in American history –Civilian vs. military control and creation of a garrison state. –The proper role of government and citizen entitlements. Whose responsibility was civil defense? –Active (bomb, missiles = male) vs. passive (comfort, aid = female) –Civil defense should reflect the “American Way of Life”

5 lecture 20/ Civil defense debate, in other words, reflected larger political agenda and issues of the day.

6 lecture 20/ Preaching the Gospel of ‘Self-Help Cold War militarization turned into individual citizen’s responsibility. Sec. of Def. Robert McNamara (1961) –“…certainly the Federal Government, the State, and the local governments all have parts to play, but most importantly, it’s the responsibility of each individual to prepare himself and his family for that [thermonuclear] strike.”

7 lecture 20/ Why “self-help”? FCDA had a limited vision of the assistance it would provide to citizens and for how long.

8 lecture 20/ One citizen’s indignant response to DIY: –The legislators “have passed the buck to the individual citizen. They have in effect said: every American family for itself and the devil take the hindmost.”

9 lecture 20/ “A is for Atom, B is for Bomb” – School Children and Civil Defense Civil defense as antidote to atomic panic and anxiety. –Panic was a major concern; press mentioned ‘panic’ 13 times more in 1953 than in Educational material sanitized – words like “atomic warfare” replaced by “major emergency”.

10 lecture 20/ Two major efforts aimed at kids –Air raid drills –Identification efforts.

11 lecture 20/

12 Duck and cover drill; 1951

13 lecture 20/ Changes to School Architecture “Double duty” philosophy as administrators justified changes in school design to reasons not associated with civil defense. Ex: The “Wall of Light” design done away with...fewer windows better for AV purposes and also was safer.

14 lecture 20/ Domesticating the Bomb Civil defense integrated into safety education and home economics classes. Attempts to “tame” the Bomb and make the unthinkable ordinary. –Ex: decorating and stocking a shelter –Spokeswoman for National Education Association: “…[nuclear] attack as another potential hazard of modern living” –Air raid drills compared to fire drills

15 lecture 20/ Educating the Public Selling civil defense one of FCDA’s major tasks. Enlists the help of Madison Avenue advertising experts. Stressed idea that civil defense was a moral defense; self-help praised and dependency stigmatized. These efforts also tended to put a happy face on the Bomb

16 lecture 20/ pamphlet “Survival Under Atomic Attack” “Atom splitting is just another way of causing an explosion” “Should you happen to be one of the unlucky people right under the bomb, there is practically no hope of living through it…Beyond 2 miles, the explosion will cause practically no death at all. ”

17 lecture 20/ “Facts About Fallout” – a government publication from 1955.

18 lecture 20/

19 Civil Defense as Representative of American Culture “4 Wheels to Survival”

20 lecture 20/ Alerting the Public Creation of a civil defense infrastructure Air raid sirens, interstate highway system CONELRAD – National alerting system establish by Truman in 1951

21 lecture 20/ The Iconography of Civil Defense

22 lecture 20/

23 Civil Defense Barbie and Ken??

24 lecture 20/ Civil Defense eye candy…

25 lecture 20/ Civil Defense…real candy. 700 calories a day…yum.

26 lecture 20/

27 And…of course, the inevitable pit toilet.

28 lecture 20/ Civil Defense: Class and Race Self-help and privatization of shelter was predicated on suburbanization and home/car ownership. What about the rest of us? Labor – how would industrial production be organized after an atomic war? Workers’ rights? –Policy of industrial decentralization pursued – therefore, suburban industrial parks.

29 lecture 20/ Civil defense for minorities and poor –Jim Crow and Civil Defense –Idea of class competition for shelters and thus survival. –Racial fears in white America –NAACP used civil defense to bring racial inequality to the fore – fusion of civil rights and civil defense

30 lecture 20/ Part Two: From “Duck and Cover” to “Run Like Hell” Civil defense in the era of the hydrogen bomb and the ICBM. Operation Cue (1955) Mass Evacuation Plans – “Operation Alert” ( ) and the Interstate Highway System The Shelter Movement

31 lecture 20/ Operation Cue 1955; depiction of an atomic attack on a typical American town.

32 lecture 20/ Operation Cue test shot

33 lecture 20/ One of the buildings that survived the atomic bomb at Operation Cue. This building was on display at the Nebraska State Fair in 1955.

