United States civil defense

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Main article: Civil defense
The old United States Civil Defense logo. The triangle emphasised the 3-step Civil Defense philosophy used before the foundation of FEMA and Comprehensive Emergency Management.

United States civil defense refers to the use of civil defense in the history of the United States, which is the organized non-military effort to prepare Americans for military attack. Over the last twenty years, the term and practice of civil defense have fallen into disuse and have been replaced by emergency management and homeland security.

History[edit]

Pre–World War[edit]

There is little history of civil defense in the United States before the twentieth century. Since time immemorial cities built walls and moats to protect from invasion and commissioned patrols and watches to keep an eye out for danger. But such activities have not traditionally been encompassed by the term "civil defense." The U.S. has a particular lack of early civil defense efforts because the American homeland was seldom threatened with a significant attack. Despite these considerations, there are still examples of what would today be considered civil defense. For example, as early as 1692, the village of Bedford, New York kept a paid drummer on staff, who was charged with sounding the town drum in the event of a Native American attack—a very early precursor to the wailing sirens of the Cold War.[1]

World War I[edit]

Civil Defense truly began to come of age, both worldwide and in the United States, during the first World War—although it was usually referred to as civilian defense. This was the first major Total war, which required the involvement and support of the general population. Great Britain was subjected to bombing raids by both dirigibles and airplanes, resulting in thousands of injuries and deaths. Attacks on non combat ships, like the Lusitania, presented another threat to non combatants. The British responded with an organized effort which was soon copied in the US. This was formalized with the creation of the Council of National Defense on August 29, 1916. Civil defense responsibilities at the federal level were vested in this council, with subsidiary councils at the state and local levels providing additional support—a multi-level structure which was to remain throughout the history of United States civil defense.

As the United States had little threat of a direct attack on its shores, the organization instead "maintained anti-saboteur vigilance, encouraged men to join the armed forces, facilitated the implementation of the draft, participated in Liberty Bond drives, and helped to maintain the morale of the soldiers."[2] This freedom to focus beyond air raid attacks gave United States civil defense a much broader scope than elsewhere. With the end of military conflict, the activities of the Council of National Defense were suspended.[3] Thus, World War I marked the first time that organized civil defense was practised on a large scale in the United States. Although civil defense had not yet reached the scale and significance it soon would, many of the basic features were set in place.

World War II[edit]

World War II, which the United States entered after the Attack on Pearl Harbor, was characterized by a significantly greater use of civil defense. Even before the attack, the Council of National Defense was reactivated by President Roosevelt and created the Division of State and Local Cooperation to further assist the Council's efforts.[4] Thus, the civil defense of World War II began very much as a continuation of that of World War I. Very soon, however, the idea of local and state councils bearing a significant burden became viewed as untenable and more responsibility was vested at the federal level with the creation of the Office of Civilian Defense (OCD) within the Office of Emergency Planning (OEP) in the Executive Office of the President (EOP) on May 20, 1941.[4] The OCD was originally headed by New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and was charged with promoting protective measures and elevating national morale.

These organizations and others worked together to mobilize the civilian population in response to the threat. The Civil Air Patrol (CAP), which was created just days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, commissioned civilian pilots to patrol the coast and borders and engage in search and rescue missions as needed. The Civil Defense Corps, run by the OCD, organized approximately 10 million volunteers who trained to fight fires, decontaminate after chemical weapon attacks, provide first aid, and other duties.[4] These efforts did not replace the kinds of civil defense that took place during World War I. Indeed, World War II saw an even greater use of rationing, recycling, and anti-saboteur vigilance than was seen in World War I. As the threat of air raids or invasions in the United States seemed less likely during the war, the focus on the Civil Defense Corps, air raid drills, and patrols of the border declined but the other efforts continued. Unlike the end of World War I, the US did not dismiss all its civil defense efforts as soon as World War II ended. Instead, they continued after the end of the war and served as the foundation of civil defense in the Cold War.

