School for Survival
Set in the Federal Civil Defense Administration's training center in Olney, Maryland, this 1952 film documents the studies of a class of volunteers from across the United States. A civil defense warden completing a rescue course is impressed by the scale and authenticity of the disaster scenarios offered at Olney. He leaves determined to create a similar resource in his hometown in order to better prepare his neighbors from the threat of atomic attack.
Lease of Life: The Civil Defense Emergency Hospital
Detailing a four step plan to ensure medical continuity after an atomic attack on New York, this film features extensive scenes assembling a packaged Improvised Emergency Hospital. Released in 1957 by The New York State Civil Defense Commission, the film boasts the approval of several medical boards as well. Stressing organization above all else, location, staffing, equipment and resupply for the hospital are also discussed in detail.
The Role of the Warden in the H-Bomb Era
film covers the ever-changing role of the civil defense warden
throughout the 1950's. Following an inner-city block warden and a civil
defense official from a rural era, they describe their duties and how
they cooperate to evacuate a large city and receive refugees. Although originally released as an animated production, by 1957, live-action scenes were added in to keep viewers with the most up-to-date advice.
Texas Has A Brand New School
When The United Independent School District voted to build a new high school, a decision was made to include fallout shelter space. Highlighting this example of a new building designed to serve as a public fallout shelter, The Office of Civil Defense documented the planning and construction in its 1965 film Texas Has A Brand New School. Featuring testimony from students, parents, and staff, the film offers a look at local participation in the civil defense process.
Big Men in Small Boats
Accepting both the vulnerability and the advantage of America's seaboard communities, The Federal Civil Defense Administration released Big Men In Small Boats in 1956 to highlight how sailors can aid in the event of an atomic attack. With fallout settling and debris in every direction, boat captains would have the best knowledge of navigable waterways. Big Men In Small Boats examines how impromptu rescue fleets would best serve civil defense efforts.
Your Chance to Live: Pollution
Medical Self-Help: Fractures and Splinters
Public Shelter Organization and Staff
If a population was forced to seek refuge inside of a public fallout shelter, it was hoped that strict adherence to well-rehearsed procedures would ensure peaceful occupancy. Public Shelter Organization and Staff demonstrates how to implement procedures to effectively manage a shelter after a nuclear attack. Interestingly, the film also depicts unexpected situations, such as the death of trained staff and power outages, forcing the shelter manager to improvise.
One World Or None
Preceding the genre of Cold War civil defense films was a cautionary tale warning against a future where nations face off with atomic weapons. Released by Philip Ragan Productions and The Federation of American Scientists in 1946, One World or None stresses that unless a global body controls atomic energy, global destruction will result. To drive home this risk, the film examines the damage that would be caused if an atomic bomb struck an American city.
Lifeline of the Nation
To highlight the contributions of the rail industry in the Second World War, The Association of American Railroads produced the film Lifeline of the Nation in May of 1945. Looking to promote their continuing efforts towards civil defense in the Hydrogen Age, the Association released an updated version in 1958. Arguing that railroads are ideally suited to transport food and rescue workers into areas stricken by an enemy bomb, the film also showcases new rail technology.
Face of Disaster
Using footage from the critically acclaimed Office of Civil Defense film Though the Earth Be Moved, Face of Disaster tells the story of Alaska's devastating Good Friday Earthquake. Released by The Office of Civil Defense in 1965, the film also examines other deadly natural disaster from tornado outbreaks to floods. A fast-talking narrator warns that no matter what the threat, be it nature's fury of an enemy nuclear missile, viewers must be prepared.
Manual Damage Assessment
The aftermath of a nuclear strike on the United States would be chaotic, to say the least. Should such an attach disable conventional means of communication, civil defense officials would need to rely on alternative methods of determining which areas have been hit. In 1967, the Office of Civil Defense released Manual Damage Assessment to train volunteers in how to calculate the location and scale of a nuclear detonation using only eyewitness accounts and radio reports.
The Five Days of Betsy
Betsy slammed into the Gulf Coast of the United States in the fall of
1965, carving a swath of destruction and leaving 81 dead. In 1966 the
Office of Civil Defense released A
Hurricane Called Betsy to highlight the role civil defense measures
played during the disaster. With a run time of 30 minutes, A Hurricane
Called Betsy was deemed too long to screen for crowds at civil
defense exhibits this shorter version was released as The Five Days
Public Shelter Supplies: What Does the Government Supply?
