Throughout the 1950’s, American civil defense policy was dominated by principles of self-reliance. The government would provide guidance in the form of literature, films, expert lecturers, and training courses, but ultimately individual families and communities would bear the responsibility for their survival in the event of an enemy atomic attack. To promote this notion of taking independent action, the Federal Civil Defense Administration teamed with Philip Ragan productions to release Target You in July of 1955. Proclaimed in advertisements by the F.C.D.A. as a “Family ‘What and How to Do’ Film”, this animated production explains, in step-by-step detail, the immediate household tasks which would need to be completed upon warning of an impending attack. At a brisk eight minutes in length, the film focuses on preparing plans of action for dependent persons prior to disaster situations while offering last-second advice to save lives and stop fires.
The stern narrator of Target You stresses one point from the opening scene onward, that the viewer, as a citizen of the United States and the Free World, is now vulnerable to enemy atomic bombs. The film, primarily directed towards homeowners, gives a basic description of warning signals before presenting a standard two-story house. Beginning in the attic and descending to the basement, the narrator thoroughly describes a householder’s responsibilities, from clearing flammable debris and ensuring dependent infants and elderly are cared for, to tagging all utilities with special civil defense information cards to ensure they have been properly maintained. Target You also offers a very brief description of home fallout shelters, from simple lean-tos to elaborate underground refuges which protect from both atomic blast and radiation. As the film concludes, a checklist provides a review of the actions needed to be taken, including the additional suggestion that at least one family member enroll in a first-aid course. The influence of Target You would prove to be remarkably brief. In June of 1957, less than two years after its release, the F.C.D.A. would declare the film obsolete, likely owing to the fact that it only briefly mentions fallout radiation, protection from which was the priority of civil defense films and pamphlets by the later 1950’s. All government copies of the film were recalled and any private owners were encouraged to cease screenings.
Target You May be viewed in its entirety HERE.