The Public Perception And The Federal Civil Defense Administration

Fear Of The Bomb: The Public Perception And The Federal Civil Defense Administration

The Federal Civil Defense Administration played a vital role with the idea of "Duck And Cover" and the Fallout Shelter construction during the Cold War.

“Duck And Cover”The Fallout ShelterSurviving The BombAlerting The PublicPutting It To The Test

As I went through my research, I was slowly able to piece together the Cold War hysteria through multiple brochures, periodicals, and military government documents. Being a child of the latter half of the Cold War, I had often wondered about the reasoning of “Duck And Cover,” the fallout shelter, the psychology of the fallout shelter, and the alerting process of the Cold War.
Even though there was some common knowledge in Washington State that an atomic missile could be aimed towards our bases such as the Bangor Nuclear Submarine Base or the McChord Air Force Base, the whole idea of protecting ourselves from this sort of disaster hadn't really been brought up very often through my education as a child of the eighties. However, “Duck and Cover” was still strongly
encouraged when it came to a yearly earthquake drill. Little did I know, as a child, the “Duck and Cover” method from earthquakes through the education of schools originated from the drill performed many times on the children of the fifties and sixties.
As an agency created by Truman in 1950, public response of the Federal Civil Defense Administration had a downturn. Because of the Federal Civil Defense Administration had cried wolf so many times, the public had a negative response over the seriousness of the matter. That negative response was that the Federal Civil Defense Administration was considered to be a useless agency and the public would more than likely take the threat of nuclear warfare as a serious cause. It was the public that changed the federal agency through the poor response of drills. The public mostly came to a consensus that they were going to be deceased when nuclear warfare were to happen.
The public response still has not changed much despite the multiple name changes between the Federal Civil Defense Administration in 1950 to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the 1979 after a series of major natural disasters in the sixties and seventies. It was a Catch-22 for the government agency where its sole purpose is to protect the public from harm. If the government protect the public from harm, then the country's tax base stable, and then the US government could stay exist as a superpower. But, if the public does not respond well with the warning systems that the government agency puts into place, there goes the US government infrastructure.
When it comes to educating the public in the fifties and sixties, the most memorable historical icon was the “Duck and Cover” as a school drill rather than the shelter drills. This is mainly because the drill had lasted longer than the shelter drills with the exception of natural disasters such as tornadoes in the Mid-West. The only difference between “Duck and Cover” back in the fifties an sixties than in the present time is that “Duck and Cover” is used for protection against natural harm rather than atomic harm.

“Duck And Cover”