Facts About Fallout
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The House in the Middle
Released by the Federal Civil Defense Administration in 1953, The House in the Middle uses footage from the Nevada Proving Grounds to argue that well-kept homes are much less likely to catch fire during an enemy atomic attack than dilapidated homes. Although not as well known as it's colorized remake, this version of The House in the Middle provides a fascinating look at early American civil defense policy and attempts to educate homeowners on the atomic threat.
Town of the Times
Released in 1964, Town of the Times unfolds as a standoff between two men on opposing sides of a public fallout shelter debate. Insurance salesman George McCardle views public shelters as vital protection for the future of his community. William Groves sees them as an unnecessary encouragement of war. The use of well-known actors and a dramatic storyline makes the film, which was meant for television broadcast, an incredibly entertaining watch.
Community Protection Through Civil Defense
Months after the creation of a National Fallout Shelter Program, officials in Jacksonville, Florida began negotiating with property owners to acquire public shelter space. Hoping to set an example, Jacksonville filmed each step it took towards creating a local fallout shelter plan, releasing the footage under the title Community Protection Through Civil Defense in 1963. The film highlights a one-day shelter stocking effort in October of 1962 where volunteers made ready shelter for 50,000 people.
In the final months of its existence, the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization produced a number of motion pictures which stressed protection from radioactive fallout. By far, the most widely distributed of these films was Radiological Defense which offers a comprehensive look at how individuals and local governments can deal with the fallout of an enemy atomic attack. Also featured is a high school training program for students interested in learning about radiological monitoring.
Handbook for Survival
Survival Under Atomic Attack
By releasing Target You in 1955, The Federal Civil Defense Administration hoped to stress upon the audience that, as citizens of the United States, they were under the threat of enemy atomic bombs. Using animation, the film becomes a literal checklist of responsibilities which homeowners must complete if warning of an impending attack is given. At a brisk eight minutes in length, Target You focuses only on the immediate tasks needed to save lives and stop fires.
Instead of explaining the physical science behind protection from radioactive fallout, Three Reactions to Shelter Life examines the psychological problems likely to occur when people are confined to fallout shelters following a nuclear attack. By presenting three scenarios which highlight the mental stress and physical violence that such cramped quarters may give rise to, this 1964 Office of Civil Defense film asks fallout shelter managers how they would better handle troubled occupants.
Rehearsal For Disaster
The need for immediate aid after an atomic attack meant heavy reliance would be placed on the trucking industry to move valuable supplies and personnel into targeted cities. Eager to show their drivers were up to this challenge, The American Trucking Associations teamed with The Federal Civil Defense Administration to create Rehearsal for Disaster in 1957. Set in a roadside diner, long-haul drivers Joe and Slim discuss their transportation responsibilities during civil defense emergencies.
The Waking Point
This British film from 1951 stars character actor John Slater as the perpetually tired Joe Mercer, who doesn't see the value of civil defense in the wake of World War II. When his son is trapped in a sand pit, he quickly changes his view and joins a local rescue squad where he envisions a terrible future if more of his countrymen don't enlist in a civil defense program. Creative storytelling netted The Waking Point the Best Civil Defense Film award at the 1952 Cleveland Film Festival.
For the most part, volunteer radiological monitors practiced during civil defense drills, using hypothetical attacks and imaginary fallout readings. In 1957, however, a group of specialists working for the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization were given the opportunity to train under realistic fallout conditions during Operation Plumbob. Mission Fallout follows this select crew as they demonstrate radiological detection equipment, including an in-depth look at plans for aerial monitoring.
Eager to highlight their contribution to the nation's civil defense effort, the Ex-Cell-O Corporation, producer of paper milk cartons, teamed with the Federal Civil Defense Administration to produce Crisis in 1956. Hosted by broadcaster Bob Considine, the film tells the story of how the dairy industry delivered pure drinking water to in the wake of Hurricane Diane. Considine continually reminds the audience of a need for clean water during both natural disasters and atomic attack.
In addition to urging preparation for a possible enemy attack, The Federal Civil Defense Administration and its successors also warned of the devastation which may from natural disasters. Time of Disaster, released in late 1954, shows how the forces of nature can buildings and utilities to rubble. By focusing on a small town with a solid civil defense plan, however, the film demonstrates what steps need to be taken to keep a population safe during many types of emergencies, natural or otherwise.
Civil defense planners knew an enemy attack involving nuclear weapons would place great strain on the United States' medical infrastructure. To help ensure continuity of medical services, the federal government began a program stockpiling pre-packaged disaster hospitals outside large cities in 1956. The specifics of this program are examined in the 1959 "filmograph" Emergency Hospital, made by Creative Arts Studio for the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization.
