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Authorities always knew that nuclear fallout shelters would not work

Nuclear Fallout Shelters Were Never Going to Work, History  // OCTOBER 16, 2017 “…….[IN 1961]  the federal government was devising a way for 50 million Americans to survive a nuclear war by scurrying to the nearest basement. The National Fallout Shelter Survey and Marking Program had begun……….

With North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, pointed west and President Trump’s atomic sabre-rattling, fears of nuclear war have crept slowly back into the public consciousness. If the headlines rekindle some of the old unease about air-raid sirens and mushroom clouds, they’re also an occasion to consider a singular relic of the period that, oddly enough, never left us—the fallout-shelter sign.

Dented and faded now, the Kennedy-era signs still cling to the sides of buildings across the country. “They’re an enduring symbol of the Cold War,” says popular-culture historian Bill Geerhart, who since 1999 has maintained CONELRAD.com, a meticulous chronicling of the duck-and-cover era. “They outlasted everything, including the Berlin Wall. They’re tangible artifacts of that era.” And though their original purpose has vanished, the signs still have much to say. They are the products of an ill-conceived program, designed to appease a population with little faith in that program even working.

Kennedy was privately skeptical about the value of a public shelter program……. While fallout shelters would do nothing to safeguard people from an actual bomb, they would, in the words of JFK’s civil-defense chief Steuart L. Pittman, give “our presently unprotected population some form of protection.”……..
In fact, the untenability of the shelters was public knowledge before they had even opened. A November 1961 story on the front page of The Washington Post bemoaned that most of the designated shelters would be little more than “cold, unpleasant cellar space, with bad ventilation and even worse sanitation.”

Conditions were a serious problem, but location was a bigger one. Two-thirds of the fallout shelters in the U.S. were in “risk areas”—neighborhoods so close to strike targets that they’d likely never survive an attack in the first place. In New York, for example, most of the government shelters could be found in Manhattan and Brooklyn—despite the fact that a 20-megaton hydrogen bomb detonated over Midtown would leave a crater 20 stories deep and drive a firestorm all the way to the center of Long Island. Even out there, Life magazine said, occupants of a fallout shelter “might be barbequed.”……..

Anyone who read the newspapers understood not just that an inbound ICBM would leave them only 15 minutes, if that long, to get to a fallout shelter—but also that few structures in the city would survive a strike anyway. …….

Looking back on the civil-defense program in 1976, The New York Times observed: “the only reminders of fallout shelters [now] are the yellow-and-black signs placed outside buildings.”

That’s where thousands remain to this day—eerie reminders of a tense past that, as recent headlines remind us, feels unwantedly familiar. “They couldn’t have come up with a more ominous symbol,” reflected Eric Green, keeper of the Civil Defense Museum website, whose personal collection of fallout-shelter artifacts includes over 140 signs. “That’s the most ominous looking sign—the black and yellow and those triangles. It looked like exactly what it meant: This is the end.” http://www.history.com/news/nuclear-fallout-shelters-were-never-going-to-work

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October 18, 2017 - Posted by | history, politics, USA, weapons and war

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