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T I O   T
H W, D.C. ,
P  N W

David F. Kr ugler
© David F. Krugler, 2006.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any
manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief
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First published in 2006 by
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ISBN 1–4039–6554–4
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Krugler, David F., 1969–
This is only a test : how Washington, D.C. prepared for nuclear war / by
David Krugler.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 1–4039–6554–4 (alk. paper)
1. Civil defense—Washington (D.C.) 2. Nuclear warfare. I. Title.
UA928.5.W3K89 2006
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For Amy





Text of a radio announcement broadcast in

Washington, D.C., at 1:25 p.m.,
December 7, 1959. Eighteen years before,
the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had begun.

List of Abbreviations and Acronyms ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1
A Nuclear Weapons Primer 9
1 By the Bomb’s Imaginary Light 11
2 The Promise and Politics of Dispersal 27
3 The District Defends Itself 45
4 Downtown, Out of Town, or Underground? 59
5 Apathy and the Atom 77
6 The Eisenhower Way 97
7 Practice Makes Perfect 111
8 Capital Confusion 131
9 Land of the Blind 149
10 The Satchel Has Been Passed . . . 169
Postscript 183

Source Abbreviations 191

Notes 195
Index 239
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ACC Area Communications Circuit

AEC Atomic Energy Commission
CIA Central Intelligence Agency
CND Council of National Defense
Conad Continental Air Defense Command
Conelrad control of electromagnetic radiation
CRP Crisis Relocation Planning
DCD D.C. Office of Civil Defense
DEMA D.C. Emergency Management Agency
DEW Distant Early Warning Line
DRP District Response Plan
EAPs Emergency Action Papers
ExComm Executive Committee of the NSC
FBS Federal Buildings Services
FCC Federal Communications Commission
FCDA Federal Civil Defense Administration
FEMA Federal Emergency Management Agency
GSA General Services Administration
HEW Department of Health, Education and Welfare
ICBM intercontinental ballistic missile
IRBM intermediate range ballistic missile
JCS Joint Chiefs of Staff
JEEP Joint Emergency Evacuation Plan
MDW Military District of Washington
NAWAC National Warning Control System
NBS National Bureau of Standards
NCPC National Capital Planning Commission
NCRPC National Capital Regional Planning Council
NDAC National Damage Assessment Center
NEACP National Emergency Airborne Command Post
NSC National Security Council
NSRB National Security Resources Board
OCD Office of Civilian Defense
OCDM Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization
ODM Office of Defense Mobilization
OEP Office of Emergency Planning
x L  A  A

OPAL Operation Alert

OWI Office of War Information
PEF Presidential Emergency Facilities
PEOC Presidential Emergency Operations Center
RACES Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service
SAC Strategic Air Command
SIOP Single Integrated Operational Plan
SLBM submarine-launched ballistic missile
TVA Tennessee Valley Authority
WASP Washington Area Survival Plan
WHEP White House Emergency Plan
WHMO White House Military Office
WPA Works Progress Administration

I ’m grateful for the help of many people and institutions. For financial
support of my research, I thank the Eisenhower World Affairs Institute;
the Harry S. Truman Library Institute; the National Endowment for the
Humanities; the Organization of American Historians and the White House
Historical Association; and the University of Wisconsin, Platteville. My
research benefited greatly from the guidance of dozens of archivists and
librarians. I thank the staff of the National Archives, Washington, D.C., and
College Park, Md., especially Janis Wiggins, Marjorie Ciarlante, Wayne T. De
Cesar, Tab Lewis, and Judith Koucky; archivist Karen Fishman and curator
Barbara Wolanin, the Architect of the Capitol; Jackie Cohan, the City of
Alexandria Archives and Record Center; Barbara Constable, the Dwight D.
Eisenhower Presidential Library; Gail Rodgers McCormick, the Historical
Society of Washington, D.C.; Dorothy Barnes and Sabrina Baron, Historic
Takoma, Inc.; and Eileen McGuckian, the Peerless Rockville Collection.
I also thank the staff of the Fairfax City Regional Library (Va.), Georgetown
University Special Collections, George Washington University Special
Collections, Greenbelt Public Library (Md.), Harry S. Truman Presidential
Library, Library of Congress, Maryland State Archives, Montgomery County
(Md.) Archives, Montgomery County Historical Society, Moorland-
Spingarn Research Center at Howard University, National Security Archive,
and the Washingtoniana Division of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Library, Washington, D.C.
Numerous individuals generously responded to inquiries about sources
and records. They include Eduard Mark, Department of the Air Force; Alfred
Goldberg, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Historical Office; Cliff
Scroger, Department of Energy; Donald A. Ritchie, Senate Historical Office;
and Michael Warner, Central Intelligence Agency. I am indebted to the late
Floyd Paseman for introducing me to Dr. Warner. I appreciate the help of
both Christopher Bright, who shared sources with me and offered sugges-
tions for chapter 7, and Paul E. Ceruzzi, who provided me with a copy of his
paper on Tysons Corner. Special thanks to Alan Lessoff, of Illinois State
University, who invited me to present a paper at the 1st Biennial Urban
History Conference and whose incisive comments improved the book.
Albert LaFrance answered my questions about Mount Weather and
“phonevision”; his website “A Secret Landscape: The Cold War
Infrastructure of the Nation’s Capital Region” was an important resource as
xii A

well. Thanks to Mari Vice for fielding my queries concerning geology and to
Brian Peckham for sharing his historic map of Washington, D.C., with me.
This book is better thanks to the input of several readers. Joong-Jae Lee,
my colleague at the University of Wisconsin, Platteville, read drafts of the first
chapters, as did Frank Valadez and Don Litteau. Their insightful suggestions
helped me revise the book at a critical stage. Throughout the writing process,
the constructive criticism offered by Eric Pullin was invaluable; I’m especially
grateful for his help. Special thanks to Matthew Gilmore, who has supported
this project in several ways. In addition to reading chapters, Matthew guided
me to sources, first as a Reference Librarian at the Washingtoniana Division
and later as founder and coeditor of H-DC, the online discussion network on
Washington, D.C., history and culture. I also appreciate the photographs he
took for me of dozens of images in the Washington Star Photograph
Klaus Larres helped arrange my interview with General Andrew J.
Goodpaster. General Goodpaster, who passed away before the book appeared
in print, gave graciously of his time and answered many questions; his contri-
bution to this book is substantial. Thanks as well to Roemer McPhee for
answering questions about the Emergency Action Papers; and to Henry
Rapalus, for sharing documents and sitting for an interview about his civil
defense work during the 1950s.
Editor Brendan O’Malley enthusiastically supported this project from the
moment I approached Palgrave, and he provided excellent guidance during
the book’s early stages. History Editor Alessandra Bastagli expertly ushered
the book through its revisions and into production. Her recommendations
have resulted in a much-improved work, and I appreciate the extra time she
allowed me to complete the manuscript.
Family and friends have given support every step of the way. My sister
Katie and brother-in-law Mike Pospisil generously opened their home to me
during a research visit to the Truman Library. Steve Ryan answered questions
about martial law. For the weekly diversion of cards and conversation, I thank
Mark Sethne, Dennis Ciesielski, and Peter Hadorn. During the final month
of work on the book, Dan Kinney coaxed me out of the house for much-
needed breaks. The suggestions, encouragement, and love of my parents,
John and Dee Krugler, were of inestimable help. Teachers both, my parents
inspired me to follow their paths into education. My father is also a historian,
and his careful reading of the manuscript aided in revisions. I am most
indebted to Amy Lewis, who made Washington, D.C., my destination long
before it was a book idea; who gave me a proper introduction to Kierkegaard;
and whose unceasing encouragement and faith made these pages possible. It
is to her I dedicate this book.

What follows is a history of the future that never happened in

Washington, D.C.
Imagine . . . a summer weekday in the District of Columbia, 1948.
Perhaps June 22, graduation day at 13 of the city’s segregated public high
schools. Maybe June 28, when Ulysses S. Grant III addressed the D.C.
Society of American Military Engineers on “The Problem of Civil Defense
Today.” Or July 22, the day General Lucius Clay told President Harry S.
Truman he didn’t think the Soviets would go to war over their ongoing
blockade of Berlin.1 And on this day that never was, the Soviets prove
General Clay wrong. That afternoon, Soviet bombers arc across the sky and
detonate one atomic bomb above the Federal Triangle, on the north side of
the National Mall, and a second above the Pentagon, on the Virginia side of
the Potomac River. In this attack, the Soviets seek to kill federal workers,
members of Congress, and the President; level government buildings and
facilities; and destroy vital records and maps. More than 120 buildings
housing 140,000 federal workers fall within the bombs’ destructive range.
Some 60 buildings are wrecked or suffer structural damage. More than
66,000 government employees die, another 34,000 suffer injuries. The
detonations start fires fed by broken gas lines. Fortunately, Rock Creek Park
and the rail yards leading to Union Station act as firebreaks, as does the Mall.
Power-generating facilities sustain only superficial damage. But the stunning
strike has devastated the seat of government and gutted the city; the ability of
the nation to mobilize and fight back is severely limited.2
This attack never could have happened in 1948: not only was the Soviet
Union still a year away from testing its first atomic device, its Tu-4 bombers
lacked the range to reach Washington. The Joint Chiefs of Staff did imag-
ine this attack, however, in a paper entitled “Strategic Vulnerability of
Washington, D.C.,” finished on September 3, 1948. We might say the grim
scenario inaugurated Washington into the atomic age, for many more
imaginary atomic bombs rained down in the years to come. In November
1949, a 22 kiloton bomb “detonated” 1,800 feet above the city; on June 29,
1950, two bombs exploded, one near the Capitol, the other above 11th Street
SE, killing 80,000 residents and injuring 64,000; on December 12, 1952,
the targets were downtown Washington and the Pentagon; downtown again
on June 15, 1955; and on May 6, 1958, one-megaton bombs hit Andrews
Air Force Base and National Airport. Picture these fictional detonations as the
montage that ends the film Dr. Strangelove, a morbid ballet of nuclear
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explosions proving T.S. Eliot wrong.3 During the 1950s, such mock attacks
were an annual event in Washington, making it the most bombed city in the
Cold War American imagination.4

* * *

Washington’s status as the nation’s capital was the first reason. Note that the
Joint Chiefs totted up casualties for federal workers, not city residents;
among the former were senior administrative personnel, both military and
civilian, essential to mobilizing the nation’s population, resources, and econ-
omy for war. Also vulnerable to strategic attack were the Naval Gun Factory,
the National Bureau of Standards, and the Naval Research Laboratory, all
located within the District in 1948. These and other sites, most notably the
Pentagon, qualified Washington as the military’s nerve center. If it were par-
alyzed, could the rest of the body function? The potential annihilation of
government buildings, records, and personnel also threatened to cripple the
rest of the nation. Presumably, a Soviet first strike would also target key
industrial, agricultural, and financial centers—in a word, cities. Who would
revive industrial production, feed survivors, restore the economy? None of
this was possible without an intact federal government. To ensure the gov-
ernment could function after an attack (“continuity of government”), federal
officials had to continually envision the destruction of the nation’s capital.
Washington is more than the seat of government, however; it’s also a
major metropolis, and many of the imaginary bombings were intended to
prepare the city and its residents for atomic attack. These “war games” took
place in a city grappling with two decades of rapid growth. Between 1930
and 1950, the city’s population rose from approximately 487,000 to
802,000. Much of the increase resulted from the expansion of the federal
government as the nation fought a depression, then a world war. Like other
cities, Washington faced challenges such as traffic jams, slums, and haphazard
development. Racial discrimination was prevalent. Public schools, play-
grounds, and recreation areas were segregated; many trade unions restricted
membership to whites. After World War II, black Washingtonians and their
allies successfully redoubled ongoing campaigns to dismantle the structure of
second-class citizenship. The end of legally protected segregation, most
notably the integration of schools in 1954, spurred “white flight” to suburbs
in Virginia and Maryland. While Washington’s population began to shrink
and the city obtained a black majority, greater Washington continued to
grow. In 1948, the metropolitan area population was approaching 1.5 mil-
lion, but more than 80 percent of the region’s jobs were inside the District.5
Area planners and leaders recognized that solutions for postwar problems
required regional cooperation, a need complicated by the federal govern-
ment’s role as the capital area’s largest employer. The connections among the
federal government, the city of Washington, and the adjoining region
inevitably affected preparations for an atomic attack.
I 3

The governance of the District further complicated the relationship

between city and capital. Washington had neither a mayor nor a legislative
council. Since 1878, a three-person Board of Commissioners appointed by
the President had governed the city; this arrangement continued until 1967.
The commissioners wielded considerable power and presided over a stable of
city departments, from Public Health to Procurement, but even they were
beholden to Congress. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution grants
Congress the power to “exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatso-
ever” over the seat of government. Congress determined the city’s annual
budgets and enacted its laws, yet District residents couldn’t (and still can’t)
elect Representatives or Senators. The House and Senate’s Committees on
the District of Columbia oversaw the city’s governance, but parliamentary
rules allowed even a single member of Congress to block legislation affecting
the entire city. In 1948, the House’s District committee approved a bill
allowing residents to elect a city council, but Rep. Oren Harris (D-Ark.), an
opponent of “home rule,” arranged to have the bill tabled.6 Clearly the
Government of the District of Columbia could do little without Congressional
acquiescence; this included defensive preparations against an atomic attack.
Washington’s “political terrain” and symbolic importance further explain
its attraction as an imaginary bombing target. Throughout American history,
political leaders and groups have used Washington, as both city and capital,
to fulfill national goals, set an example, provide a prototype.7 Americans have
marched in Washington seeking women’s suffrage, veterans’ bonuses, and to
stop the Vietnam War.8 Southern members of Congress correctly recognized
that intense efforts to abolish slavery in the District signified a national strug-
gle, prompting them to redouble efforts to protect slavery in the border
states.9 During Reconstruction, Congress used the District as a “proving
ground” for national legislation.10 After World War II, the District’s racial
segregation tarnished America’s democratic ideals, and Presidents Truman
and Eisenhower both regarded desegregation of the District as a Cold War
necessity.11 Washington has also served as a model and laboratory for urban
planning and practices. After the Civil War, the city’s business elite tapped
Congressional interest in creating a world-class capital to modernize the
city’s infrastructure.12 In 1902, Washington became a showcase for the City
Beautiful movement through the McMillan Plan, which sought to create
“the capital of a new kind of America—clean, efficient, orderly and, above all,
powerful.” In 1926, Congress created the National Capital Park and
Planning Commission. Responsible for providing a coordinated plan for met-
ropolitan Washington, Commission members have also historically recog-
nized their responsibility to make the capital region “worthy of the nation.”13
In the 1930s, New Deal officials used Washington to devise national public
housing programs; postwar redevelopment and slum razing in Washington
was also supposed to serve as a national model.14
In light of this history as political terrain and potent symbol, it’s not
surprising that Washington served as a measure of national preparedness for
nuclear war. The city was among the first to have an Office of Civil Defense,
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which the commissioners hoped would serve as a model for other cities.
It did, though not as intended. In April 1959, Commissioner Robert E.
McLaughlin made the following statement to a Senate committee:

We on the Board of Commissioners feel very strongly that the District’s civil
defense should be the best in the country. Civil defense here should set the
example because what the Congress does both for its own civil defense organi-
zation as well as to safeguard the Capital will be watched by every city and state
in the nation. In a sense, Washington, D.C. is the key to civil defense in
However, we find ourselves far short of this ideal. Our legislation is out-
dated; a volunteer organization is practically non-existent; not all municipal
employees are adequately trained; and public interest in and support of civil
defense planning is apathetic.15

The second half of McLaughlin’s statement didn’t just apply to the District;
it also aptly described civil defense in every city in America. Washington both
demonstrated and symbolized the failure of civil defense.
Capital, city, symbol: I use these connected, often conflicting identities to
examine the four major ways in which Washington prepared for nuclear war
between 1945 and 1962: one, dispersal of “wartime essential”16 executive
agencies and employees to new buildings located 20 miles or more from
the center of Washington; two, civil defense programs in Washington and the
surrounding area; three, continuity of government programs, including
emergency plans, evacuation methods, and the construction or designation
of alternate government headquarters; and four, the staging of exercises to
test the readiness of the capital and the city. These preparations often fell
short, and the history that follows is, at many points, one of failures, false
starts, and unmet goals.
Consider dispersal. As conceived by urban planner Tracy Augur, dispersal
called for a sweeping reconfiguration of cities and their adjoining suburbs.
New communities, planned from the ground up, would surround existing
metropolises. Separated by undeveloped swaths several miles wide, these
“cluster cities” would steadily draw population and industry from the estab-
lished city, thus dispersing the target. While one atomic bomb could destroy
an entire city, it couldn’t wipe out all the cluster cities, making postwar recov-
ery and rebuilding easier. Advocates of dispersal also believed it could help
ease traffic jams, urban crowding, and pollution. As applied to Washington,
dispersal was more modest but still meant to serve as a national model.
During the Korean War, the Truman administration twice asked Congress for
$140 million to disperse 40,000 federal workers, based on Augur’s plans.
The war had drawn attention to the capital’s vulnerability, but Congress
rejected both dispersal bids—legislators were loathe to give the impression
they were “protecting” bureaucrats while American soldiers were fighting
and dying in Korea. Truman’s successor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, also
attempted dispersal, but the military resisted, as did most civilian wartime
I 5

essential agencies. By the time Eisenhower left office, only the Atomic
Energy Commission (AEC) had dispersed, to Germantown, Md. Another
wartime essential agency, the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), was in the
process of building new headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md.
Civil defense in Washington also met with failure. The watchwords of civil
defense were readiness, survival, and recovery. All three called for the recruit-
ment and training of volunteer corps of wardens, fire and police auxiliaries,
medical professionals, and engineers. The need for readiness led the Air Force
to establish the Ground Observer Corps, volunteers who watched the skies
for Soviet aircraft. To ensure survival, the Federal Civil Defense
Administration (FCDA) urged Americans to learn first aid. To help with
recovery, the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) prepared to
provide postattack communications, while pilots in the Civil Air Patrol prom-
ised to retrieve stockpiles of blood. In promoting these wide-ranging pro-
grams, the FCDA envisioned committed citizens joining forces with local
and state governments “to meet the unprecedented requirements of an
attack with modern weapons” while the federal government provided policy,
guidelines, and matching funds. Individual initiative, local action and
operations—these were the building blocks of Cold War civil defense.17
John Fondahl, director of the D.C. Office of Civil Defense (DCD),
embraced this approach when he started his job in the fall of 1950. He con-
fidently anticipated recruiting as many as 100,000 civil defense volunteers,
but Washingtonians, like virtually all Americans, ignored the exhortations to
protect themselves against atomic attack. For a time, DCD had wardens; for
a few years, it had a ground observer post. As a rule, however, civil defense
in Washington existed mostly in the DCD’s elaborate manuals, which
culminated in 1959 with the mammoth District of Columbia Survival
Plan. Several hundred pages in length, the plan provided, in grinding and
repetitive detail, intricate organizational charts for civil defense services
that had no volunteers and countless recommendations that few, if any,
Washingtonians read.18
Although continuity of government planners scored more accomplish-
ments than dispersal and civil defense officials, they also knew the sting of
failure. The National Security Resources Board (NSRB) first tackled the
challenge of preparing the federal government to function after a nuclear
attack. The NSRB was a planning body, however; it couldn’t execute its own
recommendations. In April 1952, it persuaded Truman to issue an order
requiring executive departments and agencies to prepare plans for their
operation during an emergency. The NSRB also compiled a list of possible
emergency relocation sites for executive agencies, but its work was only
preliminary. Under Eisenhower, continuity of government rapidly progressed.
Key civilian agencies and the office of the President acquired their own
underground relocation center at Mount Weather near Berryville, Va. Also
known as High Point, this facility anchored the so-called Federal Relocation
Arc, a string of more than 90 executive department or agency relocation
sites that stretched across North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio,
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Pennsylvania, and Maryland. (Only a few of these sites were underground;

most were in existing public buildings or college campuses.) In 1955,
Eisenhower prodded Congress to prepare for its own postattack functioning,
leading to the construction of a secret underground center in White Sulphur
Springs, W.Va. Eisenhower and his staff also put together the Emergency
Action Papers (EAPs) that outlined postattack presidential actions. Finally,
Eisenhower insisted on regular testing of the Arc. Known as Operation
Alerts, these annual drills often included public participation and the evacuation
of thousands of federal employees to their relocation sites. After years of exer-
cises, however, Eisenhower and many emergency planners wondered if the
federal government could adequately function from the Arc after a nuclear
Given these setbacks, is this even a history worth knowing? The dispersal that
never happened, the volunteers who never signed up, the Arc that never acti-
vated; above all, the nuclear war that never started—why are they important?
Let’s start with dispersal: so long as the yield and stockpiles of atomic
(fission) bombs remained small, dispersal offered some degree of protection.
But the arms race was underway even as dispersal advocates pressed their
case. In 1948, after espionage revealed that the United States was doing pre-
liminary work on fusion (the process that makes thermonuclear or hydrogen
bombs possible), Joseph Stalin ordered similar research begun in the Soviet
Union.19 Not long after the Soviet atomic test in 1949, Truman authorized
full-scale development of a hydrogen bomb.20 Even if the federal government
had dispersed the capital, a decade-long undertaking, the reconfiguration
would have offered little, if any, protection against hydrogen detonations.
Dispersal’s limits thus reveal a recurring Cold War problem: passive defensive
measures couldn’t keep pace with the weapons they faced. Dispersal is impor-
tant also because its prescriptions were so bold, in effect asking the nation’s
leaders and citizenry to accept the dismembering of their capital in order to
save it. This reasoning required people to believe the atomic age mandated
radical homeland change, but very few Americans wanted to live along such
“battle” lines. Likewise, most federal officials and employees didn’t want to
work in a dispersed seat of government. It was far easier to not think about
nuclear war, or to believe there were other options. Indeed, dispersal’s failure
spurred development of the Federal Relocation Arc, which became disper-
sal’s shadowy Doppelgänger. Finally, despite its overall failure, some elements
of dispersal later fulfilled themselves. The so-called new towns of Reston, Va.,
and Columbia, Md., resembled Augur’s cluster cities, while the AEC and
NBS campuses attracted research and high-tech companies to the area.
Like dispersal, continuity of government preparations were outstripped by
nuclear weapons. The radioactive fallout of hydrogen detonations would have
rendered useless most of the Arc, and the development of ballistic missiles made
evacuation from Washington impossible—probable warning times fell from
2 hours to 15 minutes. Even if the federal government had sufficient staff in the
Arc after an attack, the challenges were enormous. In addition to preserving, if
only in skeletal form, constitutional government, continuity programs sought to
I 7

support the military as it waged war against America’s attackers, to administer

national recovery, and to aid state and local governments. It would be easy to
dwell on these preparations’ unrealistic features, but that would deflect attention
from two important issues: how continuity planners grappled with the
weapons improvements taking place around them, and how their own under-
standings of what was possible in postattack America changed over time. The
impossibility of Washington’s evacuation, for example, led to the continuous
assignment of cadres of wartime essential workers at Mount Weather. In par-
ticular, Eisenhower intuited the nature of nuclear devastation and prodded
his planners to think realistically, to plan accordingly. Although the adminis-
tration’s “New Look,” which included the strategy of massive retaliation (the
threat to use nuclear weapons in order to achieve specific diplomatic or
military goals) might suggest a cavalier attitude toward nuclear weapons,
Eisenhower’s part in continuity planning cemented his conviction that the
best way to keep the peace was to maintain overwhelming military superiority,
so that the Soviets dared not attack.
Continuity preparations also merit attention because they aggregated
federal power within the executive branch, especially the President. In almost
every instance, plans, personnel, and facilities were devoted to executive
operations. While Congress and the Supreme Court showed scant interest in
preparing for an emergency, executive agencies like the NSRB and its succes-
sor, the Office of Defense Mobilization, oversaw a steady build-up of the
executive branch’s continuity infrastructure. In part this imbalance resulted
from the sheer size and responsibilities of the executive branch, including
the military, which had grown steadily during the first half of the twentieth
century. It also demonstrated an expectation that in postattack America, the
President would have to take extraordinary, even dictatorial, measures to
enable recovery and, paradoxically, to preserve constitutional governance.21
Eisenhower made this point more than once to his emergency planners,
though he always stressed the goal of restoring democratic rule as soon as
possible. Yet Congress’s relocation site wasn’t ready until 1962, while the
Supreme Court’s continuity plan consisted of little more than a contract
to use a North Carolina inn. Continuity planners dedicated themselves
to preserving constitutional government, but this fundamental imbalance
undermined that goal.
The failure of civil defense in Washington becomes important upon
comparison with continuity preparations. Although continuity planners
responded aggressively to weapons and delivery system changes, civil defense
leaders often appeared perplexed and uncertain. In particular, the FCDA
vacillated between recommending shelter and evacuation, frustrating state
and municipal civil defense officials. This indecision compounded Fondahl’s
difficulties because the executive branch expected the DCD to support
continuity programs. And when local failures threatened continuity, the federal
government stepped in, undercutting its own principles of individual initia-
tive and local responsibility. In 1956, for example, the FCDA began taking
control of the Washington area’s warning system because of weaknesses in
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the DCD, which was responsible for transmitting an attack signal. That the
federal government took special precautions for the capital is neither surprising
nor objectionable; however, civil defense across the nation suffered the same
shortcomings as did the DCD. The intervention thus exposed the flawed
premises of the national civil defense program.
Why, then, did federal and District leaders continually promote civil
defense? As many scholars have written, civil defense was supposed to ease
atomic age anxieties and to buttress support for peacetime militarization and
the containment of communism.22 Ironically, given the vast indifference
toward civil defense and consistently solid public support for Cold War
policies, it seems unlikely that the dissolution of civil defense programs, in the
District and across the nation, would have weakened the Cold War consensus.
(After all, few Americans mourned the passing of civil defense during the
1970s.) In Washington, however, civil defense had an additional purpose:
to show that the survival of the local population was just as important as
continuity of government.
Finally, I believe the history of these failures and false starts offers a
cautionary lesson. I know it’s easy to mock Cold War civil defense, easy to
laugh at the advice the DCD offered for people caught outside when an
atomic bomb detonated: “Cover yourself with anything at hand. Even a
newspaper will be helpful.”23 Before we laugh, however, maybe we should
take a long look at ourselves. In May 2005,, the Department of
Homeland Security’s website, had a picture suggesting that a person one city
block away from a nuclear detonation could escape harm by turning the
corner. “Consider if you can get out of the area,” read the caption. Remarked
a physicist for the Federation of American Scientists, “ treats a
nuclear weapon in this case as if it were a big truck bomb, which it’s not.
There’s no information in that would help your chances” of
surviving the blast of a nuclear bomb.24
By understanding why Washington, D.C.—as city, capital, and symbol—
failed to adequately prepare for nuclear war between 1945 and 1962, we can
perhaps do better for ourselves.
A N  W P

Nuclear weapons deliver tremendous destructive energy in three primary

forms: blast, heat, and radiation. Blast yields are measured by their equiva-
lency to TNT. The atomic bomb used against Nagasaki in 1945 had a yield
of approximately 21,000 tons (21 kilotons) of TNT. Within a one-mile
range, the blast leveled or greatly damaged all buildings save those with
reinforced concrete frames. The blast of a 300-kiloton bomb detonated
above the Pentagon would destroy almost every building within 1.3 miles.
And these are “small” bombs, so to speak. Hydrogen (also known as fusion
or thermonuclear) bombs are so powerful their yields are measured in
megatons. The first hydrogen device tested by the United States in November
1952 was equal to 10.4 million tons of TNT; its blast vaporized an entire
island. Nuclear blasts are instantly followed by ferocious heat, which takes the
form of a rapidly expanding fireball. The diameter of a 300-kiloton bomb’s
fireball would reach more than a mile and obtain a peak temperature of more
than 200 million degrees Fahrenheit. The fireball would engulf a city in
flames, which the blast would feed by scattering ignited debris and by break-
ing gas lines. The 15-kiloton atomic bomb used against Hiroshima generated
fires over a 4.4 square mile area; a 300-kiloton detonation above the
Pentagon would likely start fires within an area measuring as much as 65
square miles.1
The effects of radiation depend on the type of bomb and its point of
detonation. Airbursts, which maximize the bombs’ blast and heat, release
lethal doses of neutrons and gamma rays but their range is limited. The lethal
blast range of a one-megaton hydrogen bomb, for instance, would outstrip
the initial radiation.2 However, surface hydrogen detonations produce
another deadly form of radiation—fallout. Such detonations vaporize tens of
millions of tons of solids—earth, buildings, plant and animal life—and expel
them into the troposphere. (The fallout of the highest yield hydrogen bombs
will reach the stratosphere.) Carried by winds, this invisible, radioactive
fallout can travel hundreds of miles and take months to sift back to earth.
With medical care, a healthy adult could likely survive a dose of up to 450
rads (a unit of absorption), but fallout from surface hydrogen detonations
would measure in the thousands of rads. In the long term, survivors would
also succumb to cancers caused by radiation exposure.3
It’s important to bear in mind that nuclear weapons are only as effective as
their delivery systems. Although the United States successfully tested a hydro-
gen device in 1952, it didn’t have deliverable H-bombs until 1954. Likewise,
10 T I O  T

the Soviet Union tested an atomic device in August 1949, but even by 1953
it possessed less than 12 deliverable bombs. Throughout the 1950s, long-
range bombers were the primary delivery system. The Soviets lagged behind
the United States in the quality and deployment of strategic bombers. The
Tu-4, an inferior copy of the U.S. B-29, lacked the range to reach the
northeastern U.S. even on a one-way sortie. By 1953, the United States could
dispatch its fleet of 185 long-range B-36s to almost any target within the
Soviet Union, and its 575 medium-range bombers could reach targets from
bases in the Pacific and Europe. By contrast, the Soviet Union didn’t produce
a reliable bomber with intercontinental range, the Tu-95, until 1955.4
Both nations embarked on missile programs while they improved their
bombers. In 1957, the United States brought into service the N-69 Snark
cruise missile, which could travel 10,200 kilometers at an altitude of approx-
imately 12,000 meters. Five-megaton hydrogen warheads were installed
inside the Snarks’ nosecones. Although the Snark took 11 hours to travel its
full range, the United States could now launch unmanned warheads. The
Atlas, the first American intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), was oper-
ational in 1960. The first Soviet ICBM, the SS-6, was finished in August
1957, but only two were in service by 1960. Within two years, however, the
Soviets had produced 50 SS-7s, much-improved ICBMs. In addition to land-
based missiles, the United States and the Soviet Union armed submarines
with nuclear-tipped missiles. The United States had an operational submarine-
launched cruise missile by 1954, but it was phased out for the Polaris A-1 and
A-2 missiles, which carried 500- and 800-kiloton warheads, respectively, and
were operational by 1960 and 1961. The Soviets’ troubled submarine missile
program produced the inferior SS-N-4 missile, which wasn’t put into service
until October 1961.5 ICBMS and submarine-launched ballistic missiles
(SLBMs) brought drastically reduced warning times. The travel time for an
ICBM was about 30 minutes; by the time detection and warning transmis-
sion occurred, U.S. leaders would have had precious few minutes to act.6
SLBMs also greatly increased the challenge of detection. To spot a Soviet
bomber attack, the United States and Canada built the Distant Early
Warning (DEW) line inside the inhospitable Arctic Circle, stretching from
western Alaska to northeastern Canada. Ready by late 1957, the DEW line
was a remarkable engineering accomplishment, yet it couldn’t detect SLBMs
launched from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.7
Rapidly evolving weapons and delivery methods continually confounded
Washington’s civil defense, dispersal, and continuity of government planners.
In many ways, they found themselves thrown into a race in which they couldn’t
even place, let alone win.

B  B’ I L

On June 11, 1940, several thousand workers gathered at points along the
Potomac and Anacostia Rivers in or across from Washington, D.C.: the
Washington Navy Yard, Anacostia Naval Air Station, Washington National
Airport. Their job was to fortify the defenses of sites vital to national
security.1 The laborers were neither soldiers nor sailors—they drew modest
paychecks from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a New Deal
agency that hired the unemployed to work on public projects. In 1940, the
Great Depression lingered still, and most Americans were preoccupied with
jobs and bills, not national defense, even though war raged in Europe. Nazi
forces were about to march into Paris, and the Luftwaffe prepared to terror-
ize Britain. Americans weren’t ignorant of these events, but on the other side
of the Atlantic, the war seemed remote, unreal, contained. To the WPA
workers at National Airport, then under construction, the military defenses
they were building surely seemed misplaced. Hugging the shore of the
Potomac on the Virginia side, the airport’s landing strips were bounded by
marshes, willows, and a lagoon called Roaches Run. Pintails wintered there;
in the spring, ducks bobbed on its dark waters.2 It was difficult to imagine
war in such a tranquil setting, but cracks in the nation’s insularity were
already widening. President Franklin Roosevelt promised to keep the United
States out of war at the same time he bolstered the country’s preparedness.
In September, he successfully urged Congress to authorize the first peacetime
draft in American history, and defense spending rose dramatically.
National readiness had profound, yet mixed, effects on Washington’s
economy and racially divided population. The military build-up and the
federal government’s expanding tasks swiftly cut into the city’s unemployment
rate. In February 1941, a family services agency reported full employment
for all semiskilled workers. The federal government established job-training
programs, though most perpetuated entrenched racial divisions. At two
Washington high schools, night classes for young black men taught metal
work and carpentry; separate classes trained whites. Black women hired as
typists and stenographers often worked in segregated pools within federal
offices. In June 1941, the threat of A. Philip Randolph, president of
the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, to march as many as 100,000
African Americans in the capital resulted in an executive order banning racial
12 T I O  T

discrimination by the federal government and defense contractors, but many

unions and private employers throughout Washington ignored the mandate.3
Meanwhile the city swelled. Between April 1940 and the fall of 1941, the
District’s population grew from 663,000 to an estimated 750,000 or more;
each month, 5,000 newcomers arrived.4 U.S. entry into the war further
intensified the growth as the government demanded more and more work-
ers. Union Station became a domestic Ellis Island, receiving migrants from
across the nation. Young women came to Washington to work as typists,
stenographers, clerks; harried workers at a makeshift placement office near
Union Station handed out work assignments before many had even found
apartments. With housing at a premium, new arrivals took up residence
in the city’s boarding houses or clubs, where rooms could be acquired for
$35 a month. Usually occupants had to share rooms, even sleep in shifts.
One estimate placed the number of such boarding institutions between
1,600 and 2,000.5
Entry into the war created another problem for Washington—its defense.
The project at the airport now seemed prudent foresight rather than
New Deal busy work. Complacency about continental security had burned
in the black smoke rolling over Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941,
and Washington, as the nation’s capital, suddenly appeared to be an enticing,
vulnerable target.