Ever since the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in 1945, there had been a large concern over the safety of the individuals, but the idea that Russia had “the bomb” brought about a few legitimate concerns about the safety of oneself and their family. Because of the event being fresh in the memories of the public and the creation of the Federal Civil Defense Administration, guide books were often sold through the US Government Printing Office. One such book, How To Survive an Atomic Attack by Richard Gerstell, Ph. D. Gerstell, wrote the basic the basic idea of the future “Duck And Cover” procedure, which was pushed on children over and over again in from 1951 to the 1970s.
Some questions were asked in a 3-day series article from the Chicago Sun- Times in the middle of the summer season called What to do in an Atomic Attack. The article read:“What would you do if an atomic bomb burst near enough to knock you down? Would you jump up and run away? Where would you run? Would you lie still for five minutes, then go to the aid for others near you? Would you commit suicide, thinking you were doomed to die a horrible death?” Since the idea of an atomic attack was so new, the Federal Civil Defense Administration worried about three things: Injuries from debris, heat and flash burns, and radiation injuries. Very little was known about the fallout conditions. The Federal Civil Defense Administration and the Department of Defense knew about the fallout from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, but still were unaware of the health problems that rose from the radiation.
Multiple tests were made in the Nevada Proving Grounds for the interests of the military and the Federal Civil Defense Administration, in which educational films were put out in order to educate the public about how atomic energy works and what to do about it. The Federal Civil Defense Administration came out with the first set of educational films such as Survival Under Atomic AttackAtomic AlertDuck And Cover, and A Is For Atom which were specifically aimed towards the public. The well known Archer Productions of Duck and Cover was a winner of a contest held by the Federal Civil Defense Administration. The nine minute educational film aimed at school children. School children would protect themselves by jumping underneath their desks and put themselves in a fetal position. The idea was practiced for decades, assuming that an atomic bomb could explode on top of them anytime without warning. However, the Archer Productions had a few things that appealed to children across the United States: a catchy tune and a cartoon. A cartoon of turtle named Bert with a Civil Defense helmet jumps into his shell when a monkey in a tree with a firecracker on a stick sets the explosive. The firecracker explodes, thus injuring the monkey and the tree, but Bert the Turtle is still in tip top condition. The concept was simple and it endured throughout the film. The idea was so popular that comic books, coloring books, and brochures were made with Bert the Turtle. A 45 RPM record single was made with the song sung by Dick “Two-Ton” Baker and a radio show that premiered a few months later.
The idea of finding some sort of shelter and “Duck and Cover” were simple procedures based off of the idea of creating some sort of protection in case of an immediate disaster. It was only natural that disaster preparedness was based on getting into a fetus position and protecting yourself behind a wall in order to escape danger. For years, farmers in the Midwest section of the United States would often “duck and cover” themselves while seeking shelter from a tornado storm or out on the East Coast during a hurricane or even the earthquakes in the entire West Coast. It was the best form of protection that one could look after. The only difference between the original shelters and the fallout shelter was a minor modification for the long haul. But, the sole idea of actually looking for some sort of heavy duty structure to hide under and put yourself in a fetal position was a pure and simple natural human instinct.
In 1963, there was full concern about the idea of “Duck and Cover” and what it did to children from the psychological community. According to the Science-Newsletter, Dr. Isidore Ziferstein, a psychologist from Los Angeles, California, believed that the children would often look to the sky to see if the planes above them would drop something. Mothers would report that their children would be coming home frightened after a school drill. Even a teenage couple made plans for dying in each other's arms when Armageddon finally arrived. A Washington D.C. teacher reassured her students that it was very unlikely that there would be a World War III, but being prepared for a World War III was just as important. Her students were forever confused.