Cold War[edit]

The new dimensions of nuclear war terrified the world and the American people. The sheer power of nuclear weapons and the perceived likelihood of such an attack on the United States precipitated a greater response than had yet been required of civil defense. Civil defense, something previously considered an important and common sense step, also became divisive and controversial in the charged atmosphere of the Cold War. In 1950, the National Security Resources Board created a 162 page document outlining a model civil defense structure for the U.S. Called the "Blue Book" by civil defense professionals in reference to its solid blue cover, it was the template for legislation and organization that occurred over the next 40 years.[5] Despite a general agreement on the importance of civil defense, Congress never came close to meeting the budget requests of federal civil defense agencies. Throughout the Cold War, Civil defense was characterized by fits and starts. Indeed, the responsibilities were passed through a myriad of agencies, and specific programs were often boosted and scrapped.

Civil Defense literature such as Survival Under Atomic Attack was common during the Cold War Era.

Educating the people[edit]

Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the Cold War civil defense effort was the educational effort made or promoted by the government. In Duck and Cover, Bert the Turtle advocated that children "duck and cover" when they "see the flash." Booklets were also common place such as Survival Under Atomic Attack, Fallout Protection and Nuclear War Survival Skills. The transcribed radio program Stars for Defense combined hit music with civil defense advice.

Evacuation plans[edit]

At the dawn of the nuclear age, evacuation was opposed by the federal government. The Federal Civil Defense Administration produced a short movie called Our Cities Must Fight. It argued that in the event of a nuclear war, people need to stay in cities to help repair the infrastructure and man the recovering industries. "Nuclear radiation," it advised, "would only stay in the air a day or two."[6] Despite this early opposition, evacuation plans were soon created. One city at the forefront of such efforts was Portland, Oregon. In 1955, their city government completed "Operation Greenlight"—a drill to evacuate the city center. Hospital patients were packed into semi-trucks, pedestrians were picked up by passing motorists, and the city's construction equipment and emergency vehicles were rushed out to "dispersal points." The entire city center was evacuated in 19 minutes.[7] On December 8, 1957 CBS Television aired a dramatization of how a well prepared city might respond to an imminent nuclear attack. The show,A Day Called 'X', produced "in co-operation with the Federal Civil Defense Administration," was shot in Portland, using City officials and ordinary citizens instead of professional actors. It was narrated by Glenn Ford.[8] Such plans were plausible in the early days of the Cold War, when an attack would have come from strategic bombers, which would have allowed a warning of many hours, not to mention the high possibility of interception by anti-air systems and fighters. The development of Intercontinental ballistic missiles made this goal less realistic, however. Despite that, civil defense officials still worked to prepare evacuation plans. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan announced the Crisis Relocation Plan. The White House suggested that the $10 billion, five-year program could allow the evacuation of targeted urban centers to rural "host areas" and thus save 80% of the population. The plan allowed up to three days for the evacuation to be completed, believing that a nuclear war would not come in a surprise attack but rather as the culmination of a crisis period of rising tensions.[9]

Ensuring continuity of government[edit]

Governments made efforts to exist even after an apocalyptic nuclear attack, something called continuity of government. Many city halls built Emergency Operation Centers in their basements.

Identifying fallout shelters[edit]

President Kennedy launched an ambitious effort to install fallout shelters throughout the United States. These shelters would not protect against the blast and heat effects of nuclear weapons, but would provide some protection against the radiation effects that would last for weeks and even affect areas distant from a nuclear explosion. As such, some of them were even located on the upper floors of skyscrapers.

Survivability in design[edit]

CD officials encouraged people to build in the suburbs away from key targets and to be conscientious of the needs of a nuclear age when building houses and other structures.

