JF Ptak Science Books Post 2073 Series on Atomic and Nuclear Weapons
[Thanks to Eric Edelman of Retrocollage who put me on the trail of a bomb shelter for 5 million Manhattanites in the Kenneth D. Rose book, One Nation Underground, (NYU Press, 2001) in which the following thread was found. Incidentally, here's the RAND report on the Manhattan mega-shelter, to have been located 800' in bedrock--to date the deepest part of the NYC subway system is 191 St station, at 180'...]
I think that there may be some room to put together a gazetteer of depictions of American cities in imaginary destruction and nuclear desolation--as seen in newspapers. And perhaps just the front pages of newspapers. There is a lot of material for this in general, though the restriction of front page coverage might be a little difficult--if the imagery was left open to views of decimated cities that appeared in large circulation newspapers and magazines, there might be enough stuff for a gazetteer and alphabet.
Part of the great source for these images is FearSell, which seems to have been made into a $100 billion advertising industry, plus the stuff that it advertises. No longer is it just a "weather report" on the television, it is "Storm Center 4 with Super Doppler"; streaming radio isn't just for listening to local reports from different cities but a way to 'protect your family" int he event that the radio station you listen to is destroyed somehow. Fear as a packaging implement has worked its way into nearly everything, though I must say that I haven't seen any anti-fear protein FDR supplements for food enhancement (though there are plenty of ads for 'victory seeds" and pre-packaged long-term bomb shelter food and so on). Yet.
This was of course the time of the Great Fear, of nuclear Armageddon, of "going toe-to-toe with the Russkies" (General Buck Turgidson), the highest height of the Cold War, when personal underground bomb shelters (or at least plans for them) were becoming common and the escalation towards at least an accidental foul-up that could end the world was becoming a more distinct possibility. Duck-and-cover exercises in school on a weekly basis were weird and scary, especially the part where your wooden desk was going to save you from the eye-of-god fireball that was going to envelope your city. Those odd and rusting signs that have been scraped from buildings now for a few decades in the 1950's and 1960's were daily fear reminders of the threat from above.
There were also the not-subtle fear/training campaigns of the federal government, such as with Operation Alert, which "simulated attacks on major cities in the U.S. to see how city defenses and people might react to actually having to do something in the face of a nuclear exchange. The exercises were mostly futile and even obsolete, but they did manage to create a huge amount of fear. (Robert Moses, the great NYC-planner, noted that if even one subway car was derailed or had a problem that there would be massive consequences and failure, and that plans to evacuate any large city--even if there was a place to evacuate people to--was "like so much moonshine". (See the Rose book, page 27.) )
And the threat came to everyone--not just military targets:
But this practice of bombing populations-in-general was basically in place--at least from the air--almost since the beginning of modern flight, from about 1911 or so. There were plenty of conferences and protocols restricting the use of bombs dropped from planes on civilians, but then there was the debate about what was it exactly that defined the "civilian" population, and the arguments peeled themselves away in the face of common practice. Anyway, during the Cold War the bombs were so very gigantic that there was little home of rescuing the idea of what a "civilian population" meant, especially in the face of perhaps destroying most of the planet.
This first story ("Red Alert. What if an H-Bomb Hit L.A?") appeared in the Los Angeles Times 12 March 1961, and made no doubt for some very sobering contemporary wake-up-and-die reading. If you were living anywhere in the country at the time and had never seen a representation of your city in ruins, and you encountered such a story and images before coffee, you might remember that missing cup for the rest of your life. The dramatization and mapping was done by Harlan Kilby, and it portrayed the destruction of the city and millions of people in the event of detonation of a 10 megaton nuclear weapon--it gave the reader a vague notion of what city-eating looked like, the bomb 'flattening" everything in a 3-mile radius of its central zone and killing everything in 28 square miles. (A little earlier, in 1960, there appeared a work by Harrison Brown and James Real called Community of Fear, which was a sci-fi kill-'em-up that used a kill zone with a 25-mile radius.)
Since this appeared in a newspaper story--and a long story at that--it gave the exercise a real sense of urgency, to say nothing of the amount of fear that it generated. At least it didn't appear as the front page, as was the case with some other end-time scenarios, like these newspapers for Brooklyn and Buffalo and Grand Rapids (below).
Seems today like it might be a stretch for Grand Rapids and Buffalo to be bombed into oblivion by our arch-Cold Warriors, but there were more than enough delivery capabilities to make these cities into targets, so the possibility was definitely real.
This next graphic shows the difference in destructive capacity of an atomic bomb (small circle beneath an air-burst detonation) and a hydrogen bomb (the large circle showing area of total destruction, which in this case would be about 50 square miles) on the city of Chicago. this one did not appear ont he front page of a newspaper, but did appear in a sort-of "America's Magazine", though not on the cover. There are many other examples of this sort of imagery--perhaps I'll put together a gazetteer of mega-doom with images for them...
But don't worry, even if the Chicago and Brooklyn and New York and so on were destroyed, the U.S. Navy would survive, which would be either great or horrible if you were a sailor:]
In any event, this is a small start to the Nuclear Doomsday Gazetteer--enough of this for this morning.