In the sixties, “Duck and Cover” was not enough for school drills. There were fallout shelter drills as well.
The Fallout Shelter
Fallout shelter construction did not happen by accident. After a major debate between the Director of the Office of Civil Defense, Fiorello Henry La Guardia and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1941, Eleanor Roosevelt felt that the best way to bring the public to safety was to make people evacuate the cities. La Guardia, on the other hand, retorted against Roosevelt and said that the shelter system would have been more logical and was easier to move a mass amount of people around. La Guardia had won the debate. And so, the idea of the shelter was born. Commercial films, such as The House in the Middle, promoted their wares in the hopes of making a profit from its customers. For example, The House in the Middle promoted the idea of keeping the place clean and a fresh coat of paint. However, the idea of painting your home to prevent your home from burning down in case of an atomic explosion was brought to you by the National Paint, Varnish and Lacquer Association.
Within the greater extent, there was further testing that had to be done. Along the Nevada Proving Grounds as of May 5, 1955, Operation Cue becomes the largest testing that not only involve the military, but also the Civil Defense workers, volunteers, and the media. But, to understand how to build a structure, you must be able to understand the nature of the Atomic Bomb itself.
The science of the Atomic Bomb going off is very simple. Let's say the mission of the A-bomb was to drop it from an airplane. Once the bomb hits the ground, a mass load of energy is released, including ultraviolet light and then an extreme heat spreading through the air. The sonic boom could be felt as all of this mass load of energy spreads quickly through the atmosphere in a horizontal motion as it dissipates slowly the further away you get away from the blast.
Operation Cue, with a nickname of “Cue for Survival”, was considered to be a successful operation as it was being tested on Yucca Flat at 5:10 in the morning. The test was detonated by the Atomic Energy Commission from a 500-foot tower with an approximate power of thirty kilotons of T.N.T. There were 65 experiments associated with the test including food, clothing, shelter, mobile homes and emergency vehicles, power, and communications. Operation Cue had three functions: a) Observation, b) Field Exercise Program, and c) civil effects tests. Over two hundred companies and their associations took part of the test with over one hundred observed as representatives of these companies. Over five hundred people observed excluding the company representatives. This makes approximately six hundred to eight hundred observers of this operation which is now considered to be the largest test of its kind as an observation and an exercise combined.
Needless to say, there were some things that actually did survive. Take the mobile homes as an example. If they were placed against the blast, then they didn't survive very well. However, if the mobile homes were placed into front first of the blast, they structures still withstood the blast. Surprisingly, the towers and the lines for both telephone and power withstood the testing. Even though these structures would not be able to replace the shelter, it could still provide the essentials of the after effects of the emergency needs of the public in survival mode.
The fallout shelter structures did withstood under the most extreme of conditions. First, it must be able to withstand an atomic blast from approximately two thousand and four thousand air pressure per square inch. This pressure change could cause multiple things to the human body, including causing deafness within a single blow and/or causing blindness. Most structures would have to withstand that pressure moving at approximately seven thousand five hundred feet per second and be able to face extreme heat of ten thousand degrees Centigrade.
Since no structure could actually survive such a blow, the Federal Civil Defense Administration recommended that one could survive in a shelter underground or an underground basement with concrete walls and ceiling in order to withstand the blast effects. The shelter would have to endure one more thing besides just the sonic bursts of energy that atomic blasts give out and that would be able to provide survivable conditions due to radioactive fallout conditions. Operation Cue was to provide real life situations in case nuclear warfare were to really happen. As it turns out, survival in a shelter was a little bit more complicated in construction as one might think.

