Living Hell - Volume #1, Issue #13


Special All Nukes Edition!


  o Introduction
  o Civil Defense
  o History
  o Selected Sources
  o Fallout
  o Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb
  o Cast of Characters
  o Credits
  o We'll Meet Again


Reporting from Kill Devil Hills, N.C., AKA "The Outer Banks," AKA
the place made famous by some guys named Wilbur and Orville Wright,
where a gusty, off-shore Nor'easter over the weekend made [last
weekend's] Saturday-overnight beach trip blow.  We're talkin' gusts
of 20 to 30 mph-- not knots-- which rendered sand-sitting a non-op-
tion, much less *any* shore-based activity attempted without a wet
suit.  (You could say the ocean-churning sight was... swell.  Sor-
ry.)  Cotton fields in full, snowy bloom at least added some scen-
ery both getting there and back.  As did the numerous volunteer
fire stations located oh-so-conveniently alongside the highway.
(Soap written on the back of one firefighter's personally owned ve-
hicle:  Buck Fin-Laden.  With the "B" and "F" underlined.)  Best-
est, tho, was Saturday afternoon's climbing of the Currituck Beach
lighthouse, all 214 leg rubber-turning steps of it.  Straight to
the top and, as it turned out, moments before the 158 foot parapet
was closed due to 35 mph-- not knots-- gusts.  (You must be over
eighty pounds to ride that ride, or so said the staff.)  Snapped
some pics, viewed some exhibits, and trawled the museum shop.  Yup,
you might say it blew, but it certainly didn't suck...

Civil Defense

Station #23 lofts, 3529 Hennepin Avenue South in Minneapolis, MN--
a quartet of townhouses converted from a 1906 fire station turned
Civil Defense office for the Twin Cities city.  'Tis the latter the
author remembers as an Uptown-exploring youth, during those longer
reconnaissance missions performed while hanging out at the Rainbow.
(As said building was a good six blocks-- long, *Minneapolis-style*
blocks-- from the family restaurant, foot-carried visits were in-
frequent.  Unless I was biking between the Rainbow and Grammie's,
whose house wasn't terribly far in the opposite direction.  Photo:
3750-front.jpg (61103 bytes))
Though the townhouses were completed almost a decade ago, and which
I've since seen during visiting drive-bys, 'tis the former fire sta-
tion's use as a Civil Defense office that I remember.  The blandly
interesting, white-painted facade, with three sets of second-story
windows over three arched apparatus exits; those impossibly high ceil-
ings on the first-floor that undoubtedly held horses 'n' "steamers"
in the old days and, in the late Seventies, housed a couple of Civil
Defense emergency vehicles.

(Picture of current building: Station23.jpg (27935 bytes))

I remember an enormous, armored car-shaped, GMC (?) rescue truck
that seemed fifty-feet high.  Believe it was red, with M.F.D. let-
tering; perhaps a retired rescue company.  Another of the quartered
units was a van, a step van, maybe mobile command post or medical-
rescue unit and painted in the tradition light blue-and-white Civil
Defense colors.  ('Twas a paint scheme common to federally funded
emergency vehicles in both the post-War and Cold War eras.  Example:
fg-cd-rescue.jpg (23299 bytes))  There may have been a third truck housed in the former
fire station, though, as I recall, the long apparatus floor was
also occupied by blackboards and other, non-vehicular items.  The
barely lit wooden floor was also whisper quiet; whatever Civil De-
fense employees worked upstairs and I don't recall encountering a
single person during the sundry poke-arounds where I'd wander among
the trucks, touching everything in propelled curiosity and hushed

