Produced by Byron for the Office of Civil Defense, this 1955-vintage film illustrates some of the FACTS ABOUT FALLOUT from nuclear explosions. It was originally screened at community meetings and a pamphlet with the same name handed out. The film includes the infamous statement at the 7:15 mark that “3 feet of dirt” above your fallout shelter is all you need to survive. In an era before the hydrogen bomb, such a statement was not altogether ludicrous but once the H-bomb was a reality, death was all but certain. Still, for a brief time, assurances such as these spurred many Americans to construct shelters in their backyards and underneath their homes.

The film does concede that radiation can make a person sick and even kill them. The three best defenses as illustrated in the film are distance, mass, and time. In other words, get as far from the fallout as possible, which may mean going to the middle of a large building rather than near its outside; have concrete and other materials between you and fallout; and, allow for the fact that radioactive material loses its potency over time: e.g., two weeks after an explosion, it’s at 1/1000th of its initial strength. Fallout shelters are the best civil defense: the federal government has a program to ensure adequate fallout shelters for all.

In the United States, the sheer power of nuclear weapons and the perceived likelihood of such an attack, precipitated a greater response than had yet been required of civil defense. Civil defense, something previously considered an important and common sense step, also became divisive and controversial in the charged atmosphere of the Cold War. In 1950, the National Security Resources Board created a 162-page document outlining a model civil defense structure for the U.S. Called the “Blue Book” by civil defense professionals in reference to its solid blue cover, it was the template for legislation and organization that occurred over the next 40 years.

Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the Cold War civil defense effort was the educational effort made or promoted by the government. In Duck and Cover, Bert the Turtle advocated that children “duck and cover” when they “see the flash.” Booklets were also common place such as Survival Under Atomic Attack, Fallout Protection and Nuclear War Survival Skills. The transcribed radio program Stars for Defense combined hit music with civil defense advice. Public service announcements including children’s songs were created by government institutes and then distributed and released by radio stations to educate the public in case of nuclear attack.

The United States and Soviet Union/Russia nuclear stockpiles, in total number of nuclear bombs/warheads in existence throughout the Cold War and post-Cold War era. However total deployed US & “Russian” strategic weapons(ready for use) were far less than this, reaching a maximum of about 10,000 apiece in the 1980s.
The US President Kennedy(1961-63) launched an ambitious effort to install fallout shelters throughout the United States. These shelters would not protect against the blast and heat effects of nuclear weapons, but would provide some protection against the radiation effects that would last for weeks and even affect areas distant from a nuclear explosion. In order for most of these preparations to be effective, there had to be some degree of warning. In 1951, Control of Electromagnetic Radiation was established. Under the system, a few primary stations would be alerted of an emergency and would broadcast an alert. All broadcast stations throughout the country would be constantly listening to an upstream station and repeat the message, thus passing it from station to station.

We encourage viewers to add comments and, especially, to provide additional information about our videos by adding a comment! See something interesting? Tell people what it is and what they can see by writing something for example like: “01:00:12:00 — President Roosevelt is seen meeting with Winston Churchill at the Quebec Conference.”

This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD and 2k. For more information visit m