Protection in the Nuclear Age

"Pamphlet of Protection"

“Pamphlet of Protection”

“In this uneasy age in which we live, strife abounds in many troubled parts of the world. The weapons of modern warfare have become increasingly powerful and numerous…In the face of this threat, a strong civil defense is needed not only throughout government, but on the part of the individual and the family.”

In the final throes of preparing for this semester, while digging though some readings for a class, I came across a small booklet that I collected a few years ago. I can’t remember exactly where, but it was certainly from an antique store in some small town.

Published by the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency of the US Department of Defense, Protection in the Nuclear Ageis an interesting gimpse at a time that now seems very much more remote and alien than the 1977 publication date suggests. Its eight chapters summarize the nature of a nuclear attack, how to increase chances of survival through the use or creation of a fallout shelter, what life would be like after an attack and how to avoid various hazards. It includes numerous illustrations, preparedness lists and extensive lists of supplies.

Reading the book, I was struck by the way it addresses a US “public” citizenry in a way that seems quite unfamiliar and barely recognizable today. The public is asked not to use the telephone but to save it for official calls. Individuals are asked to head to public fallout shelters in their local communities. The unmarked subjects that the book addresses are urban—leaving suburban and rural residents to consider other options such as designing their own fallout shelter from plans they can order from the US government:

U.S. Army AG Publications Center
Civil Preparedness Section
2800 Eastern Blvd. (Middle River)
Baltimore, Md. 21220

“In ordering a plan, use the full title and code shown for it.”

The text clearly suggests, however, that public shelters—with the advantages of centralized management, designated trouble shooters and enough supplies—are preferable to home shelters where “you and your family would largely be on your own.” Safety and survival depend on others. Individuals are only referenced as part of social groups and communities.

Federal, State and local governmental agencies claim some responsibility for helping a national citizenry to an extent unimaginable today—in a speaking voice that I one never hears now (that even uses capital letters!)—evoking an ideal level of care and coordination:

“Your Federal Government and many State and local governments are currently planning for the orderly relocation of people in time of an international crisis.”

“Relocation routes will be designated to assure that residents will be equally distributed among the reception counties so that there will be adequate food and lodging for you and your family.”

Paging though the small booklet the not-so-distant past seems like a “foreign country” with its own “other” culture. The only aspect of the booklet that seemed familiar today—outside of a film or TV drama—was the way the text evokes a fear of being attacked by unidentitifed “enemies” at a moment’s notice and way one should prepare by “gearing up.”

The booklet seemed too interesting not to share, so the link in the first paragraph goes to a full-color PDF of the booklet. Be Prepared!

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