You and the Atomic Bomb

Here’s an interesting pamphlet I picked up for another project of mine. ‘You and the Atomic Bomb’ was produced by the New York State Civil Defense Commission in 1950 and reassured the reader that an atomic attack is survivable if one is adequately prepared. Early in the Cold War, efforts to inform the public of what to expect/how to prepare for an atomic confrontation were relatively common, even in the United States. But those efforts faded over the decades (in the USA at least) as both the dire reality of thermonuclear warfare became apparent, and the domestic politics of nuclear weapons became more polarized.

The pamphlet is rather informative, if not slightly naive. The illustrations are pretty good and include Manhattan getting a front-row view of a water burst (somebody had fun with that one.) There are the typical suggestions for when you’re caught out in the open during an attack. They include hiding behind a tree and covering your baby’s stroller with a blanket. Afterward, the booklet reassures the reader that emergency crews will rescue those trapped in buildings as bulldozers clear the streets (ha!) and that men with ‘special detectors’ will be by to locate and warn you of radioactive areas (yeah, right.) My favorite bit suggests a “good scrubbing” after the blast to remove radioactive particles… and the illustration is that of a mother (complete with a 1950s apron) bathing her child — later in the pamphlet, the reader is instructed not to turn on the water after a blast. Probably the most frequent suggestion in the book is: “Don’t get excited or excite others” — I guess you were expected to just die peacefully.

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