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July 16, 1945
The first test of an atomic weapon takes place near Alamogordo, New Mexico.  Trinity, as the blast was codenamed, was a 20 kiloton device which was the end result of the Manhattan Project.

August 6, 1945
The United States drops a 13 kiloton atomic bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" on Hiroshima, Japan.  The now controversial move was repeated three days later when the 21 kiloton "Fat Man" bomb was detonated over Nagasaki. 

August 15, 1945
The events of the bombings are quickly overshadowed by the complete surrender of Japan, bringing an end to the hostilities of World War II.

May 1946
Members of the Federation of American Scientists, essentially a yearbook of the Manhattan Project, begin work on the editorial One World or None.  The publication is a cautionary tale of why world governments need to create a united control nuclear technology.

Shortly after, Philip Ragan productions creates a short film of the same name.  One World or None becomes the first atomic civil defense film, stressing the danger facing American cities if antagonistic nations harness the atomic bomb in the future.

July 1946
Operation Crossroads begins in the Pacific Ocean.  Focused around the Bikini Atoll, the test consisted of Shot Able, an airburst, and Baker Shot, an underwater detonation which produced startling amounts of radioactivity.  A planned third test was cancelled and the testing area was evacuated.  As a result of the Baker Shot, the belief developed that radiation was only danger when spread through water such as rain or fog created by an underwater blast.  Many early civil defense films echo this belief.

April-May 1948
Inhabitants of the Eniwetok Atoll are evacuated prior to Operation Sandstone.  This is the first atomic testing in the Pacific since Operation Crossroads nearly two years prior.  It consists of three bombs, including the 49 kiloton Yoke Shot.

August 29, 1949

The Soviet Union detonates a 22 kiloton atomic bomb in Kazakhstan, effectively ending the United States' monopoly on nuclear weapons.


October 1950
You Can Beat the A-Bomb is released by by RKO Pathe Studios.  This privately produced motion picture becomes one of the first civil defense films to see wide distribution.  It stresses conventional protection techniques to safeguard against the blast and heat of an enemy bomb, though the danger of fallout radiation is essentially ignored.

December 1950
Pattern for Survival, starring news anchors Chet Huntely and William Laurence, is released by Factual Films, Inc.  Though the film is privately produced, representatives from the National Securities and Resources Board, which oversaw civil defense preparations in the United States at the time, served as consultants.  Although primarily focusing on the danger from fire and flying debris, the film does explain the danger of fallout radiation carried through water.

December 1, 1950
President Truman signs Executive Order 8016 which organizes the Federal Civil Defense Administration.  This new cabinet level department takes over preparedness responsibilities from the WWII era National Securities and Resources Board.

January 12, 1951
The Federal Civil Defense Administration goes into effect as an independent office of government.  Millard Caldwell, the former governor of Florida, is sworn in as its first director.  Upset at Caldwell's past support of segregation, NAACP leaders in New York City and elsewhere announce and boycott of civil defense activities until he is removed from office.

February 1951
Federal Civil Defense Administration director Caldwell announces the creation of nine civil defense films designed to inform the public of the dangers associated with an enemy attack, with a focus on protection from an atomic bomb.  Though the films will be produced privately, they are based off pamphlets that have been in circulation for the previous year and will be be first to hold the full support of a government entity.

January-February 1951
Atomic weapons are again tested on American soil as Operation Ranger, which consists of a handful of relatively low-yield bombs, commences on the Nevada Proving Grounds.

March 1951
Survival Under Atomic Attack, the first Federal Civil Defense Administration sponsored film, is released by Castle Films, Inc.  Based off a pamphlet of the same name, Edward R. Murrow narrates several techniques to protect against the blast, and subsequent fire, of an enemy bomb.  The American Journal of Nursing dubs the film "the best general introduction to the subject (atomic warfare) yet produced".

March 17, 1951
The Federal Civil Defense Administration begins a massive public information campaign on this date to instruct pedestrians on what actions to take in the event of a surprise enemy air raid.  The campaign comes in the form of wallet sized instructional cards, over a million of which were distributed, that explain the proper way to shield one's person from the blast and debris of an atom bomb.

