Using a Newspaper To Protect Yourself Against an Atomic Blast

Here’s a lovely little period piece here. It’s a genuine Civil Defense film from 1951. I’m pretty sure that my mother told me she saw it when she was a kid in school. They stopped screening it sometime between then and when I reached grade school. I do remember that they still had sirens in my home town when I was a kid in the early 70s, and I think maybe they still tested them occasionally. Tracie says she remembers doing these drills when she was in grade school in southern California.

One has to wonder what exactly they thought that this film might accomplish. If you’re close enough to an atomic detonation that the windows break, flying glass is not going to be your biggest concern. Radiation was fairly well understood by 1951. I suppose there was also the notion that the casualty rate might be reduced somewhat if people were told to not stand around gawking at the mushroom cloud, but even so the complete negligence of the subject of fallout and the assertion that a newspaper is going to protect you seem rather absurd. My guess is that this film was largely an attempt to quell paranoia and panic by making people (kids in particular I suppose) believe that an atomic war was survivable. Sure, the Reds could drop atom bombs on us any time, day or night, even without warning, but hey, if you were properly prepared and knew to dive under your picnic blanket after you saw the flash, no sweat.

By adam

Go ahead, try to summarize yourself in a sentence or two.


  1. Adam,

    When I click through to see the film, my computer screen freezes up. This happened yesterday and today. Any idea why?

  2. My best guess is that you need to update whatever plug-in that site uses for playing video. It’s probably the Macromedia Flash plug-in, but I don’t know for sure.

  3. Other video seems to work OK so I just googled “duck and cover” and watched it that way. I don’t think I ever saw that specific movie, but I remember worrying about the bomb and taking can goods down in the basement since my parents didn’t seem to be doing things like that. I remember worrying more about the long time we would be in the basement which this video does not seem to address at all. Maybe Midwest movies emphasized basements since most people had them. One of our neighbors had a bomb shelter built in his yeard. I ws under the impression that he planned to shoot us if we tried to join him in it.

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