Cinema History from the Cold War!

The Federal Leaders
When Franklin Roosevelt created a federal program to provide incentives for civilian defense in the early 1940's he began a tradition which continues today.  Presented here is a list of of biographical information on the leaders of the many organizations placed in charge of formulating American civil defense plans throughout the Cold War.  Often short lived and often renamed, the organizations were nearly as diverse as the men who commanded them.  Although most were combat veterans of the First and Second World Wars, each held the post of civil defense director as a civilian(with the exception of General Bull's brief tenure), a move designed to quiet any fears of a militarized society.

General Harold Roe Bull
Civil Defense Board 1946-1947

Born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1893, Harold Bull would go on to graduate from West Point in 1914.  With the outbreak of World War I, Bull served in Europe as an infantry officer with the American Expeditionary Force.  The interwar years saw Bull appointed to several teaching positions, first at West Point and later at infantry schools, all the while expanding his own strategic experience, graduating from both the Army and Navy War Colleges.  During the Second World War, Bull served as Dwight Eisenhower's Chief of Staff, playing a vital role in the Allied D-Day invasion of Europe.  He subsequently commanded the 4th Infantry Division.  In 1946 Bull went to work for the War Department, eventually heading up a new commission of officers known as the Civil Defense Board.  While presiding over the "Bull Board" the General issued a brief summary of American civil defense plans to that date.  The "Bull Report" stressed the need for informing the public of the dangers posed by the atomic bomb, as well as strongly advocating against military control of any future civil defense programs, recommending they be civilian run.  Bull's tenure as civil defense coordinator ended when the Civil Defense Board was disbanded in 1947.  Bull officially retired from the armed forces in 1952 before passing away in 1976.

Russell John Hopley
Office of Civil Defense Planning 1947-1949

Growing up in Iowa, Russell J. Hopley took a job in 1915 as a collector for Northwestern Bell Telephone Company.  When the United States entered World War I, Hopley joined the 88th Infantry Division based out of Camp Dodge in Des Moines and was active at the rank of sergeant when the unit was shipped overseas.  Following the war, Hopley rose through several regional management positions within Northwestern Bell and was eventually promoted to vice president in 1937 before becoming the company's 4th President in 1942.  Possessing years of experience with public utilities made Hopley an ideal candidate to chair the Omaha Citywide Planning Committee in the mid-1940's, a group formed to economically revitalize the city.  As a result of his corporate leadership and his public service, Hopley was picked to head the newly formed Office of Civil Defense Planning in 1947.  Devoting much of his time to the position in 1948 the OCD offered the first depictions of what plans would be needed to save a significant number of lives in the event of nuclear war.  As an advocate for the prompt evacuation of cities when atomic threats arose, Hopley sparked the initial debates on this issue, which would remain controversial throughout the Cold War.  For his tenure in office, Hopley was awarded the first ever National Military Establishment Certificate of Appreciation before his untimely death from a heart attack in 1949.


Dr. Paul J. Larsen
National Securities and Resources Board: Civilian Mobilization Office 1950

The former director of Sandia National Laboratories, an atomic research center in New Mexico, Dr. Paul Larsen was considered an expert on nuclear weapons when placed in command of developing a "Master Plan" for the future of American civil defense.  Following the dissolution of The Office of Civil Defense Planning, a civil defense department was created within the National Security and Resources Board eventually labeled the Civilian Mobilization Office.  Although Larsen stressed that military assistance would likely be needed to restore order during an emergency period, he was quick to point out that too much military control risked the creation of a dictatorship after an enemy attack.  Larsen's plan also recommended the President create an organization devoted entirely to civil defense which would materialize a few months later as the Federal Civil Defense Administration.  Following the submission of his plan in October of 1950, Larsen resigned as head of the Civilian Mobilization Office stating that as the nation's civil defense plans grew, a director with more organizational and leadership experience was needed.  James Wadsworth, an industrial relations expert, would take over direction of the Civilian Mobilization Office from Larson until it was dissolved a few months later following the creation of the F.C.D.A.


