Office of Civil Defense released Manual Damage Assessment in 1967 to
train volunteers in how to best estimate the destruction caused by a
nuclear attack using only scattered first-hand accounts.(1)
The film is presented as an exercise which walks the viewer through
each step of the assessment process while providing tips to achieve the
most accurate results. When assembling his assessment team, civil
defense director Harold Young uses local professionals with an intimate
knowledge of the region. Harris and Boyd are selected for their ability
to read maps, mathematically calculate the size of nuclear detonations
and plot relevant data on maps. Maps prepared by the U.S. Geological
Survey or the Army Map Service are ideal. They should be pre-plotted
with the locations of resources before any emergency arises. This is
the first of five categories of information which must be determined for
proper damage assessment, the location, type and amount of resources in
an targeted area. The second category asks when, where and how large
the nuclear detonation was while the third category deals with how the
weapon was delivered. The fourth category attempts to list any actions
which are taking place to mitigate damage and the final category records
meteorological conditions to help chart fallout radiation patterns. To
obtain this information, unconventional sources must be considered.
Provided they survive the initial blast, forest ranger towers, small
aircraft pilots, radio station disc jockeys and air traffic controllers
are suggested observers with readily available communications equipment
who may be relied upon.
Harris and Boyd rely on improvised techniques to determine the size
and strength of a nuclear detonation. Counting the seconds between a
bright flash and a roaring blast allows them to roughly calculate a
weapon's yield in megatons. An appropriately sized overlay sheet of
concentric circles is then placed on a target area map and the levels of
destruction can be estimated. When their assessment is complete,
Harris shares their findings with each department in the emergency
operating center. The actor playing Ralph Harris is Chris Bohn, best remembered today for his role in The Doctors and commercial work. He would also make a career of starring in short, instructional style films covering everything from tire safety to a television announcer discussing a nuclear crisis. The set of the emergency operating center would be reused for many Office of Civil Defense productions from 1967 including Introduction to a Radiological Defense Exercise, Emergency Operating Centers: Radiological Defense Operations and Display of Operational Data.
The technical procedures presented in Manual Damage Assessment would
not be deemed obsolete by the end of the 1960's. Instead, the film
could be rented or purchased from Defense Civil Preparedness Agency
(successor to the Office of Civil Defense) catalogs into the 1970's.(2)
Manual Damage Assessment may be viewed, in its entirety, HERE.
1. Index of Army Motion Pictures and Related Audio-Visual Aids. Department of the Army. December 1972. P. 55.
2. Index of Army Motion Pictures and Related Audio-Visual Aids. Department of the Army. December 1972. P. 55.