Cinema History from the Cold War!

The Role of The Warden In The H-Bomb Era

Federal Civil Defense Administration
1957

"Shows the greater need for wardens in The H-Bomb Era by outlining warden duties.  Emphasizes the need for local leadership, individual preparedness and the increased need for rural, as well as urban, protection planning.  Should be helpful in recruiting wardens."  This quote, pulled from a civil defense bulletin utilitarianly named Information Circular No. 75, summarizes both the content and the goals of The Role of The Warden in The H-Bomb Era.  The film begins with a brief history of humanity's defenses, from medieval castles to the trenches of World War One to the family fallout shelter.  John Foster, proprietor of an inner-city appliance store, and Ed Fitzgerald, farmer, are the titular wardens.  With the aid of vibrant animated scenes, they describe the nature and challenges of their job.  In the early 1950's, John Foster explains the primary mission was to survey his neighborhood population and inventory all assets and liabilities.  Once completed, he instructs all residents to "Duck and Cover" by staying inside undamaged buildings following an enemy atomic attack.  Ed Fitzgerald, meanwhile, encourages his neighbors to be on the lookout for unusual crop diseases and other signs of enemy sabotage.  He notes and apathy in rural populations who feel their isolated location provides immunity from the horrors of atomic warfare.  As the decade progressed, edits to this film reflect how the goals and strategies of each warden change.


There is some discrepancy as to when this film was released to the public and as to what medium it was released on.  The Federal Civil Defense Administration (F.C.D.A.) Annual Statistical Report for 1955 lists it as a "filmograph", a series of still images strung together by narration.  Indeed, the first half of the film consists of brightly illustrated still frames with voice-over descriptions provided by the two wardens.  The Pennsylvania State Council on Civil Defense and The F.C.D.A. Annual Statistical Report for 1957 give release dates of September of 1956 and March of 1957, respectively, and list it as a filmstrip.  The second half of the film contains live-action scenes and moving animation and ends with a lengthy speech by a civil defense official.  It is clear the film was edited to include new information and each of the formats and release dates may be correct for different versions of the film.  The final version, linked to below, continues the stories of John Foster and Ed Fitzgerald along with Mrs. Henry Coleman, female warden in charge of family safety.  Mrs. Coleman personally visits each family in her sector encouraging them to properly stock supplies for an extended evacuation away from home.  Foster explains that his new role is to provide evacuation maps and advice for using a family automobile to get away from a target area.


The remainder of the film focuses on Ed Fitzgerald's efforts to warn his small community about the dangers of residual fallout radiation and the need to care for urban refugees.  The fallout from atomic strikes would inevitably drift outwards and descend upon the farms, ranches and towns in rural America.  This discussion of fallout in The Role of The Warden In The H-Bomb Era is evidence of a massive policy change in American federal civil defense policy.  By 1957, radiation from fallout particles was seen as a prolonged and definitive problem, whereas for the previous decade it had been treated as a nominal threat.  In addition to enemy sabotage, Fitzgerald now shows his neighbors how to build fallout shelter for their livestock, their feed and grains and their families.  With the help of John Foster, the two men survey public buildings to find structures suitable to serve as refugee centers and shelters.  Churches, schools and hospitals are the best options.  Fitzgerald also interviews local farmers to see which can harbor refugee families.  The film concludes by returning to the image of a defense medieval castle.  An animated knight in armor holds up his shield which symbolically morphs into the civil defense icon.  Despite its extensive efforts to keep current with civil defense policy through edits and updated versions, The Role of The Warden in The H-Bomb Era would ultimately be declared obsolete by 1965.  The creation of The National Fallout Shelter Plan under the administration of President John F. Kennedy made public fallout shelters the official federal policy in the event of an enemy attack.  Additionally, the invention of inter-continental ballistic missiles cut potential warning times down to mere minutes and made pre-attack evacuation of large cities all but impractical.  As a result, The Office of Civil Defense, the eventual successor to The Federal Civil Defense Administration, ordered all government copies of the film recalled and encouraged owners of private copies to cease screenings.


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