C D   R

A civil defense program for Washington and the nation already existed, part
of Franklin Roosevelt’s national preparedness campaign. In May 1940, the
President resuscitated a World War I–era agency called the Council of
National Defense (CND). When the United States entered World War I
in April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson worried that millions of recent
immigrants wouldn’t support the war. The CND, along with the Committee
on Public Information, thus sought to disseminate ideals and aims that
might bind Americans together regardless of ethnicity or religion. Both
agencies embarked on campaigns to assimilate immigrants, promote patriot-
ism, and teach democratic principles and the prevailing shibboleths of
American history. This initiative wasn’t civil defense per se, but as an effort
to protect a confected identity and ideology, it mobilized civilians for defen-
sive purposes: German bombs didn’t menace the United States, but diversity
and dissent did. Chaired by Secretary of War Newton Baker, the CND
worked through a layered, cumbersome structure. One section coordinated
state action, another oversaw women’s activity. There were county as well as
community or local councils. By the war’s end, 120,000 local councils
were in place throughout the United States, along with women’s units in
80 percent of counties. Through a publication entitled the National School
Service, the CND issued guidelines on the conservation of food; at the local
level, neighborhood discussion groups and speakers discouraged doubts
about the war.6
B   B  ’ I L 13

Using the World War I authorization, Roosevelt urged state governors to

establish state and community defense councils. The new CND helped cities
with defense industries cope with housing shortages and overburdened
municipal services. It formed a national committee to study the effects of
incendiary bombs, its first civil defense initiative. Working with the War
Department’s Chemical Warfare Service, the CND also showed fire depart-
ments how to contain fires caused by bombings.7 On May 20, 1941, however,
Roosevelt created the Office of Civilian Defense (OCD), and the new agency
took over the CND’s defensive work. Roosevelt put New York City Mayor
Fiorello La Guardia in charge of the OCD, a choice that reflected the
President’s aim of keeping civil defense activity at the local level, with the
federal government serving in an advisory capacity. (To entice La Guardia to
accept the appointment, the President invited him to Cabinet meetings.)8
Under La Guardia, the OCD concentrated on providing councils with
information and training on shelters, air raid sirens, and firefighting. His
codirector had other interests. Eleanor Roosevelt, who joined the OCD in
September 1941, believed civil defense could be used not only to promote
health and fitness, but also to raise the standard of living for deprived civil-
ians. What good were fire trucks when so many Americans lived in homes
hardly worth saving; why stock first aid kits in shelters without also providing
regular medical care? In this sense, she was adapting the original purpose of
the CND—use war mobilization to deliver social reform. As she put it, civil
defense had to meet “human needs.” However, public gaffes in Washington
ruined her hopes.9
The OCD’s national headquarters were in the Dupont Circle Building, a
12-story brick and limestone structure set between Connecticut Avenue and
19th Street NW. Its roof was the site of lunchtime dancing for OCD staff,
organized by the First Lady, who also hired her friend Mayris Chaney to lead
a youth recreation program. Meanwhile another of Eleanor’s friends, screen
actor and prominent liberal Melvyn Douglas, had joined the OCD to oversee
a volunteer talent program. When news of these programs reached Capitol
Hill in early 1942, the OCD was in trouble. Visions of New Dealers and
Roosevelt cronies prancing on a rooftop infuriated conservatives in Congress.
Rep. Clare Hoffman, a pugnacious Republican from Michigan, suggested
that a “Bundles for Eleanor” movement be launched, a sarcastic reference to
the OCD’s employment of her friends. Though prickly, the criticism wasn’t
partisan: “From both the Republican and Democratic sides of the House
came assertions, bitter, sarcastic, acrimonious, that the country needed fewer
entertainers and more bombers.”10
The Chaney and Douglas activities didn’t accurately represent the scope of
the OCD, but the uproar forced it to concentrate on defensive measures. The
First Lady’s husband might have created the OCD, but Congress funded it.
At the same time, La Guardia’s lackadaisical attitude denied the agency
much-needed leadership. (La Guardia sometimes flew to Washington to attend
Cabinet meetings, then left without even visiting the OCD.) The President
replaced him with Harvard Law Dean James M. Landis. Landis immediately
14 T I O  T

made it clear that the OCD would provide firefighting equipment and train-
ing, recruit “spotters” to watch for enemy aircraft along the coasts, and
develop emergency rescue teams. He fired Chaney; Eleanor Roosevelt quietly
resigned in March 1942. Yet the OCD’s troubles continued. Despite his
efforts, Landis failed to integrate the agency into the federal bureaucracy or
to curry Congressional favor. The Bureau of the Budget blocked several of
his proposals; furthermore, a plan to set up a nationwide network of volun-
teers to help with salvage campaigns aroused the suspicion of Republicans,
who smelled an attempt to lace the country with New Deal partisans.
(Considering the use of the WPA to aid the campaigns of favored candidates
during the late 1930s, this concern wasn’t unfounded.)11
The OCD hoped to make civil defense in Washington a national model,
but this proved difficult. Poor planning hampered recruitment. Three thou-
sand residents answered a call for air raid wardens, but the District’s Civilian
Defense Committee wasn’t prepared for such a crowd. It simply conducted a
mass swearing-in and promised to mail identification cards to everyone.12
Roosevelt signed a law authorizing blackouts in the District, but tests
exposed a lack of compliance in unlikely places. After reminding his
colleagues of an upcoming blackout, Rep. Karl Mundt (R-S.Dak.) observed
that the House’s office buildings lacked dark curtains. Landis, much to his
embarrassment, once noticed lights burning in the OCD’s headquarters
during a test. The blackouts were of little use anyway, since the Mall and its
monuments provided excellent landmarks for pilots.13
After this halting start, the District implemented a modest civil defense
program. By May 1942, 55 warning sirens and horns were installed citywide.
Defense workers used sandbags, plywood, and corrugated metal to construct
shelters; basements and windowless corridors were cleared to provide addi-
tional protection. The Washington Star published instructions on how to
curtain windows, get to a shelter, extinguish fires. Women at American
University formed a fireguard brigade. The Board of Commissioners distrib-
uted 20,000 helmets and whistles to air raid wardens who surveyed their
neighborhoods during blackouts, checking for compliance. At night, drivers
covered their cars’ headlights with tape and the Park Service shut off the
Mall’s floodlights. Downtown, the Potomac Electric Power Company practiced
evacuations of its headquarters. Wardens directed coworkers and customers
to stairs and exits, while others hurried to stations equipped with hoses and
extinguishers. To protect the District’s water supply, the commissioners hired
230 guards.14
The OCD, intent on promoting national unity, established a race relations
division and actively recruited African Americans, especially in Washington.
Photographers for both the OCD and the Office of War Information (OWI),
which disseminated news and propaganda at home and abroad, diligently
searched for opportunities to record—and stage—black Washingtonians’ civil
defense activity. Dr. Charles Drew obligingly appeared in one picture. A promi-
nent African American surgeon, Drew taught at Howard University, and, in
1941, set up the nation’s first blood bank for the American Red Cross. As a
B   B  ’ I L 15

volunteer for the OCD’s Medical Corps, Drew posed with a young black
nurse during a first aid drill in Washington: the two blanketed an air raid
“victim,” also black, and trundled him into a waiting ambulance. For an
OWI photograph, nine black men of varying ages gathered around a base-
ment table. Standing in front of an American flag, two older men pointed to
a map outlining civil defense zones as their young comrades, white warden
helmets buckled on, watched intently. Most wore stylish suits and ties, even
though they were putatively engaged in an air raid drill. Such photographs
composed an image in which blacks enthusiastically answered the call to civilian
duty in the wartime capital.15
But how convincing could such propaganda appear to Ruth Powell,
Juanita Murrow, and Marianne Musgrave—three black women who were
arrested in January 1943 because they refused to pay a surcharge for hot
chocolate in a Pennsylvania Avenue store? After the women told the Howard
Law School and the local chapter of the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) about the incident, law student
William Raines proposed peaceful sit-ins: when denied service, black patrons
should quietly but firmly remain seated. In April, a dozen Howard students
and members of the NAACP gathered in front of the Little Palace restaurant
at 14th and U Streets NW. U Street was the commercial district of black
Washington, but the Little Palace’s white proprietor refused to serve blacks.
In groups of three, the men and women requested service. When the owner
responded by closing, the students picketed. “We Die Together, Why Can’t
We Eat Together?” read one sign. The campaign worked—the restaurant
dropped its discriminatory policy. Seventeen years before sit-ins swept the
nation, black Washingtonians used the tactic to strike at segregation in their
hometown, thus advancing the “Double V” campaign. Introduced in
February 1942 by the Pittsburgh Courier, a leading black newspaper, the
Double V called for victory over fascism abroad and racism at home.16
While the OCD worked to bolster Washington’s civil defense, national
treasures were quietly removed from the capital. The Declaration of
Independence and the Constitution were taken to Fort Knox. By May 1942,
the Library of Congress had moved 4,719 wooden crates of books, catalogs,
and manuscripts to college campuses in Virginia and Ohio. Washington and
Lee University in Lexington, Va., held more than half of this total. The
Smithsonian and other national museums carried out similar relocations of
rare books, scientific artifacts, and Americana. The National Gallery of Art
trucked its most valuable paintings to secure sites.17
The war also brought alterations to the White House. To accommodate
added wartime staff, the East Wing was constructed and a bomb shelter was
installed beneath it. Composed of several rooms fortified with concrete as thick
as nine feet in places, the shelter had its own power generator and blast doors
designed to withstand 500-pound high explosives. Because the shelter lacked
an elevator and a ramp, Roosevelt had to be carried down the stairs for his only
visit to the space.18 Meanwhile, the Secret Service set up machine gun nests on
the roofs of the East and West Terraces of the White House and issued gas
16 T I O  T

masks to staff. At Fort Belvoir, 18 miles south of Washington, 250 enlisted

men and 4 officers were designated as rescue crews for the White House; their
equipment included a steam shovel and wrecking tools. Mike Reilly, the White
House’s supervising Secret Service agent, wasn’t too worried about air attacks,
though he observed, the “possibility of a flyer deliberately crashing his aircraft
loaded with explosives into an object also has to be considered.”19
Overcrowding, shortages, and the pell-mell pace of work quickly pushed
aside civil defense concerns in Washington. By January 1943, the OCD was
struggling to find volunteers. At the same time, the diminishing possibility of
attack prompted those who did volunteer to fritter away their time on non-
civil defense activities.20 To revive dwindling interest, the OCD held a
recruitment parade in July. A crowd gathered at Scott Circle to watch, but no
parade, however festive, could save civil defense in Washington. The OCD
was increasingly becoming a publicity agency, churning out pamphlets and
posters that most Americans ignored. As Allied victories mounted, even
OCD staff searched for things to do: a history of the agency was written
before the war ended.21 On May 2, 1945, new president Harry S. Truman—
Roosevelt had died on April 12—announced that the OCD would cease
operations effective June 30. A few days later, the commissioners ordered the
removal of shelter signs and the cessation of air raid signals.22 Like other
Americans, Washingtonians looked forward to winning the war against Japan
and the onset of peace and prosperity; civil defense, it seemed, belonged to
the past. Little did they know that victory over Japan would make civil
defense a durable part of the postwar future.
On August 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber took off from the Pacific
island of Tinian and flew toward Hiroshima, a southern Japanese city with
more than 300,000 residents. Mounted in the Enola Gay’s bomb bay was an
atomic bomb weighing almost 5 tons; it exploded approximately 2,000 feet
above Hiroshima with a force equal to 15,000 tons of TNT. But comparison
to conventional explosives is misleading. The blast and resulting fires
engulfed a 4.4 square mile area, with temperatures at ground zero surpassing
5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Together, the blast and heat instantaneously trans-
formed thousands of humans into charred, shrunken torsos; across the city,
shadows of people, fence poles, and even tree leaves burned onto pavement
and walls. Miles from the detonation, wood structures erupted into flames,
rails twisted off track beds. As many as 80,000 people died; by December
1945, the death toll reached 140,000 as survivors succumbed to burns, blast
injuries, and radiation sickness. Survivors recalled scenes of stupefying horror:
“People came fleeing from the nearby streets. One after another they were
almost unrecognizable. The skin was burned off some of them and was hang-
ing from their hands and from their chins; their faces were red and so swollen
that you could hardly tell where their eyes and mouths were.”23 High above,
the Enola Gay flew over its target, now sheathed beneath a gigantic mush-
room-shaped cloud. The crew felt the heat and struggled to comprehend the
maelstrom they saw. Said Commander Paul Tibbets, “Fellows, you have just
dropped the first atomic bomb in history.”24
B   B  ’ I L 17

Three days later, another B-29 dropped the second atomic bomb in
history. This bomb exploded over the city of Nagasaki and took the lives of
approximately 36,000, a death toll that also climbed steadily in the following
weeks. All told, both cities experienced death rates of 54 percent.25 On
August 14, Japan surrendered, and Americans celebrated with abandon.
Speculation about how atomic weapons would change the world was already
underway, but it was overshadowed by the war’s end.26 Celebrants took to
the streets of Washington. Firecrackers exploded, alcohol flowed freely, a
conga line formed in Lafayette Square, across from the White House.
Truman stepped out on the White House lawn and spoke briefly to a gathering
crowd. “This is the great day,” he said, “the day we have been looking for
since December 7, 1941.”27 And in the days to come, Washingtonians
eagerly looked forward to an easing of wartime hardships. Although new cars
and housing starts soon appeared, one wartime development remained in
Washington: an expanding military and national security establishment.

W   P

N S S
In 1940, the War and Navy Departments shared a problem with District
residents—crowding. The military’s lack of space wasn’t new, though; the
services had outgrown their shared headquarters by the early twentieth century.
Completed in 1888, the State, War, and Navy Building (also called the
Old Executive Office Building) was a granite structure with pitched mansard
roofs and carved marble fireplaces.28 The building seemed better suited to an
era when diplomats used hand-carved pens and naval vessels fired grapeshot.
By 1917, the building was too small for all three departments, resulting in
the construction on the Mall of “temporary” wartime buildings. Along
Constitution Avenue, stretching between 17th and 21st Streets, stood the
Munitions and Navy Buildings, comb-shaped, three-story structures of steel
and concrete. Both “tempos” still stood 25 years after they were built, and
World War II forced the construction of additional tempos. Clustered around
the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, these wood and stucco structures
consumed the Mall’s verdant lawns and were connected by two covered pas-
sageways spanning the pool. As if unworthy of names, mere letters identified
the buildings: W and N, J and K.
Yet the military needed more space. Even before the United States
entered the war, the Army’s Chief of Construction, Brigadier General
Brehon Somervell, wanted to end the wasted man-hours resulting from the
scattering of 24,000 War Department personnel to 17 different buildings.
Somervell envisioned a single headquarters capable of administering the
duties of the entire military, but this sensible goal faced stiff opposition.
Some brass feared centralization would erode their authority. Members of
Congress fretted over the cost, while others questioned the need for a huge
military headquarters in a nation seeking to avoid war. Though Roosevelt
supported Somervell, he balked at the proposed site next to Arlington
18 T I O  T

National Cemetery. The idea of the military’s headquarters and a veterans’

cemetery bordering one another unsettled the President, who also disliked
the five-sided design. Somervell moved the site farther south, away from
Arlington, but the blueprints remained unchanged. Without waiting for final
presidential approval, the headstrong general ordered contractors to begin
work as soon as Congress appropriated funds. On September 11, 1941,
bulldozers began grading the site. By the time someone told Roosevelt, a
month had passed.29
The Pentagon. The name came even before the structure’s trademark gray
limestone walls, each more than 900 feet long, rose from the flat plain
formerly known as Hell’s Bottoms, a hardscrabble neighborhood of small
houses, pawnshops, and garbage dumps—all of it razed. Finished in January
1943, “the world’s largest office building” (6.5 million square feet) actually
comprises five freestanding units, or rings, each five stories high. The walls
are so long that architects added parapets to offset the appearance of a droop-
ing roof, while spaced colonnades of square-sided pillars break the seemingly
endless rows of recessed windows. Paved roads divide the interconnected
rings, lettered A, B, C, D, and E, and a courtyard of several acres fills the cen-
ter. The Pentagon’s utilities could service a small city; indeed, the Pentagon
is a city, and in 1945, it was one that never slept—33,000 “Pentagonians”
worked round the clock in three shifts that year. Somervell told skeptics, “the
life of the building would be a hundred years unless it became obsolescent.”
He didn’t think this likely, but many did. Roosevelt himself had even
proposed, as an alternative to the pentagonal design, a gigantic windowless
structure that could be converted into a storage facility. After all, how much
work could the War Department possibly have once peace finally arrived?30
More than Roosevelt imagined. The war’s end in August 1945, and the
atomic bombs used against Japan, fundamentally altered America’s interna-
tional relations. The war itself, however, wasn’t cause alone for this change.
A catalyst was required, and it came in the form of mutual, postwar antago-
nisms between the world’s two superpowers. Although the United States had
joined with communist dictator Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union to defeat
Nazi Germany, this partnership, never trusting, perished with Hitler. While
the United States (and Britain) hoarded their atomic secrets, Stalin’s spies
stole as many as they could; when Germany surrendered, Truman temporarily
stopped shipments of military supplies to the Soviets; in 1945, Stalin signed
a declaration promising free elections in Eastern Europe, then ordered the
imposition of communist states in Poland and elsewhere. Assuming shared
governing control over Germany, the United States, Britain, France, and the
Soviet Union each occupied a zone, but soon only two halves really mattered:
the east, held by the Soviet Union, and the west, held by the other three
nations. East versus West, democracy versus dictatorship, capitalism versus
communism—these phrases described the conflict called the Cold War.
U.S. policymakers and the vast majority of the American people wanted to
contain communism because it menaced liberty and capitalism. Let there be
no doubt, communism was an enemy of liberty and capitalism, but American
B   B  ’ I L 19

academic, popular, and governmental interpretations of Russian history,

Soviet politics, and the writings of Marx and Lenin usually distilled a complex
ideology into a simplistic formula: communists worldwide were locked in an
unbending conspiracy to overthrow democracy and capitalism. Communism,
like any other set of ideas and institutions, was shaped by the society, culture,
and history of the people and places where it took root, resulting in often
profound differences and goals between communist states or movements.
The Viet Minh, who fought French colonial rule of Vietnam, were hardly
Moscow’s puppets, while the Sino-Soviet split of the 1950s revealed fissures
in the communist world.
For a long time in the West, determination of the role of the United States
in the Cold War’s origins hinged, creakily, on the validity of America’s anti-
communist policies and actions. A blame game preoccupied scholars, who
argued about who “started” the Cold War. More recently, historians have
asked if the United States responded primarily to its self-proclaimed need to
ensure global industrial and economic hegemony or to the real menace
the Soviet Union posed to democracy. I agree with Robert McMahon:
the answer, to both halves of the question, is yes. To protect democracy, as the
United States had just done in World War II, required a powerful industrial
base and strong economy, both the result of capitalism, itself rooted to
democracy. The Soviet Union’s aggressive postwar expansion in Europe
prodded U.S. policymakers to mix together democracy and capitalism so
thoroughly that clarification quickly becomes counterproductive. Furthermore,
calibration of the ratio between the preponderate influence on U.S.
policymakers—the Soviet menace or political economy—deflects attention
from the postwar fixation with national security.31
To safeguard democracy and capitalism, the national security state arose,
and the looming Pentagon provided both home and symbol. At its base level,
the national security state was an affiliated bureaucracy spread throughout
the federal government, a collection of civilian and military agencies res-
ponsible for defining and advancing a variety of U.S. domestic and global
interests during the Cold War. This bureaucracy commanded the largest
peacetime armed forces in the nation’s history, established domestic and
foreign intelligence and espionage operations, contracted research and
development projects, assembled an arsenal of nuclear weapons, and lobbied
Congress to dispense foreign aid and to approve international alliances.
Legislation passed in July 1947 erected a framework and provided legal
standing for the new national security state. Resulting from a wartime Army
initiative to bring the separate military services under a single command
structure, the National Security Act was years in the making, as the Navy,
fearing a loss of independence, resisted unification. As the War and Navy
Departments wrangled with one another, Congress held hearings and sorted
through a variety of proposals. The bill enacted drew upon the ideas of
Ferdinand Eberstadt, a businessman and friend of Secretary of the Navy
James Forrestal. Finished in October 1945, Eberstadt’s report not only
detailed administration of the armed services under a new Department of
20 T I O  T

Defense, it also outlined a National Security Council (NSC), a Central

Intelligence Agency (CIA), a National Security Resources Board (NSRB),
and a research and development agency. The new law created each of these
Worried the Soviet Union might attack the United States without
warning, the personnel of this “state within a state” cultivated a siege
mentality, an understanding that the nation had to be ready to wage war at a
moment’s notice.33 The CIA collected raw intelligence on Soviet military
capability; the NSC devised continental defense policies; the NSRB totted up
available supplies of vital materials. Signs of permanent readiness included a
peacetime draft, a warning network to detect aircraft, and development of
long-range bombers such as the B-47 and B-52. In the Pentagon basement,
the Air Force Command Post (nicknamed the “Hole”) stayed in contact with
duty officers at bases across the nation and world.34
Unceasing preparedness required cutting-edge technology and science,
resulting in extensive cooperation among the national security state, univer-
sities, and industry. At campuses and corporate laboratories across the nation,
federal contracts and funding supported a myriad of projects sharing a
common goal, the protection of American scientific and technological
superiority—it was this edge, after all, that had produced the atomic bomb.
The federal government annually funded between one-half and two-third of
the nation’s annual research expenditures during the early Cold War. The
government was also keenly interested in protecting the impressive industrial
base of the United States and ensuring access to vital resources worldwide.
As policymakers reminded one another, the United States couldn’t defeat the
Soviet Union without maintaining its unparalleled industrial capacity.35
The national security state had critics, especially during its early years, but
opposition was inconsistent and politically divided. To some conservatives,
the national security state was really a “warfare state,” poised to trample
liberty and limited government. The New Deal drew similar complaints, but
conservatives tangled themselves within a contradiction. If the New Deal was
leading the United States to communism, as some contended, then how
could they protest the containment of communism? Suspicious of a powerful
peacetime army, many Republicans nevertheless opposed civilian control of
atomic energy, fearing liberals would dictate atomic policy.36 On the Left,
Henry Wallace and his Progressive Party struggled unsuccessfully in 1948
to convince Americans that international cooperation provided an alternative
to lockstep anticommunism. Hammered from the Right and the mainstream
Left (including Truman), Wallace and his supporters faded fast.
Despite the appearance of unity, cracks did appear in the national security
state. Rivalries between agencies were common, and the military frequently
disdained civilian operations; disagreements produced conflicting policies.
The national security state was thus “complex and cumbersome, its parts
often battling each other, its President and other key players sometimes
baffled, its initiatives often flowing upward or sideways rather than down
from the top.”37 Special committees or working groups circumvented
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established agencies, while resistance to sharing resources resulted in overlap

and inefficiency.
Washington was the national security state’s nerve center. After World
War II, agencies new and old burrowed into the District, which still lacked
sufficient office space. The CIA took over an E Street building and Mall
tempos, where oppressive summer heat and pests made the unlucky
occupants miserable.38 The NSC and the NSRB moved into the Old Executive
Office Building. Although in 1941 the State Department had acquired a new
six-story building at 21st Street and Virginia Avenue NW, by 1950 it had
expanded into three nearby annexes. After working out of temporary offices,
in March 1947 the Atomic Energy Commission moved into a white marble
U-shaped building on Constitution Avenue, directly across from the
Navy and Munitions tempos.39 In the years to come, the national security
state’s need for space would result in an ambitious building program within
and near the District, further rooting the secretive bureaucracy in the
nation’s capital.

S  N C D

Civil defense, that forlorn child of World War II, found a new home in the
national security state. The welcome was lukewarm—civil defense still evoked
images of rooftop calisthenics and puffed-up wardens. But the devastation of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki added a nervous edge to laughter at civil defense’s
expense. How long would the United States enjoy a monopoly on atomic
weapons? Although civilian and military planners believed the Soviet Union
was years away from testing an atomic bomb, they wanted to prepare the
United States.40 The war had already proven the vulnerability of any home
front; now, humankind’s ability to split atoms added a frightening dimension.
However, difficult questions abounded: Should the military control civil
defense? Who would pay the costs? How much responsibility should states
and municipalities assume? What could be done to protect the home front?
Between 1945 and 1948, military officials, scientists, and scholars poked at
these problems, with few tangible results.
The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey produced one of the first postwar
reports treating civil defense. Formed in November 1944, the Survey
analyzed Allied air strikes, including the two atomic bombs. The resulting
report, released in June 1946, delivered a grinding account of the devastation
in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No detail seemed too small: in describing the
attack on Nagasaki, the report noted that only 3 of the city’s 115 streetcar
company employees survived, delaying trolley service for months. Blast
effects, secondary fires, survivors’ white blood cell counts, postattack morale,
first aid—these and countless other topics were covered. As the Survey’s staff
interviewed survivors and picked through rubble, taking photographs of
broken walls, denuded cityscapes, and flash-burned faces, their attention
shifted uneasily from what had happened to Japan to what might happen to
the United States: “The Survey’s investigators, as they proceeded about their
22 T I O  T

study, found an insistent question framing itself in their minds: ‘What if the
target for the bomb had been an American City?’ ” Their answer was grim.
An atomic bomb would level most buildings within a mile and a half range as
load-bearing brick walls collapsed, wood frame structures splintered, fires
raged. “And the people?” The Survey estimated cities such as New York
would suffer casualty rates comparable to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Yet the Survey expressed cautious optimism that the United States could
protect itself against atomic weapons, counseling: “in our planning for the
future, if we are realistic, we will prepare to minimize the destructiveness of such
attacks.” It recommended increased use of reinforced concrete in building con-
struction; reliance on tunnel shelters; dispersal of populations, medical centers,
and industrial plants; stockpiling of essential supplies and materials; and finally, a
national civilian defense program supplemented by fire, rescue, and repair units.41
United States News echoed these conventional proposals, explaining that
defenses against atomic attacks would resemble measures used against regular
explosives.42 Such assumptions contrasted sharply with the Survey’s own descrip-
tion of atomic destruction, and this tension soon became a recurring theme in
civil defense. Perhaps unwittingly, the Survey had pinpointed the root challenge
of atomic civil defense: civilians had to be scared, but not too much, otherwise
they might throw their hands up when asked to volunteer for civil defense.
The War Department also took interest in civil defense in 1946. The
Provost Marshal General’s office completed a modest study in April. It
stressed the need to protect the nation’s factories, utilities, and roads.43 In
August, the Strategic Plans Office recommended the establishment of a civil
defense program under the military’s direction.44 A few months later, Army
Chief of Staff Dwight D. Eisenhower created a Civil Defense Board, chaired
by Major General Harold R. Bull. The Bull Board heard the testimony of
more than 50 people with civil defense experience, including Fiorello La
Guardia and James Landis. Its report, “A Study of Civil Defense,” echoed the
Survey’s call for a national civil defense program and emergency rescue
teams. The Bull Board also suggested that underground sites could protect
key industrial plants. Most important, it declared self-help to be the founda-
tion of civil defense and advocated civilian control of the program, explaining
that the military services already had enough responsibilities.45
Ansley Coale, secretary of the Social Science Research Council’s
Committee on Atomic Energy, agreed the nation needed a comprehensive
civil defense program. He recommended the dispersal of industry and pro-
tection of communication networks within the United States. Coale supported
international control of atomic weapons, contending that U.N. oversight,
coupled with civil defense, offered the best odds in preventing war. The
scientist also noted the vulnerability of the nation’s capital: “a single attack
upon Washington might be able to destroy the organization needed to direct
the nation at war.” He urged the move of vital government agencies out of
Washington, duplication of important records, and determination of lines of
succession for government officials. Coale was thus among the first to
propose readying Washington for an atomic attack.46
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However, West Point graduate and Army Corps of Engineer Lt. Colonel
David B. Parker bluntly questioned the feasibility of protecting the capital.
After imagining three atomic bombs detonating above the Federal Triangle,
Pentagon, and Naval Gun Factory (previously called the Washington Navy
Yard), he wrote, “if you are a Washingtonian and you want to be sure to
survive a forthcoming attack, your best plan is to buy a one-way ticket to
the West Coast.” Another article he wrote summed up its main point in the
title: “2 Bombs in Rivers—All Washington Dies.” Scientist Ralph E. Lapp
authored a similar scenario. Lapp, subtler but no less grim than Parker, put
his detonation point above the Potomac. He surmised that not only would
the Pentagon be completely destroyed, but so would the Departments of
State, Agriculture, and Treasury.47
Clearly, interest in civil defense and the protection of the capital was
growing, but it remained inchoate and contradictory. Civilians had to appreciate
the destructive power of atomic weapons, yet also believe they could survive
an attack on their hometowns. Factories might have to be moved under-
ground, but there were no workable ideas on carrying out this relocation.
Civilian control of civil defense was best, although the programs still required
militaristic structure and guidance. The nation’s capital needed protection,
but was its defense even possible? Without resolute guidance, the stirrings of
interest in civil defense meant little. Just as important, civil defense needed a
dedicated advocate.
James Forrestal was happy to oblige. A former Wall Street bond salesman,
Forrestal became the first secretary of defense in September 1947. During
World War II, Forrestal had served as undersecretary of the navy and dis-
tinguished himself as an able administrator, brilliant and far-sighted; one who
could delegate and still pore over the details. Posing for a photograph in 1944,
Forrestal exuded the confidence he carried with him to the Pentagon: in a dark
suit and tie, a handkerchief perfectly tucked inside the pocket, he cocked his
eyebrows beneath a stylishly combed widow’s peak and pressed his lips
together, offering a trace of smile, at once charming and intense, like the man.
Forrestal’s social grace, his talent at stroking the egos of powerful persons, was
admired throughout Washington, and if he was impatient with the incompetent
and the obtuse, it was only because he held himself to high standards.48
Forrestal’s deep-set suspicions about the Soviet Union led to his interest
in civil defense. Although he had little reason to doubt the President’s
anticommunism, Forrestal worried that Truman didn’t care about civil
defense. He was right. In the 1946 elections, Republicans had wrested con-
trol of Congress, and the new majority promised to slash budgets and trim
the federal bureaucracy—hardly propitious circumstances to unveil a costly
government program. Meanwhile Soviet expansion in Eastern Europe and
communist movements in Greece and Turkey preoccupied the President,
resulting in military and economic aid packages that Congress approved only
after lengthy debate. More to the point, in 1947 Truman didn’t believe war
with the Soviet Union was imminent, and he worried that an ambitious civil
defense program would needlessly alarm the American public.49
24 T I O  T

To prod Truman, in February 1948 Forrestal publicly released the Bull

Board report. He also announced the creation of the Office of Civil Defense
Planning and asked Russell J. Hopley, president of the Northwestern
Bell Telephone Company, to serve as director.50 By November, Hopley and
his staff, which included military, business, medical, and public works profes-
sionals, finished a 300-page study entitled “Civil Defense for National
Security.” Dubbing civil defense the “missing link” in national security,
the report proposed an Office of Civil Defense answering to the President
or, preferably, the secretary of defense. Addressing a problem overlooked
by previous studies, the report sketched out a legislative template for civil
defense and emphasized the importance of state and municipal programs,
which would follow guidelines established by the national office. Like
matrioshka, hollow Russian dolls, the levels replicated one another, descend-
ing in size as they stretched from Washington across states, counties, cities,
towns. The federal director had deputies in fields such as Radiological
Defense, Communications, and Medical and Health Services; so did the state
and local directors. Although Hopley suggested existing bodies such as police
forces could carry out certain tasks, for the most part he envisioned a vast,
layered bureaucracy.51
Yet the report lacked depth. Forrestal had asked for a national civil defense
plan; Hopley gave him charts for an agency and suggested it devise the plan.
True, the Hopley report indicated exactly what that plan needed, but listing
tasks and staff positions was easy. To state that questions such as “What to do
about bomb shelters” needed to be addressed wasn’t the same as providing
answers. The hefty study met with doubt and disdain as it thumped down on
desks throughout Washington. Secretary of Commerce Charles Sawyer won-
dered whether it was wise for a democracy to embed civil defense within
the federal government, noting that the report mostly ignored the role of
non-governmental organizations. The Federal Works Agency rejected the
Hopley report outright. Although the Army endorsed the report, the Air
Force wanted the Office of Civil Defense to report directly to the President.52
For all their hard work, Hopley and his staff had failed. Civil defense
still sounded like a high school forensics question: Should the federal
government sponsor a civil defense program? Yes, answered denizens of the
national security state, but no one wanted to do anything about it. Soon even
Forrestal’s support didn’t matter. Truman asked him to resign, and, after
grudgingly stepping down in March 1949, Forrestal suffered a mental break-
down. Afflicted by paranoia, he committed suicide in May, throwing himself
from a window of a Bethesda (Md.) hospital.53

W    “W S”

Meanwhile security for the nation’s capital attracted attention. Sen. Alexander
Wiley (R-Wisc.) raised the issue in May 1947, when he decried the concen-
tration of federal offices in the District. Wiley wanted to start moving some
offices to other parts of the country, a process dubbed “decentralization.”
B   B  ’ I L 25

Budget Director Frederick J. Lawton resisted, contending that a shortage of

office space was a national problem and that all cities would be targets.54
Wiley didn’t give up. In February 1948, he published an article that
began, ala Orson Welles, with a fictitious broadcast: “Comrade Americans,
attention! . . . Political commissars have now taken charge of each of the
48 States and of your National Government, which has been temporarily
relocated in Kansas. This relocation is necessary because of the atomic radiation
which still prevails in your former Capital, which now lies in dust, its inhabi-
tants exterminated.” In this article, on the Senate floor, and on NBC radio,
Wiley reiterated the need for decentralization.55
If Lawton wasn’t listening, Arthur M. Hill was. In September 1947,
Hill came to Washington to serve as the first chairman of the NSRB. Head of
the Greyhound Bus Company, Hill looked every bit the senior business
executive: square-jawed, round glasses perched atop a broad nose, hair
fringed with gray. He was a Republican in a Democratic administration, but
he had overseen the Motor Bus Code Authority of Franklin Roosevelt’s
National Recovery Administration.56 As a businessman with government
experience, Hill seemed the ideal chairman for the NSRB, which advised the
President on coordinating the mobilization of industry and the military for
war. However, the NSRB lacked the power to coerce government agencies or
companies to abide by its proposals concerning stockpiling, production
capacity, materials allocation, and plant location and security.
Oblivious to these limits, Hill believed the Board’s charter authorized him
to undertake the preparation of Washington for atomic war.57 How could the
NSRB mobilize a wartime economy if atomic bombs reduced the nation’s
capital to radioactive rubble, as Wiley imagined? A brief war scare in
Washington intensified Hill’s concern. In late February 1948, the Soviet
Union forced Czechoslovakia’s president Eduard Benes to step down, open-
ing the door to a communist takeover. On March 10, Czech foreign minister
Jan Masaryk, a noncommunist and renowned political figure, fell from his
apartment window in Prague. Few in the United States believed his death
was a suicide, for the Soviet-sponsored Communist Information Bureau
(Cominform) had recently given orders to neutralize political opposition in
Eastern Europe. Just five days earlier, the U.S. military governor in Germany,
General Lucius Clay, had expressed his fear that the Soviets were preparing a
surprise attack against the French, British, and American zones of occupation.58
Like many, Hill wondered if war was imminent.
He first asked the President to seek Congressional authorization for the
NSRB to set wage and price controls and to allocate industrial resources.59
The request showed either admirable or deplorable ignorance of the political cli-
mate. Asking for the reintroduction of unpopular wartime measures six months
before the presidential election would hardly be savvy, especially since pundits
were already sharpening their pencils to write Truman’s political obituary. Hill
was ignored. Undaunted, he turned his attention to Washington itself.
In April, Hill formed an interdepartmental panel to study the capital’s
security, saying he wanted to prepare “for the location of future Government
26 T I O  T

buildings in and about Washington, D.C. which will provide greater security
against possible atomic attack.”60 The Department of Defense, the Bureau of
the Budget, the Federal Works Agency, and the NSRB dominated the panel,
which faced a formidable task. In 1948, more than 800,000 people lived in
the District, and the metropolitan population numbered more than 1.25 million.
The executive branch alone employed 206,110 persons, of whom 135,000
worked on or near the Mall.61 During the week, these civil servants filled the
Federal Triangle’s buildings, the tempos, and scores of other government
offices. Rush hour traffic clogged the District’s avenues and the precious few
bridges spanning the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. If war came, would the
federal government still be able to function in the District? One prediction
heightened the question’s ominous tone: “Any attack made on Washington
is likely to be a surprise attack initiated with the utmost secrecy and aimed at
destroying the operations of the federal government at the beginning of
hostilities. It cannot be assumed that there will be any warning whatsoever”
(emphasis in original).62

T P  P 


Augur: To prognosticate from signs or omens; to divine, forbode, anticipate.

Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “Augur”

I magine . . . a city with several hundred thousand residents, a regional

center of industry and commerce. It might be Milwaukee or Pittsburgh,
cities that grew rapidly during the nineteenth century as the nation industri-
alized, as factories and rail yards filled urban centers, as immigrants crowded
into stifling tenements. Surround this city with residential suburbs and put in
it a bustling downtown: granite-sheathed banks, theaters, towering office
buildings, department stores straddling whole blocks. Now draw a wide
circle through the farm fields and undeveloped land ringing the suburbs.
Along the circle, at points four to five miles apart, build new, small commu-
nities, each with a maximum population of 50,000. No more than two miles
wide, these “cluster” cities are self-contained, supplying their own electricity
and heat, yet are linked by highways, telephone lines, and railways. As the
cluster cities arise, the urban center steadily loses population, industry, and
investment; it doesn’t “die,” but instead yields to redevelopment, becoming
a cluster city itself.
This might seem the stuff of Cold War science fiction, but after World War II,
many urban and civil defense planners believed cluster cities, also called dis-
persal, should be the future of the American metropolis. These planners, like
the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, imagined atomic firestorms engulfing
American cities and advocated preventative measures such as dispersal. Just
one or two atomic bombs could level a concentrated metropolitan area, but
cluster cities would suffer far less devastation: enemy bombers could strike
some, but not all, key targets, allowing the unharmed cities to aid in recov-
ery. Hydrogen bombs, stockpiled weapons, and missiles eventually nullified
dispersal’s protective merits, but in the late 1940s, years of both unease and
optimism, when military planners still used a 20-kiloton atomic bomb as a
benchmark and the Soviet Union hadn’t yet assembled an atomic bomb,
dispersal seemed to offer realistic protection.1
Fear of atomic annihilation wasn’t the only source of interest in dispersal.
Many urban planners believed dispersal could spur slum clearance, diminish
28 T I O  T

industrial pollution, and produce parks. Not only would dispersal shield
America’s cities, it would save them from problems of their own making.
Consider the highways needed to link cluster cities. Detroit planner Donald
Monson and his wife Astrid, an economist, recommended that 100 yard
buffers of open land should flank each new highway, offering a firebreak and
clearance space for postattack detritus. They also proposed highways cut
through city centers in order to “greatly increase our present slum-clearance
and relocation programs.”2
Dispersal’s antecedents included Ebenezer Howard’s “Garden City,”
introduced in 1898, and pre–World War II industrial suburbanization. Like
the garden city, many postwar dispersal plans used concentric rings to plot
development, placing factories and industry on the outer ring and scattering
small population bases throughout natural, open space. In 1908, future
dispersal advocate Clarence S. Stein toured Bournville, England, a planned
community with garden city elements. Stein came away excited about the
concept. “Utopian dreams can be made realities, if only we go about it in a
practical, sane way,” he wrote his brother. Forty years later, Stein was an
accomplished community planner, architect, and dispersal advocate. Industrial
dispersal wasn’t new, either. By the mid-nineteenth century, suburbs with
factories ringed Boston; outside Pittsburgh, steel mills dominated the
community of Homestead; and south of Chicago, George Pullman built a
railroad car plant and model town for his workers.3
Among postwar dispersal advocates, few were as important as Tracy
Augur. Born in 1896, Augur graduated from Cornell University in 1917.
His age put him within the “Lost Generation,” but in outlook and tem-
perament, Augur was optimistic, even utopian, a liberal who believed firmly
in the government’s ability to provide better lives for its citizens. In 1933,
Augur took the position of chief town planner for the Tennessee Valley
Authority (TVA), one of the New Deal’s first programs. The TVA built
dams and locks across the South to stop flooding and to generate electrical
power. Outside of Knoxville, the TVA developed Norris, a federally owned
community offering curved streets, modern homes, and a town common.
A few years later, Augur served as a general adviser in the planning of
Greendale, Wisconsin, another federally developed town. Augur was also
consulted in the planning of the atomic research laboratory and campus at
Oak Ridge, Tenn.4
The TVA and Greendale showed Augur that entire communities could
be built from the ground up with federal help, while Oak Ridge reminded
him of the peril of atomic weapons. How could America’s cities protect
themselves? In August 1946, Augur answered that question in an address
to the American Institute of Planners. He hardly needed a introduction; he
had already served as the organization’s president. In a future war, said
Augur, an enemy would want to paralyze the United States by targeting cen-
ters of industrial production, corporate organization, and governmental admin-
istration. Dispersal not only made these targets less enticing, it also increased
the nation’s ability to carry out “quick and effective retribution.”5
T P  P  D 29

By 1948, Augur had refined his ideas. Today’s cities are obsolete, he
proclaimed, because they continued to expand on patterns set in the
nineteenth century, when rudimentary communications and reliance on rail-
roads required the concentration of industry and labor. Telephones, motor
vehicles, and broadcasting could link “clusters of well dispersed small cities,”
allowing the economy to function efficiently. By Augur’s reckoning, a city of
1 million broken into 20 cluster cities of 50,000 persons each and separated
by 4 to 5 miles of open land could avoid destruction. While one bomb could
inflict massive devastation on a typical city filling a circle with a 9 mile dia-
meter, it could score a direct hit on just 1 of the 5 cluster cities that fell within
that circle. (In Augur’s plan, the other 15 clusters would lie outside the
9 mile perimeter.) “A one in five chance of losing a city of 50,000 is not a
pleasant prospect,” he admitted, “but it is better than a one in one chance of
losing a larger portion of a bigger city.”
Augur used more than this morbid calculus to justify dispersal. Like the
Monsons, he believed dispersal would eliminate slums, reduce pollution, and
increase recreational opportunities. He also offered ideological reasons: “It is
not to be expected that people who are forced to live in slums will give
unquestioned allegiance to the system that keeps them there.” Although the
United States didn’t yet “offer a very fertile field for the breeding of serious
unrest,” further decay of America’s inner cities could push millions toward
“subversive ideas and actions,” that is, communism.6 Augur’s warning
echoed a justification offered for the newly inaugurated European Recovery
Program, which provided economic aid to Western Europe. When he pro-
posed the plan, Secretary of State George Marshall strongly hinted that
hunger and poverty in European cities nurtured communism.
In outlining cluster cities, Augur didn’t mention race, but it cast a long
shadow over dispersal. Chicago’s “Black Belt,” segregated public housing in
Detroit, white neighborhood associations in Washington, D.C.: race molded
life, work, and social activity in America’s cities. If dispersal actually happened,
would whites welcome blacks into the cluster communities? Ongoing settle-
ment of blacks in northern cities sharpened the question. During the “Great
Migration” of 1915–1918, some 500,000 black Southerners moved to
northern cities, but an even greater migration occurred during the 1940s and
1950s, when close to three million blacks left Dixie for the north.7
Much more than the specter of atomic annihilation, African American
migration concerned many residents of northern cities. Between 1940 and
1950, Detroit’s black population doubled. After the war, black residents
worked for a peaceful end to citywide housing discrimination, but whites
formed neighborhood organizations dedicated to excluding blacks from their
enclaves. A white resident expressed a popular sentiment when he wrote, in
1951, “I’d like to see the city sectioned off and have different races sectioned
off and each live in their own area. I hate to see a territory invaded, like by
colored.” Although class, religion, and ethnicity divided Detroit’s whites,
they found—and protected—common ground based upon their whiteness.8
In 1947, Cincinnati city planners drafted a master growth plan that blended
30 T I O  T

the principles of dispersal with the practice of segregation. Just like Augur’s
cluster cities, the Cincinnati master plan projected the growth of satellite
communities with populations of 20,000 to 40,000 people, separated by
buffers such as parks and industrial districts. The communities would share
governance and highways, yet each would be self-contained. Planners hoped
to transplant existing homogeneous neighborhoods to the new communities,
which meant racial divisions would also follow. Cincinnati’s plan “accepted
racial residential segregation as normal and something to be preserved.”9
Dispersal advocates also rarely identified cities that might serve as proto-
types. Perhaps they wanted to first obtain as many converts as possible, for if
the logic of dispersal was simple, the logistics weren’t. Breaking a city into clus-
ters required not only the cooperation of that city’s government, businesses,
and residents, but those of surrounding communities as well. However persua-
sive on paper, dispersal remained unproven in practice—would any American
city want to undertake a reconfiguration that couldn’t be easily reversed?
Ideally, the first cluster cities needed to arise around a city that fulfilled tasks
essential to the nation’s ability to wage war, so that the need for dispersal was
obvious. At the same time, this city needed to be a “one-company” town, for
if the most important employer moved to the periphery, then employees would
follow. And in case dispersal faced opposition, this city would ideally be ruled
by unelected officials who could impose drastic change upon the unwilling.
As Augur wrote, “the form and size and location of our cities is a matter of
national concern, to be set by the mandates of national welfare rather than the
whims of individual builders.”10 But America was a democracy built on the
bedrock of property rights. Where could anyone find such a city?
On the banks of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. Augur’s dispersal ideas
were just what Arthur Hill and the NSRB needed as they studied the capital’s
security against atomic attack. Unable to elect their own leaders, Washingtonians
couldn’t stop the Board of Commissioners, the president, and Congress from
moving government offices out of the District. Furthermore, dispersal of
the capital was a realistic first goal; the federal government could begin by
building office campuses, which would entice private developers to erect
homes nearby. Highways, utilities, and commercial districts would follow as
dispersal of Washington’s key industry, government, gained momentum.
Washington’s dispersal would then lay down a stepping stone for national
dispersal. If the future could happen in the nation’s city, then the govern-
ment would wield the moral authority to promote or even force dispersal
No one was more qualified to plan Washington’s dispersal than Augur.
In 1949, the Federal Works Agency hired him as an Urban Planning Officer,
and, acting under the authority of the NSRB, instructed him to find dispersed
sites for wartime essential government offices.11

P  P
Augur didn’t have to begin from scratch. On October 27, 1948, Arthur Hill
had submitted his panel’s report on Washington to the President. “Security
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for the Nation’s Capital” began by explaining, without a trace of whimsy,

why Washington had to remain the national capital. Moving the seat of
government was prohibitively expensive, such a shift “would be extremely
damaging to the morale of the people.” Furthermore, all U.S. cities were
possible targets, and Washington had continued to serve as the capital during
past wars. “[P]eace will continue for at least the next five or ten years” asserted
the report, but precautions were needed: the construction of underground
office space within the District for 5,000 essential government personnel, an
evacuation plan for executive agencies, and the selection of several “alterna-
tive locations for the seat of Government.” Drawing on the principles of dis-
persal, “Security for the Nation’s Capital” called for the scattering of new
federal offices at least five to ten miles from the city center. The report also
recommended the Mall tempos be razed and that the number of executive
branch employees working in the vicinity of the Mall be capped at 135,000.12
“Security for the Nation’s Capital” was a tidy, terse report—and deeply
flawed. The tally of 135,000 Mall-vicinity federal workers omitted employees
of the Judiciary (580), Congress (7,046), and the District Government
(approximately 18,000). Uniformed service personnel were also left out.13
The report’s title hinted at further exclusion. Security for the “Nation’s
Capital”: not Washington, not the District of Columbia, but the seat of
government. What were Washingtonians who didn’t work for the executive
branch supposed to do in case of an attack? By limiting the scope of planning,
security planners starkly separated the city from the capital. Vague recom-
mendations also plagued “Security for the Nation’s Capital.” To ask that
“each department and agency prepare a plan for its orderly evacuation from
Washington” invited confusion of the highest degree. Nearly 150,000 persons
would share limited routes out of the city; the odds of multiple “orderly”
evacuations weren’t good. Even if the evacuation worked, where was everyone
going? The report said the NSRB would draft plans for alternate seats of
government but gave no clues about where these sites might be located.
In order to resolve these problems, in November the NSRB issued a
corollary report entitled “Security for the Nation’s Capital—Emergency Plan.”
Assuming that “the increased tension in international affairs may result in
termination of peace at any time,” the report urged the Defense Department
to immediately select military units for dispersal, suggested the Federal Works
Agency find alternate locations for Congress, and asked the Bureau of the
Budget to determine which civilian agencies could be decentralized. The plan
also proposed the speedy construction of “underground structures with
necessary transportation and communication facilities.” Hill hoped this two-step
plan would complement the first report, but it only added to the confusion.
For example, “Security for the Nation’s Capital” had said Budget should
select civilian and military agencies to disperse, but the “Emergency Plan”
said Defense should oversee the military’s dispersal.14 Nevertheless Hill fired
off the “Emergency Plan” to Truman, who had fed some crow to political
prognosticators by beating Thomas Dewey in the election.
It was one of Hill’s last actions as chairman of the NSRB. Annoyed by his
impolitic ways, Truman forced Hill to resign in December and appointed his
32 T I O  T

trusted aide John R. Steelman, an Arkansan with a Ph.D. from the University
of North Carolina. For the last two years, Steelman had worked as a liaison
to Congress; legislators seeking favors from the President first had to see
Steelman. Unlike Hill, Steelman understood that the President wanted the
NSRB to limit itself to planning tasks without taking on their implementation.15
However, Hill’s work wasn’t all in vain. In January 1949, Steelman approved
the recommendations of “Security for the Nation’s Capital.”16 In light of the
report’s many flaws, which the “Emergency Plan” had only exacerbated,
this approval meant little, and NSRB staff knew it. Throughout January they
kept the secretarial pool busy typing up criticisms, especially about the
“Emergency Plan.” It “relates primarily to proposed planning activities
rather than to the results of planning,” wrote one staff member (emphasis in
Enter Tracy Augur. He first cut through the NSRB’s clutter, separating
long-term and short-term dispersal into two distinct planning threads. Augur
then decided to draft a plan to build rudimentary but serviceable office
structures at dispersed sites just over the District’s borders. Should war come,
reasoned Augur, the government could rapidly erect the buildings and
relocate essential personnel. Next he turned his attention to a long-term
dispersal blueprint that not only meshed with the short-term plan, but also
fulfilled his vision of creating cluster cities. Unlike the NSRB, he worked
closely with the National Capital Park and Planning Commission (hereafter
Park Commission). Since its authority included “preparing, developing and
maintaining a comprehensive, consistent and coordinated plan for the
National Capital and its environs,” the Park Commission obviously had a big
stake in dispersal.18
Augur also benefited from fortuitous timing. His completion of the
short-term plan coincided with news of the Soviet Union’s atomic test, and
he submitted the long-term plan one month before the Korean War started.
These two events dramatically affirmed the warnings of dispersal advocates.
If Congress had acted on Augur’s visions, then Washington and the region
would have changed drastically during the 1950s. If.

I  E C

Augur began working on the emergency dispersal plan during the summer of
1949.19 Poring over maps of the Washington area in search of building sites,
he lingered on 1,800 undeveloped, government-owned acres near Greenbelt,
Maryland, approximately 13 miles northeast of downtown Washington.
He knew this land well.
Greenbelt was a planned community, the brainchild of New Deal panjan-
drum Rexford Tugwell. In 1935, Tugwell had designated rural land bordering
the Beltsville National Agricultural Research Center in Prince Georges County
as the site for a model community to be built by the federal government’s
Resettlement Administration. Tugwell foresaw benefits such as a pastoral
setting close to an urban center, low-cost housing for working families, and
T P  P  D 33

construction jobs for unemployed men. The Resettlement Administration

drafted plans for additional “greenbelt” communities but only built two more,
Greendale, Wisconsin, and Greenhills, Ohio. Construction in Greenbelt
began in October 1935. Within two years, an intact town with 885 row
houses, community hall, and library had risen amid gently rolling woods and
pastures. The Resettlement Administration also paved streets, poured
sidewalks, and installed utilities. And it excluded African Americans—
only white families with annual incomes below $2,000 could lease the
government-owned homes.
The Maryland town took its name from a centuries-old English planning
concept known as the greenbelt, a swath of open, natural space encircling a
community. The designer of Greenbelt’s namesake was none other than
Augur, who hoped to surround each greenbelt community with half-mile
wide rings of trees and fields. These buffers ideally directed residents’ atten-
tion and movement inward so that shopping, socializing, and recreation took
place within the town. The greenbelt, he said, “should be wide enough and
open enough in character that persons crossing it by automobile will
distinctly realize that they have left one community and entered another.”
Street designs and sidewalks further encouraged the community bonds
prized by Augur and his fellow planners. (None of the three towns kept their
belts, however; subsequent development erased them.)20
Through dispersal, Augur now had a chance to revisit Greenbelt. The
undeveloped acreage encircling the town offered attractive sites for govern-
ment buildings and campuses, but he needed to act quickly. In May 1949,
Truman signed legislation authorizing the sale of the three communities;
Greenbelt residents had already formed a homeowners’ corporation.21
Fortunately Augur had the cooperation of the Public Housing Administration,
which delayed sale of Greenbelt’s undeveloped acres.22 Along with Public
Housing official James Wadsworth and John Nolen, Jr., director of planning
for the Park Commission, Augur pinpointed several sites suitable for wartime
federal offices. Area A included more than 300 acres abutting the planned
route of the Baltimore–Washington Parkway. Drawbacks included hilly
terrain, lack of water and sewer mains, and distance from rail lines. Area B was
the largest site, more than 1,100 acres just west of the Parkway route. It too
offered good road access, but the National Park Service and the Park
Commission hoped to create a regional park there. Area C encompassed
some 400 acres between the Greenbelt public high school and the town’s
western boundary.23
Augur soon realized these sites couldn’t absorb all of the projected growth
of a wartime government. Budget estimated executive branch employment in
Washington would swell to 289,000 if an emergency arose before January 1,
1952. (As of December 1948, the executive branch employed approximately
180,000 persons.) According to Budget, 16,000 of the new positions could
be accommodated through intensified use of buildings within eight miles of
the zero milestone marker. (An unremarkable block of stone located just
south of the White House, the marker stands in the center of the District’s
34 T I O  T

original boundaries; dispersal planners frequently used it as a theoretical

ground zero.) Most of the remaining 93,000 positions, reasoned Augur,
could be placed in new, temporary buildings dispersed along a 6 to 20 mile
ring around the milestone marker. Thus “the problem boils down to one of
finding sites on which groups of temporary buildings can be erected rapidly
in the event of an early declaration of emergency.” Such sites ideally would
already belong to the government and have highway access, water and
sewer mains, and utilities. But there was a hitch, a big one—the military’s
emergency plans. Budget’s estimate of new emergency positions included
77,000 military personnel. According to Augur, if the military relocated that
personnel to its own bases and buildings, then he only had to find sites for
the new civil positions.24 That was a big “if,” but he counted on the military
taking care of itself.
By September, Augur, Nolen, and Wadsworth had studied more than
20 sites in Maryland and Virginia. Consideration of topography, highway
access, utilities, and distance from developed areas pared the list down to 11.
They deemed five sites “generally satisfactory” for construction of wartime
tempos for civil executive agencies: Greenbelt Area C; Suitland and Oxon
Hill, Md.; and Springfield and Annandale, Va. All were at least six miles from
the zero milestone marker; one, Springfield, lay 11 miles away. The federal
government owned the Greenbelt and Suitland sites, the others were privately
owned. Augur’s report offered vivid details, recommendations for development,
and balanced analysis of each site’s merits.
Imagine . . . one mile southeast of the District Line, seven air miles from
the zero milestone marker, clusters of two- and three-story office buildings in
Suitland, halfway between Andrews Air Force Base and the Naval Gun
Factory. From the District, the site is reached via the Eleventh Street Bridge
and the Suitland Parkway. The flat-roofed buildings are long and narrow,
lacking ornamentation, but are fully serviced by water and sewer mains,
electricity, and telephone lines. Inside, 5,000 federal employees carry out the
administrative work of a government at war. Nearby, the Navy’s
Hydrographic Office and the Bureau of the Census also bustle with activity.
Delivery trucks pull up, the clatter of typewriters carries from open office
Eleven miles southwest of the zero milestone marker, similar buildings are
scattered on a site in Fairfax County, Va., near the town of Springfield. The
Henry G. Shirley Highway provides access to the District, and to the south,
the highway connects to U.S. Route 1. Cul-de-sacs and curving streets lined
with new homes border the site’s western edge. A developer was construct-
ing these residences when the federal government suddenly began clearing
copses and grading farm fields to build offices. About four miles north, in
Annandale, there are more office buildings, also built on fields close to
residential development, with buffers of open land or highway separating the
homes from the office buildings.
In Prince Georges County, Md., students at Oxon Hill High School
learn geometry and run hurdles one-half mile south of yet another of the
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government’s campuses. Drivers reach the site, seven miles from the zero
milestone marker, by taking South Capitol Street and the new bridge over
the Anacostia; at the District Line, South Capitol becomes Indian Head
Road, leading directly to the buildings. Land was acquired from private
owners, and the structures are interspersed between residential developments
and a few farms.
West of Greenbelt lies a fifth site, 100 acres of wooded, sloping land
cleared and graded to make room for hastily constructed office buildings.
Greenbelt residents had hoped to develop the area as an industrial park, but
the federal government’s emergency plans took priority. Just to the east is
Lake Greenbelt; to the north, the Department of Agriculture’s research

* * *

Ironically, Augur hoped this construction would never happen. The federal
government, he wrote, should build these structures only “in the event of a
war emergency prior to the completion and implementation of the long-
range Master [Dispersal] Plan.”26 But even if armed conflict spurred short-
term dispersal, a few tempos couldn’t transform the capital and region into
model cluster cities; a long-term plan was required. Just before Augur turned
his full attention to this work, America’s loss of its atomic monopoly rendered
abstract concerns about a future “war emergency” into powerful fears.
During the Labor Day weekend, a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance plane
flying nearly 20,000 feet above the North Pacific detected abnormal levels of
radiation in the atmosphere. Additional flights were hurriedly ordered, more
data collected. For the next two weeks, the Air Force and the AEC scrutinized
hundreds of samples before confirming their hypothesis: the Soviet Union had
exploded an atomic bomb on August 29.27 Receiving the news with equa-
nimity, Truman informed his Cabinet on September 23. Outside the meeting
room’s closed doors, his press secretary handed a statement to reporters, who
stampeded to the nearest telephones to call their editors. The President
assured Americans that the government had long anticipated this day, but his
anodyne assurance masked the now-shattered assumption that the Soviet
Union was months, even years, away from detonating an atomic weapon.
Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson provided behind-the-scenes support for
Truman by scolding reporters, “I warn you, don’t overplay this.”28
Apparently that message didn’t reach the Capitol, where civil defense and
the security of the nation’s capital suddenly became urgent matters. Second-
term Congressman John F. Kennedy (D-Mass.) chided the President, telling
him, “it is shocking to find that so little progress has been made in this vital
field [civil defense].” In the House, Robert Hale (R-Maine) introduced a
resolution authorizing Congress to study protective measures for the presi-
dent, Congress, and “other essential Government personnel in the event of
war or sudden attack,” and James Trimble (D-Ark.) drafted a constitutional
amendment to allow ranking military officers to name an interim chief
36 T I O  T

executive should both the president and vice president die. (Trimble’s bill,
which went nowhere, would have superceded the Presidential Succession Act
of 1947.)29 Wright Patman (D-Tex.) even wanted to move the seat of gov-
ernment west of the Mississippi River, and not just because he feared a Soviet
bomb could destroy Washington. “The District of Columbia is an overgrown
whistle stop,” he complained, a “muggy marshland [turned] into a swollen
metropolis teeming with automobiles that drag along at a snail’s pace during
rush hours.” In the Senate, Brien McMahon (D-Conn.) announced that the
Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, which he chaired, would hold closed-
door hearings on what the federal government was doing to protect civilians
in case of atomic war. Sen. Alexander Wiley (R-Wisc.) even proposed fitting
out train cars to serve as a mobile capital.30
In November, an AEC report entitled “The City of Washington and an
Atomic Bomb Attack” fueled more speculation about the capital’s vulnerabil-
ity. In plain but unflinching prose, the Commission described the effects of a
22-kiloton atomic bomb exploding 1,800 feet above the Pentagon, White
House, or Capitol Hill. The blast would crumble or severely damage load-
bearing brick walls as far as 8,000 feet from the ground zero. Intense heat
traveling at the speed of light would ignite fires, as would severed gas and elec-
trical lines; across the city, water pressure would drop to nothing. “While this
is happening, what would be the fate of the people?” Flash burns would
scorch exposed skin, radiation would poison tissue and internal organs.
Continued functioning of the federal government in Washington would be
Despite its grim scenario, “The City of Washington and an Atomic Bomb
Attack” offered hope, claiming that sufficient warning and shelters would
lower casualty rates, while dispersal of hospitals, fire stations, and executive
agencies would protect these institutions and reduce the attraction of
Washington as a target. Those familiar with the U.S. Strategic Bombing
Survey’s report, now more than three years old, found no surprises in the
study, but the local press made much of its release. “One A-Bomb Could
Cripple Washington: AEC Advises Dispersal of U.S. Agencies,” ran the
banner headline of the November 17, 1949 issue of the Washington Post.
Above an aerial photograph overlaid with concentric circles, the paper
warned, “Blast Could Ruin Homes 6 Miles Away; Fires Would Sweep Across
the City.” For all its sensationalism, however, the Post remained as optimistic
as the AEC, even suggesting that casualties could be “eliminated” with
adequate shelters and warning. At a news conference, the President also tried
to dispel concern, calling the report “old stuff.”32
Tracy Augur’s boss submitted the report on emergency dispersal to the
NSRB on the same day newspapers reported the AEC scenario. No one,
including Augur, expected the federal government to build the tempos
described in the report just because the Soviet Union could now build
atomic weapons, but few could deny the study’s timeliness and the attrac-
tion of long-term dispersal. Augur intended to make the most of the
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I L-T D

Augur first had to reconcile differences among the Federal Works Agency,
Defense, Budget, and the Park Commission. On paper, each body had
interlocking responsibilities for long-term dispersal. The Federal Works
Agency would pick dispersal sites, draft blueprints, and oversee construction.
Defense had the most employees (counting both civilian and military) of
any executive department. Budget would set price limits, and the Park
Commission would ensure that dispersal meshed with its long-range plans for
the Washington area.
In practice, conflict and confusion reigned. Budget, for example,
encroached upon the domains of Federal Works and the Park Commission.
Under Franklin Roosevelt, Budget had begun reviewing legislative bills to see
if they supported the President’s programs. Truman expanded this practice.
During his tenure, Budget provided the White House’s executive clerk with
House and Senate bill reports, feedback from affected executive agencies,
and its own recommendations. Truman regularly read these reports, thus
giving Budget impressive power to mold policy on nonfiscal matters.33 To the
irritation of Augur, dispersal was no exception. The Park Commission also
found itself pushed to the side. Given its legislative charter, the Park
Commission arguably had as much prerogative to plan dispersal as did
Federal Works and Budget, yet these two agencies, along with the NSRB,
consistently treated it as a junior partner.
In 1945, Congress had authorized the Park Commission to draft a
comprehensive plan for metropolitan Washington concerning highway con-
struction, development of new parks and playgrounds, and the location of
future government buildings. Dispersal clearly fit within this mandate, and in
April 1948, Park Commission chairman Ulysses S. Grant III asked the NSRB
for its input.34 The blunt-spoken grandson of the Civil War General and pres-
ident soon regretted his invitation. By August, the Park Commission had
nearly completed its plan, but the drafting of “Security for the Nation’s
Capital” continued. So Grant waited. And waited. In January 1949, the NSRB
instructed Grant to submit monthly updates on the Park Commission’s
contribution to the selection of dispersal sites, but Grant now had difficulty
even meeting with representatives from Federal Works.35 Frustrated, he issued
sarcastic reports: March, no progress; April, no progress.
For its part, Federal Works blamed the delays on Budget, which was sup-
posed to be compiling statistics on Mall-vicinity executive branch employees
and deciding which agencies should disperse.36 Budget finally finished this
work in September, but the results violated Augur’s basic dispersal principles.
Rather than reduce the number of executive employees within three miles of
the zero milestone marker, Budget would allow it to exceed 175,000.
Moreover, Budget wanted to disperse “nonessential” federal workers to free
up space for war mobilization agencies. As Augur commented, Budget
“recommends that the agencies which are important to the operation of the
government in war time be concentrated in the vulnerable central zone of
38 T I O  T

the Capital, while the less essential agencies are dispersed to safer locations on
the outskirts.”37 Meanwhile, Defense wanted to relocate 59,000 of its military
and civilian employees to a single site. This would merely create another
target, complained Augur. He turned to the NSRB for help, but Louis Johnson,
an imposing and blustery man, regarded the NSRB as an ineffectual
usurper.38 When the NSRB’s I.D. Brent finally managed to meet with
Defense’s dispersal liaisons, they told him that Defense had no “assigned
responsibility in connection” with long-range dispersal.39
Such bureaucratic scuffling and backbiting was practically sport in
Washington, but without the cooperation of Budget and Defense, dispersal
would fail. Even if a consensus on dispersal emerged within the national secu-
rity state, the Park Commission remained excluded, which meant dispersal
would further subordinate the city to the capital. The NSRB and its executive
branch collaborators seemed to envision dispersal as a superstructure that the
federal government could simply drop onto Washington. Focused on
protecting the seat of government—and so far, only the executive branch—
planners saw with clarity the capital but not the city. They decried the rickety
Mall tempos yet ignored the squalid dwellings thronging alleys just blocks
away. They saw traffic jams and fretted over the evacuation of federal work-
ers; saw suburban fields and imagined government campuses where Mall-
vicinity federal employees might one day work. With the exception of Augur,
however, they seemed not to care where these workers lived and how a
substantial population shift would impact Washington and the region. They
knew dispersal required highways but seemed only concerned that these
routes link dispersal sites rather than provide an efficient, regional network.
How would dispersal affect the District’s economy? The Park Commission,
in order to provide greater Washington with “a practical guide for step-by-step
action to correct past mistakes and to build for future needs over the next
30 years,” had to align dispersal with its comprehensive plan, but national
security planners seemed oblivious to this need.40
Augur thus found himself in a precarious position. As an urban planner for
Federal Works (renamed the General Services Administration in July 1949),
his responsibility was to plan only the dispersal of government buildings. As
an advocate of cluster cities, however, he wanted to help the Park
Commission integrate dispersal into its comprehensive plan. He managed to
do both in his long-term plan.
Imagine . . . an invisible line running due south from Westminster,
Maryland, almost 50 miles north of the District, to the zero milestone
marker. Another line, also beginning at the marker, crosses the Mall, the
Potomac, and Arlington; following a straight southwesterly path, it skirts the
sprawling Marine Corps Reservation at Quantico, terminating in Culpeper,
Virginia. If an arc is drawn from Culpeper to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia,
back to Westminster, an enormous pie-shaped area is created—this is the
Dispersal Zone (figure 2.1). Within it lie all wartime essential federal agencies
and personnel. Located no closer than 20 miles to the zero milestone marker,
these buildings are widely scattered, with an average density ratio of 500
T P  P  D 39

employees for every square mile. No more than 10,000 people work at any
one site, but the total federal workforce in the zone exceeds 100,000.
Most of these employees used to work in the Central Zone, a circle with a
five mile radius from the zero milestone marker. Prior to dispersal, they
crowded into the Mall tempos, the Federal Triangle, and the Pentagon.
Workday rush hour traffic congested roads and bridges, making the daily
commute long and difficult. Now most of these employees live in rapidly
developing communities within the Dispersal Zone. Its distance from
Washington means the government buildings and residential communities
rely on their own utilities, and new highways take them from their bungalow
and ranch homes to campuses with modern offices and spacious parking lots.
To be sure, these nondescript office buildings, with their reinforced concrete
frames and narrow ribbons of windows, suffer in comparison to the looming
Ionic colonnades of the Justice Building or the elaborate porticoes of the Old
Executive Office Building. But security, not elegance and beauty, came first
when blueprints were drafted for Dispersal Zone buildings.41

* * *

This was the future metropolitan Washington proposed in the cumbersomely

titled “Basic Principles and Assumptions Governing Preparation of the Long
Range Plan for the Security of the Nation’s Capital,” which Augur finished in
May 1950. He had help—collaborators included Nolen and representatives
from four executive agencies—but the document distinctly projected his
voice and vision.
As in his emergency plan, Augur recommended sites of no more than
10,000 employees, though he increased the distance between sites to five
miles. Augur said the government should purchase the privately owned emer-
gency sites identified in the “Short-Term Emergency Plan,” but erect no
buildings unless war broke out. Instead, construction of long-term dispersed
buildings should begin immediately. Augur sketched out three zones or rings
based on distances from the zero milestone marker: the Central Zone, 5
miles; Intermediate Zone, 5–20 miles; Dispersal Zone, 20–40 miles. The
Central Zone encompassed the District and most of Arlington County,
Virginia, but “it is assumed that no units essential to the operation of the
Federal Government in wartime will remain permanently in the Central Zone”
(emphasis in original).42 These agencies would move to the Dispersal Zone.
This was a remarkable, even stunning, recommendation. The Pentagon
was situated in the Central Zone, as were the Capitol, White House, and
Federal Triangle—even a short list reveals the plan’s sweeping aims. Augur
wasn’t suggesting that Congress decamp from Capitol Hill or the president
abandon the White House, but by positioning all future government struc-
tures at least 20 miles from the Mall, he did intend to dramatically change the
capital. And the alterations wouldn’t just show in the location of government
buildings. Most current federal workers traveled into the city center for
work; with dispersal implemented, they would travel outward. “[E]very
Figure 2.1 After the Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb in August 1949, urban planners used maps like this one to plot the dispersal of so-called
wartime essential government agencies from the center of Washington. Most of Tracy Augur’s 1950 Dispersal Zone lay between the 25-mile and 50-mile rings

on this map, stretching from Westminster, Md., to Harpers Ferry, W. Va., to Culpepeper, Va. Rendering courtesy of the National Capital Planning
Commission’s Washington Present and Future: A General Summary of the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital and Its Environs (1950).
42 T I O  T

encouragement should be given to the resettlement of this personnel in exist-

ing cities and villages or new communities in the dispersal zone entirely out-
side and physically separate from the developed urban area of Washington
and its contiguous suburbs.” Augur called these areas “satellite communi-
ties” and emphasized the need for highway systems and rail lines to link them
to dispersed government offices. More than a security precaution, dispersal
had the potential to end downtown congestion and traffic jams, thus improv-
ing the quality of life for area residents—those who moved to the Dispersal
Zone, that is.43
The “Basic Principles and Assumptions” also provided guidelines on the
so-called Central Protected Space that the NSRB had mentioned in “Security
for the Nation’s Capital.” In Augur’s report, the Central Protected Space
became an emergency command post, with facilities for 5,000 executive,
congressional, and judicial officials who would evacuate Washington at the first
warning of an attack. To function properly, the Central Protected Space
required cafeterias, medical clinics, boarding facilities—more than an office,
it had to be a self-sustaining environment, with its own utilities, waste disposal,
and ventilation. Communication lines would provide reliable contact with
military command posts. In the event the Central Protected Space was itself
the target of an atomic bomb, hundreds of feet of solid rock cover had to lay
atop the underground site. The nearest suitable site lay some 50 miles from
the zero milestone marker, in the Blue Ridge mountains near Harpers Ferry.
Conveniently, this lay inside the Dispersal Zone outlined for future government
Augur tied up nearly all the loose ends fraying the NSRB’s work. He
aligned emergency and long-term dispersal. He pinpointed the location and
sketched out the requirements of an emergency command post for the
federal civilian echelon. He secured the support of the Defense Department
for long-term dispersal. Most important, Augur coordinated dispersal with
the Park Commission’s comprehensive plan, thus allowing publication in
April of the plan’s long-delayed general summary. Nevertheless, the Park
Commission was expected to make concessions. Augur wanted the Park
Commission to delete an estimated increase of 100,000 federal workers from
its projections about Washington’s 1980 population—long-term dispersal,
after all, was supposed to halt the future concentration of federal workers in
the District. For the same reason, Augur asked Nolen to reduce the proposed
cap on centrally located federal workers from 140,000 to 135,000, the limit
desired by the NSRB. And why, Augur wondered, did the Plan call for new
federal buildings on East Capitol Street, in the heart of the District? “That
location may be acceptable for museums, concert halls and other public
buildings of a cultural type and for the headquarters of international
organizations, learned societies, etc., but we feel that it definitely should not
be used for buildings accommodating headquarter units of the Federal
Government.” Augur also reminded Nolen that dispersal was for essential,
not nonessential workers, as the Plan recommended.45
T P  P  D 43

In its general summary of the comprehensive plan, entitled Washington

Present and Future, the Park Commission accepted some, but not all, of
Augur’s recommendations. For example, it dropped the distinction between
essential and nonessential workers. It still listed East Capitol Street as a
desirable building site but didn’t specify usage, instead suggesting that
“permanent structures for functions justifying central locations should be on
approved sites [such as East Capitol Street].” On the whole, Washington
Present and Future was a dispersal-friendly report. It noted the “danger of
further overconcentration of Federal employment centers” and provided a
map of proposed government employment centers scattered far from the city
center. The Plan emphasized that dispersal could solve problems such as
overcrowding, haphazard residential development, and traffic congestion
within the District. As of 1947, the District held 84 percent of all area jobs,
including government positions, while Virginia and Maryland combined had
just 16 percent. Shifting employment to the suburban locations thus required
highways encircling Washington, new housing and community services,
expanded utilities, and protection of sites of natural beauty. Suburban devel-
opment also offered the opportunity to drastically improve the District: raze
tempos, clear slums, and put in new parks. The projected 30 year implemen-
tation of Washington Present and Future depended on “this new balance of
work places” and “there should be a definite policy to locate as many as
possible of the required new employment places away from the center . . .
since the Federal Government itself is the major employer, it holds the key to
the solution of this problem.”46
As Augur had made clear in his long-term dispersal statement, he too
believed that the federal government held this key. But who within the
government was responsible for unlocking the door to this metropolitan
makeover? And what about the city of Washington and its residents? Augur
admitted his report “should be supplemented by a companion study of security
for the metropolitan community as a whole, inasmuch as the security of the
civilian population and of local services is essential to the continued operation
of the government establishment.”47
District government leaders couldn’t have agreed more; they had already
begun to plan for the protection of their city against atomic attack.
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T D D I

Q. Mr. President . . . do you think you could escape without serious injury if
you stood at one end of the National Airport if [an atomic] bomb exploded at
the other?
THE PRESIDENT. Well now, I have never been on the receiving end of one of
those bombs, so I couldn’t comment very well intelligently.
Q. Mr. President, could you tell us which end of the airport to stand on?
THE PRESIDENT. I couldn’t.1

His nickname was “Snake,” but his title was Brigadier General Gordon
Russell Young, engineer commissioner for the District of Columbia. Tall and
thin, with a piercing gaze, Young was a career military man who had chased
Pancho Villa in Mexico in 1916 and served overseas during both World Wars.
His appointment in 1945 as engineer commissioner had brought him into a
family business of sorts. Cousin John Russell Young served as the president
of the Board of Commissioners; brother Robert was the former commander
of the Military District of Washington. By law the engineer commissioner
had to serve in the Army Corps of Engineers, a requirement intended to
safeguard the federal stake in the District’s infrastructure. Protection from
red tape, however, was another matter. “Why, we cannot even switch a nickel
from one appropriation to another without the express consent of Congress!”
Young complained to a reporter in January 1950.2
The NSRB proved more lenient than the legislative branch, giving Young
a “green light” to implement a civil defense program. He wasted no time.
On March 3, approximately 30 District residents, civic and business leaders,
and federal officials gathered to listen to Young. Conducting the meeting like
a military briefing, he briskly declared, “We will all make a basic assumption
as follows: that a national emergency now exists, and that Washington is
threatened with the possibilities of (a) an air attack, probably using fission
bombs; (b) radiological or bacteriological attack; (c) sabotage by subversive
groups.” Young explained that Congress must fund a fulltime local civil
defense director and office, which would oversee the drafting of a citywide
plan to guard against such attacks and sabotage. Young asked those present
to contribute recommendations from their areas of expertise. For example,
46 T I O  T

the D.C. Hospital Council and Medical Society could contribute guidelines
on treatment of attack survivors, while the Washington Board of Trade could
plan the resumption of commerce. Intent on meeting every contingency,
Young had even invited representatives from the National Zoo. He called
upon each organization to name members to a “Temporary Committee on
Civil Defense.”3
Young’s precise instructions capped months of work with the NSRB, which
had assumed oversight of the District’s civil defense. This authority derived
from two decisions by the President. In March 1949, Truman rejected the
idea of creating an independent federal civil defense agency and assigned
responsibility for civil defense to the NSRB, instructing it to draw upon other
federal agencies and state and local governments.4 Then in October, Truman
told the NSRB that the defense of Washington as a city must be aligned with
its work on security for the capital. In turn, General Young instructed his assis-
tant Thomas J. Hayes, a young lieutenant colonel in the Army Corps of
Engineers, to meet with representatives of the NSRB. The results of Hayes’s
meetings provided the basis for Young’s presentation. Hayes also told the
General, “initially, at least, we can ignore our special position, think of the city
simply as a city, and do a great deal to get realistic planning underway.”5
During the next four months, the District made modest progress. The
commissioners asked Congress for a $30,000 deficiency appropriation and
named Metropolitan Police Captain John Fondahl as the interim director of
the District’s civil defense. Fondahl was a humorless but hardworking
man, who, as a war veteran and Marine Corps Reserve colonel, took his
responsibilities very seriously. Fondahl accepted the assignment believing it
was temporary; little did he know he would serve as Washington’s civil
defense director for the next nine years.6 The NSRB suggested the commission-
ers ask eight Washington doctors and a professor to take federally sponsored
courses relating to the medical and radiological effects of atomic weapons.
The doctors, who represented the D.C. Department of Health and area med-
ical societies and schools, attended a weeklong class held at Johns Hopkins
University. Howard University physics professor Herman Branson traveled to
Long Island, New York, where he spent five weeks learning radiological
monitoring at the Brookhaven National Laboratory.7 The NSRB also asked
the Housing and Home Finance Agency to help the District designate shelter
space by providing data about construction methods.8
In May, the Washington Post editorialized approvingly about the partner-
ship between the NSRB and the District: “Sometimes it has been observed
that Washington is the last place the Russians would bomb in any war because
that might end the confusion here. This is not an altogether reliable assumption,
however, and we are glad that the District government and the National
Security Resources Board are getting together on an interim civil defense
plan.” Referring to the much-maligned World War II Office of Civilian
Defense, the editors advised that rooftop wardens and dancers— “frills and
ostentation”—had no place in this work. Instead, the city required and was
receiving a no-nonsense plan of self-help.9
T D D I 47

The collaboration between the NSRB and the District tightened when
they jointly planned and conducted an elaborate exercise. The NSRB asked
Washington, Chicago, and Seattle to respond to imaginary atomic attacks;
Washington went first. On May 22, General Young asked his Temporary
Committee on Civil Defense to complete a questionnaire about the attack.
How would area hospitals handle casualties, for example; how would traffic
be controlled? Young told members to assume Washington had just one
hour’s advance warning of the attack.10 Meanwhile the NSRB provided a
“hypothetical narrative” about the bombing.
Imagine . . . June 29, 1950. At 2 p.m. the Air Force issues a Warning
Red—enemy aircraft have breached American air space and are approaching
the capital. Within an hour, two planes drop atomic bombs: the first explodes
1,800 feet above Independence Avenue and 1st Street SW, close to the
Capitol; the second, above Tyler School on 11th Street SE. An initial damage
survey counts 80,000 dead, 64,000 injured. Survivors suffer fire and flash
burns, radiation sickness, and injuries from falling objects. Only three area
hospitals survive the attack intact. Within a one-mile radius of each detonation
point, most buildings are reduced to rubble. Dwellings outside of the ground
zero circles sustain heavy damage; flash fires have broken out between
the National Guard Amory, Thomas Circle, and the Potomac River. In
Anacostia, fires rage unabated. Street cars cannot run, debris blocks the passage
of the few operable emergency vehicles, and the tracks leading into Union
Station are unusable—ties burned and rails buckled in the blasts. The attack
destroyed the central telephone exchange, water pressure is dropping due
to burst mains, and more than half the police precincts are damaged, their
personnel casualties.11
Using this scenario, Young, Hayes, and Fondahl spent a week reviewing
the completed questionnaires, then met with the NSRB to devise an emer-
gency plan, right down to use of off-duty police officers and the placement of
fire trucks.12 For all this work, however, Washington’s civil defense program
existed only on paper. Congress hadn’t yet granted the paltry $30,000
request to fund civil defense work. General Young had won the enthusiasm
of fellow citizens to contribute to their city’s defense, but there was little of
substance for them to do. Yet compared to many cities, at least the District
was doing something to prepare for nuclear war.13 Wasn’t this better than
Until June 25, 1950, the answer was yes.

