United States civil defense
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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. Late in the 20th century, the term and practice of civil defense fell into disuse. Emergency management and homeland security replaced them.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Pre–World War
- 1.2 World War I
- 1.3 World War II
- 1.4 Cold War
- 1.5 Post–Cold War
- 2 Past and present civil defense agencies
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 Further reading
- 6 External links
There is little history of civil defense in the United States before the twentieth century. Since ancient times, cities typically 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.
World War I
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." 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. 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
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. 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. 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. A Ground Observer Corps watched for enemy aircraft.
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.
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. 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 in a similar manner to US ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems with which it was seen as complementary.
In declassified US war game analyses of the late 1950-60s, it was estimated that approximately 27 million US citizens would have been saved with civil defense education in the event of a Soviet pre-emptive strike. At the time however the cost of a full-scale civil defense program was, in cost-benefit analysis, deemed less effective than a BMD system, and as the adversary was increasing their nuclear stockpile, both programs would yield diminishing returns.
Educating the people
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.
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." 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. 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.
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. However, the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles in the late 1950s made this goal less realistic. Despite that, civil defense officials still worked to prepare evacuation plans. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan announced the Crisis Relocation Program. 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. However, the plan has been criticized by academics and organizations like the Federation of American Scientists for failing to take into account disruptions to healthcare infrastructure preventing the effective treatment of the wounded, disruption to the food supply, ecological devastation (including nuclear winter), and social unrest following an attack. Because of these shortcomings, Stanford University physician and professor Herbert L. Abrams estimated that no more than 60 million people (25% of the population) would survive if the program was executed as designed.
Ensuring continuity of government
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.
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.
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 CONELRAD was replaced in 1963.
Operation Alert and Opposition to Civil Defense drills
In 1954, the United States government began an annual national Civil Defense exercise called "Operation Alert". The exercise extended over several weeks to months, and would culminate in a one day public drill simulating a nuclear attack. The aim of the annual exercise was to evaluate emergency preparedness in the face of a nuclear attack, determine government continuation readiness, and identify problems that might occur during an alert.
Operation Alert was actively protested by the Catholic Worker Movement, Ralph DiGia, and others in New York City when held on June 15, 1955. Protesters objected to the notion that a nuclear war was survivable, and answered with the assertion that the only way to survive a nuclear war was for one not to happen at all. 28 Individuals were arrested in City Hall Park, and jailed for refusing to take shelter during a drill. Protests, initially small and isolated, continued and grew throughout the 1950s. Opposition to the drills increased; young mothers with children joined the protests in 1960. Civil Defense Operation Alert drills were stopped after the 1961 protest.
Emergency Broadcast System
In 1963, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the Emergency Broadcast System to replace CONELRAD. The EBS served as the primary alert system through the Cold War ICBM era 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.
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). 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
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:
- NYPD Auxiliary Police
- Council of National Defense
- Office of Emergency Planning (OEP) in the Executive Office of the President (EOP)
- Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in the Office of Emergency Planning
- Civil Defense Corps within the Office of Civilian Defense
- Civil Air Patrol
- National Security Resources Board (NSRB), both as an independent agency and as an office within the Executive Office of the President
- Office of Defense Mobilization in the Executive Office of the President
- Defense Production Administration in the War Department, now called the Department of Defense
- Office of Defense and Civilian Mobilization in the Executive Office of the President
- Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization in the Executive Office of the President
- Office of Emergency Planning in the Executive Office of the President
- Office of Emergency Preparedness in the Executive Office of the President
- Office of Preparedness in the General Services Administration
- Federal Preparedness Agency in the General Services Administration
- Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA), both as an independent agency and as a board within the Executive Office of the President
- Defense Civil Preparedness Agency
- State defense forces of individual U.S. states
- United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
- Baltimore County Police Auxiliary Team 
- The American Civil Defense Association
- Blast shelter
- Civil Air Patrol
- Civil defense
- Civil protection
- Comprehensive Emergency Management
- Duck and cover
- Emergency preparedness
- Fallout shelter
- NYPD Auxiliary Police
- Baltimore County Police Auxiliary Team www.auxpolice.org
- State Defense Forces
- Harold Harby, Los Angeles City Council member, 1939–42, 1943–57, urged study of converting storm drains into bomb shelters
- 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
- Kerr, Thomas J. "Civil Defense in the U.S." Westview Press (Boulder, CO): 1983. p12. ISBN 978-0-86531-586-0. Quoted at . Archived January 27, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
- Green, Walter G., editor. "Council of National Defense and State Defense Councils." Electronic Encyclopaedia of Civil Defense and Emergency Management. 8/17/2003.
- Suburban Emergency Management Project, "SEMP Biot #243: What Is Civil Defense? World War I through the Eisenhower Administration," 8/1/05.  Archived January 27, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
- National Security Resources Board. United States Civil Defense. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), 1950. LCCN 51060552.
- Net Evaluation Subcommittee. page 27
- Scheibach, Michael, ed. (2009). "In Case Atom Bombs Fall": An Anthology of Governmental Explanations, Instructions and Warnings from the 1940s to the 1960s. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-4541-7.
- 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
- Portland Online
- Harry Rasky (Director). (1957) "A Day Called X [TV]." CBS. See NY Times Review, IMDB description, or Free Download from The Internet Archive
- 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. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved April 29, 2006.
- Bumstead, Pamela (December 6, 1985). NUCLEAR WINTER: THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF HUMAN SURVIVAL (PDF). 84th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Washington, DC: American Anthropological Association.
- Abrams, Herbert (1986). "Medical Supply and Demand in a Post-Nuclear-War World". In Marston, Solomon. The Medical Implications of Nuclear War. Washington, DC: National Academies Press (US). Retrieved 25 April 2018.
- ""Operation Alert" Drills - NUCLEAR NEW YORK". sites.google.com. Retrieved 2018-05-21.
- "Operation Alert 1955 State Department Document". Scribd. Retrieved 2018-05-21.
- McReynolds, David (2008). "Ralph DiGia, 1914-2008". The Catholic Worker. LXXV (March–April): 6.
- "Operation Alert". Retrieved 2008-05-02.
- Hennacy, Ammon. "Air Raid Drill". Retrieved 2008-06-18.
- "Millions Hustle for Shelter in N.Y. City Alert". Des Moines Tribune. 1955-06-15. p. 4. Retrieved 2018-05-21 – via Newspapers.com.
- "9 PACIFISTS SEIZED IN DEFYING ALERT; Dorothy Day Among Them--All Plead Guilty and Get Suspended Terms". New York Times (May 7). 1958.
- 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
- Proud Symbol of Fear Replaced By Wuss Emblem
- 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.
World War II civil defense
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- Works by United States civil defense at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about United States civil defense at Internet Archive
- Suburban Emergency Management Project, "SEMP Biot #243: What Is Civil Defense? World War I through the Eisenhower Administration," 8/1/05
- Suburban Emergency Management Project, "SEMP Biot #244: What Is Civil Defense? Kennedy Administration through the George W. Bush Administration," 8/2/05
- Kurt Pickering and Charles Bryant, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, "The History of Civil Defense & Emergency Management in Tennessee," 2002
- Fort Collins Office of Emergency Management, "From Civil Defense to Emergency Management"
- Cold War Civil Defense Museum
- The Electronic Encyclopaedia of Civil Defense and Emergency Management
- "In Civil Defense" at Military.com
- Annotated bibliography for civil defense from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues
- Full text of government publications issues by the United States Office of Civilian Defense