Surviving Nuclear Fallout
Fallout shelters became a focal point of American civil defense in the 1960s as the Soviets broke the nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Germans began building the Berlin Wall separating the East from the West. Atomic atmospheric testing in the desert northwest of Las Vegas was cooling down and the Cold War was heating up.
With the Russians having the ability to “drop the bomb” on U.S. soil and the now known impact of radiation fallout after more than a decade of documented testing coming to light, without proper protection from radiation exposure, a perilous outcome was imminent. More sobering to American citizens was that it could happen in their back yard.
Authorities deemed a concrete block basement shelter could be built as a do-it-yourself project for low-cost, however, personal shelters were a luxury many did not have the space for, nor could they afford it, so civil defense leaders shifted to a community approach of shelters. Public buildings across the nation were identified and marked.
Life magazine’s January 12, 1962 cover editorial on the “Use and limit of Shelters,” hit newsstands as the nation’s first civil defense chief for nuclear war preparedness Steuart Pittman was tasked with giving 180 million Americans access to protective shelters stocked with ample provisions to get them through a week or two should we experience a nuclear attack.
Standards and guidelines were created to assure buildings could not only withstand the physical impact, but also that they would provide a shield from the temperature and radiation fallout. Newly built shelters ranged in designs from basic cement block to tubular caverns inserted under the ground.
Showcased in Susan Roy’s book Bomboozled are some of the more elaborate, expensive, and creative designs of fallout shelters along with a great narrative of era. In her book she features several homes designed by Jay Swayze like the Henderson house in Las Vegas.
1963 government film on the national shelter survey evaluating buildings for their ability to provide protection in the event of a nuclear attack. Posted by: CONELRAD6401240