Surviving The Bomb

The Federal Civil Defense Administration not only provided guides to the public for basic shelter survival, but created basic provisions that were essential for shelter survival. A typical shelter would be stocked with the following supplies: Food and water (ie. Survival biscuits and crackers, waters, and carbohydrate supplements), Medical and Sanitation supplies (ie. Alcohol, aspirin, laxatives, toilet tissue), Radiological Defense Kit, Safety items (ie. Flashlight, pales of sand), Communications (ie. Battery powered radio), Sleeping equipment, Administrative supplies (ie. Logs and paperwork), and Informational and Training materials (ie. Shelter handbook, and religious materials)
There was complete hierarchy within the shelter system when it came to managing a fallout shelter as well. The hierarchy begins with the Shelter Manager as the top official usually employed or a volunteer of the Federal Civil Defense Administration. The rest of the chain of command were team leaders (ie, communications, temporary safety, etc.). These team leaders are generally volunteers or appointed by the Shelter Manager, thus giving everyone a job to do within their specific field.
Shelter attendees have to be able to endure a full fourteen days in order to minimize the side effects of radiation sickness. Unfortunately, one can not live off of survival biscuits and water alone. A regimented activity schedule was created by the Federal Civil Defense Administration in order to provide some sort of mind games in order to prevent the occupants from having mental breakdowns while being imprisoned inside the shelter for fourteen days. Most schedules had increments of every half hour with a different activity from waking up the occupants at seven o'clock in the morning with a Reveille to trained sessions for adults and educational training sessions for the children to planned recreational activities.
The University of Georgia had conducted multiple tests under the concept of providing the mental and physical state of those who are confined in a shelter situation. Their last study had to do with new recruits of the United States Navy who were bored stiff and ended up playing with homemade playing cards to play poker and using match sticks as antes for their bets (The United States Navy forbid gambling at that time). However, on April 27, 1965 through May 10, 1965, John A. Hammes, Thomas R. Ahearn, and James F. Keith, Jr. conducted an experiment through the University of Georgia to see if a shelter could be survivable with limit supplies and space. According to The Journal of Clinical Psychology,“Thirty shelterees, 15 males, 15 females, aged 7-66, participated in the following two-week test. Stress conditions included 8 sq. ft./person of living space, and rations consisting of 1 qt./person/day of water and 900 cal./person/day of survival biscuits. Shelterees slept on a concrete floor covered only with 3/16-inch corrugated fiberboard. A chemical commode was provided. There were no bunks, no blankets, no water for bathing, no coffee, and only one pack of cigarettes permitted per smoker. Shelterees had no time pieces, and daylight clues were excluded from the enclosed shelter area.”
Other than needed supplies for survival, the occupants needed something to themselves mentally while spending those fourteen days. By the time the first night was over, the occupants became well acquainted with another and their surroundings. The researchers were not surprised with that result, but were surprised for the remainder of the study. The shelter occupants were required to fill out a journal, which included the date and time (what they thought was the time was while they were filling the journal out). Games were played, then a lecture on nuclear warfare, and then a church service. The shelter occupants claimed that that religion was considered to be very comforting to them.
During the first week, the shelter occupants had a mock wedding, in which the Shelter Manager was a groom and twelve year old girl was selected as the bride. They had a mock divorce court during the second week. Some homemade playing cards were made to pass some of the occupants times. Some major body odor was sensed by the third day. The Shelter Manager complains nightly that the shelter was too hot and they need to open the ventilation system, but the researchers denied the order. In the end of the study, after the last commode was sealed off, the shelter occupants held a farewell banquet and expressed their gratitude of being a part of the experiment.
As in the past shelter experiments, the occupants would be willing to participate while being in the shelter for two weeks without any problem so long as they were able to keep their minds occupied. It was very common that fallout shelters would get hotter and hotter in the occupancy stage of two weeks. Temperatures sometimes start at a mere freezing thirty-five degrees and end at approximately eighty-five degrees if it was not well ventilated because of the crowded space. However, if the ventiliation was to be controlled by the Shelter Manage for comfort of the occupants, then this could defeat the purpose of avoiding the high radiation levels to be unacceptable towards the health of the shelter occupants.
Other factors that lacked in all the shelter studies is of the psychological implications that were provided by the occupants of not knowing whether or not they would see their family, friends, or acquaintances again after being confined in the space. It is natural in human emotions after a major disaster to worry about their acquaintances. I suppose, some counseling would be provided in a perfect shelter setting, but this is not always guaranteed.
One might not survive an atomic attack without the advance alert and the Federal Civil Defense Administration had been able tackle that problem.