Alerting the people[edit]

In order for most of these preparations to be effective, there had to be some degree of warning. The United States embarked on creating systems at both the local and national levels to allow the communication of emergencies. In 1951, President Harry S. Truman established the CONELRAD (Control of Electromagnetic Radiation) Plan. Under the system, a few primary stations would be alerted of an emergency and would broadcast an alert. All broadcast stations throughout the country would be constantly listening to an upstream station and repeat the message, thus passing it from station to station. After broadcasting the message, all radio communications would cease except for two designated lower power AM frequencies (640 and 1240 kHz). This was designed to prevent enemy planes from using transmitters as navigation aids for direction finding. The later threat of ICBMs (which used internal guidance) made this obsolete, and it was phased out in the early 1960s. In 1963, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the Emergency Broadcast System to replace CONELRAD. The EBS served as the primary alert system throughout the Cold War and well into the 1990s. In addition to these, air raid sirens such as the Thunderbolt siren pictured to the right, would sound an alert.

Opposition to Cold War Nuclear Civil Defense[edit]

The Cold War program was actively protested by the Catholic Worker Movement, Ralph DiGia, and others on June 15, 1955 for misleading the public that they could survive a nuclear war.[10][11] Individuals were arrested in City Hall Park, and jailed for refusing to take shelter during a drill.[12] Protests continued throughout the 1950s.[13] When young mothers with children joined the protests in 1960, opposition to the drills increased, and the drills were stopped after the 1961 protest.[14]

Post–Cold War[edit]

Since the end of the Cold War, civil defense has fallen into disuse within the United States. Gradually, the focus on nuclear war shifted to an "all-hazards" approach of Comprehensive Emergency Management. Natural disasters and the emergence of new threats such as terrorism have caused attention to be focused away from traditional civil defense and into new forms of civil protection such as emergency management and homeland security. In 2006, the old triangle logo was finally retired, replaced with a new logo featuring a stylized EM (for emergency management).[15][16] The new logo was announced by the Federal Emergency Management Association; however, a depiction of the old CD logo (without the red CD letters) can be seen above the eagle's head in the FEMA seal. The name and logo, however, continue to be used by Hawaii State Civil Defense Hawaii State Civil Defense and Guam Homeland Security/Office of Civil Defense Guam Homeland Security | Office of Civil Defense. The Republic of the Philippines has an Office of Civil Defense that uses a similar logo.

Past and present civil defense agencies[edit]

Since its creation by President George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001 attacks, United States Civil Defense has been concentrated within the cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Between 1979 and 2001, the duties of Civil Defense were served by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Originally an independent agency, FEMA was absorbed into the DHS in 2003. Before the creation of FEMA on March 31, 1979 the responsibility for civil defense in the United States was shared between a wide variety of short-lived and frequently changing departments, agencies, and organizations. Some of the pre-FEMA organizations important in the history of US Civil Defense include:

See also[edit]

People

  • Harold Harby, Los Angeles City Council member, 1939–42, 1943–57, urged study of converting storm drains into bomb shelters

References[edit]

