Cold War Americans Not as Fainthearted as You Might Think

Matt Barganier, July 21, 2011

At Reason, Greg Beato sketches the history of the fallout
shelter in Cold War America. Apparently, most people didn’t get too carried away
with doomsday preparations
:
I don't wanna go down to the basement

“Despite what a 1961 issue of Good Housekeeping derided as ‘massive propaganda to induce Americans to burrow underground like worms,’ officials were never able to secure the level of funding a widespread shelter-building program would require. The government’s more general efforts to persuade citizens to build shelters on their own dime were only slightly more successful. After a decade of federal proselytizing, Newsweek noted in July 1961, American families had built around 2,000 shelters. In contrast, they’d built around 300,000 swimming pools during that time. (A New York Times article, also from July 1961, put the estimated total of family bomb shelters in the U.S. at 60,000.)”

Of course, all they had to worry about was the Soviet Union, not guys who put bombs in their underwear. Shelter chic is making a bit of a comeback today, so if you think a pool is a waste of a hole in the ground, then I have an investment opportunity for you:

 




5 Responses to “Cold War Americans Not as Fainthearted as You Might Think”

  1. Ummmm…. Doomsday is Doomsday = nothing left. Even assuming it's just the run-of-the-mill Mad Max scenario outside, you'd think a few bright boys would know exactly where the shelter entrances are and camp out waiting for someone to open the doors? Or seal any outside vents? Or just blow the entrance doors off completely?

    Unless you've got a serious plan for survival- not 'designer survival'- the only thing a sealed shelter means is you know exactly where you'll die.

    BTW- what's the plan for medical emergencies / surgeries in one of these things? And if someone does happen to pass away, what's the plan for the body? Soylent Green, anyone?

  2. "Duck and cover!" You'll be just fine. Gosh, whatever happened to CD Turtle?

  3. WTF am I watching?

    One should frighten all those people into their shelters then take a welding torch to the doors. MUAHAHA!

    Btw, what would be on Vivos TV? Telepreachers? A fate worse than death, indeed.

  4. Having a decent shelter might, in some circumstances, be a good idea… BUT if everyone knows where it's buried you've just created a big problem. You pay your 50K for a spot… but what happens when your less affluent pregnant neighbor runs to you for help when disaster strikes? "Sorry, gotta run- shelter doors are closing in five minutes" and you know for a fact that at five minutes plus thirty seconds the entire area will be carpeted with napalm, chemical weapons, etc., etc., etc. Give up your spot to save her and her baby, or slam the door in her face and leave her to meet her fate? What will YOU do?

    The old TV show The Twilight Zone had an EXCELLENT episode about this very thing, and it showed how an entire community could- literally within minutes- completely destroy itself over such a facility. Old friends were on the verge of killing each other at any cost to get in the bomb shelter only to find out…. it was only a drill. How do you face your friends and family afterwards?

    No, it's best if you're going to build a survival shelter, build it SECRETLY and for a very limited number of people- your immediate family, most likely- and DO NOT TELL A SOUL about it. EVER.

    Even better: mom, dad, an infant and a 2 year old. You have only 100K to spend on two shelter spots for this place. Who lives and who dies? Send the kids alone, and who raises them after you're dead? Send one parent and one child? Who gets left outside to die? Or do you all stay outside together and everyone dies?

  5. Y'all miss the versatility of a good fallout shelter. First, it'd make a great root cellar. Second, it would be an effective tornado shelter, something to consider when about every third storm around here drops killer twisties. And third, if the recent gov't report on nuclear fallout is true, and assuming it's one or two rogue nukes exploding (not an end of the earth Gog and Magog to-do) like Pat Buchanan or Tommy Franks speculate really could happen, a fall-out shelter would be quite handy.