Fallout Shelters

Published On August 26, 2013 | By MoniqueE2E | History

Surviving Nuclear Fallout

By
Monique Gaudin

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.

In Las Vegas, The Hilton Hotel, now the Las Vegas Hotel could house more than 52,000 people in their underground shelter.  Image: Monique Gaudin

In Las Vegas, The Hilton Hotel, now the Las Vegas Hotel could house more than 52,000 people in their underground shelter. Image: Monique Gaudin

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.

Creating spaces of refuge in the event of a nuclear attack became a national focus in the 1960s.  Image: IMAGE http://we-make-money-not-art.com/archives/2012/11/fallout-shelter-designing-for.php#.UhplPRZ-KR9

Creating spaces of refuge in the event of a nuclear attack was front page news in the 1960s. Image: we-make-money-not-art.com

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.

One of Las Vegas' more unique homes is currently up for sale.  Realtor Winston King says it would make a great home for a musician. "Nobody will hear them practicing down here."   Image: Monique Gaudin

One of Las Vegas’ more unique homes is currently up for sale. Realtor Winston King says it would make a great home for a musician. “Nobody will hear them practicing down here.” Image: Monique Gaudin


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

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3 Responses to Fallout Shelters

  1. jaci says:

    this henderson house is a cool thing…the rest of the stuff is so you monique….o me0

  2. Hello Moniquee2e,
    Along the same lines,, China pours billions of dollars a year into making fallout shelters and educating people about what to do to survive nuclear war. While the US does nothing at all.

    Is this just a political head in the sand approach? If they’re highly prepared and we’re not would this make them more likely to attack Taiwan or Japan?
    Thanks
    Lonnie Gibson

    • MoniqueE2E says:

      Hi Lonnie
      I am not sure of the the question as your refer to a “head in the sand approach” by the US and then ask if this would effect an attack on Taiwan or Japan? Seems like something is missing. During the Cold War the United States poured a lot of money into Civil Defense and the protection against nuclear fallout. Since the Test Ban Treaty the focus of Civil Defense has shifted. After 911 the priority of focus has been on disaster preparedness for emergency responders. Although as a nation there seems to be less of a coordinated approach involving Joe Q citizen, the government still invests dollars on Civic Defense as in evident in the work they are doing here just outside Vegas at the Nevada National Security Site. The opening Video on http://www.moniquee2e.com/atomic-vegas-an-era-of-influence/ covers some of the NNSS current missions. Or go to their site http://www.nv.energy.gov/main.aspx

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