Millard Fillmore Caldwell
Federal Civil Defense Administration Director 1950-1952

Born in 1897, Millard Fillmore Caldwell grew up in rural Tennessee, attending the University of Virginia before enlisting in the army.  He served as an officer during the First World War and upon completing his service resided in Florida, where he wed and was elected a state representative.  Following a career as a prosecutor and state politician, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives, serving three consecutive terms in office.  Leaving Congress, Caldwell resumed participation in state politics and was elected the Governor of Florida in 1945, stepping down in 1949.  His term in office was marked by his defense of segregation, a stance that would cause him trouble in future government positions.  When President Truman created the Federal Civil Defense Administration in late 1950, Caldwell was tapped to head the new agency.  Upon learning of his appointment, leaders for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in New York announced a boycott on all civil defense participation until Caldwell was removed from office.  A number of heated protests were staged to encourage the ousting of Caldwell as many believed his opposition to integration left him unfit to care for a nation under attack.  Despite the pressure, Caldwell remained at the helm, overseeing the first government sponsored civil defense film campaign in early 1951.  His tenure as director would be short lived, however, and he stepped down in November of 1952, taking a seat on the Florida Supreme Court, where he would serve as Chief Justice before his death in 1984.

James Jeremiah Wadsworth
Federal Civil Defense Administration Director Nov. 1952-Mar. 1953


James Jeremiah Wadsworth was born in Groveland, New York in 1905 into a family line which could be traced to the founders of America.  His father and paternal grandfather were congressmen representing New York while his maternal grandfather was former Secretary of State John Hay.  Wadsworth, graduating from Yale in 1927, would be elected to a seat in the New York state legislature which he held throughout the 1930's while also earning a law doctorate.  Following the outbreak of World War II, Wadsworth resigned his political seat and took a job as the industrial relations manager for Curtiss-Wright Aircraft in Buffalo.  During the post-war years he would serve on a number of government committees relating to airlines.  Seemingly always connected with aviation, Wadsworth's brother-in-law, Stuart Symington, would become the first Secretary of the Air Force. For a brief period in 1950, Wadsworth became director of the civil defense department established within the National Security Resources Board.  His time with the NSRB was spent studying British civil defense techniques developed during conventional air raids and serving as a liaison with Canadian officials.  When President Truman created the Federal Civil Defense Administration, Wadsworth was named the deputy director and was given the responsibility of establishing rescue training centers on the West Coast.  When FCDA director Millard Caldwell stepped down in late 1952, Wadsworth took over the agency for several months.  Following the appointment of Val Peterson as a permanent director, Wadsworth was selected to represent the United States as a United Nations Ambassador, a position he would hold until the end of the Eisenhower administration.  He passed away in 1984.

Frederick Valdemar Erastus (Val) Peterson
Federal Civil Defense Administration Director 1953-1957

Frederick "Val" Peterson was born in 1903 in Oakland, Nebraska.  Staying local, he attended Wayne State College prior to attending graduate school at the University of Nebraska where he left with a master's degree in political science.  After college Peterson secured a job as a campaign manager and later as an assistant to Nebraska's governor.  At the outbreak of World War Two, Peterson enlisted in the Army Air Corp, where he served until the war's completion.  Resuming a career in politics, Peterson was elected Governor of Nebraska in 1947.  In 1951 he was also appointed to fill a Senate vacancy due to the death of the elected official.  Leaving the governorship in 1953, Peterson picked up command of the Federal Civil Defense Administration after being appointed to the post by President Eisenhower.  He held the position of F.C.D.A director until the administration merged with the Office of Defense Mobilization in the summer of 1957.  During his time in office Peterson was noted as being particularly glib and cynical about civil defense, often privately quipping the only way to survive a nuclear attack was "to not be around when it happens".  Despite stepping down, Peterson continued to serve the Eisenhower cabinet as the U.S. Ambassador to Denmark until 1960 when he left the political arena.  He would return to politics in 1969 when he was chosen by President Nixon to be the U.S. Ambassador to Finland, a post he maintained until 1973.  He passed away in 1983.