Seconds for Survival
Bell Telephone, interested in presenting its contributions to America's civil and national defense networks, produced Seconds for Survival in 1959 to highlight its advances in radar systems and guided missiles. Focusing on the Nike Zeus, a large anti-ballistic missile designed to destroy Soviet ICBMs which was still in the developmental stages at the film's creation, Seconds for Survival offers hypothetical demonstrations of its capabilities.
Civil Defense in Schools
Based off a pamphlet of the
same name, this 1958 film from the Federal Civil Defense Administration examines how educators can
organize emergency plans in case of an enemy attack. In
addition to discussing the bureaucratic procedures needed, Civil Defense in Schools presents numerous examples of improvised fallout shelters. Also
presented are fascinating shots of civil defense equipment in action, including
light warning boxes, telephone operated sirens, and radiological detectors.
In early 1951, the newly formed Federal Civil Defense Administration announced the creation of nine films concerning various aspects of emergency preparedness. Each film was to be based off widely distributed pamphlets which had been in circulation for the previous year. Emergency Action to Save Lives, which explains very basic first-aid techniques needed in the aftermath of an atomic attack, was produced as part of this public information initiative.
Frontlines of Freedom
Hypothetical projections of a nuclear attack against the United States often began with a flight of Soviet bombers sweeping across Canada towards their intended targets. Recognizing the mutual threat this scenario posed to each country, civil defense officials in Canada and the United States came together to produce Frontlines of Freedom in 1955. The film was made to serve primarily as a propaganda piece, extolling the virtues of democracy and other Western freedoms.
Modern Minute Men
Hospitals for Disaster
Beginning in 1956, the federal government stockpiled emergency disaster hospitals across the United States. Nearly a decade later, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare filmed the set-up and simulated use of one such hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. In addition to highlighting the sophisticated components of each portable medical center, Hospitals for Disaster features volunteers in gory makeup who seek to add a sense of realism to an otherwise optimistic production.
Meant to be both entertaining and informative, Individual and Family Reactions on Warning was created by the Office of Civil Defense in 1964 to guide formation of a family fallout shelter plan. Fred, a concerned husband and father, strategically questions each member of his family on appropriate actions during an emergency. A consensus is quickly reached that calls for a quick journey to the nearest marked public shelter when the sirens sound.
The Invisible Enemy
1958 saw the formation of The Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization, an agency devoted to spreading the message of fallout protection. To achieve this task, government planners appropriated a number of existing films, such as The Invisible Enemy, which had been created for specific regions. Made in Michigan to highlight radiation dangers facing that state, the film features the emergency preparations of Grand Rapids and Battle Creek, explained through a lecture by a research scientist.
Nuclear Detonations: The First 60 Seconds
Throughout the 1960's,
the Office of Civil Defense produced a number of short, focused films each with
the purpose of teaching about a specific aspect
of the nuclear threat. Filmed in a classroom setting, Nuclear Detonations:
The First Sixty Seconds does not stray from what's promised in the title.
A teacher/narrator explains to his class about the immediate effects and
dangers of blast, shock, heat, and initial radiation.
Planning for Public Shelter Entry
The implementation of the National Fallout Shelter Survey in 1961 created the need to train thousands of volunteers to staff the public refuges. This film from 1963 was designed to examine the initial moments of shelter entry, when frightened patrons would need to be efficiently settled inside. Following civil defense officials, Planning for Public Shelter Entry stresses good communication, a secure environment, and prompt first aid for those in need immediately following an attack.
A New Look At the H Bomb
Disaster on Mainstreet
The Federal Civil Defense Administration was established in 1950 with two goals, first to raise awareness of the atomic bomb's potential for destruction, and second to conventionalize this power. Disaster on Main Street sought to accomplish both of these goals by connecting images of rubble and refugees from World War II with a stern warning that the same fate could befall American cities who remain complacent on civil defense. Narrated by famed journalist Edward R. Murrow.
Living With The Atom
Religion often found its way into many policies or practices concerning the atomic threat. In 1957, The Moody Institute of Science incorporated the principles of Intelligent Design into both atomic energy and the vast moral dilemma the wielding of such power held. Living With the Atom unfolds as both a science lesson, complete with visual aides, and a moral lecture urging consultation with a higher power before dictating policies involving "the building blocks of The Creator."
Although most commonly associated with an atomic threat, civil defense also sought to protect against the furies of nature. A prime example of non-nuclear defense can be found in the 1956 film public service film Tornado, which depicts the destruction of the fictional Elmville, Oklahoma. Featuring a host of developing meteorological technology, parallels can easily be drawn between Tornado's content, and that of films which demonstrate the devastation likely to occur following an enemy attack.
