An entire generation has passed since the end of the Cold War. It was an era of jingoism and paranoia, and while there wasn’t actual conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union except through proxy, each side took the other very seriously. Even civilians were part of it, thanks to the indiscriminate killing potential of nuclear weapons. These vintage home front posters are from a time where America was ostensibly at peace, but was but a hair’s breadth away from total annihilation.
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The atomic age had brought with it the idea that anyone in the United States could be immolated within a matter of minutes of an attack from the Soviet Union. The United States had already been preparing civilians for air raid since World War 2, but after the USSR developed its own nuclear bomb in 1949, its preparation efforts went into overdrive.
Compared to some posters produced during World War 2, and certainly by today’s standards, a few of these posters are actually surprisingly fatalistic. It was actually assumed that some people would die in the event of an attack and the focus became more on flimsy attempts at damage control than anything else. It might be hard to imagine for many young people today to understand the mindset of people back then. Take a trip back in time and have a look at these:
Michael Barnes writes: With effort, Craig Denham heaves open the heavy metal door.
He heads down the steep, thick concrete steps that are set in solid limestone. He takes a sharp left into the darkness, then another, before revealing an astounding time capsule preserved from the height of the Atomic Age.
In the backyard of the creative director’s mid-century modern home in West Lake Hills is a 1961 fallout shelter in near-mint condition.
Two retractable cots hang from one wall in a cramped room that is illuminated by a single light bulb. Nearby is a crank for the air shaft; across the way are spigots for water stored in tanks.
In one corner is a low, odd-looking toilet sheltered behind a plastic shower curtain.
“Probably leads right into the aquifer,” Denham, 44, joked to the Austin American-Statesman before pointing out a disabled periscope near the stairwell. “Perfect for the zombie apocalypse if it comes.”
Lined on shelves of the shelter — built by a retired Air Force colonel who was also something of an inventor — are supplies and equipment for surviving a week or two underground. That was the length of time civil defense officials estimated — at least for public consumption — necessary for radioactive fallout from a nuclear bomb to clear away.
Among the most chilling artifacts: a Texas highway map posted on the wall. The shelter owner had carefully drawn cross hairs over San Antonio — where U.S. military forces were concentrated — along with what appear to be trajectories for fallout drift. (Oddly, the lines fan out to the southeast, defying the prevailing Texas winds.)
“He was privy to information the public wasn’t,” Denham says of Col. E.V. Robnett Jr., who died in 1984. “And even he built one in his backyard. There must have been real concern with people’s safety.”