Leo Arthur Hoegh
Federal Civil Defense Administration Director 1957-1958
Office of Defense and Civilian Mobilization 1958
Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization 1958-1961

Born in 1908 outside Elk Horn, Iowa Leo Arthur Hoegh grew up on a sprawling farm in the close-knit Dutch community.  He attended the University of Iowa, graduating with a law degree in 1932.  Upon completion of college Hoegh uprooted to the south central Iowa town of Chariton to set up a local law practice.  After establishing a reputation as a keen lawyer, he campaigned and was elected to the state legislature, however, he resigned his seat to join the United States Army during World War Two.  Having served with distinction in Europe, he returned to Iowa and resumed his participation in state politics while authoring a comprehensive history of his unit's actions in combat (The 104th "Timberwolf" Infantry Division).  In 1955, he was elected Governor of Iowa.  Hoegh would hold this position until 1957 when President Eisenhower offered him the opportunity to direct the Federal Civil Defense Administration following the resignation of Val Peterson.  On July 1st, 1958, the Federal Civil Defense Administration merged with the Department of Defense Mobilization, creating the hybrid Office of Defense and Civilian Mobilization, of which, Hoegh took command.  The organization was shortly after renamed The Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization though Hoegh remained at the helm until leaving Washington with Eisenhower in 1961.  He passed away in 2000.

Frank Burton Ellis
Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization January-July 1961

Born in 1907 in Covington, Louisiana, Frank Burton Ellis continued a long-running family tradition by becoming a lawyer.  Graduating with a degree from Louisiana State University in 1929, Ellis began a successful practice in New Orleans, which led to several civic leadership positions.  After a decade of private practice, Ellis entered politics, becoming a state senator in 1940 and holding the post through World War Two.  Following the war, Ellis expanded to politics on the national level, playing a key role in the election of Harry Truman in 1948.  With Ellis' help, John Kennedy successfully campaigned in Louisiana in 1960 and after becoming President, awarded Ellis with the position of director of the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization.  Taking the post in early 1961, he immediately declared American civil defense "paltry" and "inadequate", and shocked Congress and the Kennedy administration by demanding a quadrupled budget.  His brash plans for the nation's defense program, such as making fallout shelters in new homes a requirement for obtaining a loan upset his more conservative minded contemporaries, and when Kennedy did decide to expand the civil defense program, the job was given to the Department of Defense and Ellis was quietly shuffled out after only nine months in office.  The Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization ceased to exist on July 20th, 1961, and was renamed the The Office of Emergency Planning, with Ellis still in control, albeit with much less authority.  Civil Defense responsibilities were shifted to the Department of Defense, Office of Civil Defense, though Ellis was placed in charge of acquiring and stockpiling supplies for Kennedy's national shelter plan.  After a short tenure in Washington, Ellis returned to his native Louisiana and served as a federally appointed judge until his death in 1969.      

Steuart Lansing Pittman
Department of Defense, Office of Civil Defense 1961-1964

Born in 1919, Steuart Lansing Pittman was raised on Manhattan's East Side in a family headed his chemical engineer father.  After graduating from high school, Pittman was involved with Pan-American Airlines, shipping supplies to war torn China before enlisting in the Marines after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  As a Marine Lieutenant he was stationed off the Chinese coast working with guerrilla units deflecting the Japanese navy.  After the war, Pittman attended Yale, leaving in 1948 with a law degree and was quickly recruited by the Department of Defense as a foreign aid.  When the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization transferred its civil defense duties to the Department of Defense in July of 1961 in preparation for the implementation of President Kennedy's national shelter plan, Pittman was tapped to head the new Office of Civil Defense within the Department of Defense.  Working methodically he moved the national headquarters for civil defense from Battle Creek, Michigan (its home for the previous seven years) back to Washington, D.C. which also allowed him to continue his hobby of maintaining a Maryland tobacco farm.  In 1964, citing frustration with public apathy for civil defense, Pittman returned to private practice in law while continuing to serve on numerous political committeesHe passed in 2013.

William Porter Durkee
Office of Civil Defense, Department of the Army 1964-1967

Born in Chicago in 1918, William Porter Durkee III was raised in California, though he would later attend Dartmouth, graduating cum laude in 1941. Durkee went to England to enlist in a British rifle battalion prior to the United States' entrance in World War II and was wounded in North Africa.  Following the war, Durkee attended Yale law school.  He was recruited by the State Department before transferring to the Department of Defense in 1961 where he was promoted to assistant director of civil defense.  After the departure of Steuart Pittman from the Department of Defense in March of 1964, Secretary Robert McNamara shifted civil defense responsibilities to the army in a little publicized transfer.  Durkee took over the new Office of Civil Defense, Department of the Army though many felt that with the loss of the charismatic Pittman, civil defense was now a lackluster and dwindling program.  Despite a whole-hearted effort from Durkee, his time in office saw several budget cuts with a few major cities eliminating civil defense programs all together.  At the end of 1966, Durkee announced he would resign from his post effective in early 1967 to pursue a career in radio.  After stepping down he moved to West Berlin, taking a job with Radio Free Europe.  Durkee would eventually serve as the organization's president from 1968 through 1975.  He passed away in 1982.