Alerting The Public

Multiple systems were put into place when it came to alerting the public. First off, the former remnants of World War II, the air raid sirens, were one such alert system. However the air raid siren presented a few problems. First, the air raid siren didn't work as well with a lack of education towards the public. Even though brochures were still being printed, the air raid sirens served the same purpose as they did World War II. One problem: it is different kind of war now. It was a new war dubbed as the “Cold War”.
Second, the air raid siren provided only one thing and that was an attack from the air, but not other ways of protecting the public through intercontinental ballistic missiles or even by the sea. However, the air raid siren acted as a preparation piece by notifying the public that they needed to seek shelter immediately if they weren't listening to the broadcast stations.
Under Executive Order number 10312 signed on December 10, 1951 provided the new broadcast emergency system better knows CONELRAD (an acronym of Control of Electromagnetic Radiation). The new system required all broadcasters as enforced through the Federal Communications Commission to provide a set frequencies to be dedicated to the President's message during a national emergency.
Broadcasters were required to change the crystal of their transmitters to be set from their designated frequency to 640 AM or 1240 AM and broadcast the president's message. These were designated for the major radio stations, however, the secondary stations were required to shut down their transmitters as well as the television stations. The idea was to create as much confusion from the enemy and the enemy would eventually abort their mission and go home.
The Federal Civil Defense Administration came up with a huge campaign in the fifties and early sixties in radio and television spots in order to prepare the public to switch stations in case of a true emergency. Eventually, in 1963, the CONELRAD system was scrapped for a more reliable system: The Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) underneath the orders President John F. Kennedy due to radio stations going off the air during the last Annual Civil Defense Exercises, or better known as “Operation Alert”.
Operation Alert was pushed to be nation wide when Dwight D. Eisenhower sent a memorandum to Federal Agencies for participation in the Civil Defense Exercises on November 5, 1953. As the Federal Civil Defense Administration created the “Operation Alert” in 1954, the drill required all people to take part by “Duck and Cover” for fifteen minutes. Unfortunately, this was all I could gather of the operation with bits and pieces that didn't make sense while looking through the periodicals. I did, however, decided to search again for Operation Alert via the internet that made better sense.
According to PBS' American Experience: Race for The Super bomb web site: “Citizens in what were called the "target" areas were required to take cover for fifteen minutes. At the same time civil defense officials tested their readiness and their communications systems, and federal officials practiced evacuating from the capital. Even President Eisenhower left the White House for a tent city outside Washington. The following day newspapers routinely published reports of the fictitious attacks naming the number of bombs that were dropped in the mock alerts, the number of cities hit, and the number of casualties.”
“In 1955, New York State made the failure to take cover during an Operation Alert exercise punishable with a fine of up to $500 and a year in jail. A small group of pacifists that included Catholic Worker Dorothy Day reacted to this law by staging a protest in Manhattan's City Hall Park. When the air raid sirens sounded, on June 15, 1955, the 27 protesters sat on park benches, surrounded by reporters. They explained that they were protesting the government's pretense that citizens could be protected in the event of a full-scale nuclear attack. The protesters were arrested and given suspended sentences.”
“The pacifists held similar protests every year. But it wasn't until a group of young mothers organized a much larger-scale demonstration in 1960 that the rest of New York took notice. The women managed to draw hundreds of protesters, including celebrities like Norman Mailer, to City Hall Park on May 3, the day of the 1960 Operation Alert. The organizers appealed to the political center; encouraged protesters to dress in their best clothes and to bring their children; and claimed to represent just one belief: 'Peace is the only defense against nuclear war.'"
“There was one more Operation Alert in 1961. The young mothers managed to bring together two-and-a-half-thousand protesters. That year civil defense protests also took place in other states, and hundreds of college students staged demonstrations on several East Coast campuses. In 1962 Operation Alert was permanently canceled.”
Indeed, the web site summed up what I was going to say nicely and I couldn't have been able to quote from a better source. New York Times and other periodicals spoke of very little of these news events, so the puzzle of “Operation Alert” would have been very confusing to me if I hadn't found it at the last minute.
In 1962, CONELRAD stopped its testing and “Operation Alert” was disbanded and a new system was to be put into place: The Emergency Broadcast System (EBS). The Emergency Broadcast System was simple: In case of a national emergency, simulcast the major radio station for news and information. In some cases, radio and television stations simply notified the public of a national emergency and then shut down their transmitters. The major radio station that did the news and information would receive a phone call from the White House Communications Agency with a code that matches the radio stations card, hear the message, and then provide the news and information for the public. It was an easy system and nearly dummy proof. Unfortunately, it had one minor flaw: It was for military emergencies only. The Emergency Broadcast System was eventually replaced by the Emergency Alert System in 1997 with more agencies involved.