  1. ^ Towne, Robert, Stamford Historical Society. "Record Group 11: Civil Defense in Stamford." 6/1/1996. The Stamford Historical Society, Record Group 11, Civil War Defence in Stamford
  2. ^ Kerr, Thomas J. "Civil Defense in the U.S." Westview Press (Boulder, CO): 1983. p12. ISBN 978-0-86531-586-0. Quoted at [1].[dead link]
  3. ^ Green, Walter G., editor. "Council of National Defense and State Defense Councils." Electronic Encyclopaedia of Civil Defense and Emergency Management. 8/17/2003.
  4. ^ a b c Suburban Emergency Management Project, "SEMP Biot #243: What Is Civil Defense? World War I through the Eisenhower Administration," 8/1/05. [2][dead link]
  5. ^ National Security Resources Board. United States Civil Defense. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), 1950. LCCN 51060552.
  6. ^ Anthony Rizo (Director), Ray J. Mauer (Writer). (1951). "Our Cities Must Fight [Film]." Los Angeles: Archer Productions, Inc. See Free download from the Internet Archive or IMDB description
  7. ^ Portland Online
  8. ^ Harry Rasky (Director). (1957) "A Day Called X [TV]." CBS. See NY Times Review, IMDB description, or Free Download from The Internet Archive
  9. ^ See this website and Edward Zuckerman. The Day after World War III. New York: Viking Press, 1984. ISBN 978-0-670-25880-2 and Jennifer Leaning and Langley Keyes, editors. The Counterfeit ark: Crisis Relocation for Nuclear War. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger Publishing Company, 1983. ISBN 978-0-88410-940-2.[dead link]
  10. ^ McReynolds, David (2008). "Ralph DiGia, 1914-2008". The Catholic Worker LXXV (March–April): 6. 
  11. ^ "Operation Alert". Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  12. ^ Hennacy, Ammon. "Air Raid Drill". Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  13. ^ "9 PACIFISTS SEIZED IN DEFYING ALERT; Dorothy Day Among Them--All Plead Guilty and Get Suspended Terms.". New York Times (May 7). 1958. 
  14. ^ Dee Garrison: "Our Skirts Gave Them Courage" The Civil Defense Protest Movement in New York City 1955-1961., chapter 10 in Joanne J. Meyerowitz, ed., Not June Cleaver: Women and Gender in Postwar America, 1945-1960, 1994, Philadelphia, Temple University Press ISBN 978-1-56639-170-2
  15. ^ Proud Symbol of Fear Replaced By Wuss Emblem
  16. ^ Dunlap, David W. (December 1, 2006). "Civil Defense Logo Dies at 67, and Some Mourn Its Passing". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

Web resources[edit]

Books[edit]

World War II civil defense[edit]

  • Louis L. Snyder, editor. Handbook of Civil Protection. New York: Whittlesey House (McGraw-Hill), 1942. LCCN 42010183.
  • Captain Burr Leyson. The Air Raid Safety Manual. New York: E.P. Dutton and Company, 1942. LCCN 42005041.

Cold War civil defense[edit]

  • Highly recommended for those wishing a detailed overview: Edward Zuckerman. The Day after World War III. New York: Viking Press, 1984. ISBN 978-0-670-25880-2.
  • Laura McEnaney. Civil Defense Begins at Home: Militarization meets everyday life in the fifties. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-691-00138-8.
  • Jennifer Leaning and Langley Keyes, editors. The Counterfeit ark: Crisis Relocation for Nuclear War. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger Publishing Company, 1983. ISBN 978-0-88410-940-2.
  • National Security Resources Board. United States Civil Defense. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), 1950. LCCN 51060552.
  • Henry Eyring, Editor. Civil Defense: A symposium presented at the Berkely meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, December 1965. Washington: AAAS, 1966. LCCN 66025382.
  • Dee Garrison. Bracing for Armageddon: Why Civil Defense Never Worked. Oxford University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-19-518319-1
  • Works by United States Office of Civil Defense at Project Gutenberg
  • Andrew D. Grossman. Neither Dead nor Red: Civil Defense and American Political Development During the Early Cold War. New York. Routledge. 2001. ISBN 0-415-92990-3
  • David F. Krugler. This is Only a Test: How Washington D.C. Prepared for Nuclear War. New York. Palgrave macMillan. 2006. ISBN 1-4039-6554-4
  • Patrick B. Sharp. Savage Perils: Racial Frontiers and Nuclear Apocalypse in American Culture. Norman. University of Oklahoma Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0806143064

Post–Cold War civil defense[edit]

  • Mark Sauter. Homeland Security: A complete guide to understanding, preventing, and surviving terrorism. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005. ISBN 978-0-07-144064-6.
  • Juliette Kayyem and Robyn Pangi, editors. First to Arrive: State and Local Responses to Terrorism. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0-585-48173-9.