“S K  B I”

Dean Acheson was beat. After a trying week, on Saturday, June 24 the
Secretary of State left Washington for his Maryland farm. Security guards
accompanied him—threatening mail continued to arrive in the wake of
Senator Joe McCarthy’s accusations that the State Department employed
communists—but the unflappable Acheson tried to enjoy his day off.
At 10 p.m., his phone line to the White House rang. The U.S. ambassador to
48 T I O  T

the Republic of Korea (South Korea) had just cabled the State Department
to report a major attack.14
Halfway round the globe, 30-year old Army captain Joseph Darrigo
was awakened by artillery fire early Sunday morning (Saturday afternoon in
Washington). A member of the Korean Military Advisory Group, Darrigo
lived along the 38th parallel, the dividing line between the Democratic
People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), a communist nation, and South
Korea, an ally of the United States. As bullets peppered the stone wall of his
home, Darrigo ran to his jeep and sped into the nearest city, Kaesong. There
he saw a North Korean train packed with an infantry regiment, making him
the first American to witness the invasion of South Korea.15
In Georgetown that night, influential columnist Joe Alsop presided over
one of his famous dinner parties. His guests included Secretary of the Army
Frank Pace and Dean Rusk, the assistant secretary of state for Far Eastern
affairs. The evening was cool, the skies starry; after dinner, the men retired to
the terrace, cigars and brandy snifters in hand. Then Alsop’s butler summoned
Rusk to the telephone. Rusk returned, his face blanched, and said he had to
leave, that “some kind of border incident” had broken out in Korea. Pace
also left hurriedly, and Alsop and his remaining guests “settled down to argue
whether this was it” (emphasis in original).16
They weren’t the only ones. Truman, Acheson, and Rusk, among others,
feared that North Korea’s aggression, which they believed the Soviet Union
had ordered, might be the first of several worldwide strikes against U.S. allies
in Cold War hotspots. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council hastily drafted a
denunciation of the invasion and endorsed Truman’s decision to send
American troops to defend South Korea. As Acheson wrote, “[t]o back away
from this challenge, in view of our capacity for meeting it, would be highly
destructive of the power and prestige of the United States.”17
The invasion stunned the nation, casting a bright spotlight on the vul-
nerability of the capital. In Takoma Park, Maryland, a suburb along the
District’s northeast border, Mayor Ross Beville swore in a 12-man auxiliary
police force, declaring “the town’s determination to have the defense force
operating as soon as possible.”18 Greenbelt reappointed its World War II civil
defense director. “Although there is no need for hysteria at this time,”
explained a councilman, “we should follow the example of other communities
and be prepared.”19 Area realtors touted lots and houses “beyond the
radiation zone.”20 Rep. Gordon Canfield (R-N.J.) asked 20 colleagues what
they would do if atomic bombs fell on Washington. He reported, “[i]nvari-
ably the answer was, ‘I would rush for the subway.’ But everyone questioned
admitted he did not know whether that was the right thing to do. Nor do
I know the answer.”21 (By “subway,” Canfield meant only the underground
tramline connecting the Senate Office Building with the Capitol. The city of
Washington didn’t have a subway until the 1970s.) Four days before the
invasion, Rep. John McMillan (D-S.C.), chairman of the Committee on the
District of Columbia, had introduced a bill to create a District office of civil
defense. Now he hurriedly scheduled hearings to expedite the bill’s passage.
T D D I 49

McMillan’s bill authorized the Board of Commissioners to establish an office

of civil defense and to appoint a director. It also provided for volunteer training
and the drafting of a comprehensive emergency plan. Supporters of the
bill included the NSRB, the Bureau of the Budget, and Frank Pace, who
declared: “all-out preparation for civilian defense of our capital city is
imperative.” Sen. Lester Hunt (D-Wyo.) introduced a matching bill in the
Senate, and the NSRB urged the House Appropriations Committee to grant
$200,000 for civil defense in the District.22 Though some legislators ques-
tioned the wisdom of speeding the bill to a vote, in early August Congress
voted to establish the District of Columbia Office of Civil Defense (DCD)
and Truman signed the act, Public Law 686 (81st Cong., 2nd sess.).23
However, the fight for funding continued. The House subcommittee on
District appropriations contended the new office wasn’t prepared to spend
more than the original $30,000 request. DCD supporters responded with
indignation, even disgust. “Of course, it is going to cost more than $30,000
to organize blood banks and instruct personnel on what to do in the case of
an atomic attack, and organize everyone in the District,” exclaimed John
Kennedy (D-Mass.). Canfield held up Washington’s civil defense as a model
for other cities and states, arguing, “if we are going to cut this appropriation
to $1 for every $10 requested, why, they are not going to go ahead. They will have
the feeling that the fathers here in Washington think this is all poppycock.”
On August 25, the House voted 99 to 75 to increase the DCD’s budget
to $290,000, but conferees from the House and Senate reduced that amount
to $100,000.24

A D
Harry Truman didn’t pay much attention to the DCD’s financial troubles;
he had plenty of other worries. In late July, he finished a painful round in
the dentist’s chair—12 visits in all—for bridge and crown repair. Meanwhile
North Korea’s army had pinned American and South Korean forces behind a
fragile defensive perimeter around the port town of Pusan. In late August,
the imperious General Douglas MacArthur, commander of U.S. forces in
Asia, called for the defense of Formosa (Taiwan) against a takeover by com-
munist China. This public statement undercut the President, who in January
had approved a State Department decision to not defend the island strong-
hold of the defeated Chinese nationalists. Secretary of Defense Louis
Johnson went behind the President’s back to congratulate Senator Robert
Taft (R-Ohio) for his strident criticism of Dean Acheson, prompting Truman
to grumble that Johnson had “an inordinate egotistical desire to run the
whole government.”25
Aware of these distractions, David Stowe and Budget Director Frederick J.
Lawton wasted no time during their meetings with the President that sum-
mer. Both men felt at ease around Truman. Lawton considered the often
blunt Missourian “easy to talk to,” while Stowe acted as the President’s
liaison to the NSRB. In July, Truman asked the two men to prepare a dispersal
50 T I O  T

plan for government offices.26 The request revealed a change of heart for the
President. In November 1949, a reporter had asked if the forthcoming
budget plan would contain anything on moving government functions out of
Washington—“No,” said Truman, to laughter. Asked a similar question in
March 1950, he replied, “I am very well satisfied right where I am now, and
I feel perfectly safe,” again drawing laughter. With the United States now at
war, the capital’s security was no longer a joke.27
Stowe and Lawton presented several dispersal options inspired by Tracy
Augur’s plans. Truman favored development of a single dispersed campus,
but Stowe pressed for six dispersal sites. His persistence won over the
President, who decided on a four-site plan. On August 30, Lawton confi-
dently predicted, “we could make a strong case to the Congress” if the dem-
olition of the tempos was included in the plan. The White House made its
request that same day: $139.8 million to build offices for as many as 40,000
federal workers in order to “initiate a long-range plan to insure the continuity
of essential functions of Government in event of emergency.” The proposal
promised to locate the four building sites within commuting distance of
the District, and, because distances of up to 50 miles were considered
commutable, it asked for funds for highway construction and additional
telephone lines. Each site would be located at least five miles from the others.
The Mall tempos would be razed, and their 25,000 employees would
relocate to the new buildings, joined by the 15,000 or more employees
expected to be hired as a result of the war in Korea. Agencies to be dispersed
weren’t identified, but the Washington Star surmised the military, the State
Department, and the CIA would be among the top choices. Of course, no
blueprints could be drafted or agencies picked until Congress granted the
needed funds.28
Early signs weren’t encouraging. Rep. Arthur L. Miller (R-Nebr.) won-
dered aloud “how the boys in Korea” would feel when they learned Truman
had asked for funds “to provide shelter for 40,000 civilian employees of the
Government so they would be out of range of any atomic bomb attack on
Washington.” His colleague Edward T. Miller (R-Md.) suggested the best
way to save “the hides of 40,000 Government workers” was to eliminate
their jobs. Rep. John Taber (R-N.Y.) asked, “are [we] expected to give
greater protection to the bureaucrats in Washington than we do to the ordi-
nary folks back home?” Rep. Clarence Cannon (D-Mo.), chairman of the
Appropriations Committee, expressed his preference for decentralization,
and Rep. George Dondero (R-Mich.) wondered why other urban targets
weren’t being dispersed. Furious at the biting criticism, Speaker of the House
Sam Rayburn (D-Tex.) broke the traditional silence expected of the presiding
officer, but his words weren’t meant to soothe the hurt feelings of civil
servants. Giving new meaning to the phrase “paper-pushing,” Rayburn, whose
bald head accentuated his well-known expressions of ire and impatience, con-
tended that the purpose of dispersal was “not to protect the workers of the
District of Columbia”—it was “to protect the records that are irreplaceable—
military secrets of the most vital importance.” Other Democrats jumped to
T D D I 51

his aid. Charles M. Price (D-Ill.) remarked, “It is a strange thing to me that
men in this body would sink so low as to attempt to make political capital out
of such a necessary program for the preservation of our democracy.” Wayne L.
Hays (D-Ohio) accused Republicans of “some of the most addled thinking
that I have ever heard expressed on the floor of this Congress,” sarcastically
adding, “[i]t looks as though this late August heat had [sic] almost been too
much for some people here.”29
The irascible Truman also struck back by suggesting members of Congress
wanted to forego dispersal and move government agencies to their own
districts—in other words, they wanted to feed at the pork barrel while
national security went hungry.30 The President seemed surprised by the backlash,
especially since the plan also called for demolition of the much-loathed
tempos. Who could possibly oppose razing these “hot, unsightly and flimsy”
structures? Not only would dispersal serve national security, it would allow
restoration of the Mall as park space and fulfill the Park Commission’s goal of
reducing traffic congestion. However, Truman overlooked one problem:
supporting beautification of the District of Columbia won few votes back
home, but a congressman appearing to “coddle” federal workers courted
political disaster. The midterm elections were two months away, federal
spending was increasing rapidly to pay for the Korean War, draft calls and
casualties were rising—what legislator wanted to hit the campaign trail with
his opponent asking why he was making life safer for “waffle-bottoms,” as
some members of Congress derisively called federal workers? Legislators
especially wanted to avoid giving the impression they too wanted special
protection. Declaimed Sen. Guy Cordon (R-Ore.), “[w]e are as expendable
as the boys in Korea. History has demonstrated that none of us is indispensable.
More people can always be found to take our places.”31
Legislators also questioned the urgency of the dispersal request. Because the
administration wanted supplemental funds, the bill went to the Appropriations
Committees, bypassing the Committees on Public Works and the Committees
on the District of Columbia. “No legislative committee has considered
this program,” observed Rep. Albert Thomas (D-Tex.). His colleague on
Appropriations, the owl-faced, bespectacled Francis Case (R-S.Dak.),
pointed out significant legal ramifications, describing the request as “a
proposition to modify existing law with respect to the exercise of the offices
of government at the seat of the Government.” Case recommended the
House defer action until hearings could be held. The four-site dispersal
plan didn’t fare well in the Senate, either, despite having the support of
Appropriations Committee chairman Kenneth McKellar (D-Tenn.).
The 81-year-old McKellar was well known for his political savvy and
fierce will, but even he couldn’t push through the request. On September 14,
Cordon used a point of order to exclude it from the supplemental
appropriations bill.32
The tempos would stand, dispersal would wait, but the White House
hadn’t conceded. Was dispersal “pigeonholed”? asked a reporter in late October.
“It is not,” replied Truman. “I will continue to press it.”33 And press he did.
52 T I O  T

Despite losing seats in both the House and Senate in the election, the
Democrats remained the majority party.

T DCD G  W

For John Fondahl, Congress’s rejection of dispersal was background noise.
Though his initial budget didn’t even cover the costs of office equipment, the
DCD’s director set out to recruit civil defense volunteers, especially as
wardens, from his office at the D.C. National Guard Armory on East Capitol
Street.34 The warden was the heart and soul of civil defense. When the attack
sirens blared, police would maintain order, firefighters would brace themselves
for blazes, but who would direct panicked citizens to the nearest shelter?
The warden. Who knew the quickest route out of the city from his neigh-
borhood? Who would administer first aid when a doctor or nurse couldn’t be
found? Who would pull survivors from rubble and deliver messages to the
local police precinct? The warden. Civic-minded, selfless, and dedicated,
volunteer wardens would be the District’s main line of defense against an
atomic attack; and Fondahl didn’t expect the recruitment of civic-minded,
selfless, dedicated persons would be difficult. He was wrong.
In October, Fondahl announced a goal of attracting 70,000 volunteers
to the warden corps. DCD could only afford to hire a few “professional”
wardens to organize this effort. Fondahl named District resident Max C.
Schwartz as chief warden and authorized a staff of six, all men: an assistant
chief warden, training director, records administrator, and three public
relations officers. By December, Schwartz and Fondahl had divided the
District into six civil defense divisions and signed up “commanders” for each
division. Meanwhile they placed the wardens headquarters in the old Force
School, a three-story red brick structure on Massachusetts Avenue, near
Dupont Circle.35
Within the warden divisions there were 65 areas, subdivided into approxi-
mately 500 zones, then 4,000 sectors. A sector was one square block, and eight
sectors comprised a zone. The lofty recruitment goal resulted from Fondahl and
Schwartz’s hope of finding not only a warden for each sector, zone, area, and
division, but also as many as 20 building and block wardens within each sector.
The two men anticipated an equally ambitious training program. They imag-
ined eager residents streaming into the newly established volunteer registration
office, located at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Civic and neighborhood
groups, spurred by patriotism and concern for the welfare of the District, would
call ahead to make appointments to sign up members en masse. Thousands of
new recruits would fill out questionnaires, indicating their preferred duties:
warden corps, medical and health teams, engineering service, auxiliary police
and fire corps, civilian air defense. For those opting to train as wardens, a battery
of instruction would await. Trained volunteers would provide instructions in
first aid, then give lessons on crowd control, record and log-keeping, firefighting,
damage assessment, even the making of litters from household items. All told,
dedicated volunteers would submit to 42 hours of training.
T D D I 53

DCD would issue identification cards and armbands to wardens so they

could collect raw data about the residents under their charge: names, ages,
addresses, even physical conditions. They would chart their designated area’s
thoroughfares, alternate routes, water mains, and public telephones. They
would set aside space in their logbooks to record the differences between the
day and night populations and the number of available beds. Drawing on
their knowledge of their neighborhoods, they would identify and mark shel-
ter facilities. Thanks to their training, wardens would know a usable structure
has a steel frame or is made of reinforced concrete; that a minimum of three
“layers” or stories must stand above the shelter space; and that all shelters
must provide protection not just from an atomic blast, but radiation and
falling debris as well. An ideal shelter would be 80 percent or more below
ground, surrounded by other buildings, or located within the structure’s
core at least 20 feet from the outside walls.36
Robert L. Totten was a real-life—and rare—exemplar of the warden DCD
wanted. Totten, an elderly white man, presided over Area E-40, just west of
Rock Creek Park in Northwest Washington. The area encompassed the
Washington National Cathedral, McLean Gardens, and pleasant, tree-lined
streets with upscale homes. In less than five months, the energetic Totten
organized a team of 223 wardens, who surveyed usable shelter space. With
more than 500 detached homes and 4,200 apartments, they had much
ground to cover. Nevertheless, Totten and his intrepid volunteers fanned
out, giving shelter signs to the owners of approved buildings. When man-
agers of luxurious apartment buildings complained the signs blighted their
lobbies, the accommodating wardens returned with a more subdued design.
Meanwhile 40 wardens began a census of the estimated 13,000 residents in
Area E-40. Said Totten, “[w]e actually are trying to take people by the hand,
decide with them where their best shelter would be in case of an attack, and
impress upon them the necessity for such shelter.”37
To find more wardens like Totten, the DCD asked local civic, service, and
veterans groups to encourage members to volunteer. The request brought
results; by January 1952, 75 percent of the wardens were also active in civic
and neighborhood associations.38 Fondahl also began a citywide publicity
campaign to draw recruits. As the obliging Washington Star reported, he now
hoped to find a total of 100,000 volunteers so that the police, fire, and
medical corps could be built up.39 Fondahl persuaded Venetian blind maker
Levolor to print a color flier with a map of the District and the phone numbers
of division and area wardens. (The flier also advised, “[i]n case of bombing . . .
Tilt Venetian Blinds UP.”) Although men dominated the wardens corps, the
DCD actively recruited women as civil defense volunteers. Consistent with
the era’s normative gender roles, women were sought as nurses’ aides and
social workers; however, the DCD also invited them to volunteer as wardens,
truck drivers, and radio operators.40 Thomas Hayes told members of the
D.C. Business and Professional Women’s Club they needed to fill the gap
left by Congressional budget cuts by volunteering for first aid training.41
Homemakers were targeted as well. In a fictional account of a daytime
54 T I O  T

attack, a local publication described “Jane,” a housewife, calmly helping in

recovery efforts; her husband John was at his government job when the
bombs fell.42
However, most Washingtonians, male or female, weren’t interested in emu-
lating Totten or Jane. Just four men and two women came into the volunteer
registration office on its first day. Commercial photographer Harry King
enrolled in the wardens service, as did Mrs. Rachael Birnbaum and another
volunteer. An American University graduate student opted for the civil defense
speakers’ bureau; Mrs. Grace Stark was unsure which service she wanted.43
At the rate of six recruits per day, DCD wouldn’t obtain 100,000 volunteers
until 1997. In a futile effort to boost recruitment, the commissioners declared
that District government employees were expected to volunteer for civil
defense, but this proclamation fell on deaf ears.44
Reports of racial bias were just as damaging to recruitment as apathy. At a
public meeting held on February 26, the Federation of Civic Associations, an
organization representing African American neighborhood groups, expressed
concern to DCD that black Washingtonians weren’t adequately included in
the wardens service. Schwartz responded that his staff had four blacks and
four whites. A few days later, however, Fondahl privately told the Board of
Commissioners he believed the complaint had “some merit.” Of the 81 Area
Wardens appointed to date, just 16 were black. Fondahl recommended that
a new warden division be created north of Benning Road and east of the
Anacostia River. DCD should appoint a black warden for this division, said
Fondahl, and give him the authority to choose his own staff and area wardens.
The commissioners agreed, and Fondahl considered the matter settled.45
It wasn’t. By gerrymandering the warden divisions, DCD replicated the
lines already separating black and white Washingtonians in housing, schools,
theaters, and elsewhere. This segregation underscored the difficulty of
recruiting volunteers by appealing to their civic conscience, to their common
identity as Washingtonians. As DCD frequently said, all citizens could and
should contribute to civil defense. Whether white or black, male or female,
middle or working class, everyone faced the same threat. However, in a city—
indeed, a nation—where race, sex, and class defined identities and drew
boundaries around each person, breaking down the divisions that segregated
the District’s citizens from one another with the notion of a shared
Washingtonian identity seemed a distant ideal. Had Fondahl and Schwartz
considered whether white wardens would even accept first aid training along-
side of black wardens or share stockpiles of medical supplies with them? If
civil defense in the District had any chance of thriving, it required the great-
est degree of cooperation possible. As segregation of the warden divisions
showed, such unity was unlikely in the racially divided District.
Like the wardens service, other emergency teams made only limited
progress. The auxiliary police force hoped to enlist 4,000 volunteers, but by
late February 1951, the Metropolitan Police reported that just 942 residents
had signed up. Fewer than 50 people applied to join the hoped-for
300-strong emergency firefighters corps. Rescue Services secured a promise
T D D I 55

of access to 400 local construction yards and hardware stores during an

emergency, but it couldn’t find any volunteers. The Civil Air Defense Patrol
achieved some modest success by registering more than 300 aircraft owners.
In the event of an emergency, these pilots promised to volunteer their aircraft
to help transport emergency supplies. And more than 3,500 restaurant and
social workers agreed to provide food, shelter, and clothing for Washingtonians
made homeless during an attack.46
Promises, applications, and enlistment meant little, however, without
training or funding for equipment and supplies. Although the wardens
service signed up 12,500 volunteers by July 1951, a mere 300 received
special training. Less than half of the police reserve recruits received training;
the 30 or so emergency firefighters received none.47 By late summer, the
Medical and Health Services had only enlisted 2,109 personnel—the goal
was 23,714—and had no money to stockpile medical supplies. Even the
commander of the Civil Air Defense Patrol admitted he lacked the support of
the municipal airports dotting the suburbs and his outfit really existed only as
a set of signatures.48 Beset by these challenges, Fondahl hoped the creation
of a federal civil defense administration would bolster recruitment and provide
resources. After all, if civil defense officials in the nation’s capital couldn’t get
help from their federal colleagues, then who could?

T D   F C D

On September 8, 1950, Stuart Symington, the new chairman of the NSRB,
forwarded a report to the President entitled United States Civil Defense.
The much-anticipated 162-page study provided a blueprint for a civil defense
agency similar to the one outlined by Russell Hopley in 1948. Called the
Federal Civil Defense Administration, it combined the ongoing planning
tasks of the NSRB with additional tasks such as training, manuals, and attack
warnings. However, the NSRB emphasized that civil defense was primarily
the responsibility of the states and the citizenry. The federal government
would train “key personnel,” for example, who would then train volunteers
at the state and local levels. United States Civil Defense didn’t offer many
clues on the financing of civil defense, nor did it give precise guidelines on
how neighboring communities might coordinate their respective programs.
Truman nevertheless called the plan “sound and workable.”49
If Symington and the NSRB expected accolades for the plan, they were
mistaken. In October, several hundred mayors and civil defense officials
traveled to Washington to discuss the civil defense relationship between the
federal government and cities. As Symington sat tight-lipped at a conference
table, his brow furrowed, the attendees voiced their concerns. Many
complained that the federal government wasn’t interested in civil defense.
“We feel that civil defense is the step-child of the government,” San
Francisco’s mayor said to cheers. Others wanted guidelines on specific issues.
Should we build bomb shelters or not? Newark’s mayor wanted to know.
56 T I O  T

How much money would the federal government contribute to communities’

emergency stockpiles? asked the civil defense chief of Hammond, Ind.
Symington weakly responded that the NSRB would make recommendations
once Congress returned from recess.50
Identical bills to establish the Federal Civil Defense Administration were
soon introduced in the House and Senate, but various suggestions, many
from state governments and executive branch agencies, delayed action. In
December, while the House Committee on Armed Services opened hearings
on a revised bill sponsored by Rep. Carl Durham (D-N.C.), the Senate began
its own hearings.51 The same month, the President issued an executive order
establishing a temporary agency. The order did little more than detach the
civil defense office from the NSRB, but Truman did name a director, south-
erner Millard Caldwell. Tall and barrelchested, Caldwell looked like a line-
backer. A loyal Democrat and the former governor of Florida, Caldwell had
also served in the House of Representatives—Truman wanted a director with
both Congressional and state governing experience. Though Sam Rayburn
supported Caldwell, assuring Congressional approval, the NAACP registered
vigorous opposition because of Caldwell’s support for racial segregation and
white-only primary elections. The White House and Congress ignored the
protests, and Caldwell was appointed.52
Meanwhile Congress tinkered with the civil defense bills. Conferees met
twice to reconcile differences over wording, torts, security, and other details,
finally producing, on January 2, 1951, the Federal Civil Defense Act.
Truman signed it ten days later. The legislation created a Federal Civil
Defense Administration (FCDA) and laid out a three-year program, splitting
responsibility for costs between state and federal governments. Federal tasks
included partial finance of shelter construction, training, setting of technical
standards, and supervision of attack warning systems. The states were
expected to provide matching funds for shelters and equipment and to
administer ground-level civil defense. Approximately 3,000 administrators
and research staff would be spread between the Washington and regional
offices. The total projected costs for the new agency exceeded $3 billion.53
After five years of studies, intra-governmental squabbling, and presidential
reluctance, the nation finally had a civil defense program. James Forrestal and
Russell Hopley, both of whom were deceased, would have been proud.
In Washington, the FCDA moved into offices at 1930 Columbia Road NW,
in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. A bustling, curving street lined by
apartment buildings, Columbia Road lay more than a mile from the White
House, even farther from the Pentagon. This physical distance symbolized
the outskirts of the national security state in which the FCDA would roam
during its short-lived existence. Indeed, within a few years, the FCDA would
move from Washington to Battle Creek, Michigan. This remoteness probably
wouldn’t have pleased Forrestal or Hopley, but it probably wouldn’t have
surprised them, either.
John Fondahl and the Board of Commissioners hoped the FCDA could
help them solve the “special problems” posed by Washington’s dual status as
T D D I 57

city and capital: align civil defense measures in federal buildings with DCD’s
plans for warning, shelter, and evacuation; develop a coordinated metropoli-
tan program amenable to the federal and neighboring local and state govern-
ments; and integrate local civil defense with the NSRB’s standing
responsibility for the capital’s security. Commissioner John Russell Young
also asked Caldwell to help the District draft a realistic, precise budget.
“Pending discussion with you of the major subjects that I have noted above,
it is difficult for us to arrive at an intelligent policy for Civil Defense expendi-
tures and activities in the coming fiscal year,” he wrote. Like other cities, the
District needed to know if the FCDA would pay for the stockpiling of med-
ical and other supplies.54 Caldwell also needed to know. Until Congress
granted appropriations, he could only echo the answer Symington had given
impatient city officials in October: wait a little longer, please.
Caldwell did schedule a conference among one of his assistants, Fondahl,
and Thomas Hayes, telling Young, “it is our hope that in this manner we will
be able to work out a joint solution to many civil defense problems facing the
District of Columbia.” To make good on this promise, in February the
FCDA helped the DCD arrange an exercise demonstrating the use of
helicopters and two-way radios to direct traffic during an emergency.55 That
summer, the FCDA joined with Washington’s NBC station to produce a
seven-part television series entitled “Survival.” Broadcast on Sunday after-
noons, the half-hour episodes depicted warden services at work, including
the “rescue” of a child trapped beneath a steel girder; explained how to find
shelter in public buildings; and covered a host of other topics. A shoestring
budget forced the FCDA to use its own staff as actors and set makers.56
However, the FCDA declined invitations to speak to local organizations
about civil defense, worried such requests would inundate its offices. “Our
policy in the past has been to turn down purely District things, and why
change now,” wrote a public relations officer.57
Financial difficulties also prevented the FCDA from providing the level of
support expected by Fondahl and the commissioners. In June, the FCDA
requested more than $400 million; Congress granted less than $32 million.
Then, the House cut entirely a $250 million request for the building of
shelters. Caldwell kept up appearances, traveling the country, delivering
speech after speech, but as reported at a July Cabinet meeting, he was “very
discouraged” that the “Civil Defense set up [was] not off the ground.”
By October, he still had little reason to be upbeat. As Newsweek put it,
the FCDA was still crying “in the wilderness for money to put an ambitious
program into action.”58
The same could be said about the DCD.
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D, O  T, 

U ?

I n November 1950, the Truman administration reinvigorated its dispersal

campaign. Because some legislators preferred decentralization to dispersal,
the General Services Administration (GSA) began preparing a companion
plan to permanently relocate some Washington-based agencies.1 Other
legislators had questioned the attempt to vet dispersal through the appropri-
ations committees, so GSA Administrator Jess Larson asked the chairs of the
Public Works Committees, which oversaw federal buildings and construction,
to introduce new dispersal bills. Both men, Sen. Dennis Chavez (D-N.Mex.)
and Rep. Will Whittington (D-Miss.), said yes.2
Setbacks in the Korean War added urgency to the request. After General
Douglas MacArthur’s dangerous but successful landing at Inchon on
September 15, U.S. and Allied troops pushed North Korean forces back
across the 38th parallel. Hoping to uproot communism from the peninsula,
Truman allowed an eager MacArthur to pursue the erstwhile attackers, but
the counter-invasion brought the People’s Republic of China into the war.
Seasoned by years of civil war, Chinese troops fanned out into a gap MacArthur
had opened between his forces. The American-led advance was frozen, liter-
ally—that brutal winter, temperatures reached as low as minus 36 degrees
Fahrenheit—and transformed into a grueling retreat. What had seemed like
certain victory in October had become a costly stalemate. The Chinese attack
revived fears about the Soviet Union’s intentions, prompting NSRB
Chairman Stuart Symington to tell Larson they might soon need “to relocate
essential units of the Federal Government” to hotels and college campuses
near Washington.3 This relocation never happened, but the drastic turn-
around in Korea made the need for dispersal all the more clear to its
advocates. Certain members of Congress disagreed.

T S O D

The new dispersal plan submitted to the Public Works Committees doubled
the number of sites from four to eight but proposed to erect just one building
with a capacity of 5,000 at each location, thus allowing the dispersal of
60 T I O  T

40,000 employees. The new plan assumed additional offices could be built
on those sites in the future for another 40,000 employees. A total of
$190 million was requested to pay for the construction of the buildings,
60 miles of new roads, and 70 miles of highway upgrades. The General
Accounting Office, then under construction on G and 4th Streets, provided
a prototype for the proposed buildings. The sprawling, seven-story structure
was the District’s first block-type federal office. With the introduction of flu-
orescent lamps in the 1930s, large buildings no longer required natural light-
ing, which meant architects could omit wings and inner courts.4 The GAO,
with its plain stone façade and evenly spaced casement windows, represented
the future of federal buildings: functional, cheap, unadorned. For dispersal,
Public Buildings commissioner W.E. Reynolds envisioned spartan buildings
three to four stories high, with concrete walls faced in red or yellow bricks.
In a major change, the new plan shrunk the dispersal zone from a 50-mile
radius to one between 15 and 20 miles. Concern that federal workers living
in the District might quit their jobs rather than commute prompted the
reduction. In order to improve the bills’ chances of passage, Larson also
wanted to locate the campuses close to existing towns rather than develop
new communities.5 However, as pointed out by Clarence Stein, founder
and president of the Regional Development Council of America, if federal
workers didn’t move with their offices, “the bombing of Washington by
night . . . might wipe out the office workers themselves, leaving only the
buildings to carry on.”6
The legislators who determined dispersal’s fate were an interesting lot.
Chavez was a former grocer’s clerk who attended night law school and
worked his way from the New Mexico legislature to the U.S. Senate. A stocky
man, his broad face stretched by jowls, Chavez was a heavy drinker, and the
possibility he might manage the bill on the Senate floor while under the influ-
ence wasn’t far-fetched. Fortunately Spessard Holland (D-Fla.), chair of the
subcommittee on Public Buildings, stepped in. With his shock of white hair
and wire-rimmed glasses, Holland could pass as a mild-mannered professor,
but a strong temper occasionally flared.7 Whittington had little to gain or lose
by dispersal; he was a lame duck, on his way back to Greenwood, Miss., and
he was content to let his fellow committee members dominate the hearings.
At the House hearings, which began on December 8, George Dondero
(R-Mich.) repeated the question he had asked in August: How will the pub-
lic react to the dispersal of federal workers when cities like Detroit remain
concentrated? When Larson said that Ford’s gigantic River Rouge facility
couldn’t be as easily moved as offices for federal workers, Dondero rejoined
that the $190 million might be better spent on military weapons. Paul
Cunningham (R-Iowa) wanted to know if a 20-mile radius really could
provide protection against atomic blasts. “I cannot visualize much advantage
in placing them [the dispersal sites] in the circles that I see on that map,” he
said, referring to the visual aid Tracy Augur had brought along.8
Appearing before the Senate Public Works Committee a few days later, dis-
persal advocates confronted more tough questions. Chavez wanted to know
D, O   T,  U ? 61

why the headquarters for the National Park Service couldn’t be located
elsewhere in the country. Assistant Budget Director Roger Jones replied,
“[t]he whole question comes as to where do you draw the line between the
concept of the retention of the seat of government in this area, and where
does the dispersion of functions or decentralization of functions get you
to the point where you actually do not have Washington as the seat of
government.” He asserted that dispersal wouldn’t alter the District’s status as
the capital, but if dispersal was the best passive defense against nuclear attack,
why nudge selected federal offices just 20 miles from the zero milestone
marker, especially since the United States and the Soviet Union were both
developing hydrogen bombs? When asked about the probable destructive
range of hydrogen bombs, Colonel Ramsay Potts, an NSRB official and
former member of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, avoided a direct
answer but implied that 20 miles was sufficient distance.9
The Senate hearings ended with testimony from suburban residents and
urban planners. Many supported the principle of dispersal but worried about
negative side effects. The committee heard from the Northern Virginia
Regional Commission, which worried that tax-exempt federal campuses
would increase taxes and overburden utilities. The commission had support
from Frederick Gutheim, an author and the chairman of the recently formed
Washington Regional Planning Council, which wanted to align dispersal with
regional and local planning.10 Gutheim disputed the claims of Jones and
Larson that new residents brought in by dispersal would benefit suburban
communities. Property taxes on new homes will not cover the costs of new
roads and schools, Gutheim argued. He was just as troubled by a vision of
free-for-all development: “look, for example, at the way in which the city
[Washington] is spreading down the highways leading out of the city—this
vast motor slum, hot-dog stands and filling stations and housing projects are
all mixed together.”11
The administration didn’t press for a floor vote before Congress recessed.
Both bills died but were reintroduced in the new Congress. In his 1952
budget plan, Truman requested funds to pay for the eight-site dispersal plan,
and he stated that government units that could operate efficiently outside
of the capital could be decentralized. Agencies on the decentralization
list reportedly included the claims office of the State Department, the
Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Census Bureau, and part of the
Veterans Administration.12 The bill that emerged from the second session of
Senate hearings thus matched dispersal of 20,000 employees with decen-
tralization of up to 25,000 federal workers. The bill, S. 218, cut the number
of sites and buildings from eight to four (5,000 workers at each site) and
reduced the budget request to $107 million. Significantly, the dispersal zone
stayed at the 20-mile line. The funds requested covered the buildings, park-
ing lots, telephone lines, water and sewage connections, and the construction
of a radial highway encircling the District on its north, south, and west sides
to provide access to the dispersal campuses. S. 218 also authorized the razing
of the tempos and asked the GSA to work with state and local bodies in
62 T I O  T

carrying out dispersal. At a glance, the bill seemed to offer something to

please everyone.13
Except the agencies scheduled for decentralization. Veterans administrator
General Carl Gray, who had previously agreed to decentralize the 8,000
employees of his insurance claims section, changed his mind, fearing the
affected employees would quit. Keep them on the list, Truman told Budget
Director Frederick J. Lawton—this was a unit that didn’t need to work in
Washington.14 Every agency, it seemed, could justify staying in the District.
The American Patent Law Association argued that the Patent Office, which
had relocated to Richmond, Va., during World War II, must remain in
Washington: defense agencies drew on its collection of scientific data; its cur-
rent headquarters, the Commerce Building, had specially built records storage
space; its patent experts would resign rather than move. One Budget consult-
ant estimated that only between 50 to 60 percent of the employees in all of the
agencies currently scheduled for decentralization would follow their jobs.15
Suburban opposition to dispersal also continued. A recurring complaint
was that the federal government already owned too much land beyond the
District line. The 56,000-acre Quantico Marine Base southwest of Manassas
Va., and the Agriculture Department’s 12,000-acre Beltsville tract in Prince
Georges County, Md., were cited as prime examples. Prince Georges’s assessor
explained the drawback to federal ownership of more than 20,000 acres in his
county: “At an average annual tax of about $40 an acre, that runs into a lot
of money we don’t get.” Suburbanites had an ally in Rep. Howard W. Smith
(D-Va.), who said the federal government should use only its land for disper-
sal “instead of paying more of the taxpayers’ money to buy more land which
takes it out of taxation and causes the communities to suffer.” As an example,
he cited Bull Run Park in Virginia.16 Such proposals gave dispersal advocates
headaches. Sites suitable for dispersal were limited and turf battles—
literally—were likely. Bull Run Park contained a Civil War battlefield. Would
the Interior Department quietly hand over chunks of this national park for
federal offices?
The House Public Works Committee tabled its bill, leaving dispersal in the
Senate’s hands. S. 218 reached the floor on April 18 with Holland as floor
leader. The Florida Democrat called the bill a “vital security matter,” and,
when compared to the billions of dollars already spent on atomic research
and weaponry, economical as well. William Langer (R-N.Dak.) disagreed,
complaining that federal buildings always cost more than originally pro-
jected. Why not just “close certain of these agencies and send the employees
home, and let them stay there?” asked John Williams (R-Del.). Homer
Capehart (R-Ind.) wanted to know why the tempos had to be razed.
Irritated, Holland answered, “the demolition of those temporary buildings
is absolutely necessary if we are to demonstrate that we are not just a bunch
of ostriches with our heads in the sand.” During subsequent debate, the
decision to shrink the dispersal zone proved fatal, as legislators observed that
20 miles wasn’t enough distance. Opponents also said the removal of just
20,000 workers wouldn’t reduce the capital’s attraction as a target and called
D, O   T,  U ? 63

for decentralization. Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.) successfully moved to send the

bill back to the Public Works Committee for “further study.”17
Further study. The bland phrase couldn’t mask the motion as a death
blow. In a note thanking Holland for his efforts, Truman remarked, “[h]ow
anybody could oppose a national defense project as important as that
[dispersal] to the capital of the United States I can’t understand.”18
In January 1952, the President once more asked for dispersal in his budget
message. In a bid to win over suburban residents and Rep. Smith, Truman
promised that only government-owned land would be used.19 It wasn’t
enough to change Congressional minds, however, and Truman didn’t press
the issue. By this date, Tracy Augur had quit his job as Urban Planning
Officer. Few had worked as hard as Augur to disperse the capital, making the
ignominious outcome not just a professional blow, but a personal one, too.