Putting It To The Test

With the event of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, Americans got the scare treatment and the demand of fallout shelters went up. Shelter manufacturers and salesmen couldn't keep up. On the other hand, for those who were waiting by the bases or on the East Coast did care if the Soviets planted their missiles in Cuba aimed towards the United States. Unfortunately, the fear of a World War III was only isolated mainly on the East Coast and California. No psychological or sociological research had been found before writing this paper.
According to a survey called Community Attitudes And Action On The Fallout Shelter Issue: A Case Study of Two Communities – Livermore, California and Norwalk, Connecticut, that 61% were in favor of a shelter in Norwalk and 37% were in favor of a shelter in Livermore when the survey was conducted in October 22, 1962. Of those polled in Livermore, 66% were in favor of community shelters during pre-crisis and swelled to 76% during post-crisis. However, there was still a small number who were in favor of the private shelters, thus leaving the fallout shelters for the government. There were lower numbers in Norwalk, Connecticut where 64% favored community shelters and 29% preferred private shelters. With such a low number of people with interests of a private shelter, the idea of people having it buried in their backyard is really an urban myth since most Americans did not have a high enough socio-economic status. With the children polled on May 1966, there was an even higher percentage rate in favor of community shelters (70%) over private shelters (62%). Remember, these are children that know very little about Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings except of what they heard from their elders. The children at this time grew up during the Cold War, but do not know how it started while enduring the school drills of “Duck and Cover” and institutional shelters.
Committee of Armed Services of the House of Representatives. Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950 as Amended February 1, 1983, 1983. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1983.

Department of Defense & Office of Civil Defense. Handbook For Fallout Shelter Management, 1966. 1966.

Duck And Cover. 9 minutes. Archer Productions, 1951.

Eisenhower, Dwight D. “American Presidency Project.” 25 Sept. 1953. (accessed Apr. 17, 2008).

Federal Civil Defense Administration. Cue For Survival: Operation Cue, AEC Nevada Test Site, May 5, 1955, 1955. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1955.

Federal Communications Commission. CHR 50, 1951. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1952.

Geerhart, Bill. Atomic Platters: Cold War Music from the Age of Homeland Security. Hamburg, Germany: Bear Family Records, 2005.

Gerstell, Richard. How To Survive an Atomic Attack. 1 ed. Washington, DC: Combat Forces Press, 1950.

Hammes, John A, Thomas R. Ahearn, and James F. Keith, Jr.. “A Chronology of Two Weeks’ Fallout Shelter Confinement.” Journal of Clinical Psychology (1965): 452-456.

House In The Middle. 12:09. National Paint, Varnish, and Lacquer Association, 1954.

Office of Civil Defense & Department of Defense. Community Attitudes and Action On The Fallout Shelter Issue: A Case Study of Two Communities - Livermore, California and Norwalk, Connecticut, 1963. Beverly Hills, CA: 1963.

Office of Civil Defense & Department of Defense. Development of Values and Beliefs in Young Americans Toward Fallout Shelters And Civil Defense (Pilot Study 1), 1966. 1966.

PBS: American Experience: Race for The Super bomb.” n.d. (accessed May 5, 2008).

Stafford, Jane. “If Atom Bomb Hits.” Science-Newsletter, 30 Sept. 1950, 218-219. (accessed Feb. 14, 2008).

Truman, Harry S. “Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.” n.d. (accessed Mar. 30, 2008).

“US, Soviet Nuclear Weapons Stockpile, 1945-1989: Numbers of Weapons.” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Nov. 1989, 53.

“What To Do In An Atomic Attack.” Science Digest, Nov. 1950, 69-73.
Fear Of The Bomb: The Public Perception And The Federal Civil Defense Administration

Fear Of The Bomb: The Public Perception And The Federal Civil Defense Administration

Top Strategy Topics to Understand Geo-Strategy News, International Security Events, Global Politics Analysis, Global Trends and Forecasting, Economic Development and Reconstruction, Energy and Climate Change, Global Health and Human Rights. Tags: News, strategy, topics, security, geopolitical, strategies, economies, war, military, armed, economic development, international relations, history, geography, environment, NGO, alliances, European Union, flags, USA, United State of America, international relations, history, geography, environment, NGO, alliances, European Union, flags, USA, United State of America