April 1951
Atomic Alert is released by Encyclopedia Britannica.  Originally titled Atomic Alert: School, Home Street, the film shows young audiences what to do if an atomic bomb detonates while they're home alone, commuting to or from school, and during school hours.

April-May 1951

The Pacific is lit up once again by the flash of an atomic bomb as Operation Greenhouse commences in the Marshall Islands.  Four bombs are detonated and the data collected during each blast lays the groundwork for the development of the Hydrogen bomb.

May 1951
Firefighting for Householders, the third Federal Civil Defense Administration film based of a pamphlet, is released by Teletran, Inc.  Explaining how the atomic bomb can ignite building materials miles away from its epicenter, the film stresses keeping your home clear of debris to halt the spread of any fires.

July 1951
The state of California develops That They May Live, a short film also based off the pamphlet Survival Under Atomic Attack.  Designed with school-aged audiences in mind, the film stresses the very basics of blast protection.

October 1951

What you should Know about Biological Warfare is released by Reid H. Ray films.  Also based off a pamphlet of the same name, this second F.C.D.A sponsored film explores the non-nuclear dangers of an enemy attack.  The threat of sabotage through plant and animal toxins, as well as airborne diseases is discussed.

November 1951
Target USA, is released by Cornell Films.  Based off the pamphlet Civil Defense in Industry, the film is targeted toward business and factory owners and encourages them to create civil defense plans.  Hanson W. Baldwin, military editor for the New York Times, narrates.



January 1952
The Truman Administration announces the beginning of Alert America, the first nationwide atomic civil defense initiative in the United States.  Heralded by a large convoy of semi-trucks that transported several traveling exhibits, Alert America functioned primarily as a massive volunteer drive.

Duck and Cover premiers for the first time alongside Our Cities Must Fight.  Both created by Archer Productions, they were commissioned in February 1951 as part of the initial Federal Civil Defense Administration film campaign.  Based off the pamphlets Civil Defense in Schools and The Cities Must Fight, respectfully, the films saw very wide release.

WNYC, a television station in New York City, releases The Price of Liberty in conjunction with The F.C.D.A.  Using footage from a civil defense drill in December of 1951, the film culminates with a hypothetical air raid over Manhattan, explaining that to quickly restore essential city services, many volunteers will be needed.

May-June 1952
Operation Tumbler-Snapper sees the detonation of eight nuclear devices in Nevada consisting of four air bursts and four controlled tower blasts.

October 1952
The Federal Civil Defense Administration films School for Survival to highlight their new training center in Olney, Maryland.  Built to resemble a city destroyed by an atomic bomb, the Olney school offered training courses to civil defense volunteers for many disaster scenarios. 

November 1952
Operation Ivy gives birth to the first Hydrogen bomb.  Using fusion, the first blast reached a size of 10.4 Megatons and vaporized the tiny island housing the device, leaving nothing but a deep crater.  Selected footage of the test was later made into the film Operation Ivy, designed to inform the public of the new weapon.



January 1953
The Federal Civil Defense Administration releases United States Civil Defense in Action.  Highlighting the advances made in atomic protection, the film also promotes the Alert America campaign and calls for more volunteers.

The Work of the Rescue Unit, a WWII era film about civil defense rescue squads, is re-released by Federal Civil Defense Administration officials who explain that its advice remains relevant in the face of Cold War threats.

March 1953
On March 17, Operation Upshot-Knothole begins at the Nevada Test Site.  Ultimately, 11 bombs will be tested, including Shot Grable, which is fired as an artillery shell from a large cannon.  During Shot Annie, the first bomb detonated, Federal Civil Defense Administration officials conduct Operation Doorstep which subjects two wooden homes, eight bomb shelter designs, fifty vehicles, and numerous mannikins to the atomic blast.  The test is televised nationally.

June 1953
Byron Incorporated, along with the Federal Civil Defense Administration, releases Operation Doorstep, a film which explores the results of bombs detonated during Operation Upshot-Knothole, and how standard American homes withstood an atomic blast.

