Cinema History from the Cold War!

Trapped

Federal Civil Defense Administration
Swedish Civil Defense Office
1954


Civil defense planners in the United States often looked to the experiences of the British during World War II in order to see what sort of training and equipment would be needed to aid a population suffering from aerial bombardment.  In the aftermath of conventional air raids, rescue squads comprised of local volunteers with knowledge of construction, excavation, transportation, and first aid proved to be a vital part of post-attack operations.  Recognizing the value such personnel could provide, the United States began establishing comprehensive rescue training centers across the country, each offering attendees the chance to practice life-saving skills under the conditions of a simulated atomic attack.  Olney, Maryland became home to the Federal Civil Defense Administration's premier training center which boasted a number of unique features, all of which are highlighted in the film School for Survival.  Many other countries created similar programs to train their citizens for any type of disaster including Sweden, where the Swedish Civil Defense Office created a short film outlining the problems volunteer crews would likely face during an enemy attack.  Titled "Raddning av instanga under bombade hus" (Rescue of Trapped Under Bombed House) the film begins outside of a large urban apartment building following an attack, as civil defense personnel battle fire, shifting debris, and panicked relatives of the missing while trying to save residents buried in a basement level shelter.  The film progresses as excavators slowly but stably tunnel through the shattered remains of the building, eventually freeing the survivors from a study basement room.        

                                

In January of 1954 the Swedish government made "Raddning av instanga under bombade hus" available to F.C.D.A. officials, who in re-released it under the title Trapped and utilized it for civil defense programs in the United States.  A new introduction was added featuring an American rescue worker, complete with white tin helmet, who takes a break from clearing the debris of an enemy bomb to quickly thank the Swedes for their cooperation.  English narration was also added to describe the actions onscreen.  As the 1950's progressed, focus and funding shifted from civil defense rescue squads to detecting and sheltering from fallout radiation.  In June of 1958, the F.C.D.A. shut down their Olney training center and shifted its responsibilities to smaller facilities across the East Coast.  Interestingly, unlike many early civil defense films, Trapped was not deemed obsolete by the end of the decade.