A Day in September
Office of Civil Defense
United States Department of Agriculture
Released in 1968 by the Office of Civil Defense and the United States Department of Agriculture, A Day in September offers a colorfully vibrant tour of unconventional structures used as fallout shelters. The film's depiction of mundane government operations alongside emergency preparations, coupled with a calming narrator and relaxed musical score, gives it a fantastically serene quality. When the United States first implemented a system of public fallout shelters in late 1961, officials within the Office of Civil Defense began the arduous task of finding, marking, and stocking buildings which met standards outlined by the Department of Defense. Because architectural requirements often called for ample space and solid construction materials like granite and masonry, many of the first fallout shelters were located in government buildings. Obtaining a building owner's permission was also a requirement before a public shelter location could be finalized. The ease of instating a federal program in federal buildings also likely contributed to this trend. The underground shooting range in the Memphis, Tennessee federal building, for example, is the largest shelter in the city. It also has the capacity to be the temporary headquarters of sixteen federal agencies. In peacetime, the Waterloo, Iowa post office conducts all of the normal duties of the postal service and also acts as a civil defense education center. Post-attack, it will provide registration forms and shelter for displaced populations. Likewise, the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Houston, Texas sees many patients on an average day. If needed, however, the 12,000 shelters spaces in the service tunnels and in-patient towers can function as a disaster hospital with a forty day supply of medicines and equipment to treat casualties.
interior corridors of the massive Hungry Horse Dam in Kallisbelle
County, Montana allow for technicians to service the hydro-electric
components while staying safe from radioactive fallout along with forest
rangers and tourists who may happen to be in the area. At the end of
the day, an attack warning drill at Plattsburgh New York Strategic Air
Command Base sends women, children and non-essential personnel into
nearby fallout shelters. Teams of radiological monitors will conduct
surveys in the surrounding county after a strike. The day winds down
with a spectacular sunset over the base. A setting sun is an apt
comparison to the state of the National Fallout Shelter Program in
1968. Just as the program began with federal buildings, by 1968, with
enthusiasm and funding shrinking, federal buildings were some of the
only properties still actively marked and stocked as shelters. With its
high quality footage, A Day in September tries very hard to portray the
shelter program as an expanding component of national defense. A
similar effort would be made in 1971 with Environment for Education, a
civil defense film showing how innovative
architecture offers aesthetics and fallout shelters in new schools.
Ultimately, history would show that, despite the optimistic outlook of
these films, the public fallout shelter program was in an irreversible
decline. Interestingly, though the shelter program would, for all
practical purposes, cease to exist in the 1970's, A Day in September
would last for many years. Whereas nearly every civil defense motion
picture from the 1950's and 1960's would be declared obsolete and pulled
from circulation, A Day in September, along with another film, About
Fallout, would remain available to rent or purchase from official
government catalogs until as recently as 1986.
A Day in September can be viewed, in its entirety, HERE.