T M M

Throughout 1951, Blue Ridge Summit, a small Pennsylvania town close to
the Maryland border, was enjoying an economic boom as workers for the
P.J. Healy Co. filled the town’s restaurants and businesses during their
off-hours. Healy specialized in excavation. It had dug the Lincoln Tunnel in
New York City; now the firm was burrowing tunnels beneath Raven Rock
Mountain, not far from Blue Ridge Summit. Forested and flat-topped, Raven
Rock stood approximately six miles northeast of Camp Ritchie, a Maryland
National Guard training facility recently expropriated for the Army, which
supervised the tunneling. At the base of Raven Rock, metal sheds straddled
gigantic holes carved into the mountain, cranes protruded from ground
stripped of trees and brush. Round-the-clock, trucks rolled up to the site’s
guarded gates to unload supplies and equipment. The Defense Department
said a supplemental communications base was being built, but this was no
ordinary installation: it was an underground command post for the military
services, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.20
The Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs believed an emergency
headquarters, not dispersal, best served the military’s needs. In June 1947,
the Munitions Board had started studying the feasibility of using under-
ground space for industrial production and storage. In May 1948, James
Forrestal told Munitions to fold this project into the NSRB’s work on dis-
persal and the emergency relocation of wartime essential government offices.
Munitions and the Joint Chiefs had already begun planning an alternate
headquarters for the military, however, and neither body intended to accept
the NSRB’s supervision. Munitions identified more than 3,300 staff (492
military, 2,861 civilian) who would carry out emergency operations, and the
Joint Chiefs defined the functions of an alternate command post, including
oversight of the services’ operational elements and coordination with war
mobilization efforts. Throughout the second half of 1948, the Army
conducted explosives tests in Colorado and Utah to aid in the design of
blast-proof underground structures, and Munitions identified sites in Ohio,
64 T I O  T

New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland suitable for the construction of large
underground facilities.21
Louis Johnson, Forrestal’s successor, expanded this planning. In July
1949, he asked the secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force to prepare for
continuity of their operations in case of an attack on Washington. After the
Soviet atomic test, he told Sen. Alexander Wiley (R-Wisc.), a member of
the Armed Services Committee, about the command post and advised him
that Defense needed an unspecified amount of money to continue the
project.22 In November, Johnson formed a committee on disaster planning.
In addition to the service secretaries, it included the Joint Chiefs and staff
from his own office. Johnson asked the committee to identify Defense’s
essential tasks, to copy and store vital records in a secure location outside of
the capital, and to prepare for the evacuation of top Defense officials following
an attack warning. Johnson also wanted the committee to pick a site for the
alternate command post.23
The Raven Rock site, which Truman approved in May 1950, was chosen
for several reasons. The mountain was about 70 air miles northwest of
Washington, in sparsely populated, wooded terrain. Just miles away, Camp
Ritchie, now called Fort Ritchie, could serve as a base for the Army Corps of
Engineers during construction. And most important, scientists and engineers
believed an installation beneath Raven Rock could withstand an atomic
explosion. The command post, officially known as the Alternate Joint
Communications Center, informally as Site R, consisted of two tunnels, one
facing northeast, the other facing northwest. The tunnels, which on a dia-
gram resemble tuning forks, lay deep below Raven Rock’s peak. Each had
two parallel entrances that converged after approximately 500 feet, forming
wide corridors joining at a right angle deep inside the mountain. Both tun-
nels provided access to a grid of passageways and chambers carved alongside
the northwest corridor. Just like the Pentagon’s rings, the five primary chambers
were lettered A–E; office space was built within them. Four additional chambers
housed power plants and water reservoirs.24
The design and construction of Site R presented formidable and unique
challenges. To envision design potentials and limits, an architect can usually
visit a site and see its boundaries, grade of the land, and the height of
neighboring structures. At Raven Rock, the creation of the site itself was an
enormous undertaking. From something, tons of soil and dense, varied rock,
had to come nothing: empty space and air. That space, dank and dark, also
had to be made hospitable to humans. A water source was needed, but seep-
ing water had to be pumped out; the moisture content of the air had to be
lowered, fresh air channeled in, and the temperature controlled. Lighting
called for generators, which required exhaust vents. Only then could foundations
be laid, steel beams fitted together, walls and floors finished.
A secret military post burrowed inside a mountain might conjure images
of dim bulbs strung along a wet rock ceiling, stacks of water drums, and
spartan bunk beds. This, Site R wasn’t. The east and west access tunnels were
paved and wide enough for vehicles. Within the grid of lettered chambers,
D, O   T,  U ? 65

steel structures three stories high were built. Plans for the first building,
under construction by June 1951, laid out office space for almost 1,400 persons,
a cafeteria, an infirmary, utility space, and communications rooms. The plan
for an adjacent building had office space for 1,500 people. Although the
finished buildings were smaller than originally projected, they could still
accommodate 2,200 persons.25 Just as the U.S. military had built the world’s
largest office building on the banks of the Potomac, it carved out Raven
Rock’s heart to create an underground city. Completed in June 1953, Site R
had power plants that could produce 12 million BTUs of steam heat per hour
and generate 2,500 kilovolts of electricity. Site R could dispose of up to three
tons of trash, process a million gallons of sewage, and hold two million
gallons of water in its vast water reservoirs—all in a single day. Four miles of
road led into and through the facility, and more than 650 acres of land
guarded by the Army surrounded it.26
Site R’s self-sufficiency mattered little, however, without reliable commu-
nication links to Washington and military bases. Providing these links was
the responsibility of the Army’s Signal Corps and the Bell System (AT&T).
During 1951, Bell began building a land wire network to provide telephone
and telegraphic transmissions between Site R and the military’s facilities in
the capital region. The Signal Corps also built transmitting and receiving
stations at Greencastle, Pa., and Sharpsburg, Md., to allow radio contact.
More channels were needed, though, resulting in the construction of a
microwave network. Microwaves offered an ideal alternative to both radio
and telephone cables. Radio waves can measure more than 1,000 feet wide,
require powerful transmitters to travel long distances, and are sensitive to
atmospheric interference. The narrow width of microwaves, typically three
inches, allowed point-to-point transmission for distances of 15–50 miles.
Receiving antennas affixed to a tower channeled the waves through metal
tubes to repeaters or amplifiers, which sustained the signal strength, and
additional antennas sent the waves to the next tower. Oscillating at frequen-
cies measured by the billions per second, microwaves could be subdivided
into several channels; each channel, into hundreds or even thousands of
circuits. This enabled the simultaneous transmission of voice signals, televi-
sion programming, and data to teletypewriters. Unlike land lines, microwaves
required no right-of-ways or poles and traveled close to the speed of light.27
In June 1951, the Signal Corps decided to hire the Bell System to build
and help operate Site R’s microwave network. Bell had installed its first
microwave relay just four years before but already had established itself as an
innovator in the field. Although the Army considered building the network
itself, it believed Bell, given its resources, could do the work at less cost and
“since this was a test case, the telephone company would make an all-out
effort to maintain or exceed its high standards of service for this system.”
And as one Signal Corps officer observed, existing law would permit the
military to seize control of the network during war or national emergency.28
Two buried cables provided the first leg of the network, stretching six miles
from Site R to Quirauk Mountain in Washington County, Md. (A cable link
66 T I O  T

was necessary because a bomb detonated on Raven Rock would obliterate

transmitting towers built there.) Over 2,000 feet high, Quirauk is one of
Maryland’s tallest mountains and offered unobstructed signal lines to a
repeater station in Damascus, Md. The next “hop”—the distance between
repeater stations—extended to a tower erected in Tysons Corner in Fairfax
County, Va. From there, the microwave network branched to several points,
including Fort Meade, Md., Andrews Air Force Base, and La Plata, Md.,
which provided a link to the Pentagon.29
Meanwhile the military drafted interim continuity of operation plans.
Although Johnson had first asked the secretaries of the military services to
write such plans in July 1949, they had accomplished little, and Johnson
himself was gone. Angered by his clumsy efforts to force out Secretary of
State Dean Acheson, Truman demanded his resignation on September 11,
1950. Stunned, Johnson implored the President to reconsider; Truman
refused, and Johnson resigned the next day. Then, in front of the President,
he started weeping.30 The new secretary of defense, George Marshall, was
unlikely to cry in anyone’s presence. A career military officer and Army Chief
of Staff during World War II, Marshall had preceded Acheson as secretary
of state and commanded bipartisan respect. Acheson, who wasn’t easily
impressed, wrote of him: “His figure conveyed intensity, which his voice, low,
staccato, and incisive, reinforced. It compelled respect.”31 In March 1951,
Marshall formed a new committee on disaster planning and made it clear he
wanted results concerning protective facilities at the Pentagon, evacuation
procedures, and alternate headquarters. He got them.
By May, the Air Force had surveyed the Pentagon for space where a
fortified shelter for 150 key officials might be built. It picked an area in the
sub-basement near a stairway in the D-Ring. The shelter would require blast
doors, reinforced concrete walls, its own power, and air purification filters.
The surveyors believed such a shelter could withstand the detonation of an
atomic bomb above the White House, one mile northeast, but not directly
above the Pentagon. According to the disaster committee, “[it] would
be ideal if we could construct bomb-proof shelters for use by all Defense
employees or at least by all key employees,” but construction challenges and
cost made that impractical.32
Instead of building shelters for everyone, Marshall authorized the Military
District of Washington (MDW), a unit of the Army, to set up an “Air Raid
Precaution Organization.” Established in 1942, the MDW was responsible
for the capital’s defense and provided security at the Pentagon, among other
duties. By November 1951, the MDW had charted a detailed shelter and evac-
uation plan. The MDW divided the Pentagon by floors, seven total including
the basement and mezzanine, then grouped the floors into five sectors, one
for each side of the Pentagon; each sector split into rings, which were lettered
to match the building’s five rings. The wardens designated for these various
divisions were as proliferate as rabbits in a warren. Floor wardens appointed
sector wardens, who named ring wardens; they designated room wardens as
well as floor, elevator, and washroom monitors. Every warden had an assistant,
D, O   T,  U ? 67

too. Should the air-raid sirens wail the take-cover signal, movement to shelter
areas, which simply consisted of hallways and windowless rooms on the lower
levels, proceeded from the top down, beginning with the fifth floor. This
choreography was as unrealistic as it was elaborate. (Perhaps not coinciden-
tally, the MDW also commanded the Arlington Cemetery Burial Guard and
led military parades in Washington.) By the MDW’s own admission, the plan
assumed that “sufficient advance warning of an aerial attack will be received
to permit the movement of all personnel to those areas affording the maximum
Recognizing the limits of the proposed D-ring shelter and the MDW’s
planning, the disaster committee designated Fort Meade as an alternate
headquarters pending completion of Site R. Fort Meade, a sprawling base
constructed in 1917, lay 20 miles northeast of Washington and had recently
been designated the headquarters of the Second U.S. Army. The disaster
committee instructed the Army to arrange quarters for 1,000 employees at
Fort Meade and to install a mobile radio teletype and power generators.
The Army was also responsible for transporting the deputy secretary of
defense, the undersecretaries of the three services, the vice chiefs of staff of
the Army and Air Force, and the vice chief of Naval Operations to Fort
Meade immediately following an attack warning. The disaster committee
told these men to “be prepared to take over operations of the Department of
Defense upon receipt of information of the unavailability of their principals
to do so.” Each service and the Office of the Secretary of Defense also dupli-
cated documents needed to wage war and stored them at facilities outside
Washington. The Navy put its papers in Norfolk, Va.; the Air Force, at its
Langley base near Hampton, Va. With these preparations, the services and
the Office of the Secretary of Defense considered themselves ready to
continue operations even if their worst-case scenario, Condition ABLE, came
true before Site R was ready: a Soviet atomic attack left “the entire Defense
organization at the Seat of Government . . . totally destroyed or totally
inoperative; existing physical facilities and communications are rendered
useless for any effective direction of the Department of Defense; some person-
nel may survive, but casualties among Defense officials are so extensive as to
preclude any effective continuation of control at the Seat of Government.”34
The interim alternate headquarters at Fort Meade and the construction
beneath Raven Rock Mountain showed the military’s confidence and
certainty of its mission in Cold War America. Just ten years before, Franklin
Roosevelt had imagined the Pentagon as a windowless structure converted
into a warehouse after World War II. Not only had the military kept its
gigantic building, now it was constructing a secret alternate headquarters.
That this structure needed no windows only underscored how very different
was the postwar world than the one Roosevelt had fancied.
A compliant Congress smoothed the way. Beneath the Capitol dome
dispersal had withered, yet legislators authorized millions of dollars for Site R
and its microwave network. Why? As extraordinary as Site R was, the military
convincingly justified its existence and expenses as the price of warfare in the
68 T I O  T

atomic age. One didn’t have to be a four-star general to recognize the need
for an alternate headquarters and channels through which commanders
would mobilize the armed forces of a nation reeling from a stunning attack
that destroyed its capital. Dispersal lacked this urgency. Sen. John Stennis
(D-Miss.) spoke for many legislators when he said:
In my opinion, we could not do a more shameful thing than to set this example
[dispersal] before the American people, which dress it up as you may, is never-
theless largely a matter of those in the Government running for cover when
the rest of the people will be told to stick by their posts. If additional buildings are
needed, let them be added in the regular course, but not under the guise of a
dispersal plan to avoid the effects of an atomic bomb, especially if the removal
is for only 20 short miles. If the military needs an additional communications
center, let it be built as such.35 (Emphasis added)

That center was Site R, built while dispersal went down to defeat. At the same
time, another alternate headquarters was under construction, though not for the
military’s use. Nor was it located far beyond the 20-mile line. Indeed, this facil-
ity lay so close to the zero milestone marker that the distance measured in yards.

T P  P A

Imagine . . . standing deep beneath the East Terrace or Colonnade, which
connects the White House to the East Wing. Behind you is a passageway
leading to an elevator next to the paint shop in the northeast corner of the
White House basement. In front of you is a steel blast door. You enter a
corridor six feet wide. Facing you is the windowless wall of a small guard
room; on your left, to the east, is a ramp up. You walk the length of the corri-
dor, leaning into the incline, then turn right. This hallway is narrow and short,
ending at two tiny adjoining chambers with air-tight doors. You pass through,
again turn right. On one side is a medical dispensary, with several small,
connecting rooms; on the other side, men’s and women’s restrooms. Walk
west down the corridor and descend a set of stairs—now you enter a spacious,
open, fluorescent-lit room full of communications equipment: switchboards,
telephones, encryption devices. The walls are painted, asphalt tiles cover the
concrete floor. Four rectangular columns support the three-foot thick ceiling
overhead and separate the communications center from the adjoining map
room. Walk through the map room and the gas-proof door in its northwest
corner, and you again pass the guard room, ending up where you started.
Although you’ve just walked around the White House’s atomic bomb shelter
beneath the southeast grounds, you bypassed several features, including
an apartment, well and pump, diesel generators, and a corridor and ramp
connecting this facility to an older bomb shelter beneath the East Wing.36

* * *
On September 14, 1950, Lorenzo Simmons Winslow did more than
imagine such a place—he drew it. Winslow was the White House architect,
D, O   T,  U ? 69

and for the next two years, he presided over the construction of an atomic
bomb shelter similar to the one described above. Although revised blueprints
altered the layout and the number of rooms, the shelter was built directly
beneath the East Terrace, it reaches underneath what is now the Jacqueline
Kennedy Garden, and it connects to both the northeast corner of the White
House basement and the bomb shelter built beneath the East Wing.
Winslow began designing the shelter in July, at the request of Rear
Admiral Robert Dennison, the naval aide to the President. Among his duties,
Dennison supervised Shangri-La (later called Camp David), the presidential
retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains. Truman didn’t much care for
Shangri-La, but he loved to cruise the Potomac in the naval yacht
Williamsburg; Dennison readied the vessel for every trip. He also carried the
President’s war file.37 This last duty had prompted Dennison’s interest in
a new shelter for the White House. What good was the war file if the
commander in chief didn’t survive an opening attack?
The White House’s existing shelter, built in 1942 during construction of
the East Wing, was inadequate for the atomic age. Located in the south half
of the basement, the shelter was certainly sturdy and well equipped. It had
seven-foot thick reinforced concrete walls and floors and a nine-foot thick
ceiling sheathed in steel. As planned, the shelter was a 40-foot square space
“with a tiny island of a presidential bedchamber and bath in the center,
encased in walls three feet thick.” Small rooms built alongside the shelter’s
walls housed toilets, a pantry, and a kitchen; ventilation equipment; and a
diesel generator to provide electrical power. The shelter also connected to a
tunnel extending from the northeast lawn of the White House to the
neighboring Treasury Building on East Executive Avenue. (Soon after Pearl
Harbor, the Army set up a temporary bomb shelter in vaults beneath the
Treasury Building and excavated this tunnel.)38 However, the shelter was
small, and it lacked an independent water supply and protection against
radiation. In July 1950, Dennison, along with the Secret Service and the
Army, persuaded Truman to authorize the construction of a new shelter.
The Korean War had heightened concerns about the vulnerability of the
White House; furthermore, Dennison wanted to build the shelter before
the massive renovation of the White House, now eight months along, was
Two years earlier, structural engineers had discovered the President’s
house was literally pulling itself apart. The 1902 expansion of the State
Dining Room and the 1927 rebuilding of the roof and attic had over-
burdened nineteenth-century wooden mortise and tenon beams. By 1948,
these flaws were manifesting themselves in ever more ominous ways. In
January, as he greeted guests during an official reception, Truman heard a
crystalline shiver from the Blue Room chandelier directly over his head.
Concerned as well by vibrations in the floors of the family’s quarters, he
ordered a thorough survey, leading to the discovery of the beam stresses.
Months later, a leg of First Daughter Margaret’s grand piano broke through
her bedroom floor. Further investigation revealed the White House needed
70 T I O  T

nothing short of a new foundation and frame. The Trumans decamped to

Blair House and Congress created the Commission on the Renovation of the
Executive Mansion. Headed by the curmudgeonly Senator Kenneth
McKellar (D-Tenn.), the Commission included three other members of
Congress and two Truman appointees, architect Douglas W. Orr and Major
General Glen E. Edgerton. The Commission, which first met in June 1949,
oversaw a project that lasted almost three years and cost close to seven million
dollars. The entire interior of the White House was gutted (fixtures and
floors were dismantled and removed), and a steel frame replaced the wooden
Winslow was responsible for the renovation’s drawings and plans, making
him the logical choice to design the shelter. The architect, who favored tweed
suits and sported a carefully groomed mustache, was commonly described as
modest and unassuming, a devoted family man whose hobbies included his
vintage car and painting. In fact, Winslow was also proud of his patrician
family tree; dabbled in the occult, including seances with dead presidents;
and documented extramarital affairs in his diary. He came to the executive
mansion in 1933, when he designed a pool for the West Terrace. Roosevelt,
who swam as therapy for his poliomyelitis, loved the pool, and he soon
entrusted Winslow with more White House projects. An amateur architect,
Roosevelt frequently presented Winslow with his own sketches. Another man
might have resented these intrusions, but Winslow encouraged them,
cementing his position, and Truman kept him on.41
During July and August, Winslow delegated responsiblities and began
designing the new shelter. He had to answer several important questions.
First, how deep should it be? If he wanted to encase it in bedrock, then the
excavators would have to dig 70 feet before striking solid rock. Second, where
should he build the shelter: beneath the White House, one of the wings, or
the grounds? Third, where should he place the access tunnels and entry
points? Their location required alterations to the ongoing renovation; obvi-
ously the tunnels and entrances had to connect to the White House. Most
important, as a structural engineer pointedly asked during one meeting,
“[W]hat are you designing this thing against?” Neither Winslow nor Colonel
Douglas Gillette, Edgerton’s assistant, had an answer. Everyone knew the
shelter needed to protect its occupants against the blast, heat, and radiation of
an atomic bomb, but no one had yet determined technical specifications.42
Winslow acted decisively. The Army Office of the Chief of Engineers and
the AEC helped determine the shelter’s protective requirements. As super-
vising architect Allan S. Thorn told Winslow, once the two of them had
drafted an overall plan, it was “comparatively simple to have the technical
men work it out.”43 With walls and floors two feet thick and the roof three
feet thick, the shelter would shield occupants from the blast and radiation
effects of a 20-kiloton atomic bomb detonated at an altitude of 1,500 feet.
According to the Army engineers, such a shelter would also protect against
ground-penetrating conventional bombs of up to 2,000 pounds.44 Winslow
selected a corner in the White House basement as the access point for a
D, O   T,  U ? 71

passageway to the shelter, which he placed beneath the East Terrace. As

Winslow and Thorn planned it, the shelter reached from the East Wing’s
west wall to the White House’s east wall and extended 120 feet south from a
mechanical service tunnel being built for the renovation. Winslow also put
the new shelter in deep: beneath the East Wing’s sewer line and lower than
the old shelter, which lay four levels below the first floor.45
Winslow soon met with “the Boss” to show him the plans. Truman gave
the nod but said he didn’t want the work to impede the renovation.
On August 16, Dennison promised the Commission that the “protective
measures” would bring but “minor modifications” to the renovation
and would be separately funded through the office of the Public Buildings
Commissioner. The Commission also worried about delays but pledged its
full cooperation. Contracts for the shelter work, officially known as Project
Number 49-100-9, were awarded to John McShain, Inc., the renovation’s
head contractor, and to the excavation firm of Spencer, White, and Prentiss
(hereafter Spencer). Expect to begin work the day after the appropriations
cleared, Winslow told Thorn—there was no time to spare.46
“Project 9” actually involved four related actions: demolition and rebuild-
ing of the East Terrace; modification of the northeast corner of the White
House basement and installation of an underground passageway; upgrading
of the old shelter; and construction of the new shelter. Thomas Jefferson had
originally built the East Terrace but its current form dated to 1902, when
Charles Follen McKim designed a long, airy corridor with glazed windows
and a colonnade. The terrace brought guests from the porte cochere and
guest entrance McKim built facing East Executive Avenue. Most of McKim’s
work was razed to make way for the East Wing but the terrace remained,
including its spacious coatroom, known as the Hatbox after the stackable
wooden boxes once used to hold men’s hats. In July 1942, Roosevelt had the
Hatbox converted into a movie theater.47 To excavate for the atomic shelter,
Winslow needed to remove the East Terrace entirely. Its columns, cornices,
parapets, and other stone work were kept intact to allow restoration.48
McShain began dismantling the East Terrace in September, then Spencer
started the excavation, which had to be coordinated with the construction of
the White House’s basement. Prior to reconstruction, the White House
“basement” was really a ground floor, and the foundation rested on clay soil
just a few feet below the grade. Support for the new steel frame required
underpinnings 24 feet deep, where a dense stratum of sand and gravel
provided solid footing. This depth allowed installation of two new levels, a
mezzanine (beneath the ground floor) and a basement (beneath the mezzanine),
to house mechanical and electrical equipment, maintenance facilities, and
storage rooms.49 In the basement’s northeast corner, by the paint shop,
McShain and Spencer built an entrance to the tunnel leading to the atomic
shelter. Three connecting rooms required modification, including making
the mezzanine floor two feet thick and installing an elevator with a blast-
resistant door. The walls between the connecting rooms also had two six-foot
wide doorways with arched heads cut into them. A corridor was added to the
72 T I O  T

area, and the entrance to the shelter passageway went into the east wall. Just
south of this entrance, a secure telephone was installed.50
The passageway led from the White House to a point beneath the movie
theater in the East Terrace. In all, 13 blast doors, designed to specifications
set by the Army engineers, were built into this underground corridor and its
entrances. As chief structural engineer Charles Barber observed, however,
this design forced “the President to walk the length of the White House
through a corridor containing 13 doors on the prior closing of which his
safety depends.”51 The east end of the passageway provided a connecting
point to the atomic shelter. The East Terrace, like the White House base-
ment, needed extensive alterations. The area beneath the theater included
rooms for guards, pump equipment, and a generator for the passageway.
Ceilings four feet thick were poured for these rooms, and the north and
south walls beneath the theater were strengthened substantially by adding
underpinnings three feet thick. The corridor leading to the shelter also had
walls three feet thick.52
Upgrading of the old shelter proceeded concurrently with the work on the
East Terrace and White House basement. Improvements included installa-
tion of a decontamination chamber, new blast doors, and a more powerful
diesel generator. The decontamination chamber, which contained showers
and chutes to dispose of clothing, required partial demolition of the shelter
floor for the fitting of drains and pipes. The new blast doors also required
some demolition, in this case to standing walls. Two of the doors went into
the East Wing’s south exterior entrance; the third, inside the building by a
northwest stairway. Most of this work was done by June 1951, but the air
regulation system wasn’t fully operable. Other problems in the old shelter
resulted from the incomplete status of the new shelter.53
From the start, delays, design problems, and cost overruns hindered
construction of the new shelter. The multifaceted Project 9 required dozens
of detailed architectural drawings, and Winslow’s office, pressed by a tight
schedule, struggled to produce blueprints. Engineers, contractors, and other
architects frequently had to halt work to wait for drawings. The structural
engineer, for example, couldn’t draft plans for the alteration of the base-
ment’s northeast corner until he received tunnel specifications from Winslow.
For his part, Winslow had to vet some drawings through the Army engineers.
In October, he sent three different shelter floor plans to the Chief of Engineers,
who selected “Scheme 3” as the “most economical” and “satisfactory” plan.
Yet the delays continued. By mid-November, work on the new shelter
had stopped due to a lack of drawings. The contractor also reported
“considerable delay” due to Project 9; it didn’t begin erecting wooden
frames to pour the walls and slabs of the passageway from the White House
basement to the East Terrace for another three months.54 In December, an
AEC scientist noticed the shelter’s floor wasn’t thick enough. The roof was
to be three feet thick, the floor two feet: “Since the supporting force must
equal the top load plus the weight of the structure it becomes apparent that
the floor is underdesigned.” Pouring a thicker floor was expensive—Thorn
D, O   T,  U ? 73

estimated it would cost up to $20,000—but such a flaw could hardly be

ignored. The shelter’s ceiling height was lowered six inches and the floor’s
thickness increased by the same. Although this meant the floor and foundation
were only equal to three-quarters of the roof load, all concerned thought this
The floor changes were one of many unexpected expenses. Initial estimates
had projected $68,000 for improvements to the old shelter, $210,000 for the
underground passageway, and $1.1 million for the new shelter itself.56
Revised estimates lowered the expected tunnel cost to $175,000 and the
shelter cost to $713,000. On July 11, 1950, Truman approved the transfer of
$68,000 from the President’s Emergency Fund to pay for the old shelter’s
upgrading and in November, another $813,000 to pay for the tunnel and
new shelter, bringing the total allotment to $881,000. Although alterations
to the old shelter totaled just $48,000, the savings of $20,000 didn’t offset
the cost overruns. The Army engineers changed the design of the 13 blast
doors, labor costs increased ten percent. The budget had also omitted clothes
chutes and special wooden doors for the decontamination chambers, modifi-
cation to the movie theater, and temporary phone lines. In June 1951, Allan
Thorn estimated a deficit of $55,000, prompting a request for additional
Project 9’s overseers did their best to shave costs. In January 1951,
Dennison asked if the tunnel to the Treasury Building could be modified to
provide shelter for White House staff. The Public Buildings Service estimated
it would cost $49,5000 to install electric fans and benches, but the project
was deferred, as was construction of an underground passageway connecting
the new shelter to the West Wing. No expenditure was too small to avoid
scrutiny. Winslow even instructed Thorn to stop adding red coloring to the
new shelter’s concrete, which identified it as Class AAA. “[P]ractically all of
the concrete for this project will be Class AAA concrete,” Winslow pointed
out, and “the extra painting cost will be an excessive item for the White
House to maintain.” Thorn himself offered several money-saving ideas for
the new shelter: eliminate plastering, asphalt floor tiles, and wall and column
moldings; install two rather than four rows of fluorescent lights in the map
room; omit some electrical and phone outlets.58
The finished shelter differed from Winslow’s preliminary drawing.
The shelter’s location, entry points, and passageway to the White House
basement remained the same. The large map room, however, was split into
three rooms. Room 1, with seating for 30, was designated the Presentation
or Briefing Room. Altogether, the shelter was composed of some 20 rooms.
Room 14 contained clothing disposal chutes, while Room 19, flanked by air
intake fan rooms, housed racks of filters to purify the shelter’s air. There were
kitchenettes, a medical dispensary, toilets. To ensure an independent water
supply, a pump room held a well drilled more than 70 feet deep. Although
the water was potable, it was also highly corrosive to pipes, and so, at least
initially, the shelter drew water from the District’s supply and stored it in
tanks, with the well serving as a back-up.59
74 T I O  T

By September 1951, the new shelter was finished—or so the Commission

was led to believe. A report from Project Manager William Kelley listed work
on the “underground vaults” (the euphemism for the shelters and tunnels) as
“100% complete.” In fact, the shelter was still very much a work-in-progress.
Workers had just poured the final sections of concrete, and Allan Thorn and
the contractor were still haggling over the costs of work on the shelter’s
superstructure. Substantial work on the utilities remained. Two 12-inch
pipes, extending from the shelter roof to a hedge in the East Garden, were
supposed to provide fresh air intake for the shelter, but the trenches, which
needed to lie at least 16 inches beneath the lawn, had to be dug. The water
tank’s vent, to be concealed in shrubbery beneath an East Wing window,
hadn’t yet been installed, nor had fill lines for the generators’ fuel tanks.
Electricians still needed to mount and wire the shelter’s attack sirens.60
In March 1952, Gillette inspected the shelters. On the East Wing’s first
floor, the air intake pipes in Rooms 2 and 3 lacked filters—without them,
radiation could flow right into the old shelter. Likewise, one of the old
shelter’s air exit ports needed a valve to prevent backdraft. Gillette also
worried that the exhaust system of the new generator wasn’t fully leak-proof.
The new shelter had its share of problems, too. In room 14, two clothing
disposal chutes were missing. The filter room needed another manometer,
its racks lacked key parts, and there was no way to recirculate conditioned
air within the room. The ceiling lighting in the three map rooms wasn’t
shockproofed. Painters had removed an air regulator slide to use as a palette.61
Renovation of the White House was thus completed as the shelter
work continued. Truman could hardly wait for the White House to reopen.
Escorting reporters through the mansion on an advance tour in February, he
proudly showed off the new kitchen and the Lincoln Bedroom. Looking
dapper in a light blue suit, he amiably told one White House anecdote after
another, including his idea to have Lincoln’s “ghost” appear one night while
visiting schoolmates of Margaret’s were asleep. Press coverage built up pub-
lic anticipation, and the President enthusiastically agreed to host a televised
tour in May. The White House’s official opening came on the evening of
March 27, 1952, when Truman flew back from a vacation in Key West. As he
stepped from his limousine beneath the north portico, hundreds of sightseers
crowded along Pennsylvania Avenue cheered and clapped. The President
accepted a ceremonial gold key, raised it high, then strode into the refur-
bished structure. None of the jubilant spectators could know that he would
spend just nine months in the new White House: Truman had just written a
speech announcing he wouldn’t stand for reelection. He delivered it two days
Completion of the shelters’ protective features finally came that fall, when
the Army Chemical Corps delivered and fitted 48 filters, 3 valves, and 3 air
pressure regulators. These items are the last of “the list of required protective
equipment for the shelters,” the Corps informed Thorn, and “we await
word from your organization on the evaluation tests of the two shelters.”
Furnishings and touch-up of the shelters proceeded concurrently with the
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final protective work. An acoustical screen around the communications

equipment in the old shelter was installed. Asphalt tile was laid on the
concrete floor of the old shelter’s main room and its walls painted. (Thorn
recommended a gray dado three feet high, with a coat of off-white paint up
to the steel ceiling.) Map Room 1 in the new shelter needed numerous
fixtures, including a sliding screen on the south wall, a raised platform,
lectern and easel, and two U.S. Navy “Stand-up” chart desks. Three panel
maps, complete with frames and fire resistant curtains, were also affixed to
the room’s west wall. Throughout the new shelter, decoration was to be
“consistent with the purpose for which the area is to be used.”63
However, the shelters weren’t yet fully furnished when Truman left office.
In the spring of 1953, the Office of the Naval Aide for President Dwight D.
Eisenhower decided the shelters needed 7 folding tables, 14 folding chairs
with arms and padded seats, 149 folding chairs with steel seats, a filing
cabinet, and 12 smoking stands with ashtrays. Total cost: $1,168.39.64 Could
the money have been better spent? Six months before, in November 1952,
the United States had tested its first hydrogen device; in August 1953, the
Soviet Union did the same. Subsequent tests grimly exposed the inadequacies
of the White House’s shelters. On February 28, 1954, the United States
exploded a hydrogen bomb on the surface of Bikini Atoll in the South
Pacific. Registering a yield of 15 megatons—the equivalent of 15 million tons
of TNT—the blast created a crater 73 meters deep and 1,830 meters in
diameter.65 Neither shelter stood a chance against such a blast, as even their
designer admitted years later. “Of course, the present bomb shelter would be
useless in case of a direct hit by a hydrogen bomb,” Lorenzo Winslow
breezily informed a reporter in 1961.66
Protection of the President now required evacuation to a protected site far
from Washington. Always careful, David Stowe and Robert Dennison had
already drafted evacuation plans, but Truman made it clear what he thought
of them. “I want to tell you one thing,” he said to Dennison. “If a situation
ever develops where execution [of the plans] seems to be indicated, I don’t
intend to leave the White House. I am going to be right here.”67
Those responsible for the safety of the new president had to hope he
thought differently.
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A   A

YOU are Civil Defense . . . you must act now, before it is too late.