July 1953
The Federal Civil Defense Administration releases This is Civil Defense.  Based off a pamphlet of the same name, This is Civil Defense was commissioned as part of the original F.C.D.A. film campaign and explains the basic tenants of a successful civil defense system while calling for more volunteers.

August 1953
The Federal Civil Defense Administration releases Emergency Action to Save Lives.  Based upon a pamphlet of the same name, the film is one of the original nine commissioned by the F.C.D.A.  At only seven minutes long, Emergency Action to Save Lives provides very simple first aid advice in order train the viewer to deal with severe bleeding, burns, shock, and bones, all injuries likely to be present after an atomic attack.

The Federal Civil Defense Administration again teams with Castle Films and Edward R. Murrow, this time creating Disaster On Main Street.  The film examines the civil defense preparations of Germany, Japan, and England during WWII, suggesting that their post-war status' directly relate to how prepared their populations were for an enemy attack.  Are the American people prepared for the responsibilities of the nuclear age?  Disaster on Main Street looks to the Texas City Disaster to find out.

October 1953
6 1/2 minutes of footage captured during a detonation at the Nevada Test Site reveal that painted lumber and tidy houses were less likely to catch fire during an atomic blast.  This brief clip is released by the Federal Civil Defense Administration under the title The House in the Middle with the message that properly maintaining your property can help reduce damage from fire.  The following year, a longer version of The House in the Middle is released with the same message.

December 1953
The United States' Air Force and CBS television collaborate to produce One Plane, One Bomb.  Released in the style of Edward R. Murrow's See It Now television show, the film presents an experiment whereby a flight of American bombers posing as Soviets attempt to fly undetected over the East Coast to bomb Manhattan while plane spotters of the Ground Observer Corps track and report their position.  The film paints a grim picture for American defense if more citizens don't volunteer.



January 1954
Rescue Street, a film sponsored by the Federal Civil Defense Administration, is released by Robert J. Enders Productions.  It features the activities of volunteer students at the F.C.D.A.'s premier training school at Olney, Maryland.

February 1954
Trapped, a film created by the government of Sweden, is re-released in the United States by the Federal Civil Defense Administration.  Detailing rescue operations in buildings collapsed in an atomic attack, the American version of Trapped includes a dramatic introduction by a civil defense warden explaining the need for trained excavation crews in emergencies.  The remainder of the film features Swedish civil defense volunteers in action, with English voice-over narration.  In 1962, it was re-released in the United States by the Office of Civil Defense.

March 1954
Operation Scat is released by the Federal Civil Defense Administration and Mobile County Civil Defense.  The film documents a large scale evacuation of Mobile, Alabama, upon warning of a simulated atomic attack.

April 1, 1954
Operation Ivy, a film detailing the first test of a Hydrogen Bomb, is released to the public.  The press was allowed an exclusive preview along with Congress, but placed under an "embargo" halting any published reviews until the film was released to the general public a week later.  This ban was immediately broken The New York Times which claimed, in a small headline, that the film utilized "poor photography" (18).  Featuring a dramatic buildup and spectacular blast, the film also includes a lengthy speech by F.C.D. A director Val Peterson stressing a need for calm acceptance of the new weapon.  Upon the film's release, Peterson was quoted as saying he hoped the imagery didn't "scare people into hopelessness" (16).

October 1954
The Federal Civil Defense Administration and The National Clean Up-Paint Up-Fix Up Bureau release a longer version of The House in the Middle which urges homeowners to clear debris and keep their properties well varnished and painted as a means to prevent fires during an atomic attack.  As a branch of the National Paint, Varnish, and Lacquer Association, the Clean Up Bureau was interested in promoting paint and other wood finishing materials.

December 1954
The Federal Civil Defense Administration and Robert J. Enders, Inc. release Time of Disaster.  The film details how an effective civil defense network can save lives in both nuclear and natural disaster.



January 1955
Frontlines of Freedom is released.  A collaboration between the Federal Civil Defense Administration and the Civil Defence Corps of Canada, the film explains how Soviet aggression will not distinguish between international borders. 

February 1955
A New Look at the H Bomb is released by the Federal Civil Defense Administration.  F.C.D.A. director Val Peterson explains that the increased power of hydrogen weapons do not warrant increased concern.