Same for the back of the building, in the old station's old kitchen
used, by then, as a modest library.  'Twas there I first learned of
"Firehouse" magazine to my squealing glee.  (An even *more* excited
discovery of "Fire Apparatus Journal" occurred years late in a hob-
by shop in North Carolina.)  Alas, despite extensive present-day
Web searching, I don't know the dates that the former fire station
was active.  Station #23 Lofts has a home page, http://www.
landergroup.com/station23.shtml, but the station as operated by the
Minneapolis Fire Department doesn't.  In fact, the "Lake and Henne-
pin" area didn't get another fire station till Station #28 on W.
Lake Street was opened in the Nineties.  (Did find this bit o' text
in The Extra Alarm Association of the Twin Cities' book "Minneapo-
lis and St. Paul Fire Apparatus 2000 - A Millennium View," authors
Jack Mersereau and Ron Pearson:  "By the turn of the [century],
Minneapolis [encompassed] 54.5 square miles with a population of
202,718.  It's horse-drawn fire department [included] 19 Engine
companies with 18 companion Hose/Chemical companies, two Hose com-
panies, six Hook and Ladder companies, seven Chemical Engine compa-
nies, and one Water Tower housed in 24 stations."  (What is a "wa-
ter tower?"  Photo: 
mbc-water-tower.jpg (8272 bytes))

During those same years, before moving down south at age 14, that
curious, Cold War entity Civil Defense was also encountered as a
weekly-meeting cadet in the Civil Air Patrol, AKA United States
Auxiliary Air Force.  In between drill formations, phonetic alpha-
betic quizzes, aviation education, and search-and-rescue training,
we were taught the finer points of fallout particles, radiation
shielding, and Geiger counter use.  (And what more-modern, digital-
display device can possibly compete with the spine-tingling ticking
of those wonderfully menacing Geiger counters?)  Warning siren sig-
nals were also studied, those swelling, goosebump-inducing mechani-
cal screams all too common to severe weather-sensitive Midwestern-
ers.  Alarmist information was also resplendent in the various dis-
aster preparedness books that I devoured in elementary and junior
high school.  (No wonder, eh?, that the author was tormented by
"tornado dreams" as a kid.)  Thus, the late Seventies saw a deliri-
ous buffet of Cold War leftovers; Civil Defense initiatives born
back before Pearl Harbor, when the federal Office of Civilian De-
fense was formed and subsequently headed by New York Mayor Fiorello
La Guardia.  (Trivia:  fire protection at New York's La Guardia
airport, like all New York airports, is provided by the NY/NJ Port
Authority's *police department*.)

No, I don't have ready recollections of "duck and cover" shorts or
air-raid drills.  Those were before my time.  As was the construc-
tion and stocking of fallout shelters.  But the oft-spotted, trian-
gle-shaped Civil Defense logo (cd-logo.gif (9753 bytes)) is still spotted on the sundry
warning siren or vintage fire pumper.  (During the 1950's, federal
Civil Defense legislation was amended to provide 50/50 fund-matching
for fire and rescue equipment.)  In fact, just this summer, at the
Firehouse Fire and Emergency Services Expo in Baltimore, during the
Sunday morning "firematic flea market," a Civil Defense warning siren
control box was for sale.  And, as I've since discovered, similar mem-
orabilia is consistently available on ebay, such as the once-ubiqui-
tous fallout shelter sign.  Remember those?  Yellow over black, a cir-
cle above three triangles?  Seen on countless public and private build-
ings, notably those with deeper basements?
(fallout.gif (6387 bytes))
And, in the wake of the events of September 11, one can't help but won-
der if we'll see such signs again.  Civil Defense for The New Millennium?
With cheesy PSAs narrated by pop singers instead of cartoon characters
like "Burt the Turtle?"  Britney Fox be-bopping through gas-mask instruc-
tion?  Or our worst, weapons of mass-destruction fears come to life with
signs stating "biological shelter?"  Let's hope not...


Here's a nationwide history of Civil Defense, as best I've pieced
together from fourteen days of Web searches and library browsing:

  o 1916, Council of National Defense directs Civil Defense
    program during World War I until 1918.

  o 1939, September 1, German invades Poland; World War II

  o 1941, May 20, Office of Civilian Defense (OCD) created.
    Director and New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia chal-
    lenges Americans to "give an hour a day for the U.S.A."

