Civil Defense Of The New Frontier

Civil Defense Of The New Frontier

In the age of Eisenhower, America’s civil defense “program” was an amusing fraud. Presidential, Congressional and public apathy inspired bumbling CD officials to actions that were sublimely ridiculous. Back in 1952, when no constructive use could be found for the abandoned Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan, the huge building was turned over to civil defense bureaucrats as a national headquarters. The state of emergency preparations in Battle Creek were charmingly revealed in May 1960, when a national emergency civil defense drill was held. A shiny and expensive system of sirens had been installed in the city, and cameras clicked as the national director of the Office of Civil Defense Mobilization stepped forward to sound the alert. Nothing happened…. At this vibrant “nerve center” of America’s civil defense operation, someone had forgotten to wire the sirens to the central control button.

But now, since Berlin and the Soviet tests, civil defense has become a national obsession. If the expenditure of newsprint be a gauge of anything, civil defense is the hottest subject of the year. Battle Creek’s postmen are facing a challenge more awesome than rain, hail, or dark of night; the flow of inquiries at OCDM, we are informed, has reached “tidal wave proportions.” Entrepreneurs with vision (and a scent for the fast buck) are following the lead of such pioneers as the Fox Hole Shelter, Inc., of Southern California and the Los Angeles Nuclear Survival Corporation. The President wants civil defense, Nelson Rockefeller wants civil defense, Barry Goldwater wants civil defense, and if any important politicos don’t, they are keeping their reservations to themselves. Clearly it is time to ask some basic questions about civil defense. What kind of “protection” against nuclear war has been attained thus far? What might be achieved from more far-reaching programs in the future? What are the likely domestic and international repercussions of a massive program to move American society underground?