One of the nicest things you can say about the American people is that they
don’t take Civil Defense seriously.1

J ohn Fondahl had nurtured high hopes for the District’s civil defense
program in 1951, but he had met precious few goals. Only a fraction of
the desired volunteers had signed up and received training. The DCD had
requested $870,000 for 1952, but Congress meted out just $275,000. The
District’s civil defense plan was several chapters long, but it was little more
than filing cabinet fodder. The Office distributed citywide copies of a wallet-
sized pamphlet explaining air raid signals, yet most Washingtonians remained
ignorant of the difference between Warnings Yellow (attack likely, evacuate)
and Red (attack imminent, take cover). Adding insult to injury, local wags
had resumed distribution of a satirical samizdat. “Persons with a sense of
misguided humor are again circulating objectionable letters ridiculing the
[wardens],” the DCD announced in December. Fondahl wasn’t amused.
Calling the parody “subversive,” he turned over copies to the FBI.2 If Fondahl
lacked a sense of humor (and appreciation for the First Amendment), he had
no shortage of persistence. The new year offered an opportunity to breath life
into the city’s sputtering program, and he intended to make the most of it.

“T S  M S Y L”

On the morning of Monday, January 7, 1952, pedestrians on Rhode Island
Avenue watched as a convoy of ten semi-trucks and trailers rolled past.
Escorted by police, the colorfully painted trucks turned onto Connecticut
Avenue, winding their way through downtown streets before stopping in
front of the Departmental Auditorium, located on Constitution Avenue
between 12th and 14th Streets NW. Just days before, the trailers had carried
modules that were now assembled on the auditorium floor, creating an
exhibit as big as a basketball court. The parade of empty trucks was part of a
massive publicity effort hoping to draw Washingtonians by the tens of
thousands into the most ambitious civil defense campaign yet attempted in
78 T I O  T

Figure 5.1 Visitors to the Alert America exhibit, held in Washington in January 1952, listen
to a recording of how telephones aid civil defense. Cosponsored by the Federal Civil Defense
Administration, Alert America went to 82 cities as part of a national campaign to attract as
many as 20 million civil defense volunteers. Washington was the first stop. Copyright
Washington Post; reprinted by permission of the D.C. Public Library.

the United States: recruitment of 15 to 20 million volunteers for state and

local civil defense programs.3
The campaign was called Alert America (figure 5.1). In June 1951, the
National Advisory Council for the FCDA had called for a twofold initiative
to educate Americans about the dangers of atomic warfare and to convince
them of the need for civil defense. “Alert America” became both slogan and
theme as the FCDA, with the help of private corporations, organizations, and
media, blitzed the public with films, pamphlets, and broadcasts about home
front dangers and civil defense. “What to do about Germ Warfare”? Life had
a six-page answer. What would happen “[i]f an A-Bomb Falls”? The
Washington Post and Commercial Comics, Inc., teamed up to produce a color
graphic feature. FCDA personnel sat before radio microphones on
Gannett, Mutual Broadcasting System, and NBC stations nationwide;
television appearances included widely watched shows such as “Meet the
Press.” Edward Murrow narrated the film “Survival under Atomic Attack.”
“[P]ersonal survival information seems to be getting over,” reported the
FCDA, but interviews with urban residents still revealed sketchy knowledge
of local civil defense activities.4
A   A 79

Alert America intended to close the gap between individual knowledge

and volunteerism. The convoy in Washington, its first stop, was one of three
fanning out across the country for the next seven months, visiting cities in all
48 states. Alert America modeled itself after the Freedom Train, which had
recently toured the country to display important documents in American
history and to educate citizens about their basic freedoms. Sponsored by the
nonprofit American Heritage Foundation, the Freedom Train attracted a
daily average of 8,500 visitors. Hoping to duplicate that success, the FCDA
created a nonprofit partner, the Valley Forge Foundation, to oversee Alert
America. Like the American Heritage Foundation, Valley Forge drew board
members from Wall Street and Madison Avenue, as well as from unions,
universities, and religious groups.5 Major corporations and other government
agencies also pitched in. General Motors, Motorola, and DuPont donated
exhibit materials. The AEC gave technical advice, the Army provided truck
DCD ardently promoted Alert America. The Board of Commissioners
declared January 7–12 “Civil Defense Week,” and Fondahl solicited the
cooperation of local businesses, organizations, and media. Hecht’s Department
Store sponsored a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post, and other
stores added insets about “the show that may save your life” to their regular
advertisements. Downtown window shoppers saw Alert America signs next
to appliances and men’s dress shoes. Boy Scout troops distributed signs to
hotels, theaters, and stores. Five television and 20 radio stations broadcast
more than 1,000 spot announcements and dozens of live shows about or
from the exhibit. During the opening ceremonies, Fondahl introduced Valley
Forge Foundation president Kenneth D. Wells.7
The free exhibit was open daily from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. until Sunday,
January 13. Visitors arriving from the Grand Plaza on the Federal Triangle
saw an Army crew practicing the loading of a 90-millimeter antiaircraft gun,
its barrel pointed at the sky. Inside, like an open-air bazaar, booths covered
the entire auditorium floor. First came the shock treatment. According to its
sponsors, Alert America had to “inform and convince” Americans “of the
grim realities of today’s threat from Kremlin aggression and modern terror
weapons.”8 To do this, the firm Edward H. Burdick Associates, which had
designed the Freedom Train, assembled striking scenes of destruction. “City X”
was shown before and after an attack. As an enormous mushroom cloud lit
up panels in a darkened booth and a tape recording of an atomic explosion
carried from speakers, the warning “This Could Be Your City” flashed in
capital letters. Newsreels of World War II bombing raids ran on continuous
loop. Scale models showed blast damage to apartment buildings, frame
houses, offices. Other booths depicted croplands laid to waste. Displays of
drugs and bandages filled the booth “Every Bombed City Will Need Help.”
The effects of these scenes were reflected in the faces of first-day visitors:
pursed lips, enrapt gazes, somber expressions.9
Next came exhibits on self-help, education, and civil defense training.
If the exhibit’s first goal was simple and stark—scare the hell out of
80 T I O  T

everyone—the second aim was to stimulate volunteerism, so these booths

tried to instill confidence and can-doism. “Prepare a shelter in the safest part
of your home,” advised a poster featuring a young white couple reclined on
chairs, reading. If not for the cinderblock wall and ladder in the background,
the two might have been relaxing in the family den. Volunteers demonstrated
how a rescue truck worked, visitors could pick up Geiger counters from
tables. “Bert the Turtle” roamed the floor, handing out fliers about the film
“Duck and Cover,” which was shown regularly, along with “Survival Room”
and “Cities Must Fight.” One booth sold, for 50 cents each, metal dog tags
recording name, address, blood type, and religion. Using a special punch, the
tags could be pressed against blank records sheets to expedite registration of
the dead after an attack. In unison, the booths and films declared survival and
recovery possible, offering hope and motivation to visitors cowed by the
stylized destruction.10
Alert America’s sponsors recognized the need to present civil defense as
both a military necessity and a civic duty. If civil defense appeared overly
militaristic, Americans might recoil at the thought of volunteering; worse,
they might infer that if homeland defense was so vital, then the armed
services should be responsible for it. If civil defense was too civil, however, if
it lacked the skills and discipline paramilitary programs could impose, then
doubts might arise about its efficacy. The dog tags, perhaps more than any
other civil defense artifact, struck the required balance. Immediately recog-
nizable as military gear, they were also easily concealed beneath people’s
everyday clothing. Alert America also softened the militarism of civil defense
by displaying paintings clearly inspired by Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms
series. We see a young white girl kneeling, hands folded as she prays; a grade
school class reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, right hands clasped to their
hearts; a friendly white police officer speaking to two children. Just like the
home shelter poster, these pictures showed visitors that civil defense wasn’t
just about saving lives—it was also about saving a way of life. As a sign by the
exit read, “To Maintain the American Way of Life and Pass It Intact to
Succeeding Generations Is the Responsibility of Every True American.”11
The “American Way of Life” mostly featured propertied, white, middle-
class families. In normative civil defense, each family became an army of one,
training for readiness, survival, and recovery within the era’s fixed gender
roles: fathers would build the shelters, mothers would stock them with
canned goods. But what was special about white, middle-class families
who owned homes? Alert America didn’t mean to suggest civil defense was
exclusively for them. With a goal of recruiting at least 15 million volunteers,
the FCDA wasn’t about to turn away African Americans or the working class,
renters or the poor. After all, atomic bombs didn’t discriminate, and if
“self-help defense was going to succeed, the FCDA had to illustrate that all
Americans were equally imperiled and, at the very least, equally capable of
saving themselves” (emphasis in original). This required promises of equal
opportunity survival, but entrenched racial and class divisions belied the rosy
rhetoric. How could people build a basement shelter modeled after the
A   A 81

family den if they had neither basement nor den? When approached by
the FCDA for help, the NAACP made clear its expectation that civil defense
be based on racial equality, but the FCDA didn’t want to use its programs to
change the racial status quo. Indeed, an unapologetic supporter of white-
only primary elections headed the agency.12 Civil defense was already difficult
enough without also tackling social and economic problems. The issue wasn’t
whether or not black or laboring Americans worried about their homes and
families—of course they did. However, the FCDA wanted to reach those
who most enjoyed the “American Way of Life” because presumably they had
the most to lose.13 The risk was that Americans who didn’t fit this profile
would hear the urgent statement “YOU are Civil Defense” and ask, “am I?”
For anyone who said yes, DCD was waiting. At a desk by the exit, visitors
could become volunteers by signing “Count Me In” cards and enrolling in
one of the civil defense services. Or they could sign up to learn first aid and
put together a family shelter. By Thursday, Washingtonians were signing up
for civil defense programs at a daily rate of more than 350, which represented
almost ten percent of the attendees. By the time Alert America closed, more
than 32,000 Washingtonians and area residents had seen it. (Nationally, Alert
America drew more than one million visitors in 82 cities.) Fondahl was so
pleased he hoped to bring back the convoy as soon as possible. The President
himself came on Friday morning, accompanied by several aides, and had dog
tags made for himself, his wife Bess, and their daughter Margaret. Truman
also signed a “Count Me In” card, promising “to train himself and his family
to prepare a family shelter area and take first aid training.” (Thanks to his
naval aide, the first part of that commitment was being met.)14
Alert America rejuvenated interest in civil defense in the District. The civil
defense director for the Federation of Citizens Associations, which represented
white neighborhood groups, used the exhibit as a recruiting tool, and a past
president of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association called upon it to form
a civil defense committee. The Washington Board of Trade started a list
of postattack meeting places for members and their families. In February,
the auxiliary police corps began surveying a 160-block swatch of central
Washington, marking buildings with shelter space. The D.C. Federation of
Women’s Clubs urged its members to learn first aid and register for civil
defense courses. Federal agencies in Washington encouraged their employees
to learn first aid as well, although Mrs. Julie McConnaughy, who worked for
the Treasury Department, probably regretted she signed up: an overzealous
fellow student bruised her rib while practicing CPR.15
In March, DCD began a series of “indoctrination” lectures. The first
attracted 400 persons; many of them had signed “Count Me In” cards at
Alert America. More introduction than indoctrination, the evening featured
a stump speech on the need for civil defense and a panel of the deputy
directors of the civil defense services.16 The respectable turnout was an
encouraging sign, but to audience members who had visited Alert America,
the event offered familiar material. How many lectures and films would they
sit for until they concluded civil defense in the District was all talk and no
82 T I O  T

action, not even rehearsal? If Fondahl wanted a thriving civil defense program,
he needed these people off their seats and in the streets.
Or on rooftops. In 1950, the United States and Canada had begun planning
an early warning radar network that stretched across Alaska and Canada, but it
couldn’t pick up every plane crossing into U.S. air space. Aircraft flying at an alti-
tude below 5,000 feet could pass undetected; mountains and the earth’s curve
made blind spots unavoidable. The Air Force itself assumed “that the enemy will
utilize surprise to maximum advantage and employ heavy initial strikes, and that
little or no advanced warning of hostilities may be expected.” As a backstop
for radar, the Air Force’s Air Defense Command oversaw the creation of an all-
volunteer ground observer corps, hoping to have 500,000 volunteers dispersed
throughout 19,400 observation posts in the United States. That goal was
never met, but by October 1952, the Air Defense Command had more
than 117,000 volunteers and 3,523 observation posts, making the Ground
Observer Corps a rare civil defense success story.17
Many posts looked like the one at Wading River, in Long Island, New
York: a wooden platform on posts with a shack housing rain gear, observation
logs, and a telephone. Posts in urban areas were usually placed on building
rooftops. Observers typically volunteered for two-hour shifts, using binoculars
to watch for aircraft such as the Soviet Tu-4. Handbooks provided drawings
and descriptions of various aircraft. Whenever they spotted military and
commercial planes, observers called in the sightings to their area Filter
Center. Here more volunteers and Air Force personnel used tabletop grids
and tall tabs of stiff paper called “raid stands” to mark the type, altitude, and
coordinates of the aircraft. Filter Centers relayed these details to the nearest
Air Defense Direction Center, staffed entirely by Air Force personnel, who
checked the sighting against known flight plans. Fighter pilots stood ready to
intercept unidentified flights, with jets such as the North American F-86D
or the Lockheed F-94C Starfire waiting on runways.18
Washington was among the first major cities to have a ground observer
post. It stood on the roof of J.C. Nalle Elementary School at 50th and
C Streets SE, in the Marshall Heights neighborhood. Located in the area’s
highest point, Nalle offered a sweeping vista. Lorenzo Miller, resident man-
ager of the George Washington Carver Gardens, a nearby housing complex,
organized the post in the summer of 1951 (figure 5.2). Miller recruited
observers from his tenants, eventually putting together a team of 40 volun-
teers. In June the post took part in a 33-hour national exercise staged by the
Air Force for ground observers. Beginning at 9 a.m. on June 23, crews of five
climbed Nalle’s stairs and took turns working two-hour observation shifts
until 6 p.m. the next day. By dusk of the first day, the post had identified 125
military aircraft (all American) and reported them by telephone to the Filter
Center in Baltimore. Given the District’s proximity to military air bases, the
number of aircraft crossing the skies in a ten-hour period wasn’t unusual,
“just enough to keep the spotters alert,” said Miller.19
Miller and all his volunteers were African American, making the post the only
all-black one in the country at the time. The post wasn’t officially segregated;
its ranks reflected the neighborhood’s racial composition. The residents of
A   A 83

Figure 5.2 Lorenzo Miller, founder of Washington’s first ground observer post, takes part in
Operation Skywatch, which placed posts in 27 states on round-the-clock duty beginning in
July 1952. Miller and his crew of observers, all of whom were black, had trouble attracting
new “spotters” to the post due to its location in the eastern corner of Washington, far from the
homes of other civil defense volunteers. Later that year, the post folded. Copyright Washington
Post; reprinted by permission of the D.C. Public Library.

George Washington Carver Gardens were black, and Nalle Elementary,

part of Washington’s segregated public school system, only enrolled black
students. Fondahl didn’t mention race when he announced Miller’s appoint-
ment as the post supervisor, but to one of the nation’s most widely circulated
black newspapers, Miller and his team demonstrated the patriotism of African
Americans. “More than forty Negro patriots have banded together in the
84 T I O  T

nation’s capital to form a unique organization dedicated to protecting our

country from a sneak attack by enemy bombers,” declared the Washington
edition of the Pittsburgh Courier in September 1951. A self-effacing man,
Miller took the attention in stride. “I remember in one of our first tests,” he
said, “one of the observers spotted a plane out to the north and we began a
report. Later, when viewed through powerful glasses, the ‘plane’ turned out
to be a buzzard!”20 Miller apparently didn’t consider his efforts extraordinary.
If he didn’t help defend his hometown, who would? Civic-minded, selfless,
and a successful recruiter, Miller was just the sort of person DCD needed.
However, much of the city wasn’t as magnanimous as Miller and his men, who
could train their binoculars on the roofs of downtown restaurants, theaters,
and stores where they were unwelcome. In July 1951, the Board of
Commissioners announced they wouldn’t enforce an 1873 law prohibiting
racial discrimination in restaurants. Hecht’s Department Store barred blacks
from its cafeteria until November 1951. Most hotels refused black patrons,
movie theaters too. Indeed, in the early twentieth century, theaters and
concert halls had employed Washington’s first “spotters”: blacks paid to watch
for light-skinned blacks passing as white.21
An all-black crew of volunteers made Washington’s post unique, but like
every other ground observer post in the country, it faced the ceaseless
challenge of maintaining spotters’ interest and dedication. The ennui was
constant, even when watching the busy airspace above Washington. By the
time the Alert America convoy arrived in January 1952, Miller and his vol-
unteers had stopped scanning the skies. H.P. Godwin, Fondahl’s right-hand
man, privately predicted months would pass before DCD could reestablish an
observer post in the District.22 He was right. Not until July did the post
re-activate, just in time for Operation Skywatch, an ambitious campaign to
place observer posts in 27 states on 24-hour active duty. On Monday,
July 14, 35 volunteers began round-the-clock observation from the Nalle
rooftop. To maintain that schedule, the post needed at least 100 additional
volunteers. The indoctrination courses inspired by Alert America had now
enrolled more than 800 persons; surely some “skywatchers” could be found
among their ranks.23
But the post’s location was a problem. Nalle Elementary lay in the eastern
corner of the District, but most civil defense activity took place in Northwest
Washington. Robert Totten, the District’s most effective warden, found his
volunteers in neighborhoods like Cleveland Park (see chapter 3). The city’s
ground observer post was in a part of town they rarely, if ever, visited. Could
Fondahl coax Northwest residents to cross the Anacostia River and join the
other observers for just a few hours each week? After all, the Nalle post served
the whole city, not just Marshall Heights, and, as Totten and Miller show,
white and black alike worried about the Soviet Union leveling their home-
town with atomic bombs. Or should we say hometowns? The thought of
bombers overhead was frightening, but in the bustle of everyday life and
worries, easy to forget. Not so Washington’s color line; and the DCD was, in
effect, asking volunteers not just to cross town, but to also cross that line.
A   A 85

Many would-be spotters who signed up never reported for duty, citing the
post’s location.24 By the fall of 1952, Operation Skywatch had 1,210 posts
listed on 24-hour duty, but Washington’s wasn’t one of them.25
In an intriguing coincidence, the skies over Washington attracted citywide
attention just five days after Operation Skywatch began. Late on the night of
Saturday, July 19, the assistant chief of Washington National Airport’s
control tower spotted a zigzagging, unidentified blip on his radarscope. Then
the veteran pilot of a commercial flight leaving National reported a series of
bright lights “like falling stars without tails.” Air traffic controllers tracked
the same lights on their radarscopes. Although the District’s skywatchers
didn’t report anything unusual, the next night a sergeant at Andrews Air
Force Base saw lights moving erratically in the sky. The Air Force sent up an
F-94 to investigate, but the lights (objects?) disappeared. A week later,
several pilots in Washington airspace spotted strange lights.26
The Washington UFO scare was underway. Stories about the sightings
filled local papers, the federal government scrambled to explain the lights.
At a July 29 press conference, the director of Air Force Intelligence attributed
the lights and radar blips to atmospheric abnormalities known as temperature
inversions, which played havoc with radar beams.27 The explanation did the
trick; press coverage tapered off. Still, the Washington sightings, along with
a rash of others across the country, piqued the CIA’s interest. In January
1953, it convened in Washington a small panel of accomplished scientists
under the leadership of physicist H.P. Robertson. He recruited a nuclear
physicist, a geophysicist, an expert in radar, and an astronomer. The Robertson
Panel concluded most of the sightings, including those in Washington, had
reasonable explanations, and by “deduction and scientific method it could be
induced (given additional data) that other cases might be explained in a
similar manner.” The Panel also noted the “lack of sound data in the great
majority of case histories.”28
Although the panel didn’t think aliens had penetrated American airspace,
it believed reports of UFOs posed several dangers to the nation, including
“being led by continued false alarms to ignore real indications of hostile
action, and the cultivation of a morbid national psychology in which skillful
hostile propaganda could induce hysterical behavior and harmful distrust of
duly constituted authority.”29 That is, the Soviets might start spreading false
rumors about UFOs, fueling national panic and making a first strike easier to
execute. The CIA shared this concern. Since America’s warning system
depended on both radar and visual observation, at “any moment of attack,
we are now in a position where we cannot, on an instant basis distinguish
hardware from phantom.”30 Worries about potential Soviet propaganda,
however, overlooked the propaganda already out there:

. . . in this new age in which hostile forces are known to possess long-range
bombers and atomic weapons, we cannot risk being caught unprepared to
defend ourselves. We must have a trained force of skywatchers. If an enemy
should try to attack us, we will need every minute and every second of warning
86 T I O  T

that our skywatchers can give us. In that awful eventuality, the margin of
warning may make a critical difference in the effectiveness of our air and ground
defenses, and in the efficacy of our civil defense measures—it could save many
lives and facilitate protection of vital services and production.

So said the President on July 12, referring to Operation Skywatch.31 Of

course, neither Truman nor the Air Defense Command intended to nurture
a “morbid national psychology.” But continual warnings that the Soviets
could strike like a bolt from the blue, combined with official statements
about the importance of the observers, spurred expectations, even if sub-
conscious, of seeing something. Especially at night. Operation Skywatch put
posts on 24-hour active duty, and if observers in Washington and elsewhere
regularly read magazines and newspapers, then they might very well have
anticipated seeing something strange in the sky.
In April and June 1952, the number of national UFO sightings had risen
noticeably after articles about UFOs appeared in Life, Time, and Look.
On the morning of July 1, a ground observer volunteer in Boston reported
a UFO headed in a southwesterly direction. That afternoon, a George
Washington University physics professor contacted the Air Force to report a
“dull, gray, smoky-colored” object hovering above Northwest Washington
for almost ten minutes. He wasn’t the only one who spotted the object; the
city’s newspapers received hundreds of calls. By mid-month, 20 sightings a
day across the country were being reported to the Air Force. In New Jersey
and Massachusetts, for example, ground observer spotters called their Filter
Centers to report unidentifiable lights in the night sky. So many sightings
came from the Washington area that staff for Project Blue Book, the Air
Force’s UFO investigation unit, took notice. A scientist who had studied the
Air Force’s UFO reports predicted, “[W]ithin the next few days, they’re [the
sightings] going to blow up and you’re going to have the granddaddy of all
UFO sightings. The sighting will occur in Washington or New York, probably
Washington.”32 Just days later came the mysterious sightings at National
Airport. On July 29, the Filter Center at White Plains, New York, reported
an increase in UFO sightings from its 139 posts on 24-hour duty.33 After the
Air Force pointed to temperature inversions as the source of the lights, how-
ever, the number of sightings began to drop off.34

U  F

Alert America and Operation Skywatch boosted civil defense but briefly. Still
unimpressed with the DCD, Congress appropriated just $160,000 for the
fiscal year 1953 (the request was $800,000), forcing layoffs of several staffers.
Fondahl was beside himself. How could he convince residents to volunteer
when Congress refused to grant adequate funding? He pointed to Operation
Skywatch. If civil defense was unimportant, why would the Air Force ask
ground observer posts to go on 24-hour duty? According to Fondahl, the
A   A 87

Soviet Union had started a “hate America” campaign, and the Kremlin
wouldn’t push 200 million Soviets into a “frenzy of hate simply for the
perverse fun of it,” yet Congress continued to treat the DCD like so much
bureaucratic frippery.35
The cuts had immediate negative effects. Chief Warden Max Schwartz
reported wardens quitting one after the other. Many cited Congress’s lack of
support as the reason, while inactivity frustrated the remaining wardens,
leading to more resignations. They had no meeting space, none of the
65 area wardens had permanent headquarters, and they lacked basic equip-
ment, even helmets. The Speakers’ Bureau and the indoctrination courses
suspended activity until October 1952. Constant turnover in the District’s
Civil Defense Advisory Council left it moribund by the year’s end. No
wonder Fondahl told the Board of Commissioners that Washington’s civil
defense was “practically at a standstill for lack of funds.”36
Fondahl had said such words before, and he would utter them again.
The course of civil defense in the District was beginning to read like a script.
A crisis erupts, the Soviets testing an atomic bomb, for example, or war
breaking out in Korea. Suddenly the nation’s seat of government seems
terribly vulnerable. Somber calls for its defense by civilian volunteers echo
on the House and Senate floors, in editorials, at neighborhood meetings.
A leader is found, an organization formed. The leader, tireless and dedicated,
hires a staff and finds a handful of volunteers; they, in turn, drum up recruits.
Scant are the resources, the accomplishments modest, but still they labor on,
even when an uncaring Congress slashes their budget. The skies are sporadi-
cally watched for Soviet planes, a few sections of town are surveyed for shelter
space. Drills are held, first aid training given. But as the crisis fades, interest
in civil defense falls off; recruitment and training lag. The active few implore
the disinterested rest to “pull their heads from the sand” and get involved
(YOU are civil defense), for in the age of the atom, eternal vigilance is the
price of survival and recovery. Aided by publicity and high-profile exhibits,
civil defense ranks start to grow, but then Congress strikes anew. Millions for
Raven Rock and the White House shelter, but only a pittance for the locals’
own defense. Devotion turns to discouragement, and one by one, the volunteers
begin quitting. But then, somewhere, another crisis erupts . . .
Why did civil defense in Washington fail? If the struggle is now familiar,
this question still remains. In our “script,” Congress appears as the villain,
but the failure of civil defense in Washington had many sources. Some
mirrored the national reasons for civil defense’s failure, others remained
unique to Washington; some reasons were obvious, others less so. Many
parties shared the responsibility for civil defense’s overall failure: the
President, the FCDA and the national security state, the District government
and DCD, residents themselves, and yes, Congress. So great were the obstacles
that the District’s civil defense program had little chance of meeting its goals.
That seems ironic. Shouldn’t civil defense have been most likely to succeed at
the seat of government?
88 T I O  T

John Fondahl said Washingtonians could be divided into three categories:

those who doubted there would be an attack, those who believed nothing
could be done to survive an attack, and those who considered civil defense the
government’s responsibility.37 He was right, but he overlooked a fourth
category: those who didn’t want to think about an attack. Like other Americans,
Washingtonians had to grapple with the psychological challenges of contem-
plating a nuclear holocaust and the deaths of millions, including themselves.
Psychologist Robert Jay Lifton once suggested that no matter how difficult it
is to imagine death, to do so “clarifies our existential situation and helps us lib-
erate ourselves” from the chimera that is civil defense. Like the existentialist
who must embrace meaninglessness in order to find freedom, atomic age
humans must envision “nuclear futurelessness” in order to recognize prevention
as the sole means of preservation.38 For Washingtonians and Americans who
reached this level of understanding, civil defense stood as part of the problem,
not the solution. But how many accepted this reasoning? To understand
atomic apathy, perhaps we should look to another side of existentialism. If, as
philosopher Martin Heidegger contended, most persons evade contemplation
of their mortality by immersing themselves in the exigencies of daily life, then
how likely was it they would imagine their own annihilation, that of the
species too, in an atomic war, and join civil defense programs?
To save civilization there was no other choice, according to civil defense
supporters. Lewis Mumford had his doubts. In a brilliant essay, Mumford,
better known for his architectural criticism, imagined four global situations
involving atomic weapons. In the first three, nations use atomic bombs
against one another, killing tens of millions, even pushing homo sapiens to the
brink of extinction. In the fourth, there is no atomic warfare, but would
“the Atomic Golden Age” commence? Within 100 years, the specter of
destruction drains the population from cities (dispersal triumphant), forcing
the federal government to assume massive municipal debts. Banks and insur-
ance companies are nationalized, free enterprise falters, power concentrates
in the military. A subterranean world is carved out, complete with factories,
dormitories, and a transcontinental subway. When some reject life under-
ground, the government strips them of social welfare; when that fails to
staunch the exodus, the “new pioneers” are shot as deserters. So enormous
are the weapons stockpiles, so great the fear, that “no country as yet dares
make a wholesale atomic attack. Peace reigns: the rigid peace of death.”39
However far-fetched this final scenario seemed, one so grim it made Orwell
appear tame, Mumford’s point was that fear of atomic annihilation could be
just as destructive as the actual bombs. (All we have to fear is fear itself?)
Without even the detonation of one bomb, civilization destroys itself. And
yet it cannot die. The human race becomes Kierkegaard’s desperate man writ
large, caught fast in the sickness unto death, the condition of interminable
despair: “To be delivered from the sickness of death is an impossibility, for the
sickness and its torment—and death—consist in not being able to die.”40
Such was the dilemma of civil defense in the atomic age. To volunteer,
people needed to accept the possibility of their own death, fear it, and yet
A   A 89

believe they could secure their survival. In promoting fear and faith,
however, the FCDA and DCD unleashed forces they couldn’t easily master.
Some might find acceptance of the fear liberating, as Lifton wanted, and see
right through civil defense’s dubious premises. Others, agreeing with
Mumford, might believe the fear was just as pernicious as the threat. And the
rest might react in the simplest possible way: ignore the fear, refuse the faith,
and go on living their lives. The vast majority in America and Washington
chose daily life. Historian Paul Boyer: “Awesome in prospect, the atomic
threat was simply less immediate than one’s job, one’s family, the cost of
In 1946, the Social Science Research Council studied the public’s attitudes
toward atomic weapons. The Council found several contradictions, even
nonchalance. Few Americans didn’t know of the bomb’s awesome destructive
power, yet its threat didn’t “greatly preoccupy them”; despite scientific
doubt that defense against atomic weapons was possible, more than a third
believed the United States would devise a viable defense before other nations
developed atomic bombs; the same people who thought other nations
wanted (and would soon have) atomic bombs also believed the American atomic
monopoly promoted world peace. That same year, the Washington-based
Federation of Atomic Scientists, seeking to educate Americans about atomic
weapons and to build support for international control of atomic energy,
discovered that doomsday scenarios seized their audiences’ attention.42
The Council knew, however, the limits of such an approach. To emphasize
the bombs’ terrible power actually created “a kind of psychological refuge” in
which people reasoned no nation or leader would dare use such weapons. Yet
respondents claiming to be unworried by the bomb still acknowledged the
danger of the bomb. Reasons offered for the lack of concern sounded very
much like responses to any other problem. People shouldn’t worry about
something they cannot change; people were too caught up in their own lives;
it was someone else’s concern:

I know the bomb can wipe out cities, but I let the government worry about it.
To me, it is just like if you were living in a country where there were
earthquakes. What good would it do you to go to bed every night worrying
whether there would be an earthquake?
I got everything I need. From the morning, when I get up, I pick apples and I
get a dollar a bushel. So why should I worry about the bomb?
You cannot be killed any deader by an atomic bomb than you can by a bullet . . .43

Although the Korean War prompted Washingtonians to rethink their disbe-

lief, once the fears faded, so did the interest. Sure enough, when China and
the United States began discussing ceasefire terms in July 1951, city residents
stopped trickling into the DCD recruitment office. One of Fondahl’s aides
remarked: “The city seems to be permeated with indifference and apathy.”44
Educational efforts did little to end the apathy. “Have you heard or read
anything about what a person ought to do for his own or his family’s safety if
90 T I O  T

there were an atomic bomb attack?” asked researchers in a University of

Michigan study for the FCDA. In 1950, 62 percent of the interviewees said
yes, and they proved it by stating something specific about civil defense; in
1951, 85 percent said yes. However, when asked what was their city’s most
important problem, 34 percent picked “Checking up on Communists” while
only 25 percent believed their city should prepare for an attack. McCarthy, it
appeared, was a better publicist than civil defense directors. (And 17 percent
said “Breaking up dope rings” was their hometown’s biggest problem.)45
To crack through the indifference, the FCDA set up Alert America. As seen,
Washingtonians attended the exhibit in droves, yet most didn’t take the cru-
cial step from awareness to activity. Alert America’s hold on the imagination
seemed limited to the exhibit space and duration. As soon as attendees exited
the Departmental Auditorium, once the convoy packed up and left town, the
duties and diversions of daily life exerted their primacy; the psychological
path of least resistance beckoned. Easier to ignore the horror of atomic anni-
hilation than to imagine it, better to believe it would never happen than to
worry it would. Millard Caldwell called it “atomic ostrichism.”46 Americans
were ducking, but they weren’t covering.
The apathy also derived from an unrealistic faith in the armed services’
ability to defend the United States. In 1950, 48 percent of the subjects in the
Michigan study believed the military could prevent heavy damage to, or even
protect completely, America’s cities. One year later, that figure had risen to
68 percent. These results greatly troubled Caldwell, who recognized that
Americans with an “almost blind faith” in the armed forces were unlikely to
volunteer for civil defense.47 Caldwell believed that forthright statements
would dispel that false assumption. Of 100 attacking Soviet planes, 70 will
drop their atomic bombs on American cities, he told one audience.48 Alert
America emphasized the home front’s vulnerability, and Truman, whose
support for civil defense could never be taken for granted, said in January 1952,
“[W]e have no right to feel safe militarily or on the homefront.”49
Though accurate, such statements had little effect. The attitude apparent
in 1946—“I let the government worry about it”—had crystallized into faith
in the armed services’ capabilities. This trust also eased Americans’ concern
over the militarization of American society and institutions taking place
around them. Historian Michael Sherry: since 1945, American leaders had
“sought to disseminate an ideology of preparedness, to forge a permanent
military–industrial–scientific establishment, to reorganize the armed forces,
to institute a permanent system of universal training, to acquire far-flung
military bases, to occupy defeated enemies with American forces, to retain a
monopoly of atomic weapons, and to create a high-tech American Pax
Aeronautica.”50 By 1950, they had succeeded on every count save one, the
atomic monopoly; furthermore, Korea had demonstrated the need to fight a
difficult land war far away. Americans pondering the urgent reasons for and
mighty costs of militarization and containment could hardly be faulted for
assuming one of the benefits was continental security. If America’s military,
A   A 91

especially its Air Force, was the best in the world, then why couldn’t it fully
protect the homeland and the capital?
The encirclement of Washington by antiaircraft missile batteries nurtured
this faith. By 1951, Western Electric and other contractors had developed a
supersonic, radar-guided missile capable of tracking and striking aircraft. The
Army named it “Nike” and called for rings of bases around the nation’s key
military and urban areas, including Washington. Reminiscent of Tracy
Augur’s search for dispersal sites, the Army Corps of Engineers surveyed land
25 miles from the center of Washington. Like dispersal campuses, Nike bases
required land with good road access, a reliable electrical grid, and sewer and
water mains. The southwestern, rural part of Fairfax County, Va., offered
numerous usable parcels, and by October 1953, the Corps had procured
30 acres of farmland near the town of Lorton. Construction began in March
1954; two other batteries were also built in Fairfax County. In all, the Army
built 20 Nike bases around Washington and Baltimore. Ready in 1955, the
Lorton base was among the first batteries finished. In underground concrete
boxes, the gleaming white Nikes lay atop a platform that lifted the missiles,
one by one, to rails leading to the base’s four launch pads. The Lorton base,
known as the “National Nike Site,” had barracks for its 100 troops, radars,
and an outbuilding to house the missiles’ volatile propellant, a brew of jet fuel
and nitric acid. Larger than most Nike sites, Lorton maintained double the
usual number of missiles. And it had tours, lots of them. The crown prince of
Iraq visited; so did the military chiefs of staff from Haiti, Chile, and Paraguay.
The public came, too. Sundays were designated “open house” days, and they
attracted diverse groups of locals and tourists.51 Showcasing the National
Nike Site proved the United States wielded potent defensive weapons, even
though the Army was careful not to predict the Nikes could incapacitate all
Although Caldwell and Truman et al. iterated the nation’s vulnerability to
attack, they didn’t want Americans to linger on this question. Instead, lead-
ers hoped the rhetoric of preparedness would stimulate volunteerism, even if
privately they didn’t believe in civil defense. No matter how much money is
spent, we will never have a workable defense against an atomic attack, wrote
NSRB chairman Stuart Symington, adding, “[m]ore and more it would seem
that the only true defense for the United States is the capacity for devastating
and sustained retaliatory attack; because nobody ever started a war they did-
n’t think they were going to win.” This from the man entrusted with national
civil defense prior to the FCDA’s creation. To Symington, stockpiles of
atomic weapons guaranteed peace better than a “broom-stick army of eager
but untrained volunteers which some might believe could be mustered
overnight to cope with the crashing impact of atomic warfare.”52 Trying to
present civil defense as the bomb’s partner in deterrence, Caldwell echoed
Symington. The Soviet Union won’t start a war it cannot win, he said, and if
its leaders know civil defense stands at the ready to execute survival and
recovery throughout the United States, then they won’t attack. Added
92 T I O  T

Caldwell, almost as an afterthought, “A strong civil defense cuts down the

effectiveness of the enemy’s stockpile of atomic bombs. It makes him build
two bombs instead of one.”53 Americans listening closely might well have
asked how civil defense could be a deterrent if it only encouraged the enemy
to build more bombs.
By the time Caldwell delivered his speech in June 1952, simple but firm
logic molded the public’s attitude. Civil defense required one to contemplate
horrors easier to ignore or believe could never happen; maintaining national
security was the government’s responsibility and the basic reason for milita-
rization and containment; if civil defense was truly a vital part of that national
security, then surely the federal government would do more than tell
Americans about the importance of civil defense, it would show them by fund-
ing, nurturing, and administering civil defense at all levels. For that to hap-
pen, executive branch officials, including the president, needed to resolve
their own ambivalence about civil defense. Moreover, the executive branch
needed a willing partner in Congress.
But Congress didn’t want to pay for civil defense, and its hostile attitude
didn’t go unnoticed. In October 1950, following its release of the national
civil defense plan, the NSRB polled 400 cities with 20,000 or more residents
on the status of their civil defense programs. Tellingly, only 139 responded.
Less than five percent of the cities had funded anything more than token
measures, and nearly a third of the respondents criticized the federal govern-
ment for its lack of specific guidance.54 The 81st Congress passed legislation
creating the FCDA in January 1951, then promptly rejected its request for
$403 million to get started, approving just $32 million. This was enough
money for films, publications, studies, and staff, but not for urban shelters
and medical stockpiles, which made up most of the request. For the fiscal
year 1953, the administration requested $600 million, again most of it for
shelters. Unimpressed with Truman’s statement that the nation “simply
cannot afford a penny-wise-pound-foolish attitude about the cost of
adequate civil defense,” Congress granted less than ten percent of that
amount. Truman complained, Congress ignored him. For the FCDA’s first
three years, budget requests totaled $1.5 billion of which the legislative
branch approved just $150.1 million, none of it earmarked for shelter
Truman denounced these cuts as short-sighted, but Congressional penny-
pinching made sense: growing stockpiles and the development of hydrogen
bombs promised to make urban shelters obsolete by the time they were built.
Yet few legislators cited this basic fact to justify their opposition. Like their
constituents, members of Congress believed the military could repel an
attack. The cost of the Korean War also made expenditures on “soft” defense
programs such as civil defense seem wasteful. Some legislators believed the
FCDA wasn’t capable of properly spending such large sums, while visions of
a sprawling bureaucracy aroused the antipathy of Republicans and conserva-
tive Democrats. Finally, legislators recognized that civil defense lacked a safe
berth in the national security state. By setting civil defense on a foundation of
A   A 93

individual, community, and state self-help, the NSRB and the FCDA
effectively exiled it to no-man’s land. The federal government was in charge
of all other areas of national security, yet citizens were expected to take the
initiative in civil defense. When the American people didn’t respond, legislators
had all the more reason to shrug off the FCDA’s budget requests.
This same cycle applied to Washington. Citing the DCD’s failure to attract
volunteers, Congress cut every annual budget. Between 1951 and 1953,
Congress appropriated a total of $785,000 out of the $2.3 million requested.
Washingtonians thus arrived at the same conclusion as other Americans: if
hometown civil defense really was important, Congress would provide ade-
quate funds. When they received the District’s annual civil defense budget,
Congress’s appropriations committees then pointed to the public apathy as
reason to withhold funds. The fact that District residents couldn’t elect their
own representatives and senators further isolated the DCD. Representative
Earl Wilson (R-Ind.), a member of the subcommittee on the District of
Columbia’s appropriations, once told a Washington radio audience that local
civil defense was unnecessary, that the Air Force could do the job. (Wilson
also opposed air raid sirens for the District, contending that church bells
could be used instead.) As long as his Indiana constituents were happy,
Wilson didn’t have to please the District’s government or residents.56
Suburbanites could empathize with Washingtonians when it came to
government support for civil defense. In May 1952, the Montgomery
County (Md.) Manager struck all funds for civil defense from the annual
budget. He justified the cut as a legitimate response to the failure of state and
federal officials to adequately fund civil defense and to the “natural apathy on
the part of citizens in a confused international period [that] has resulted in
something less than a well-rounded [civil defense] program.”57 Later that
year, the ground observer post at Sandy Spring in eastern Montgomery
County closed, despite having an outstanding record. (During one four-
month period, it went unmanned for just 28 hours.) Post Supervisor Arthur
Farquhar, whose property served as the spotters’ base, requested a move to
the FCDA’s training school at nearby Olney. After waiting two months for
approval, Farquhar gave up and disbanded the post. The FCDA weakly
responded that changing sites required consultation with the Air Force.
Bureaucratic excuses mattered little to Farquhar and his team of volunteers,
who simply wanted to move so they would no longer risk “illness from standing
around on damp, cold ground or sitting in a draughty [sic] kitchen where
windows and doors must be kept open in order to hear planes.”58
Like the District wardens who quit in frustration when Congress refused
to buy them helmets, Sandy Spring’s spotters discovered apathy wasn’t the
only enemy—presumed allies were, too.