    Agency coordinates federal, state, and local defense pro-
    grams for protection of civilians during air raids and
    other wartime emergencies.  Efforts notably concentrated
    in all coastal cities and towns.

    Facilitates civilian participation in war programs.  Pro-
    vides instruction in first-aid administration, firefight-
    ing, aircraft-spotting, etc.

    (cd-emblems.gif (33779 bytes))

  o 1941, December 7, Pearl Harbor attacked.

  o 1943, June, OCD volunteers number over ten-million.

  o 1945, August 6, atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

  o 1945, August 9, atomic bomb dropped on Nagaskai.

  o 1945, August 14, Japan surrenders to United States and
    World War II ends.

  o 1947, National Security Resources Board (NSRB) assumes
    Civil Defense planning duties until 1949.

  o 1949, March 3, National Security Resources Board, Execu-
    tive Office of the President (EOP) assumes Civil Defense
    planning duties until 1950.

  o 1949, August 29, USSR explodes first atomic bomb.

  o 1950, July, NSRB publishes "U.S. Civil Defense."  Book
    proposes passage of CD legislation, establishment of CD
    administration outside NSRB, and appointment of CD admin-

  o 1951, January 12, Federal Civil Defense Administration
    (FCDA) created as part of Federal Civil Defense Act of

    Latter provides for bomb-proof shelters; medical treatment
    for mass casualties; control of massive fires and debris
    clearance; mass evacuation and dispersal of essential in-
    dustries; post-attack economic, financial, and industrial
    rehabilitation; and ensuring continuous operation of fed-
    eral government in event of attack on Washington, D.C.

    States retain basic responsibility for CD duties; FCDA
    assigned such tasks as publishing educational materials
    and forming interstate CD plans.  Civil defense classes
    become standard in public schools.  Students learn about
    radiation and basic survival techniques.  "Do you know
    exactly what your family would do if an attack came?"
    begins the typical lesson.

    Warning sirens installed in cities and towns.  For fami-
    lies not living within range of siren, National Emergency
    Alarm Repeaters (NEAR) planned-- devices plugged into or-
    dinary household outlets producing distinctive tone when
    activated by Civil Defense officials.

  o 1951, FCC develops CONELRAD system.  CONtrol of ELectronic
    RADation designed both to confuse radio direction-finding
    technology used by USSR and to disseminate information to
    citizen.  In event of nuclear attack, all radio stations
    in country broadcast alert and either cease broadcasting
    until emergency is over or begin broadcasting on one of
    two official frequencies, 640 AM or 1240 AM.

    (Hoping that all radio stations broadcasting the same in-
     formation at the same time and on the same two frequen-
     cies, enemy direction-finding equipment would be useless,
     making it harder for Russian bombers to target specific
     cities and landmarks.)

  o 1952, President Eisenhower authorizes first funding of
    interstate highway system, impressed by German autobahns
    and their capacity for military movement during World War

  o 1953, USSR tests first thermonuclear weapon.  Much-higher
    yield of the weapons necessitates changes in CD planning.
    Short-distance evacuations and modest "blast shelters" in
    cities are ineffective for protecting people.

    H-bombs also raise specter of radioactive fallout blan-
    keting large areas of country.  Previously, CD conceptu-
    alized as moving people out of target cities, with rest
    of country remaining unscathed.

    Advent of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) ne-
    cessitates further change, precluding evacuations due to
    drastically reduced early-warning times.

  o 1953, all AM radios produced after 1953 marked with tri-
    angles at 640 and 1240, to make finding CONELRAD frequen-
    cies easier.

  o 1954, FCDA initiates nationwide exercise Operation Alert,
    similar to fire drills and requiring citizens of "target
    areas" to take for fifteen minutes.  Even President Eis-
    enhower departs White House for tent city outside Wash-
    ington, DC.

