Anyone who was watched an old film from the early
cold war days called "Atomic Cafe" might recognize
the comment, "It's not the blast I'm worried about. It's
that awful gas that deforms you."
Atomic Café was a U.S. Government propaganda
film indented to put American's at ease and "not fear the
Because no atomic weapons had (or have) been used
against the U.S. at the time the film was made, U.S. government
authorities "had artistic license" to feed the American
public all sort of lies about what an atomic explosion would
do to a city.
And at the time the movie was made, a lot of the
film and photos we see of the damage done to cities like Hiroshima
and Nagasaki had not been released to the U.S. public yet. Atomic
Café made the possibility of a nuclear attack by the
Soviet Union no more dangerous than a winter blizzard. As the
narrators in the movie quoted several times, if an attack occurred,
all you had to do was "duck and cover," as if a wooden
desk wouldn't melt under the intense heat.
During the 1940's and 1950's A Fallout Bunker
Was "The Thing to Have"
Probably because of the memories of bomb shelters
in Europe during World War II, combined with the reality that
if a nuclear attack happened in the U.S., there wouldn't be
enough time to evacuate to anywhere, a fallout bunker building
Of course the U.S. government got involved and
provided free building plans and blue prints for a variety of
fallout bunkers that could be built in your own back yard. Looking
back, it is ironic that this same government that taught Americans
that "the giant flash in the sky was nothing to worry about"
also wanted to give everyone free blueprints for fallout bunkers
to hide in during a nuclear attack
Most of the fallout bunkers built during this period were built
out of sand bags or concrete blocks and mortar in a home basement,
as this was the least expensive type of fallout bunker to build.
The U.S. government's free plans and blueprints ensured that
these bunkers offered substantial protection.
Looking back on it today, the amount of energy
released by nuclear weapons being tested by both the U.S. and
the Soviet Union during the 1950's would have vaporized those
basement fallout bunkers in a close strike along with the people
You Could Have a Fallout Bunker That Could
Double As a Patio for Entertainment
Some of the plans distributed by the U.S. Government
were for underground fallout bunkers built apart from your home,
usually built out of reinforced concrete walls or concrete blocks
and mortar. The information provided assured that the thickness
of the underground walls and the concrete roof (along with several
feet of earth on top of that) would provide enough protection
against even the highest levels of gamma rays from nuclear explosions.
One marketing ploy was that the roofs of underground
bunkers could double as back yard patios. One thing that was
never mentioned in the government distributed material was how
a family was supposed to survive outside the fallout bunkers
when they ventured out two weeks after the blast to see if everything
was alright. As we know now, there are Japanese citizens who
are suffering from the effects of the bombs dropped on Japan
and these victims weren't even alive yet in 1945.
Just Two Weeks Was All You Needed
U.S. government authorities recommended that people
stay in their fallout bunkers for at least two weeks after a
single nuclear blast. They never bothered to mention what the
general public was supposed to do if there was hundreds of nuclear
tipped warheads falling on the U.S. families with children were
advised to keep recreational materials in their fallout bunkers
to "break the monotony."
Board games such as Monopoly were often suggested
as a good family game to keep everyone entertained in fallout
bunkers. It was also suggested that playing card games and keeping
a diary would pass the time. One can only wonder what it would
be like to read a diary of someone hiding in a bunker and what
kind of thoughts they would have had.
In terms of cost, during the 1940's and 1950's
fallout bunkers built in basements could cost as little as $200.
Just how much protection those fallout bunkers provided was
a question no one provided a clear answer to and it seems very
few people ever asked. It's most likely no one wanted to know
the real answer. Of course for nuclear strikes at a distance,
the fallout bunkers did provide better protection than no protection.