34 lecture 20/ Nuclear “Family”

35 lecture 20/

36 One of the houses of “Doom Town” lit by light from atomic explosion

37 lecture 20/


39 “Before” and “After” pictures show survival as a morality play and public relations effort. Helped define who and what would survive a nuclear attack.

40 lecture 20/ Operation Alert Series of civil defense drills from Took places simultaneously in dozens of U.S. cities; citizens were told they were in target areas and were required to take cover. National “socio-drama”

41 lecture 20/ Evacuation and shelter techniques practiced – Even the federal government (including Eisenhower) were evacuated. The day after a drill, newspapers would publish statistics with numbers of “casualties” and so forth. Operation Alert also became focus of numerous peace protests by people (especially mothers) who refused to run for cover.

42 lecture 20/ New Yorkers scurry for shelter during Operation Alert.

43 lecture 20/ Civil Defense for Congress Door to secret fallout shelter for Congress in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia.

44 lecture 20/ Despite the drills, Eisenhower remained deeply pessimistic about success of evacuation. –“You can’t have that kind of war…There just aren’t enough bulldozers to scrape the bodies of the streets.”

45 lecture 20/ Planners, however, maintained the fiction that a mass evacuation under nuclear attack was more akin to an evening rush hour commute….i.e. escape to the suburbs!

46 lecture 20/ Popular Joke in the Soviet Union in the 1960s Q: What should you do in case of a nuclear attack. Get a shovel and a sheet and walk slowly…to the nearest cemetery. Why slowly? You mustn’t start a panic.

47 lecture 20/ The Shelter Movement

48 lecture 20/ Early Shelter Debate During Truman Era Public shelters vs. private shelters? Early plans for public shelters were also used by urban planners to achieve other goals New Deal fears Dislike of “Soviet-style” public shelters Cost (estimated $32 billion in 1956)

49 lecture 20/ Renewed Interest During Eisenhower Era Evacuation combined with personal shelters. More of “You’re on your own” Little to no tax incentive to build personal shelters. Civil defense still competed with Pentagon requests to build more bombs and missiles.

50 lecture 20/ Symbolism of the personal shelter –Shelters seen as representing basic American values

51 lecture 20/ What the well-stocked bomb shelter has this year…circa Supplies include: 14- day food supply that could be stored indefinitely, a battery- operated radio, auxiliary light sources, a two-week supply of water, and first aid, sanitary, and other miscellaneous equipment, ca.1957.

52 lecture 20/ Shelters in Practice Despite the attention given to private backyard shelters in the 1950s, the number built was very low. Family shelter program more of a policy issue, public curiosity, and media hype than actual construction boom. Why?

53 lecture 20/ Fallout Shelter Crisis, Nuclear-tipped ICBM now the main threat. J.F. Kennedy determined to make awake U.S. from apathy and make shelter a priority. April 1961; JFK urges citizens to “plan to protect their own families.” Federal civil defense agency gets 6000 letters a day. Intense interest in private shelters

54 lecture 20/

55 Nuclear disarmament groups attack shelter idea, claiming they would serve no purpose and encourage false confidence. Also, as before, debates over who would be saved –John Kenneth Galbraith in letter to Kennedy called civil defense plans “a design for saving Republicans and sacrificing Democrats” Moral questions sparked as some clergy were asked whether people had Christian duty to let others into their shelters.

56 lecture 20/ As the Berlin crisis cooled, the panic subsided some…until October Like before, when the crisis ended, civil defense itself went back underground until the Reagan years.

57 lecture 20/ Reagan years…civil defense gets renewed attention. Now under control of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) –Proposes 7 year plan costing $4.2B Giggle or shiver?

58 lecture 20/ During Reagan administration, one spokesman for civil defense (in)famously spoke: –“Dig a hole, cover it with a couple of doors, and then throw three feet of dirt on top. It’s the dirt that does it… Everyone’s going to make it if there are enough shovels to go around.” –Thomas K. Jones, 1981, as reported in the LA Times Hmmm…might there be a “shovel gap” between the US and the USSR?

59 lecture 20/ /11 and Nuclear Fears From “duck and cover” to ‘duct and smother”?

60 lecture 20/ Parallels Between ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ “Make a kit, Make a plan, and Be prepared” –From Dept. of Homeland Security) Return to “You’re on your own”? Renewed militarization of American society after 9-11.

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