    In later years, newspapers routinely publish next-day re-
    ports on the fictitious attacks, noting number of bombs
    dropped, cities hit, etc.

  o 1955, New York State makes failure to take cover during
    Operation Alert exercises punishable with fine up to $500
    and one year in jail.  Small protest subsequent staged in
    Manhattan's City Hall Park.  Similar protests staged dur-

  o 1956, Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 sets nationwide in-
    terstate design standards, increases overall length to
    41,000 miles, and creates official name "National System
    of Interstate and Defense Highways."

    Design standards include:  minimum of two lanes in each
    direction, 12 foot lane width, 10 foot paved shoulder on
    right, 4 foot paved shoulder on left, for speeds of 50 to
    70 miles per hour.

  o 1957, novel "On the Beach" portrays destruction of North-
    ern hemisphere by nuclear attack.

  o 1957, Federal Civil Defense Act amended to assign joint
    state and federal responsibility for CD.

  o 1957, October 4, USSR launches Sputnik.

  o 1958, July 1, Office of Defense and Civilian Mobilization
    (ODCM) assumes CD duties.

  o 1958, April 24, Federal Civil Defense Act amended to pro-
    vide federal matching funds (50/50) for personnel and ad-
    ministrative expenditures for civil defense preparedness.

  o 1958, August 26, Office of Defense and Civilian Mobiliza-
    tion (ODCM) re-designated Office of Civil and Defense Mo-
    bilization (OCDM).

  o 1960, May 3, group of young mothers draws hundred of pro-
    testers on day of Operation Alert.

  o 1961, October 18-29, Cuban Missile Crisis.

  o 1961, same group of young mothers draws 2,500 protestors
    on day of Operation Alert. Other protests take place in
    other states during year, including demonstrations by
    hundreds of college students at several East Coast cam-

  o 1961, July 20, Office of Civil Defense (OCD), part of the
    Department of Defense, assumes civil defense duties until

  o 1961, OCD initiates public fallout shelter program, to
    identify-- and stock with supplies-- buildings and under-
    ground areas to protect people from fallout particles of
    nuclear explosion.  Such areas are designated as "fallout

    Per-person provisions: 700 calories per day, one quart of
    water daily, various sanitation items, along with medical
    and radiation detection kits.

  o 1962, Operation Alert permanently canceled.

  o 1962, October 25, Defense Department report states "over
    112,000 fallout shelters provide possible protection for
    approximately 60 million civilians in U.S."

  o 1963, Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) replaces CONELRAD
    as official emergency notification method.

  o 1964, movie "Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop
    Worrying and Love the Bomb" released.

  o 1971, February 20, false EBS alert transmitted at 9:33 AM
    EST.  Many radio stations, including some key "primary
    stations" either ignore the alert or their employees
    don't know what to do.

    EBS subsequently "upgraded," with procedural changes and
    dual-tone alert signal to reduce false alarms.

  o 1972, May 5, Defensive Civil Preparedness Agency (DCPA),
    part of Defense Department, assumes civil defense duties
    until 1979.

  o Early 1970's, Civil Defense programs broadened to include
    peacetime preparedness as well as wartime disasters.

    Decade also sees emphasis on operational capabilities of
    all available CD assets, including warning systems, shel-
    ters, radiological detection instruments and trained per-
    sonnel, police and firefighting forces, doctors and hospi-
    tals, and emergency management.  Program is titled On-Site

    In the mid-1970's, contingency planning initiated to evac-
    uate cities and other high-risk populations during periods
    of severe crisis.

  o 1979, newly created Federal Emergency Management Agency
    (FEMA) assumes CD duties until end of Cold War.

  o 1989, November 9, Berlin Wall falls.

  o 1991, December 25, Soviet Union ceases to exist.

  o 1992, FEMA discontinues funding of fallout shelter identi-
    fication program.

  o 1994, November, EAS (Emergency Alert System) approved by
    FCC.  Using digital signaling, EAS enables sending, print-
    ing, and re-broadcasting on command of both alert messages
    and accompanying information.

  o 1997, January 1, EAS replaces EBS.