May 1955
Conelrad, a short film describing the emergency alert system of the same name, is released.  A number of entities sponsored the film's creation including the Federal Civil Defense Administration, The Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Air Force, and the Radio Broadcast Industry.

July 1955
The Federal Civil Defense Administration teams with Philip Ragan Productions to release Target You.  The short piece of animation explains the responsibilities of homeowners upon receiving warning of an enemy atomic attack.

The Institute of Life Insurance produces To Live Tomorrow for the Federal Civil Defense Administration.  The film explores civil defense policy from the perspective of an insurance agent and recommends releasing emergency information in a clear and quick manner.

August 1955
Let's Face It, a film which explores the emerging threat of Soviet hydrogen weapons, sees release by the Federal Civil Defense Administration.

The National Automobile Dealer's Association creates Escape Route for the Federal Civil Defense Administration.  The film explains how private vehicles can be used to save lives in the event of an enemy atomic attack.


1.  Einstein, Albert, Oppenheimer, J. R., et al.  One World Or None:
          A Report to The Public on the the Meaning of the Atomic Bomb
          New York
: McGraw-Hill, 1946.

2.   Pitman, Walter.  Louis Applebaum: A Passion For CultureToronto:
             Durdan Group, 2000.

The Medical Effects of The Atomic Bomb.  The United States Army. 1946.

4.  New York Times. "Of Local Origin." The New York Times.
          12 Oct. 1950. Online.  ProQuest Historical Newspapers. p. 57.

5.  New York Times. "Individual Protection Against Bomb Depicted in
         New 21 Minute Film."  The New York Times.  21 Dec. 1950. 
         Proquest Historical Newpapers.  p.8.

6.  Tennessee Emergency Management.  Tennessee Emergency
         Management.  Online.  Accessed 6 Feb. 2008.

7.  Tennessee Emergency Management. 
Tennessee Emergency
         Management.  Online.  Accessed 6 Feb. 2008.

8.   New York Times. "Films Set For Defense Set." The New York Times.
         12 Feb. 1951.  Online.  ProQuest Historical Newspapers. p. 18.

9.   New York Times. "Films Set For Defense Set." The New York Times.
         12 Feb. 1951.  Online.  ProQuest Historical Newspapers. p. 18.

      The American Journal of Nursing.  Survival Under Atomic Attack
           Vol. 151 Iss. 11.  Nov.  1951. Found in JSTOR Electronic Media
           Database.  Online.  Accessed Feb. 7 2008. Iowa City,  Iowa.

10.  New York Times.  "Air Raid Cards Sent Out." The New York Times
           17, Mar. 1951.  Online.  ProQuest Historical Newspapers.  p. 24.

11.  New York Times.  "Department of Red Faces."  The New York Times.
         5 April, 1951.  Online.  ProQuest Historical Newspapers. C1.1.

12. New York Times. "Films Set For Defense Set." The New York Times.
         12 Feb. 1951.  Online.  ProQuest Historical Newspapers. p. 18.

The Medical Aspects of Nuclear Radiation.  Prod. Cascade Pictures Inc.
           with Armed Forces Special Weapons Project.  1951.

14. And A Voice Shall Be Heard.  Dir. Jakc Glenn.  Narr.
           Westbrook Van Voorhis.  1951, March of Time Films.  1951.

15. New York Times. "New Film to Help in Bomb Training." The New York Times
           25 Jan. 1951.  Online.  ProQuest Historical Newspapers. p. 7.

16.   Chicago Daily Tribune.  "U.S. Will Release 1st H-Bomb Blast to Public.
             Chicago Daily Tribune.  1 Apr, 1954.  Online.  Proquest Historical
             Newspapers. p. 3.

17.  The Los Angeles Sentinel. "Around the State in Civil Defense." The Los
            Angeles Sentinel.  7 June, 1951.  Online. Proquest Historical
            Newspapers.  p. A8.

18.  The New York Times.  "Color Film of First H Bomb Test is Previewed in
             Capitol."  The New York Times.  2nd Apr. 1954.  Online.  Proquest
             Historical Newspapers.  p. 5.