Joseph Romm
Office of Civil Defense, Department of the Army 1967-1969

Born in Manhattan in 1920, Joseph Romm received a masters degree in economics from American University in 1940.  Upon graduating, he married and joined the navy, serving as an electrician's mate throughout WWII.  At the war's end, Romm put his degree to work for the Bureau of the Census until 1951 when he transferred to the Department of Defense.  Employed first as an analyst for the National Damage Assessment Center and later for National Military Systems Command Center, Romm was well primed when he became Assistant Secretary of Civil Defense under William P. Durkee in 1964.  After Durkee's departure in 1967, Romm temporarily filled his position as acting director of the agency until his full appointment six months later.  As his department dealt with a number of budget cuts, Romm publicly admitted U.S. civil defense was "far from complete" but maintained an optimistic view about the potential of fallout shelters.  Despite his best efforts to create an economically viable shelter program, he was also quoted as agreeing the best solution for some municipalities would be to disband their civil defense offices and spread the responsibilities to fire and police crews.  Romm stepped down as civil defense director shortly after the election of President Nixon and returned to the business of analysis and management.  Taking a job with System Sciences, Inc., Romm would serve as a project manager and later vice-president throughout the 1970's.  While employed in the private sector he aided in a number of government social studies, authored a comprehensive analysis of fallout shelters, and oversaw, among other devices, the marketing of a home fallout detection meter.  Romm retired to California in 1983 and passed away in 2008.

John E. Davis
Office of Civil Defense, Department of the Army 1969-1972
Defense Civil Preparedness Agency 1972-1976


Born in 1913 in Grand Forks, John E. Davis attended the University of North Dakota where he studied commerce and science while participating in the ROTC program.  After graduation, he took over control of a family farm until being drafted into the army in 1941.  As an officer in the European Theater of World War Two, Davis saw extensive action, and was discharged in 1945 with three medals.  Throughout the late 1940's Davis was involved in local politics until being elected the governor of North Dakota in 1956.  He would serve several terms in this position before running two unsuccessful campaigns for the Senate in 1960 and 1964.  Davis retired from politics and was nominated the National Commander of the American Legion in 1967, a post he would hold until being summoned to Washington, and back to the political arena, when Richard Nixon offered him the chance to be Secretary of the Office of Civil Defense, now a department of the Army, in 1969.  Accepting the offer, Davis worked extensively to mix the idea of nuclear civil defense with preparation for natural disasters.  This included participation in a number of films which linked natural disasters to an atomic attack, most notably In Time of Emergency and Emergency Operating Center: Lubbock TornadoDavis would control the department for the remainder of its existence, and would head the followup Defense Civil Preparedness Agency until his retirement in 1976.  He passed away in 1990.

Bardyl Rafiat Tirana
Defense Civil Preparedness Agency 1976-1979

Born in Geneva in 1937 to an Albanian economist father and a Russian socialist mother, Bardyl Rafiat Tirana's background was certainly much more diverse than his predecessors.  After having been raised and educated in the United States, he attended Princeton, graduating in 1959 before seeking a law degree at Columbia University.  During the 1960's he and his wife worked for the Robert Kennedy campaign as press correspondents during his 1968 presidential bid.  In the early 1970's Tirana, now a practicing attorney in Washington D.C., became involved with then Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, becoming the main organizer of his presidential campaign in 1974.  Upon Carter's election in 1976, Tirana was in charge of organizing a bipartisan inauguration when John Davis announced his retirement as head of the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency.  An expert with organization, Tirana filled the position, officially taking office in early 1977.  He would hold the post until the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency was transformed into the current Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  Tirana stayed in Washington to practice law and still contributes to presidential campaigns through the present day.