Old Photos: Surviving a Nuclear Blast

We were driving on I-70 when my Mom saw the billboard for the Churchill Memorial in Fulton, MO. I told her what I knew about the “Iron Curtain” speech; the American experience during the Cold War; the radiation drills; famous videos of kids hiding under their desks; even the fallout shelters in Kansas City.

Old Photos: Surviving a Nuclear Blast

To which my Mom replied that we had a similar thing going in the USSR. While I am too young to remember the real drills and civil defense exercises outside of our Beginning Military Training class in school, I wasn’t above wearing a gas mask on a bet.

Old Photos: Surviving a Nuclear Blast

I am somewhere in this photo.

This Soviet training movie, lovingly translated and captioned by me, tells the story in the most rosy of ways.

(If you don’t see English captions, please click on the “CC” button on the video.)

In reality, just like any activity that was mandated from the top, the Soviet people didn’t take this training seriously (think modern corporate sensitivity training) and used it as an opportunity to enjoy a break from their workplace. It took me days to translate this video, watching it is mandatory, there may be a quiz at the end.

On the American side of things, the Life Magazine dedicated a September 15, 1961 issue to the discussion and detailed plans for building a variety of fallout shelters and survival tips in case of the nuclear war.

The section is prefaced with the letter from the President Kennedy urging the Americans to prepare for having to survive a nuclear war.

Old Photos: Surviving a Nuclear Blast

Letter from President Kennedy about the importance of preparing for the nuclear war.

My favorite paragraph is:

The man down the street with a backyard shelter was considered odd. But he is actually a solid, sensible man – and a responsible citizen.

So there still may be a chance for you, Ron Paul voters. Probably not.

And now some photos of various shelters.

Old Photos: Surviving a Nuclear Blast

Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller in fallout shelter proposed for homes.© Time Inc.Walter Sanders. March 1960

Old Photos: Surviving a Nuclear Blast

Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller, in fallout shelter proposed for homes.© Time Inc.Walter Sanders. March 1960

Old Photos: Surviving a Nuclear Blast

Interior view of 4,500 lb. steel underground radiation fallout shelter where adult couple w. three children relax amidst bunk beds & shelves of provisions incl. radio & crates of canned food & water, in backyard at home.Garden City, NY, US.May 1955.© Time Inc.Walter Sanders

Old Photos: Surviving a Nuclear Blast

A worker wearing respirator and protective gear exiting from underground fallout shelter.Long Island, NY, US.May 11, 1955.© Time Inc.Walter Sanders

Old Photos: Surviving a Nuclear Blast

Fallout Shelter.© Time Inc.Francis Miller

Old Photos: Surviving a Nuclear Blast

Prefabricated fallout shelter fully equipped.August 1961.© Time Inc.Dmitri Kessel

Old Photos: Surviving a Nuclear Blast

Fallout Shelter.© Time Inc.Francis Miller

If you have an access to an abandoned Cold War shelter, I would be grateful for an opportunity to take a few photos (and buy you a drink).

  • http://willnotbetelevised.com/tv/ Nick

    American Optimism at its quaint best; as though, and as if, it were desirable to live through Armageddon. “That’s right, kids, get beneath your desks and cover your heads.”
    This bit of Mad Men marketing lunacy was, of course, pre-American Exceptionalism.