Emergency Operating Centers: RaDef Operations
To Live Tomorrow
Produced in part by the Institute of Life Insurance, To Live Tomorrow begins with a speech by President Eisenhower calling for a solid civil defense program. Utilizing this call to preparedness, an insurance executive examines how humans react to sudden change, from minor disturbances to life-threatening disaster, all while on his train commute home. The insurance executive's conclusion is grim, too many Americans would panic in a disaster without proper leadership and training.
Your Chance to Live: Nuclear Disaster
1970's proved to be waning years for American civil defense and during this time of diminishing public awareness, an
experimental film was produced to challenge such attitudes.
Created by the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency as part of the Your
Chance to Live series, Nuclear Disaster highlights the process
of creating a civil defense film. A director and his camera crew interview potential actors, sync sirens sounds to images, and
discuss intonations with narrator Peter Thomas.
In Time of Emergency
The late 1960's saw a decline in civil defense, both budgetary and in a general apathy on behalf of the American public. As an attempt to reinvigorate a stagnating image across the country, the In Time of Emergency pamphlet campaign developed in March of 1968 and this film of the same name followed a year later. While the idea of campaign was to liken preparation for an enemy attack to natural disaster, the film focuses almost exclusively on fallout protection.
The House in the Middle
To spreading public awareness of civil defense, the Federal Civil Defense Administration often invited various companies and trade organizations to test their products in the presence of an atomic blast. This experimental marketing gave the National Paint, Varnish, and Lacquer Association promising footage concerning the protective capabilities of finishing materials. The resulting film, The House in the Middle, recommends a tidy yard and a fresh coat of white paint to keep homes safe.
The Price of Liberty
The creation of the Federal Civil Defense Administration in 1950, and the inception of the Alert America program the following, created a boost in civil defense awareness which ultimately resonated in a call for volunteers. One manifestation of this call appeared in The Price of Liberty, a presentation from WNYC tailored specifically for New York audiences. Adopting the motto later utilized for Alert America, the film sternly warns that "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty".
Fire Fighting for Householders
As one of the nine original commissions by the Federal Civil Defense Administration in 1951, this production holds a unique place in the first film campaign on nuclear civil defense. Step by step procedures for fighting different fires are presented while encouraging the clean up flammable debris. Utilitarian in script and drama, Fire Fighting for Householders gives the viewer just enough taste of their expected responsibilities as to encourage further reading on the subject.
Planning for Emergence From Public Shelters
concluding film in a 1967 series concerning radiological monitoring,
this production injects doses of humor and drama into what
had fast become a painstakingly detailed project. A gruff shelter
manager and his heat-oppressed staff bring in more medicine and
sardines to supplement their dwindling supplies while avoiding radioactivity. Short and triumphant, Planning for
Emergence from Public Shelters exudes optimism while still trying to
present the blunt reality of war.
Fallout And Agriculture
the lingering threat of fallout radiation in the late 1950's meant an increase of civil defense material aimed toward rural populations. The need for fallout shelter for people and cattle and for soil decontamination became the pamphlets and films. A 1960 production of the U.S.D.A, Fallout and
Agriculture addresses the farmer through vibrant animation on shelter, soil absorption rates relating to radioactive rays and cleansing of exposed crops.
Narrated by radio personality Andre Barruch, this production spotlights the civil defense preparations being undertaken by the city of Reading, Pennsylvania. Stressing the need to help others and come together as a community during an atomic crisis, the film offers superb shots of rescue teams in action, as well as the creative ways in which Berks County is preparing to warn the public and carry on effective communication after the bomb falls.
Sometimes marketed with the subtitle "School, Home, Street", Atomic Alert was an early attempt by Encyclopaedia Brittanica Films to introduce children to the dangers of the atomic bomb. Released in May of 1951, the film uses a blend of animation and live action to teach children what to do if an attack happens with no adults present. The ideas of seeking shelter, avoiding blast and heat, and trusting adults and older kids are repeated numerous times for the benefit of young viewers.
This film looks at the effects of a biological, not nuclear, attack on the United States. Based on a pamphlet of the same name, What You Should Know About Biological Warfare outlines the different methods by which a biological attack can occur and what the medical community is doing to halt the results if one occurs. Urging obedience to health authorities, the film promotes the pamphlet for further information on the subject.
Our Cities Must Fight
One of the original nine films produced by the Federal Civil Defense Administration in 1951 to explain the threat posed by atomic weapons, Our Cities Must Fight preaches a scathing message against evacuation of large cities. The unique structure of the film, best described as a dramatic dialogue between two men, uses stock footage of traffic jams, refugees, and civil defense drills to make an argument against leaving American cities when the fear of an enemy attack is high.