Last week we covered the anniversary of the first H-Bomb test. This week we’ll continue the theme by exploring fall-out shelters! For me, nothing encapsulates the Cold War era like photos of bomb shelters. Bomb shelters, or fall-out shelters, existed to shelter people in the event of a nuclear attack. They were generally underground or enforced above ground structures that were built to withstand a nuclear blast. They were often stocked with enough food and water to allow occupants to remain in the shelter until the area was safe again (sometimes years). Fall-out shelters were popular in America after the publicized nuclear testing that took place in the 1940′s-1960′s.
Operation Doorstep played a huge role in bringing nuclear testing and the potential of nuclear attack into the American national consciousness. Operation Doorstep took place in March 1953 in a Nevada atomic proving ground not far from Las Vegas. The purpose of this operation was to determine the effects of a nuclear blast on a typical American home. This article from the Atlantic shows some amazing photos from the tests: When We Tested Nuclear Bombs
You may also want to check out this book from the Wells Library: Operation doorstep : AEC Atomic Proving Ground, Yucca Flat, Nevada, March 17, 1953
Popular Science did a piece on “7 of the Creepiest Cold War Fallout Shelters” including this one that instantly makes me feel claustrophobic:
Just to show that by 1960 the threat of nuclear war had made its way into American popular culture:
In the 1960′s, Indiana University was designated as the fall-out shelter for Monroe County in a national pilot program. The National Shelter Survey Program determined that multiple buildings in Bloomington (mostly on the IU campus) would be able to provide safe shelter to all 74,500 residents of Monroe County. The Report on Monroe County-University Fall-Out Shelter Program from the Indiana University Archives describes the shelters and mentions that all residents will be issued “survival biscuits” that “looks like a graham cracker and tastes something like an animal cracker”. I suggest you check out the report for more information on IU’s fall-out shelters.
As you might expect, the U.S. Government has a large collection of bomb shelter photos, specifically the National Archives and the Library of Congress. Click on the thumbnails to go to the record.