Selected Sources

 o "Annie's 'Be Prepared' Information Page: A Christian Per-
    spective about Y2K and Natural Disasters," <http://www.
    annieshomepage.com/bepreparedinformation.shtml>, 07OCT01

  o "Civil Defense," City of Fort Collins, <http://www.ci.
    fort-collins.co.us/oem/civildefense.php>, 07OCT01

  o Coleman, Penny, "Rosie the Riveter, Women Working on the
    Home Front in World War II" (juvenile), Crown Publishers,
    New York, 1995

  o Fleetwood, Richard A., "Civil Defense Now!  U.S. Civil
    Defense History," May 2001, <http://www.survivalring.org/
    us-cd-history.htm>, 07OCT01

  o Geerhart, Bill, Ed., "CONELRAD: All Things Atomic,"
    <http://www.conelrad.com/>, 07OCT01

  o Green, Eric, "The Civil Defense Museum," <http://members.
    home.net/cdmuseum/>, 07OCT01

  o Hubbard, Bryan, "Civil Defense: More than Duck and
    Cover," <http://www.military.com/Content/MoreContent1/
    ?file=cw_cd_story>, 07OCT01

  o Kallen, Stuart A., "The War at Home" (juvenile), Lucent
    Books, San Diego, 2000

  o L., Chloe, "Civil Defense in a Time of Fear," <http://
    webpages/>, 07OCT01

  o Plumbee, Chris, "A Brief History of CONELRAD," <http://
    64>, 07OCT01

  o "Chronology of San Francisco War Events," Museum of the
    City of San Francisco, <http://www.sfmuseum.org/1906/
    ww2.shtml>, 07OCT01

  o Weingroff, Richard F., "Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956:
    Creating the Interstate System,"  <http://www.tfhrc.gov/
    pubrds/summer96/p96su10.htm>, 07OCT01

  o Whiteman, Sylvia, "V is For Victory, The American Home
    Front during World War II" (juvenile), Lerner Publish-
    ing, Minneapolis, 1993


Memories of nuclear preparedness expectedly led to a library visit
and the subsequent skimming of the splendid "Hiroshima in America:
Fifty Years of Denial" by Robert Jay Lifton and Gregg Mitchell.
Published in 1995 by G.P. Putnam's Sons, the 454-page, all-text
text traces the *domestic* effects of the atomic bombings, both
mental and moral, and how those bombings came about.  (More than a
few pages probe President Truman and the psychology behind his de-
cisions.)  Though scarce on grisly, ground-zero detail, the exceed-
ingly well-referenced reader is still fascinatingly disturbing in
areas ranging from the rationale for choosing civilian over mili-
tary targets to Japan and the rest of the world's non-knowledge
about nuclear fallout and the deadly dangers therein.  Also ex-
plained are the feel-better U.S. estimates of "casualties spared"
and their later transformation into "lives saved."  And, for you
conspiracy theorists, tales of the government contaminating its
*own* soil, be they bomb making sites-turned-plutonium dumps or in-
tentional exposure of unsuspecting citizens.  Such as the residents
of a Massachusetts state school for boys and men considered men-
tally retarded given radioactive tracers in milk in the early
1950's...  Some eight-hundred pregnant women given radioactive iron
in the late 1940's, to observe the effects on fetal development...
Prisons in Oregon and Washington and the exposure of inmates' tes-
ticles to X-rays...  And that's not counting the estimated "250,000
to 300,000" servicemen also exposed in that era.  Yikes.

