Let's Face It
Narrated by Reed Hadley
Let's Face It - The Cold War and The Atomic Age
The video shows that many nuclear tests were conducted at the Nevada Test Site (NTS) to gain data that would help in Civil Defense preparedness. As part of Operation Cue, the video depicts many unidentified atmospheric tests fired to learn potential effects of detonations on citizens and cities and to test the effectiveness of Civil Defense organizations.
At the NTS, entire cities or "doomtowns," including houses containing furniture, appliances, food, and mannequins representing people, were built. Utility stations and automobiles were also located in the town. The houses were constructed with various exteriors. Inside each house was an array of instruments to gather the pertinent data on blast, heat and radiation effects. The majority of the houses were destroyed by the blasts. Industrial-type buildings and transportation structures, such as railways, bridges and freeways were also subjected to nuclear blasts.
The video shows military troops participating in Camp Desert Rock Exercises and witnessing the power and fury of an atomic blast. The underlying message given is that if citizens remain calm and "face it," they can survive the bomb."
United States civil defense refers to the use of civil defense in the history of the United States, which is the organized non-military effort to prepare Americans for military attack. Over the last twenty years, the term and practice of civil defense have fallen into disuse and have been replaced by emergency management and homeland security.
The new dimensions of nuclear war terrified the world and the American people. The sheer power of nuclear weapons and the increasing likelihood of such an attack on the United States necessitated 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. Despite a general agreement on the importance of civil defense, Congress never came close to meeting the budget requests of federal civil defense agencies. Throughout the Cold War, Civil defense was characterized by fits and starts. Indeed, the responsibilities were passed through a myriad of agencies, and specific programs were often boosted and scrapped.
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." Indeed, this was something kids drilled in school. Booklets were also common place such as Survival Under Atomic Attack, Fallout Protection and Nuclear War Survival Skills. To further spread the message, radio Public Service Accouncements including children's songs were created then released by radio stations to educate the public in case of nuclear attack. The transcribed radio program Stars for Defense combined hit music with civil defense advice.
At the dawn of the nuclear age, evacuation was opposed by the federal government. The Federal Civil Defense Administration produced a short movie called Our Cities Must Fight. It argued that in the event of a nuclear war, people need to stay in cities to help repair the infrastructure and man the recovering industries. "Nuclear radiation," it advised, "would only stay in the air a day or two." Despite this early opposition, evacuation plans were soon created. One city at the forefront of such efforts was Portland, Oregon. In 1955, their city government completed "Operation Greenlight"--a drill to evacuate the city center. Hospital patients were packed into semi-trucks, pedestrians were picked up by passing motorists, and the city's construction equipment and emergency vehicles were rushed out to "dispersal points." The entire city center was evacuated in 19 minutes. On December 8, 1957 CBS Television aired a dramatization of how a well prepared city might respond to an imminent nuclear attack. The show, A Day Called 'X', produced "in co-operation with the Federal Civil Defense Administration," was shot in Portland, using City officials and ordinary citizens instead of professional actors. It was narrated by Glenn Ford. Such plans were plausible in the early days of the Cold War, when an attack would have come from strategic bombers, which would have allowed a warning of many hours. The development of Intercontinental ballistic missiles made this goal less realistic, however. Despite that, civil defense officials still worked to prepare evacuation plans. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan announced the Crisis Relocation Plan. The White House suggested that the $10 billion, five-year program could allow the evacuation of targeted urban centers to rural "host areas" and thus save 80% of the population. The plan allowed up to three days for the evacuation to be completed, believing that a nuclear war would not come in a surprise attack but rather as the culmination of a crisis period of rising tensions.