Pocket Alert Chart

OBEY these official

Civil Defense AIR RAID instructions

(immediate attack)

3 minute wailing siren
or short blasts

(attack over)

3 one-minute blasts
2 minutes silence between

Quickly but Calmly




Drop to floor. Get under bed or heavy table.

Go to prepared shelter. Turn off all appliances.


Drop to floor. Get under desk or workbench.

Obey Wardens. Go to assigned shelter.


Drop to floor out of line
of windows. Bury
face in arms.

Obey your teacher.
Go to assigned
shelter quietly.

in the OPEN

Drop to ground or dive for cover. Bury face
in arms.

Obey Wardens.
Go to nearest OK'd
building or shelter.


Drop to floor. Bury
face in arms.

Get out. Go to nearest OK'd building or shelter.

stay put until the all clear and obey instructions

Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb

The Cold War may be over, but Stanley Kubrick's DR. STRANGELOVE is
still damn funny.  The essential quotes, not necessarily in strict
chronological order:

  o "Now I've been to one world fair, a picnic, and a rodeo
     and that's the stupidest thing I've heard come over a
     set of earphones." (tj)

  o "I'm coming through fine, too, eh?" (mm)

  o "Well, boys, I reckon this is it-- nuclear combat toe-to-
     toe with the Rooskies." (tj)

  o "Well, then, as you say, we're both coming through fine."

  o "Shoot! A fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas
     with all that stuff." (tj)

  o "All right, you're sorrier than I am, but I am as sorry as
     well." (mm)

  o "Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously
     conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had
     to face?" (jr)

  o "I am as sorry as you are, Dmitri!" (mm)

  o "Well, if you'll excuse me saying so, sir, that would be,
     to my way of thinking, rather-- well, rather an odd way
     of looking at it." (lm)

  o "Don't say that you're the more sorry than I am, because
     I'm capable of being just as sorry as you are." (mm)

  o "Colonel, can you possibly imagine what is going to happen
     to you, your frame outlook way of life on everything,
     when they learn that you have obstructed a telephone call
     to the President of the United States?  Can you imagine?
     Shoot it off! Shoot, with the gun!  That's what the bul-
     lets are for you twit!" (lm)

  o "But if you don't get the President of the United States
     on that phone, you know what's gonna happen to you?"  [
     pause for answer ]  "You're gonna have to answer to the
     Coca-Cola company."  (bg)

  o "I don't think it's quite fair to condemn a whole program
     because of a single slip-up." (bt)

  o "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here!  This is the War
     Room!" (mm)

  o "He'll see the big board!" (bt, exasperated)

  o "Hi There," "Dear John" (bomb graffiti)

  o "Wohoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!" (tj)

  o "Mr. President, we must not allow a mine-shaft gap" (bt)

  o "Mein Fuhrer, I can walk! (ds)

Cast of Characters

  o Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, Peter Sellars (lm)

  o President Merkin Muffley, Peter Sellars (mm)

  o Dr. Strangelove, Peter Sellers (ds)

  o General "Buck" Turgidson, George C. Scott (bt)

  o Major T.J. "King" Kong, Slim Pickens (tj)

  o General  Jack D. Ripper, Sterling Hayden (jr)

  o Ambassador de Sadesky, Peter Bull

  o Colonial "Bat" Guano, Keenan Wynn (bg)


Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Produced by Stanley Kubrick

Screenplay by Peter George, Stanley Kubrick, and Terry Southern,
based on the novel "Red Alert" by Peter George

Cinematography by Gilbert Taylor

Production design by Ken Adams

Music by Laurie Johnson

We'll Meet Again

[ Music by Albert R. Parker, lyrics by Hugh Charles ]

We'll meet again,
Don't know where,
Don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day

Keep smilin' through,
Just like you always do,
Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away

So will you please say hello,
To the folks that I know?
Tell them I won't be long.
They'll be happy to know,
That as you saw me go,
I was singing this song

We'll meet again,
Don't know where,
Don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day

Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros




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