T F R A

In 1952, State Department employee Earl G. Millison was waiting for an
overseas assignment. Instead he went to Front Royal, Va., a small town on
94 T I O  T

the northern edge of Shenandoah National Park, some 70 miles west of

Washington. Once a rough-and-tumble frontier settlement known as
“Helltown,” Front Royal now catered to tourists vacationing in the Blue
Ridge Mountains. Front Royal’s part in U.S. foreign relations wasn’t
obvious, especially since Millison went to an Agriculture Department
reservation just outside of town. The 6,000-acre parcel housed a beef cattle
research station. There were stables, a veterinary hospital, research laboratories,
and even a theater and recreation building. On an acre of the site, the
National Bureau of Standards had a one-man operation studying the effects
of sunspots on radio waves. Established in 1914, the Front Royal reservation
had also served as an army cavalry station, a K-9 dog training site, and a
World War II prisoner of war camp.59 Despite these varied functions, Millison
found neglect and disuse; he even had to set up his office in an abandoned
building. Vines smothering exterior walls had broken through windows and
grew unabated inside.60
What was Millison doing here? On May 7, Agriculture had granted
permission to State to use the reservation as an emergency relocation
headquarters; it was Millison’s job to build this facility.61 He had plenty of
work. Rehabilitating the buildings meant more than uprooting vines; water
pipes and furnaces had to be replaced, a switchboard and phone lines installed.
Told to prepare accommodations for 600 people, Millison needed beds,
offices, a cafeteria, a hospital. A diesel generator for backup power was
needed. Six springs provided water but the filter beds needed to be replaced.
Gasoline and diesel fuel had to be stored for the generator and vehicles,
requiring massive tanks. To do their work, State’s emergency cadre needed
copies of essential records, office equipment, and secure communication lines
(telephone, microwaves, and an emergency transmitter). As he surveyed the
lush rot around him, Millison must have wondered where to begin.
He first approached a local politician named Billy Armstrong and asked
for help. Armstrong told him how to find skilled laborers in town and
recommended Mrs. Stokes, a long-time resident, as a secretary. Said Millison,
she was “more than useful to me because she [knew] all the people in town
and if I wanted information on something pertaining to the town she would
know it at once.” Millison put his crew to work clearing out undergrowth
and repairing the buildings. He negotiated with the telephone company to
install a switchboard and an upgraded phone cable from Front Royal. By the
year’s end, he had several buildings ready for occupancy. Unfortunately,
he was out of money. When he received more funds, he acquired a diesel
generator for emergency power and installed fuel tanks with a total capacity
of 3,500 gallons. With Mrs. Stokes’s help, he contacted the owners of Front
Royal motels, apartment buildings, and tourist cabins and arranged to use
their properties to house the emergency cadre.62
Continued development produced an elaborate and extensive facility,
code-named “Rabbit.” By May 1955, the 60-acre site included 35 buildings,
6 Motorola microwave units, and $100,000 worth of telephone and teletype
equipment. Multilithograph and mimeograph machines went into the theater
A   A 95

basement. A daily workforce of 35–38 people provided security, maintained

equipment and facilities, and cut the grass. Security Officer Bob Cook lived
on the base, checking all the buildings in the mornings, the springs and pump
houses in the afternoon. Six stucco and tile barns, each able to accommodate
100 persons, were converted into offices and a cafeteria. For the secretary of
state and his immediate family, a ten-room house with three baths waited.
Some of the cattle research buildings became boiler and plumbing shops,
cryptographic storage, and a hospital. Powerful radio transmitters could be
used to communicate with diplomatic posts overseas. The designated size of
the emergency cadre grew, first to 700, then 1,200. Millison believed State
arbitrarily picked this latter figure, a 100 percent increase from the original
estimate, but said he could have managed if he “took over the motels.”63
“Rabbit” was part of the so-called Federal Relocation Arc. When Millison
arrived at Front Royal, the Arc was still in the planning stages. By 1957, how-
ever, the Arc was composed of more than 90 sites that stretched from North
Carolina to Pennsylvania, encompassing Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland,
even Ohio. Some centers lay within an hour’s or so drive of Washington;
others, as far as 300 miles away. Gettysburg and University Park, Pa.; Warrenton
and Charlottesville, Va.; Durham, Greenville, and Greensboro, N.C.—these
are a few of the small cities that secretly (and in some cases, not-so-secretly)
hosted the Arc.64 In one account, the Arc is described as “a covert constella-
tion of still-classified underground facilities,” but only a small segment of the
Arc merits this description.65 Most Arc sites weren’t underground; they were
located in preexisting buildings or developed sites, typically college campuses
or government reservations such as Front Royal. The United States
Information Agency planned to regroup at East Carolina College in
Greenville; the GSA had an arrangement with Washington and Lee
University in Lexington, Va.; the Bureau of Labor Statistics contracted with
Hampden-Sydney College southwest of Richmond, Va.66 They were just
three of the dozens of executive agencies slated to use college campuses,
which were practically readymade for this role. Universities offered dormito-
ries, cafeterias, and office equipment. More often than not, college adminis-
trators welcomed (re)location scouts to their campuses. The president of
Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Va., received a warm note of thanks from
one scout, whose briefing noted the College’s many amenities, including
space for helicopters to land.67 In addition to Site R, the military expected to
use established bases. By 1960, for example, the Headquarters of the Marine
Corps planned to relocate to Camp Lejuene, N.C.68 Some agencies planned
to use a nearby field office. For a time, the Agriculture Department, which
owned a massive reservation in Beltsville, Md., planned to relocate to its
research center there.69 One government agency even arranged to use the
basement of the American Legion building in Frostburg, Md., for relocation
purposes that required computer punch card equipment.70 And there were
the jewels of the Arc, facilities like Site R and a center carved out of a
mineshaft in Mount Weather, Va., “hardened” sites built to withstand atomic
96 T I O  T

The origins of the Arc lay in the failure of dispersal. In November 1950,
Budget Director Frederick J. Lawton asked the heads of executive
departments and agencies to outline how they would operate if an attack
destroyed Washington. He got no response, so he asked again in March
1951. The next month, after the Senate delivered its “knockout punch” to
dispersal, GSA staff began visiting and cataloging buildings suitable for
relocation within 8 to 60 miles of the zero milestone marker, focusing on
college campuses, schools, and offices. For example, they inspected the
library and the gymnasium at the University of Maryland at College Park.71
The surveys took almost a year to complete. The NSRB used the data to
write an “Emergency Relocation Plan for the Executive Branch,” which des-
ignated agencies’ essential functions and employees as well as their relocation
sites. “Relocators” were supposed to receive emergency passes from DCD,
the only instance in which the plan drew on local civil defense. Activation of
the “Emergency Relocation Plan” would come from the president, a
Warning Yellow, or following an attack itself. The sites included schools and
college buildings as well as agency field offices within the aforementioned
range. In April 1952, Truman issued Executive Order 10346, which required
each executive agency and department to have at the ready plans for its
operation during a civil defense emergency. Then on June 11, he approved
the “Emergency Relocation Plan” and told the NSRB to “proceed at once
with such steps as are necessary to place the plan in readiness for use in the
event of an emergency.”72
Despite this apparent progress, the NSRB was again planning to plan. First
of all, the NSRB designated the plan as short term only, to serve as an
“immediate readiness measure” in case war came to Washington in the near
future. Second, the plan didn’t include Defense, State, the CIA, FBI, FCDA,
NSC, and White House staff. Truman entrusted oversight of their relocation
to David Stowe, his erstwhile dispersal planner. Thus plans for State to
relocate to Front Royal or the CIA to Warrenton, Va., weren’t included in
the “Emergency Relocation Plan.” Third, actual preparation of the short-term
relocation sites under the NSRB’s purview didn’t take place while Truman
was President. Agencies hadn’t yet moved copies of essential records and
office equipment to their relocation centers; indeed, most hadn’t even inspected
their assigned spaces. Finally, the NSRB’s very existence was in jeopardy.
A massive budget cut reduced its workforce from 155 to 50 after July 1.73
Still, the Arc’s foundation was laid, and it was up to the new president to
build upon it. It was also his responsibility to decide how the city of
Washington might better serve as a model of dispersal and civil defense.

T E W

I guess what we really need in that situation [thermonuclear war] is bulldozers

to push the bodies off the streets and roads.
Dwight D. Eisenhower to General Andrew J. Goodpaster1

He hailed from a small town in Kansas, one of five brothers. As a young

Army officer, his duties took him from Paris to the Philippines, but during
World War I he remained stateside to train other officers. “I suppose we’ll
spend the rest of our lives explaining why we didn’t get into this war,” he
grumbled to a fellow officer. He made the military his career well into his
fifties, orchestrating the Allied invasion of Normandy in the war he did get
into, and became president of an Ivy League university. He knew the biggest
egos of his day—Patton and MacArthur—yet avoided showmanship and
controversy. His convictions rarely wavered, but he knew the importance of
compromise. His occasionally rambling utterances caused many to wonder
about his intelligence, but the foggy phrases obscured a sharp mind, a quick
study. The son of a mechanic, he spoke fondly of the small town America of
his youth, but he also loved the company of urbane millionaires and his
memberships in prestigious clubs.2
Dwight D. Eisenhower. A man of many talents, he handily won the 1952
election, beating Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson by a wide margin.
Eisenhower’s moderate Republicanism and avoidance of problems such as civil
rights led many contemporaries and historians to characterize the two-term
presidency as bland, passive, detached. In this picture, Eisenhower appeared as
an avuncular caretaker, a Coolidge who golfed rather than napped, letting the
country run itself. By the early 1980s, a different view had emerged. Now
Eisenhower wielded the “hidden hand,” working behind the scenes to secure
desired outcomes in Congress, at home, and overseas. More recent scholar-
ship, focusing on issues such as national security policy and nuclear test bans,
reintroduces the “hands-off” Eisenhower who failed to exercise strong leader-
ship at crucial points. Such vacillation shouldn’t surprise us. After all, he had
two hands, and, like Franklin Roosevelt, who once said he never let the right
hand know what the left was doing, Eisenhower used them differently.3
Eisenhower’s hidden hand went to work on the Federal Relocation Arc
and continuity of government. Taking a keen interest in these areas,
98 T I O  T

Eisenhower set policies, monitored their execution, and even managed

minute details. Eisenhower also insisted on testing the readiness of employees
and the Arc, saying the plans were worthless unless tested.4 These exercises,
known as Operation Alerts, became annual events. We might think of the con-
tinuity preparations and exercises as insurance for the administration’s strategy
of deterrence. Convinced that a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the
United States would be “virtually suicidal for each society and many others as
well,” Eisenhower concluded that deterrence, made possible by the capability
for massive retaliation against the Soviet Union, was the best strategy for
peace.5 Readiness to govern the nation after nuclear war provided a backstop
and contributed, if only slightly, to deterrence. Although Eisenhower didn’t
believe Operation Alerts would necessarily impress the Soviets, he expressed
the hope that they would undertake their own tests and also realize that nuclear
war could only be an “unmitigated catastrophe” for all sides.6
When it came to dispersal and civil defense, however, Eisenhower was often
ambivalent and failed to provide firm leadership. Although he supported
dispersal in theory, he did little to implement it in Washington. He believed
states, communities, and individuals—not the federal government—should
take the initiative in civil defense. As he told Time publisher Henry Luce,
“unless the private citizen does become interested [in civil defense] and has a
definite sense of responsibility for himself and family, there is little that the
government, by itself, can do.”7 He rejected proposals for federally funded
shelters and instead urged citizens to build their own shelters. Although
Eisenhower expected continuity preparations to adapt to evolving weapons
and delivery systems, he wasn’t as diligent in ensuring that civil defense
information and policies did the same.
The men to whom the President entrusted relocation and continuity of
government were accomplished and capable. Captain Edward Beach, a
much-decorated submarine commander, served as Eisenhower’s naval aide
until 1957. He oversaw the White House bomb shelters, plotted emergency
evacuation for the President, and assembled the President’s Emergency
Action Papers. Colonel (later General) Andrew J. Goodpaster worked closely
with Beach. Goodpaster served as staff secretary, a position Eisenhower
modeled after the Army position of secretary to the general staff. Among his
many duties, Goodpaster made sure the President’s decisions concerning the
Arc were carried out. Like Beach, Goodpaster had a distinguished service
record, and the tall, well-liked Colonel efficiently completed his tasks. When
asked what he thought of Goodpaster, Eisenhower replied, “I would ask
nothing more than for my son to grow up to be as good a man as he is.”8
Robert Cutler was the President’s special assistant for national security.
Cutler was Boston blue blood and his Harvard class poet. Cutler could be
blunt, some thought rude, but his direct approach helped him streamline the
NSC’s policymaking process.9 Eisenhower expected him to align continuity
of government preparations with national security policies. Arthur S. Flemming
served as the first director of the Office of Defense Mobilization (ODM),
which absorbed the NSRB in April 1953.10 To lead the FCDA, Eisenhower
T E W 99

relied first on Val Peterson, former Republican governor of Nebraska. Like

Truman, Eisenhower wanted a governor to oversee civil defense, hoping this
would help coax states to take the initiative. Round-shouldered and balding,
Peterson looked like a high school football coach. He worked hard at civil
defense but frustrations and failures led him to quit in 1957. Eisenhower
then brought in another Midwesterner, former Iowa governor Leo Hoegh.
Eisenhower took office just as hydrogen weapons were becoming opera-
tional. On November 1, 1952, in Operation Ivy, the United States detonated
its first thermonuclear device on the Eniwetok atoll in the Marshall Islands.
Observers watched the detonation, which measured 10.4 megatons, from
ships anchored 30 miles away. “You would swear that the whole world was on
fire,” remarked a sailor. A scientist from Los Alamos was stunned. “As soon
as I dared, I whipped off my dark glasses and the thing was enormous, bigger
than I’d ever imagined it would be.” The expanding fire cloud peaked at
27 miles and stretched 8 miles wide. The island used for the detonation
disappeared; all told, 80 million tons of solids vaporized and dispersed
throughout the earth’s atmosphere.11 Then on August 20, 1953, the AEC
announced the Soviet Union had recently tested a hydrogen device with an
estimated yield of 500 kilotons (actually 400).12
These thermonuclear explosions obliterated more than an island; they also
shattered civil defense and dispersal planning assumptions. The newly com-
pleted Project East River was among the victims. Commissioned by the
Truman administration, East River was a comprehensive civil defense study
begun in the summer of 1951. The Associated Universities, a consortium of
nine East Coast institutions, did most of the research. Contributors to the
project’s ten volumes included scientists, business leaders, and government
officials. East River ultimately concluded that civil defense was workable if
three conditions were met: one, military defenses prevented a “saturation”
attack and provided at least one hour’s warning; two, the federal government
set standards and actively helped reduce urban vulnerability; and three,
qualified, experienced groups took responsibility for specific civil defense
tasks. Although East River purported to be forward-thinking, many contrib-
utors used atomic bomb yields rather than expected hydrogen yields as a basis
for their recommendations. Given the challenges hydrogen weapons posed
to civil defense, many looked to Eisenhower for sorely needed guidance. As
one civil defense supporter said, “It’s up to you, Mr. President.”13
And the NSC. In September 1953, it outlined a course of action in a study
prosaically entitled “Continental Defense” (NSC 159/4), which called for
stepped-up intelligence efforts to discern Soviet intentions; improved port
and harbor security (to prevent the smuggling of so-called suitcase nuclear
bombs into the United States); cooperation with Canada to build a better
early warning system; aircraft and missiles “which will achieve a high ‘kill
ratio’ before attacking forces reach our borders”; civil defense, especially
stockpiling and evacuation plans for urban populations; reduction of urban
vulnerability through permanent dispersal; and completion of preparations
for the continuity of the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of the
100 T I O  T

federal government.14 Of course, as the NSRB had shown, it was easy to

define goals; meeting them was another matter.

E D
Dispersal was all but dead in 1953. A terse statement in the appropriations
bills for the fiscal years 1952–1954 made Congressional opposition
abundantly clear: “The foregoing appropriation shall not be available to
effect the moving of Government agencies from the District of Columbia
into buildings acquired to accomplish the dispersal of departmental functions
of the executive establishment.” The military also remained hostile to dispersal.
At the end of 1949, the Department of Defense and the services had 52,403
employees and more than 7.7 million square feet of office, files, and storage
space at the seat of government. Three years later, those figures had grown to
71,023 and 8.74 million, respectively.15
However, the Soviet hydrogen test reinvigorated interest in dispersal. In
September, Ralph Lapp pointed out America’s “industrial glass jaw,” the
concentration of almost 40 percent of the nation’s productive capacity in
15 urban areas. In October, prominent Washington architect Waldron
Faulkner proposed removing essential government agencies from the District.
Addressing an audience of architects and planners at the Statler Hotel, the
white-haired Faulkner recommended preserving the heart of the capital as “a
cultural center” of libraries and museums. This suggestion echoed Tracy
Augur, who had said the same thing in 1950. No one needed to remind Augur;
he preceded Faulkner at the podium. Augur had returned to government work
as director of the Urban Targets Division of the ODM. In his speech, he reit-
erated familiar points: America’s cities were “sitting ducks,” but cluster cities
would reduce vulnerability while easing urban problems.16
Project East River had also called for dispersal. It recommended using a
three-tiered, federally mandated zoning system to create cluster communities
around the historic city core, which would lose industry and residents to the
clusters while retaining economic functions requiring a central location.
Practically all new construction would be prohibited in Class I zones, dense
urban areas; Class II zones would permit some new construction; Class III
zones, far from the city center, wouldn’t restrict development until they
approached the density of Class II zones. To enforce the zoning rules, the
federal government could both coax and coerce. It could require manufac-
turers with defense contracts to be situated ten miles from the edge of a Class I
zone, while generous federal building loans could entice developers to Class III
zones. East River didn’t explain, however, how to prevent land speculation in
rapidly developing areas or how to overcome opposition to federal intrusion
into local governance. Worse, the sections on dispersal relied on the study
Effects of Atomic Weapons, published years before the development of hydrogen
bombs. Despite these drawbacks, “if the [federal] government moves ener-
getically, the presently insoluble problems will take on a new appearance,”
suggested dispersal advocate Donald Monson.17
T E W 101

Although Eisenhower had little use for zoning-induced dispersal, he

supported decentralization by relocating the FCDA to Battle Creek, Mich.,
in 1954. Although ODM officials said the agency was moving because it could-
n’t find a dispersed site outside Washington, Eisenhower wanted the FCDA
in a location far from critical target areas.18 The White House also lifted one
dispersal recommendation from Project East River’s thousand pages. In January
1954, the NSC decided that no new federal buildings should be built in
critical target areas. The ODM followed through four months later by ordering
all executive branch agencies seeking new quarters to build or acquire space
at least ten miles from “any densely populated or highly industrialized section
of an urban area, major military installation or other critical facility.” Densely
populated areas had 200,000 or more people residing within a four-mile
diameter circle, while highly industrialized areas referred to circles of the
same size containing defense-related factories with a total employment of
16,000. The ODM allowed two exceptions: one, if the agency’s functions
required a site within the target zone; and two, if the agency wasn’t wartime
Almost immediately, the exceptions became the rule. The ODM didn’t try
to move the Smithsonian’s planned building (the National Museum of
American History) from the Mall because the museum wasn’t considered
wartime essential. The ODM also exempted the Armed Forces Institute of
Pathology, then under construction, because it needed to be close to the
Walter Reed Medical Center in Northwest Washington; both facilities lay
within the target zone. The State Department, in need of more office space,
insisted any new structures had to be in the District near State’s other buildings.
However, the CIA and AEC also needed new quarters, and early signs
indicated they wouldn’t stay downtown. Whether or not they would abide by
the ten-mile rule remained unclear.20
And what about the distance itself? Operation Ivy had proved the inade-
quacy of a ten-mile radius, as did another round of hydrogen tests conducted
in March and April 1954. Bravo, staged on March 1, tested America’s first
deliverable hydrogen bomb. Hours after the explosion, ash sifted down on
the island of Rongelap, some 100 miles away. This fallout looked like snow,
and it exposed the 86 people on the island to high levels of radiation, burning
skin and causing hair loss. The United States relocated them. The crew of the
Japanese fishing boat The Lucky Dragon, anchored 90 miles from the blast
point, also experienced radiation sickness; one man later died due to this
exposure.21 Hydrogen bombs were so powerful that the radioactive fallout
produced could kill people nowhere near the blast itself; however, the ODM
was slow to respond. In December 1954, the National Capital Regional
Planning Council (NCRPC) asked for dispersal guidelines that took into
account hydrogen weapons. This was hardly an unreasonable request, given
the Council’s obvious interest in dispersal. The NCRPC, composed of
members from District, Maryland, and Virginia planning bodies, worked to
align local development with an overall regional plan. ODM stalled the
group, however, replying that it was still studying the problem and couldn’t
102 T I O  T

provide additional information because relevant data was classified. In

February 1955, Arthur Flemming told the Cabinet that dispersal standards
needed revision but “a mileage yardstick that would conform to the increases
in weapons capabilities” for all parts of the country wasn’t possible. Instead,
he recommended fixing dispersal distances on a case-by-case basis.22
The AEC’s search for a building site exposed the limits of the ODM’s
dispersal guidelines. Among wartime essential agencies, the AEC ranked
high, and it had long outgrown its building on Constitution Avenue, forcing
hundreds of employees to work in two tempos and a warehouse. Use of the
scattered buildings incurred annual security costs exceeding $500,000 and
lost work time. Clearly the AEC needed new quarters, and it recognized its
part in dispersal’s success. “[C]ompliance with the dispersal policy will give
impetus to dispersal by other Government agencies and industrial firms,”
declared AEC chairman Lewis Strauss. In April, the Joint Committee on
Atomic Energy authorized $10 million for the AEC to build a dispersed
The AEC established several standards. They included adequate road
access, proximity to an established community, sufficient utilities, and
compatibility with regional and federal plans for the greater Washington area.
The most important requirement was the distance from the District: a mini-
mum of 20 miles from the Mall, west of a north–south line extending from
the Washington Monument. This line matched the inner border of Augur’s
1950 Dispersal Zone. Though it couldn’t rule out minor damage, the AEC
believed such a location afforded “reasonable protection” from a 20-megaton
hydrogen bomb detonated in Washington. It eliminated locations east of the
District because the winds that would carry fallout, at altitudes of 20,000 feet
and higher, almost always passed over Washington from the west. Although
some planners recommended finding a site 30 miles away, the AEC’s
Commissioners believed this distance was too far from the executive agencies
it worked with and would result in high staff attrition.24
The AEC gave its criteria to the Army’s Office of the Chief of Engineers,
which surveyed possible sites in Virginia and Maryland. During May it
examined dozens of sites, recommending 4 in Maryland, 2 in Virginia. Each
of the 6 sites lay at least 20 miles from the zero milestone marker. Next, the
AEC hired an architect-engineer to further study the choices. In early June,
it began meeting with the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC;
the new name for the National Capital Park and Planning Commission), and
Director John Nolen, Jr., who had helped pick dispersal sites in 1949, promised
his cooperation.25
The selection process wasn’t without complications, however; members of
Maryland’s and Virginia’s Congressional delegations tried to influence the
outcome. In late April, Senator John Butler (R-Md.) intimated to the press
that a Maryland site was likely, prompting Congressman Joel Broyhill (R),
who represented northern Virginia, to urge the AEC to choose Fairfax County.
Though legislators from Virginia and Maryland had previously opposed dis-
persal, the limited scale of the AEC project meant the advantages outweighed
T E W 103

the drawbacks; the new headquarters promised to economically benefit the

area without overwhelming utilities or bringing higher taxes. Broyhill also
saw the opportunity to apply pressure to the Virginia Highway Department.
Knowing that access roads were part of the AEC’s location criteria, Broyhill
asked to quote “a high official of AEC” saying that a lack of road planning
might stop the commission from building in Virginia. The official demurred,
telling the Congressman the AEC “could not afford to get drawn into a
political wrangle.”26
The President asked why the AEC set 20 miles as its limit. Though the
ODM had set a ten-mile marker for dispersal, Eisenhower thought the AEC
should consider building beyond 20 miles. After explaining the need to prevent
staff turnover and to work with executive agencies in the District, Commissioner
W.F. Libby assured him that 20 miles provided sufficient protection.27
Satisfied, Eisenhower said nothing more about a more distant site, and, in
July 1955, the AEC picked a farm close to Germantown, Md., as the location
for its new headquarters. The 155-acre parcel included fields, woods, wet-
lands, and streams. Located at the intersection of Md. Rte. 118 and the
Washington National Pike (U.S. Route 240; I-270 today), the site had the
terrain, highway access, and neighboring community desired by the AEC.
The site was also 25 miles from the zero milestone marker. Construction of
the new building started on May 29, 1956.28
The CIA also got new quarters outside of the District, but it took a much
different approach. CIA director Allen Dulles believed the CIA deserved
headquarters befitting its vaunted status in the national security state. In
1953, if judged by its work space, the CIA seemed lowly and insignificant.
Staff worked out of almost 40 different buildings, shuttling across the
District for meetings at tremendous cost in time and money. Many offices
were in the hated Mall tempos. (“This is a damned pig sty,” Dulles exclaimed
after entering one.) He dreamed of a self-contained campus for the CIA,
replete with landscaped grounds, cafeteria, and a secure perimeter.29 Such a
vision should have made Dulles partial to dispersal, but the tempos, for all
their flaws, had something dispersal could never offer: proximity to the
Capitol, the Pentagon, and, most important, the White House. If the presi-
dent needed to call together his national security policymakers, a 40-minute
drive from a distant office meant the CIA director would arrive long after
everyone else. Dulles wasn’t about to let that happen to him, and he was a
man used to having his way. Physically, the sixty-two year old wasn’t impos-
ing, the slim frame of his youth now portly, the once dark, full hair gone or
gray, combed over a high forehead. Wire frame glasses and a well-groomed
mustache suggested a respectable if unremarkable profession, perhaps the law
or academia, but his unassuming appearance concealed a strong will.30
At a December 1954 Cabinet meeting, Dulles told the President and
Flemming that he wanted to keep the CIA close to Washington. Neither man
objected.31 Dulles already had a site in mind. During the early 1920s, when
he had worked at the State Department, he had attended parties at elegant
estates near the small Virginia town of Langley, in Fairfax County, about
104 T I O  T

seven air miles from the zero milestone marker. The area remained scenic and
mostly undeveloped, with forested, rolling hills abutting the Potomac. The
federal government owned great swaths of land, including a Bureau of Roads
reservation of almost 600 acres. The Georgetown Pike (Rte. 193) and Chain
Bridge Road (Rte. 123) connected Langley to the District via the Chain
Bridge. Once completed, the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which
followed the river’s gentle southeastern curve, would offer an alternate route.
Accompanied by aides, Dulles went for a leisurely drive to make an informal
survey of the government-owned land. The terrain was as beautiful as he
remembered, and it took just 20 minutes to get there from the Mall. A
cordon sanitaire would be easy to trace around the building, annexes, and
parking lots. (Dulles worried about Soviet agents watching the comings and
goings of CIA staff from the easily surveilled tempos.)32 Ironically, Tracy
Augur had identified Langley as a possible short-term dispersal site in 1949.
Now the site lay well within the zone of destruction, but that didn’t concern
The Langley choice had plenty of opponents. Some residents wondered
who would pay for road improvements, schools, and sewers. Echoing his
criticism of the Truman dispersal plan, Frederick Gutheim said the CIA’s
move would threaten Langley’s low-density zoning and consume potential
park land. Roger Fisher, a Langley civic leader, fought the CIA every step of
the way. In July 1955, he told the Senate Appropriations Committee that the
agency would bring to Langley a “big Government housing project of
chicken-coop type houses that would deteriorate land values.” He also wor-
ried that new schools would be needed. The NCPC noted with concern that
the campus would house 10,000 employees; it had long recommended that
new federal office centers be capped at 5,000 employees. In December 1955,
it voted six to five against the Langley site, though it had no power to stop
the CIA. The Upper Montgomery Country (Md.) Planning Commission
also objected to the site, while others urged the CIA to stay put. The Federal
City Council, a body of Washington business and civic leaders, and the
Washington Daily News wanted the CIA to build in the District in order to
boost the local economy. Otherwise, the CIA should fulfill dispersal by
removing itself entirely from the target zone, editorialized the Daily News,
which chided the ODM for hoping Langley looked like actual dispersal.33
Dulles rebutted the complaints with his customary aplomb. Publicly, he or
his spokesmen offered assurances that the proposed CIA complex wouldn’t
ruin property values or parks. There were “very, very few employees who
could pay the prices that the land in this area of Langley will bring,” Dulles
told the NCPC. The CIA released figures stating that 48 percent of its
employees lived in Northwest D.C. and Montgomery County; presumably
these individuals would keep their present homes and commute to Langley.
Dulles assured several Congressional committees that the CIA needed just
100 or so acres, leaving plenty of land for park use. As trump, the CIA played
the national security card. One member of the NCRPC said that the CIA
“told in confidence of other advantages bearing on national safety and
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security which makes this site [Langley] preferable to all others examined.”
The secret asides revealed the CIA wanted to fence off its parking lots from
prying eyes, but to call it a matter of pressing national security helped grind
down the opposition. Dulles also won over important members of Congress
one by one, usually over evening cocktails.34
The lobbying worked. In July 1955, the Fairfax County Planning
Commission approved the Langley site, as did the NCRPC, later that year.
Also in July, Congress authorized extension of the George Washington
Parkway if the CIA moved to Langley. Then the NCPC reversed itself and
voted seven to five to approve the site, with the understanding that the CIA
would cooperate with local officials to maintain Langley’s “low-density
character.”35 Excavation began in September 1958 on a parcel of 140 acres in
the eastern portion of the Bureau of Roads reservation. Made of reinforced
concrete, the CIA’s new headquarters offered one million square feet of
office space, a 1,000-seat cafeteria, and a connected auditorium. Employees
began moving to the building in September 1961.36

T F R A 

C  G
The Arc was much more of a priority than dispersal. In January 1954,
Eisenhower, Flemming, and the NSC met in a White House conference
room to discuss the executive branch’s readiness to carry on after a nuclear
war. Flemming began with a pessimistic but realistic appraisal: a nuclear
attack on Washington would have a destructive radius of at least ten miles,
and given the number of wartime essential agencies working within this area,
“the danger of surprise attack involving disaster to the District of Columbia
constitutes an unacceptable risk of interrupting governmental functions
essential to national survival.”37
This statement could hardly have surprised those present. Flemming was
merely echoing “Security for the Nation’s Capital,” which had been gathering
dust for almost six years, and his proposed actions sounded familiar, too. He
said executive agencies needed to designate lines of succession and draft plans
to delegate responsibilities to field offices after an attack. Two years before,
Truman had ordered executive agencies to begin such planning. As Augur
and the NSRB had recommended, Flemming said that during an emergency,
wartime essential personnel should relocate to “existing facilities at safe
locations large enough to accommodate them for the duration of the
Despite this repetitiveness, the ensuing discussion revealed a shared recog-
nition of the challenges of continuity of government. Robert Cutler bluntly
stated there would be no advance warning of an attack and Washington
would be completely destroyed. Even with a warning, observed Eisenhower,
panic and traffic jams would prevent essential personnel from getting out of
the District. Flemming pointed out the drawback of using public buildings
such as schools as emergency headquarters: in case of an attack, local
106 T I O  T

residents would need community buildings for emergency services. And what
exactly was a wartime essential agency? Secretary of the Treasury George M.
Humphrey declared there was no postattack need for the Departments of
Agriculture, Health, Education and Welfare (HEW), and even Treasury,
which he confidently predicted could be run for 90 days by 15 people.
Eisenhower agreed: neither Agriculture nor HEW had any idea how to run
the government. Flemming thought otherwise. His staff had identified Crop
Reporting, Research Coordination, and the Farm Credit Administration as
wartime essential units of Agriculture, but he kept quiet.39
The results of this meeting distinctly shaped the Arc and emergency
planning. Not once did participants discuss the need for legislative and judi-
cial continuity planning, even though the NSC paper “Continental Defense”
had recommended it. Cutler’s point about the utter destruction of Washington,
though obvious, became the first rule of continuity planning. As the ODM
bluntly told executive agencies: “Accept demolition of the Governmental
facilities at Washington, D.C.”40 And the President’s point that key executive
personnel wouldn’t get out of Washington eventually led to the continuous
manning of a “hardened” (blast proof) underground center by cadres of
wartime essential executive personnel.
Eisenhower also affected relocation planning in two more ways. During
the meeting, Harold E. Stassen, director for Foreign Operations, twice men-
tioned the need for underground sites to house communications equipment
and perhaps even a cadre of officials ready to assume direction of the execu-
tive branch. (Stassen envisioned them standing by in case the Soviets targeted
the legally designated successors to the president and vice president.) As the
NSC’s secretary wrote:

The President stated that one trouble with the idea of key officials going into
underground structures was the morale problem of the public. He said you
couldn’t afford to do this because of the adverse psychological impact—the
public would be greatly upset. The President indicated that he would rather
have the Soviets know he was at Camp David rather than to be five miles under
Pike’s Peak. He would have the critical communications centers and matters of
that kind underground, but he and the leaders of the Government should
remain above ground.41

Eisenhower didn’t have to say this twice. The first groups of wartime essen-
tial personnel sent to an underground site arrived secretly and didn’t include
high-level officials. The President also made it clear he wanted a test of
continuity preparations.42 Before the year ended, such an exercise, dubbed
Operation Readiness, was carried out. And it was held at a very special place.
Forty-eight miles northwest of Washington as the crow flies, or a helicop-
ter, is a thickly wooded mountain in Loudoun County, Virginia, near the
towns of Bluemont and Berryville. You can drive past this mountain—just
take Va. Rte. 601 (Blue Ridge Mountain Rd.) south from Rte. 7—but if you
drive too slowly, you might be surveilled or an unmarked vehicle might
T E W 107

follow you. Chain link fences and barb wire abound, and armed guards
patrol. Tall signs proscribe all sorts of activity, including photography and
even drawing. If you were to get close, you could see, in clearings on the
mountain, mowed lawns, buildings, antennas, microwave dishes, an aircraft
control tower, and a helipad. You could see, too, a road leading to the mouth
of a tunnel, its guarded gate big enough for a truck to pass through.43
High Point. Western Virginia Office of Controlled Conflict Operations.
Special Facility. The Classified Site. Mount Weather. These are some of the
names given over the years to the mountain, or to be precise, the facilities on
and within this peak in the Blue Ridge range. Mount Weather still serves as the
primary fixed relocation site for the executive branch. Its current overseer, the
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), operates the underground
facility strictly “off-the-books,” just as FEMA’s predecessors did.
For all the official subterfuge, Mount Weather’s existence and purposes
have long been an open secret. Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II
referred several times to an underground government command post in the
Blue Ridge Mountains called “Mount Thunder” in their 1962 novel Seven
Days in May.44 In 1974, the crash of a TWA jet on the mountain brought
unwanted attention. Two years later, The Progressive published Richard P.
Pollack’s in-depth account of Mount Weather. Pollack, who interviewed
many former staff, described the facilities within the “mysterious mountain”
as an artificial city with offices, cafeterias, and dormitories; a place where elec-
tric cars glided down streets and personnel used a closed circuit color
television network to hold meetings; where “a small army of computer
specialists” fed options for recovering from a nuclear war or a biological
weapons attack into a Sperry-Univac computer. Pollack also identified the
executive bodies with assigned space at Mount Weather: the president and his
staff, nine departments, and seven federal agencies.45
Fittingly, the most complete description of Mount Weather appeared at
the end of the Cold War. In December 1991, Time correspondent Ted Gup
offered readers a fascinating glimpse into the history and workings of the
“Doomsday Hideaway.” A tenacious researcher, Gup pored over county,
state, and federal records, and he interviewed more than 100 people associ-
ated with Mount Weather. Gup described side tunnels housing offices and
the 21,000 iron bolts, eight to ten feet in length, which anchor the under-
ground city’s roofs and walls to the mountain’s densified Precambrian basalt,
one of the earth’s hardest rocks. Gilbert Fowler, who worked at Mount
Weather for 31 years, told Gup about the “guillotine gate” and a steel door
5 feet thick and 20 feet wide that would absorb a thermonuclear blast
and keep out unauthorized persons, including the families of officials with
assignments at Mount Weather.46
Mount Weather had its origins in the Experimental Hard Rock Mine
operated by the Bureau of Mines, which tested new drilling and blasting
methods there beginning in 1936. A tunnel led to the narrow mine, which
was 250–300 feet deep and a quarter-mile long. In 1954, under the direction
of the mine’s superintendent Paul L. Russell, the Experimental Mine was
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expanded and converted to serve as a relocation center. Just as it had at Raven

Rock, work continued round-the-clock. Fowler supervised one of the three
40-man crews given the “rough, tough, dirty” job of hollowing out a moun-
tain made of the dense basalt. The Army Corps of Engineers also did much
of the work, which wasn’t finished until 1958.47 However, progress on
Mount Weather was far enough along for it to host Operation Readiness,
staged by the ODM on November 20, 1954.
Operation Readiness had two concurrent phases. In the first, the heads or
alternates of 30 wartime essential agencies met at Mount Weather to listen to
a briefing on the Soviet Union’s attack capability, then broke into small
groups to discuss general postattack recovery challenges. In the second phase,
small cadres of personnel from the 30 agencies went to their relocation sites
where they spent six or more hours “solving” specific recovery problems.
Operation Readiness was a subdued, one-day affair. The White House didn’t
tell Congress, the public, or the press about the exercise, and participants
traveled discreetly to their sites.
The meeting at Mount Weather was called the Interim Assembly and
involved some 110 people. They gathered in the underground chamber,
which measured approximately 35 feet wide and 100 feet long. Cubicle walls
divided the space into rooms for small-group work. In addition to a public
address system, the Signal Corps had set up three portable television cameras
and television monitors in each cubicle. “This permitted the various groups
to meet separately or to communicate with each other readily by sight and
sound,” wrote Flemming, who added that the “arrangement simulated the
planned development of the High Point underground facility where individ-
ual rooms will be available for the various functional areas, equipped with
adequate intercom and outside communications equipment.”48
The television system was put to use once everyone arrived. Although
Eisenhower wasn’t present, he spoke for 15 minutes using “phonevision,”
which allowed the Interim Assembly to watch the President on monitors.49
Then Rear Admiral Thomas H. Robbins of the Joint Chiefs of Staff used
intelligence estimates of Soviet weapons and delivery systems to describe a
hypothetical attack on the United States. During the afternoon, the Interim
Assembly divided into five work groups: the Cabinet and National Security
Council, Transportation and Communication, Production and Materials,
Manpower and Stabilization, and Civil Defense. A different ODM official
served as each group’s leader. Flemming, for example, headed the Cabinet
and Council group, which discussed wartime organizational problems.
Throughout the afternoon, the groups puzzled over the myriad challenges of
recovery from nuclear war. The Production and Materials group assumed all
major target areas would be evacuated prior to an attack. Therefore, “the first
problem would be to improve the morale of the civilian population and to
stabilize the labor force by using available communications to urge people
to return to their homes and jobs.” It recommended that transportation be
provided for the evacuees to take them home and to carry them to and from
their jobs.50
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Meanwhile, 961 executive branch employees worked on problems at

dozens of relocation sites in the Arc. At Front Royal, 99 State Department
personnel answered questions such as: “Should friendly diplomatic missions
be assigned a relocation site or sites?” From the Commerce Department’s
relocation site, Undersecretary Walter Williams coordinated the problem-
solving of 11 units within Commerce, each of which had its own site within
the Arc. The Coast and Geodetic Survey, for example, determined how it
would provide nautical and landing charts to ports and terminals close to
devastated areas. The Bureau of the Census estimated the effects of the attack
on workers in a given city. According to one observer, “[a]s the play of the
problems got under way at the individual Bureau centers, communications
between the centers and the Departmental Headquarters developed in
volume and a realistic atmosphere of emergency was produced.” Some depart-
ments seemed to fare better than others. Treasury reported 50 problems
solved; Agriculture, none. The CIA took part but didn’t report on its
problemsolving. Every agency called Mount Weather with progress reports
during the day, but some couldn’t make connections or reach their principals.51
The communication difficulties, as well as the assumption that urban
populations would evacuate before the detonation of atomic bombs above
their cities, exposed the gross inadequacies of continuity planning. One
participant later characterized Operation Readiness as a “rather feeble
command and staff exercise.”52 Eisenhower told Flemming, “I have not seen
any specific plans to apply during the very first minutes and hours of any
evacuation from this city [Washington].” Once the alarm sounded, Eisenhower
predicted, the “effect would be to jam roads and possibly to make impossible
the orderly and rapid evacuation of personnel essential to the continued
functioning of the government.”53 Flemming conceded that “the need for
improvements in communications facilities was highlighted to nearly every
agency.” He recommended the next test use mobile communications equip-
ment to link the Arc and that relocation sites be activated for two or three
days rather than just a few hours. Flemming also suggested “an evacuation
test of Washington, D.C.”54 This meant, of course, that the test couldn’t be
carried out behind-the-scenes, like Operation Readiness.
Fortunately, Washingtonians already had some experience with civil
defense drills.
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I f the Soviet Union had attacked the United States on Wednesday, June 15,
1955, would the following have happened in Washington, D.C.?
The Tu-4 bombers, hundreds of them, depart from remote locations in
the northern Soviet Union: Anadyr, on the Bering Sea; the Kola Peninsula,
east of Finland; and an island in the Kara Sea, inside the Arctic Circle. The
attacking force also includes ten M-4s, newer bombers with turbojet engines.
Carrying conventional and nuclear bombs, the aircraft press toward targets in
the northeastern and northwestern United States. None of the planes will
retrace their routes; the Tu-4s and M-4s lack the range to return home.
North America’s early warning net is a patchwork of two ground radar
lines, airborne radar, and the Ground Observer Corps. The northernmost
radar is the Distant Early Warning Line (DEW), which isn’t yet complete;
construction of a test segment began in July 1953. So far, 18 stations stretch
from Point Barrow to Barter Island, covering about half of Alaska’s arctic
coast. The diesel-powered, unmanned radar units can detect aircraft flying at
altitudes between 200 to 65,000 feet. “Scatter” radio, so-named because it
bounces waves off the troposphere to prevent magnetic interference, relays
sightings to human controllers at the two main stations. Some of the Tu-4s
cross the DEW, but the controllers at Point Barrow and Barter Island only
identify the Soviet bombers as “unknowns” and notify Canadian and U.S. air
defense commands. Most of the aircraft don’t appear on radar until they
approach the Pinetree Line, more than 30 domed stations on both sides of
the Canadian/U.S. border.
At the first DEW report, duty personnel in the Combat Operations Center
at the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) in Colorado Springs
notify the headquarters for the three air defense regions for the continental
United States (Western, Central, and Eastern) and ask the radar stations
along the Canadian border to stay alert. As soon as CONAD receives the
Pinetree reports, it orders a full Air Defense Readiness alert. Combat opera-
tions personnel use direct lines to notify the Pentagon and Strategic Air
Command (SAC) at Offutt Air Force Base outside Omaha. The operational
Nike bases, including the one at Lorton, prepare to launch their antiaircraft
missiles. Squadrons of F-86Ds are already in the air, using the coordinates of
the radar sightings to intercept the attackers.
112 T I O  T

The civilian warning for Washington originates at the Air Defense Control
Center at Stewart Air Force Base in Newburgh, New York. Following the
Pinetree sightings, the Control Center transmits the Warning Yellow to the
“Key Point,” the DCD Alternate Command Center in the former Fort Reno
school in upper Northwest Washington. A Warning Yellow means an air
attack is possible, but it isn’t a public warning; it alerts public safety and civil
defense officials on a controlled system. A bell rings loudly at Fort Reno.
Over the speakers, the attack-warning controller at Newburgh says,
“Attention, please; attention please—Air Defense Warning Yellow. Stand by
to acknowledge.” One by one, he reads off the roster of 14 Key Points
answering to his Control Center. The District is 11th on the list, and the dis-
patcher waits 45 seconds before tersely responding “Washington.” Now he
scrambles—he’s the only person on duty. He dials Yellow on the Bell and
Light system, which relays the warning to the Fire and Police Departments,
the District switchboard, and more than 150 receivers, most of them in fed-
eral government buildings. Using a regular telephone, he calls John Fondahl
and his assistant H.P. Godwin; in turn, they hurriedly make assigned calls to
District officials and civil defense deputies. The dispatcher wheels around to
a radio console, turns it on. “KGF-71 to all controls,” he says, “Attention
please! Air Defense Warning Yellow was received at 2:49 p.m.” This message
reaches the Control net, monitored by, among others, the operators of the
Muzak system, who can transmit a public warning to their 400 outlets in
Meanwhile local radio station WWDC executes Conelrad (Control of
electromagnetic radiation). To prevent enemy pilots from using broadcast
radio waves as navigational aids, Truman authorized Conelrad in December
1951; the plan, which went into effect in early 1953, mandates cessation of
all television and radio broadcasting after a Warning Yellow. Just after the Key
Points receive their warning, Air Defense Control telephones WWDC,
Washington’s Key Station for Conelrad. By law, other area television and
radio stations continuously monitor WWDC. The stations deliver this

We interrupt our normal program to cooperate in security and civil defense

measures as requested by the United States Government. This is a Conelrad
radio alert. Normal broadcasting will now be discontinued for an indefinite
period. Civil Defense information will be broadcast in most areas at 640 or
1240 on your regular radio receiver.

Twelve minutes will pass before the stations assigned the 1240 a.m. band are
ready to broadcast civil defense information, while those given 640 a.m. must
wait 25 minutes. It’s mid-afternoon. No public sirens or horns have sounded.
Television and radio sets are going dead, yet the city bustles with noise:
clattering streetcars, car horns, people talking. But something is wrong,
obviously—why else would radio and television go off the air? In dens, kitchens,
and offices, Washingtonians are reaching for phones, looking for car keys.
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School principals wonder if they should start evacuating their buildings,

shoppers at Woodward & Lothrop uneasily ask clerks if they know what’s hap-
pening. Passersby in the Federal Triangle and on the Mall notice a flurry of
people rushing from the tempos and other federal buildings. They number
among the 40,000 wartime essential personnel with assignments in the Federal
Relocation Arc, and they have instructions to leave the city immediately after
hearing the Warning Yellow on their buildings’ Bell and Light units.
Once the first interception of Soviet bombers confirms this is no false
alarm, the attack-warning controller in Newburgh relays an evacuation order.
The DCD dispatcher dials Blue on the Bell and Light system, pushes the alert
button on the consoles that control Washington’s 36 RCA electronic horns
and 13 Motorola gasoline-powered air raid sirens. For five minutes, a deaf-
ening, steady tone blares from the roofs of schools, fire stations, and govern-
ment buildings. The dispatcher passes the alert to the Control net, then
WWDC telephones to tell him the Conelrad frequencies are ready on 1240 a.m.
An automatic timer cuts off the sirens and horns, the dispatcher pulls his
microphone close. He has no script to read, no tape to play—the civil defense
information promised by the Conelrad announcement is his alone to phrase
and deliver.
“Attention please! The Air Defense Control Center of the United States
Air Force has just delivered an Air Defense Warning for Washington. The city
must evacuate immediately.” He repeats his announcement and tells
Washingtonians what they should do, what must happen. Everyone in the
city center should evacuate at least four miles from the White House, then
seek shelter in private homes and public buildings. Drivers should obey civil
defense traffic regulations, which were published in local newspapers. Police
are turning back inbound traffic and making all bridge lanes outbound. The
attack isn’t imminent, he says repeatedly; otherwise, the Air Defense Control
Center would have issued a Warning Red (take cover immediately). The
dispatcher also tells residents what they shouldn’t do: try to find their families
before evacuating; attempt to take anything other than their civil defense
survival kits; ignore or disobey instructions from police, military, and civil
defense personnel.
The President, his wife, and some 20 staff members have already left the
city. At the Air Defense Readiness alert, Eisenhower suspended his regular
schedule but remained in the White House. As soon as the Air Force
Command Post at the Pentagon indicated a Warning Yellow was being
ordered, Eisenhower agreed with Edward Beach that he should proceed
immediately to Mount Weather. In accordance with the White House
Emergency Plan, the Shelter Duty Officer places both shelters on full
operational status. The White House Police take their emergency posts,
tourists are quickly ushered from the mansion. Secret Service agents whisk
the President’s entourage to the South Portico, where helicopters from the
Anacostia Naval Station pick them up on the lawn. Remaining White House
personnel move to either the West Basement entrance or the East Lobby,
depending on where they parked that morning. White House police assign
114 T I O  T

those without cars to drivers; when full, each vehicle joins the exodus of
wartime essential personnel.1

* * *

Could all this have happened if the Soviet Union attacked the United States
on June 15, 1955? A look at the historical evidence strongly suggests a neg-
ative answer. Timely and accurate detection and identification of
“unknowns” was no simple task for a nation with thousands of miles of bor-
ders. The completed portion of the DEW line covered a fraction of that
space. Although Pinetree provided broader coverage, its proximity to the
northern United States reduced the time to identify and intercept aircraft.
Furthermore, the channels through which CONAD delivered and received
warnings sometimes clogged. On May 5, 1955, for example, the 5th
Canadian Air Defense Control Center spotted several unknowns. The aircraft
were actually SAC planes on a routine flight, but a communications equip-
ment failure prevented advance notification of the Canadian center, which
reported the sighting to the Western Air Defense Force in California.
Because of a personnel error, SAC’s message about the flights hadn’t reached
the western region, leading it to declare an Air Defense Readiness alert at
1:13 p.m. When one of the unknowns passed into U.S. air space, Warning
Yellow was issued at 1:40. Two minutes later, CONAD received the misdi-
rected SAC message; recognizing the error, duty officers cancelled the alert
at 1:47, narrowly averting activation of Conelrad on the West Coast and dec-
laration of Warning Yellow in the central and eastern regions of the United
States. As an Air Force general told Beach, “It must be pointed out that the
number of unknown aircraft, their speed, altitude and direction, was of an
alarming nature to the ADCC’s [sic]. If such a hostile attack ever occurs,
there will be anxious moments and rapid decisions based on the judgments
and facts available.”2
The Advisory Committee on Civil Defense for the National Academy of
Sciences certainly agreed with that last statement. In 1955, it carefully studied
the Washington warning system. The principal investigators, Willard Bascom
and Kenneth Brickner, interviewed operation personnel, examined guidelines,
and studied exercise reports. The two men also charted the intended trans-
mission of warnings, beginning with the first call from the Air Defense
Control Center in Newburgh. They noted that “the optimistic assumption
was made that all would operate as planned. Neither we nor the Director [of
the Committee] believe this to be likely.” Not only were dispatchers and
switchboard operators unsure of their duties and how the warning system
worked, but “the written instructions dealing with the subject are incomplete,
scattered and obsolete.” The public was “abysmally ignorant” of the different
warning signals and how it should respond. Warning Yellow took television
and radio off the air, but as much as a half-hour elapsed before civil defense
broadcasting could commence. In the meantime, telephone calls would
smother the city’s switchboards, jamming circuits needed for the 25 official
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calls to be placed as part of the alerting protocol. The Key Point and radio sta-
tions were all in unsheltered structures within the target zone, which meant
the personnel responsible for transmitting warnings were being asked to sacri-
fice their lives. “It is doubtful that these men have thought much about their
actions in a real attack, but the possibility that they might leave to save their
own lives should be considered.” Even if the dispatcher held fast, he had no
recordings, yet it “would seem logical to have a pre-recorded calm voice giv-
ing instructions instead of the extemporaneous suggestions of a man under
stress.” Finally, Bascom and Brickner noted the deplorable state of
Washington’s horns and sirens. The 36 horns, which supposedly permitted
the civil defense dispatcher to make citywide announcements, garbled voice
transmissions and relied on the city’s electrical grid, making them useless after
an attack. The 13 sirens didn’t as yet function properly; indeed, the District
was refusing to accept the units until the contractor fixed the problems.3
A flawed warning system, coupled with public ignorance, doomed all hope
of an orderly evacuation. Because of Conelrad, Warning Yellow was really a
public alert, as Val Peterson himself admitted in 1953.4 In 1951,
Commissioner Gordon Russell Young had pointed out the trouble a Warning
Yellow would cause in the District: “the idea of keeping the general public in
ignorance of the yellow alert is unworkable” (emphasis in original). Within
five minutes, tens of thousands of Washingtonians—police officers, firefight-
ers, District and federal government employees—would know of the alert.
Unavoidably, many would call their families; word would spread like wildfire
through the city. “There is here the makings of a first-class panic,” warned
Young.5 The FCDA believed urban residents would attempt to drive out of
their cities immediately following Conelrad’s activation.6 The DCD and
suburban civil defense offices expected wardens to aid in traffic control and
evacuation, but they too were susceptible to panic and concern for their fam-
ilies. Henry Rapalus, a Rockville, Md., civil defense volunteer during the
1950s, wondered whether any semblance of order was possible. “Humanity
goes down the drain and it’s every man for himself,” he said. “That was a big
worry.” Rapalus knows firsthand how catastrophe affects people: as a young
serviceman, he survived the attack on Pearl Harbor.7
To make matters worse, Washington didn’t as yet have an evacuation plan.
Movement of the central city population to a four-mile line wasn’t an official
plan—it was little more than a suggestion John Fondahl made to the NSC in
April.8 The civil defense traffic regulations were complicated and had been pub-
lished 18 months earlier.9 And would wartime essential personnel leave the city
without calling, or trying to pick up, their loved ones? How could their evacua-
tion take place unnoticed and expeditiously, especially since the city and suburbs
lacked a circumferential highway? (The Capital Beltway wasn’t finished until
1964.) As Admiral Arthur Radford pointed out during a March NSC meeting,
rush hour traffic was so bad it took him an hour to cross Washington.10 Even the
President’s safe removal seemed in doubt. Because “an attack can materialize
with only a few hours warning, it is apparent that a higher degree of readiness for
instant reaction by the Chief Executive is imperative,” urged Beach in April.11
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Finally, we should consider the likelihood of the attack itself: “at no time
in the period under consideration [the 1950s] did the Soviet Union deploy a
substantial strategic bomber force that could play a significant role in an attack
on the continental United States” (emphasis in original). Even on one-way
missions, the Tu-4s could only reach targets in the northwestern United
States; only the ten M-4s could have reached New York or Washington. The
Soviets had approximately 350 atomic weapons; the United States had more
than 3,000. Let there be no doubt, the Soviet Union was a formidable power
in 1955—it could have carried out a withering atomic and conventional
strike in Europe; it could have launched its bombers on one-way sorties
against U.S. targets—but it hadn’t as yet achieved strategic arms parity with
the United States.12 Did American superiority thus encourage a smug sense
of security, the belief the Soviets would never start a war they couldn’t win,
rendering early warning and evacuation plans for the capital unimportant? In
fact, no; the national security state could only surmise the size of the Soviets’
nuclear stockpile and the capabilities of its delivery systems. At times these
estimates imputed greater striking force than the Soviets actually wielded. In
May 1955, for example, multiple flyovers of the same ten M-4 aircraft at a
military parade prompted unwarranted fears of a “bomber gap” between the
United States and the Soviet Union, while in March 1956, the CIA overesti-
mated the range and refueling capability of the Tu-4.13 Moreover, the inade-
quacies of continental defense—“the Achilles heel of our national security,”
as one planner put it—weighed heavily on the national security state.14 Why
then was Washington ill prepared? A look at civil defense exercises staged
between late 1952 and mid-1955 provides the answer.

T . . .
. . . 1: Government Air Raid Drill, Friday, December 12, 1952
At 2 p.m., an undulating wail went out from Washington’s rooftop air horns,
and the Bell and Light system activated inside 138 federal buildings. This was
a Warning Red—take cover immediately. Most Washingtonians didn’t.
Downtown shoppers continued browsing, Capital Transit streetcars kept
running. This wasn’t a public exercise, however; it was a test for the Federal
Buildings Services (FBS), a wardens corps and warning system for the 200 or
so buildings housing more than 200,000 employees of the executive branch.
Ferdinand Kaufholz, Jr., of the GSA directed the FBS. On paper, Kaufholz
had a warden corps of between 30,000 and 35,000 federal employees, but
many didn’t even bother to submit monthly progress reports. The District
government also participated in the drill, as did the city’s public and parochial
Government employees and school principals received advance instructions
for the test. Buildings without Bell and Light units sounded the alert with
internal electric horns, air whistles, and clock buzzers. The exercise plotted
the “simultaneous explosion of two nominal type atomic bombs” at 2:05, so
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wardens and occupants had only a few minutes to move to their designated
shelter areas. Still, wardens reported rapid responses. The 300 occupants of
the Auditor’s Building evacuated in an “orderly fashion and without mishap
or confusion,” according to its warden. One Treasury Department partici-
pant said, “the drill and purpose behind it were provocative of serious whole-
some thought,” making for an “excellent object lesson.” The all-clear signal
came at 2:15, and most people returned to work. Building wardens contin-
ued with the exercise until 4 p.m., using this time to telephone damage and
casualty reports to the FBS’s Control Center at the Federal Supply Building.
Prior to the drill, the FBS had given the wardens maps with the surmised
destructive range of the two bombs, which “detonated” at 10th and M
Streets NW and Arlington Ridge Road and Army-Navy Drive, southwest of
the Pentagon. Kaufholz instructed the wardens to use their “own judgment
and imagination” to draft these reports.16
For all these creative flourishes, the exercise was something less than a fire
drill—most occupants hadn’t even left their buildings. Hallways, basements,
and windowless rooms, many above the ground floor, served as shelters.
Could they really shield occupants from “nominal type” atomic bombs? A lot
of the drill’s participants didn’t think so. Pre-drill grumbling compelled the
FBS to explain the merits of seeking shelter in buildings that it admitted, “by
any reasonable evaluation cannot provide adequate shelter.” Due to aiming
errors, the bombs might detonate miles from the central city. Warnings might
leave as little as five minutes to spare. Even if a timely warning permitted a
mass evacuation of several miles, the city didn’t have enough reinforced
structures at that range to provide adequate shelter. Finally, “it is assumed
that any shelter, however inadequate, is better than none; even to the extent
of shielding exposed parts of the body with clothing.”17
As Pollyanna, the FBS had plenty of company. In January 1953, DCD told
its wardens they could help minimize post-blast fires by picking up garbage
and distributing fire extinguishers in their neighborhoods. Later that year,
DCD issued instructions for the handling of downed enemy aircrews: citizens
should call the police, who would take the survivors into custody and report
the crash to the Air Force.18 On Capitol Hill, the Senate Rules Committee
decided in July 1953 to reevaluate civil defense preparations for the U.S.
Capitol Building Group. The existing plan, prepared in 1951 by Architect of
the Capitol David Lynn with DCD’s assistance, consisted mostly of charts of
warden, rescue, and welfare services; designation of hallways, corridors, and
basement areas as shelters; and descriptions of warning and communications
networks—in short, the usual civil defense ephemera. The 1953 changes
improved only modestly upon this inauspicious start (figure 7.1). A Bell and
Light system went into the Senate Office Building and the Capitol, almost 40
Senate staffers attended a daylong training session at the FCDA’s school in
Olney, Md. The FCDA’s legislative liaison resurveyed shelter areas in the
Senate wing of the Capitol and the Senate Office Building. He declared that
the two structures, including the Senate subway tunnel, offered 23,475
square feet of shelter against a 20-kiloton atomic bomb detonated in the air
118 T I O  T

Figure 7.1 In this 1954 Washington Star photograph, staff of the D.C. Office of Civil
Defense show how they will plot damage and casualty data after a nuclear attack. Located
within the target zone, the office and its occupants almost certainly would not have survived
an atomic blast and the resulting mass fire. Copyright Washington Post; reprinted by permission
of the D.C. Public Library.

half a mile away. This confident prediction didn’t consider, however, the
resulting mass fire that would incinerate any blast survivors.19
Guy Oakes calls these specious assumptions “the Cold War conception of
nuclear reality” in which massive nuclear strikes against the United States
present pointed but not insurmountable challenges. Millions die, but the
survivors far outnumber the dead. Deadly fallout appears no more menacing
than storm clouds, so the living turn to the task of restoring America to its
idyllic, pre-attack state. St. Albans, West Virginia, featured in an FCDA film,
exemplified this (ir)reality. The townspeople evacuate swiftly, calmly, safely.
A nuclear attack neither kills nor rattles them, and with military-like disci-
pline, the townspeople jump-start postal delivery (volunteers sift mail in a
country field) and keep the local bank solvent (tellers set up folding tables in
another field). Oates: “In the fantasy of nuclear crisis mastery, after the dust
of more than 100 nuclear explosions has cleared, letters will be written
and delivered; checks will be drafted and cashed; debts will be incurred and
settled; employees will show up for work, and the technological, social, and
economic conditions for their labor will remain in place.”20
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“Nominal type” fission bombs underpinned this reality by allowing

exercise planners to keep the levels of destruction at manageable levels with-
out appearing preposterous. References to Hiroshima and Nagasaki injected
the scenarios with just the right doses of realism and optimism. Hadn’t the
U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey scientifically cataloged the bombs’ effects?
Hadn’t these cities rebuilt? Nuclear reality appeared in attack scenarios
nationwide, from Portland to New York, but it was most prominent in
Washington. For all the depiction of self-reliance, survival and recovery
obviously required federal direction and support, and if the government
couldn’t function after an attack, then the fantasy became untenable. In this
sense, imaginary low yield atomic bombs “detonated” in Washington served
as the linchpin of the national nuclear reality: just like the people of
St. Albans, the federal government (at least the president and the executive
branch) would elude the bombs, find a field, and roll up their sleeves.
Such delusion disturbed Dr. Vannevar Bush. An accomplished engineer
and academic, Bush was a leader in the research and development wing of the
national security state. In March 1953, Bush met with the NSC and urged
the government to be candid with the public about hydrogen weapons. Said
Bush, as paraphrased by the recording secretary, “New York City could
survive 2 or 3 A-bombs but one H-bomb and no more N.Y.C. There is all
too little intelligent thought being given to change created by the magnitude
of destructiveness of H-bomb.” Bush also said top government officials
should surrender their penchant for secrecy when discussing nuclear bombs,
suggesting that a little openness could shrink public apathy without spread-
ing panic. In May, Bush and Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, who had directed
the Manhattan Project’s Los Alamos laboratory during World War II,
personally enjoined the President to lay the facts about hydrogen bombs
before America. “Only a wise and informed people,” said Oppenheimer, also
paraphrased by the secretary, “could be expected to act wisely.” Eisenhower
replied that candor was a good idea—in principle. In practical terms, he
thought it ill-advised. Too much classified information was leaking out
already, and, if the government remained deliberately vague about the differ-
ences between atomic and hydrogen weapons, even to the point of expunging
references to “thermonuclear” from official statements, the Soviets might
find it more difficult to assess the state of U.S. weapons.21
The candor urged by Bush and Oppenheimer didn’t occur. For the FCDA
to sponsor another Alert America, one designed to educate Americans about
the staggering difference between atomic and hydrogen bombs, risked
imploding the prevailing nuclear reality and gutting civil defense’s established
premises. Nurtured by subsequent drills in Washington, nuclear reality had a
long life.

. . . 2: Operation Fireball, July 20, 1953

At 7 a.m., the DCD used shortwave radio to send a message to a dispatcher
in College Park, Md.: Washington had just been bombed. The dispatcher
120 T I O  T

relayed the message to various civil defense centers in the Maryland commu-
nities bordering the District, and hundreds of volunteer firemen hurried to
their stations. With sirens blaring, they raced 78 firefighting vehicles and
pieces of equipment to the Tidal Basin, where they helped District firefighters
pump 7,000 gallons of water to extinguish “fires” caused by the imaginary
explosion. This was Operation Fireball, the first civil defense exercise con-
ducted jointly by the District and Maryland. It didn’t go well. Errors
disrupted the alerting, equipment arrived late. The firemen didn’t put out
the mock blaze until 12:10 p.m., almost two hours later than planned.22
Operation Fireball exposed the structural defects of localized civil defense.
The NSRB, the FCDA, Congress, the military, the White House—each
wanted to keep civil defense a local and state responsibility. As a result, civil
defense offices became budgetary and administrative outcroppings of municipal
and county governments. Federal officials reasoned correctly that citizens
preferred local oversight and would feel more comfortable volunteering for a
community service than a federal program. The drawback, however, was that
local civil defense offices developed insularity and detachment, conditions
that the ceaseless struggle to lure and hold volunteers only made worse. We
know the racial divisions, Congressional drubbings, and fizzled recruitment
drives that dogged Fondahl’s every step: the drive to simply keep his program
alive left Fondahl little time and few resources to coordinate with his
suburban counterparts. Thermonuclear weapons required unified civil
defense covering at least a ten square mile area, but greater Washington had
a messy patchwork of programs that duplicated one another, yet remained
isolated. One study even identified eight independent civil defense agencies
within the range of a hydrogen bomb detonated in Washington.23

. . . 3: Operation Alert (OPAL 54), Monday, June 14, 1954

At 12:56 p.m., a 50-kiloton bomb detonates 3,400 feet above 11th and
F Streets in downtown Washington. It kills 137,000 people, injures almost
400,000, and flattens every structure within nine-tenths of a mile. Fire
engulfs the heart of the city. Within the inner radius, telephone switchboards,
gas and water mains, and the electrical grid lay destroyed or broken; streets
up to 2.6 miles from ground zero are impassable. Just 643 of the District’s
2,000 practicing physicians are unhurt, 12 hospitals are destroyed or not
functioning. But there’s good news. The president, wartime essential
personnel, and Congress evacuated Washington before the bombing and
“are safe and operating at distant points.” The Pentagon suffered only light
damage. Panic erupted only in scattered areas. All bridges are intact, Capital
Transit has 570 working buses, and rail yards withstood the blast.24
Familiar stuff, these rosy projections, especially the one-bomb assumption.
The same month this OPAL took place, Duke University sociologist Hornell
Hart discussed the possible effects of an atomic attack on the United States.
Hart briskly dismissed the notion the Soviet Union would only expend a
single bomb on a target as rich as Washington, surmising it would use four
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100-kiloton atomic bombs, creating a 100 square mile blast area. However,
the “vital point to be considered is not the precise number of bombs which
the Kremlin now has at its disposal, or is expected to have in the future.”
What mattered more was that available information pointed “toward the like-
lihood of a steep increase in Russia’s destructive potential.” It might be one
atomic bomb today, but tomorrow it would be four; and the day after, two
hydrogen weapons equivalent to eight atomic bombs. Harsh but prescient,
Hart’s conjectures challenged civil defense leaders to anticipate the future,
but like the generals of folklore, they were still planning for the last war.25
Operation Alert 1954 was Washington’s biggest civil defense drill to date.
District Commissioner Samuel Spencer asked Eisenhower to issue a directive
offering paid release for federal employees so they could participate. Not only
did Eisenhower give the order, he also directed the executive branch to par-
ticipate and instructed Flemming to test relocation plans for selected agen-
cies.26 When the Warning Red sounded, the President, his wife Mamie, and
staff decamped to the White House’s shelters, where they remained for
25 minutes. Executive branch employees filed into their buildings’ shelter areas.
(Congress, however, kept working.) Three State Department employees pro-
ceeded to Front Royal to check on the site. En route, they were stopped by
a Virginia State Police Officer who ignored their DCD vehicle pass and
forced them to pull over. At the National Guard Armory, a vacant lot served
as a landing strip for Piper Cubs and other small aircraft piloted by volunteers
in the Civil Air Patrol’s National Capital Wing, stationed at Hybla Valley field
in Alexandria. The planes dispersed to points as far as Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (180
air miles), and Roanoke, Va. (200 air miles), to pick up mock stockpiles of
blood, bandages, and medical supplies. On the District’s streets, police offi-
cers waved traffic to the curb; buses and streetcars halted. Downtown, only a
few drivers refused to stop. Meanwhile wardens in white helmets guided
pedestrians to the nearest building with a shelter. Remarked one observer,
“[c]ompliance was so complete that any persons seen on F Street during the
10 minute period looked like intruders on an empty movie lot.” The neigh-
boring counties and communities in Virginia and Maryland followed a
similar protocol, sounding sirens and horns, halting traffic. Operation Alert
1954 was a national drill, but metropolitan Washington put on a better show
than most cities. In Chicago, pedestrians stayed on the streets, and protesters
held up signs reading “Work for World Peace Is the Only Civilian Defense.”
In San Francisco, the cable cars kept running during the Warning Red.27
The direction of the public to shelters contradicted the Eisenhower
administration’s current emphasis on evacuation. Upon taking office, Val
Peterson had disavowed a national shelter program and made improvements
to the early warning system his first priority. He hoped these changes could
provide at least two hours’ notice of an attack, thus giving urban residents
sufficient time to evacuate.28 Of course, successful evacuation required high-
ways, as Public Buildings Commissioner W.E. Reynolds had observed in
1952 when he urged Congress to fund a circumferential highway for metro-
politan Washington. Indeed, construction of the Capital Beltway began in
122 T I O  T

Maryland in February 1955, one year before Congress passed the Interstate
Highway Act, again showing how the capital served as a testing ground for
national policy.29 Also in February 1955, Eisenhower cited the need for
“quick evacuation of target areas” to justify the interstate highway system.30
(As the commissioner of the Bureau of Public Roads later admitted, however,
the highway program given to Congress didn’t plot routes to enable mass
Even with increased warning time and new highways, however, the evacu-
ation of Washington was a daunting challenge. In April 1954, Life used
FCDA evacuation guidelines to outline a two-stage evacuation for the
District. Police would stop all vehicle traffic downtown and direct everyone
to a “loading perimeter,” where lines of buses and streetcars would take them
to “rallying points” in Virginia and Maryland. Residents beyond the loading
perimeter would evacuate using prearranged carpools. However, the city’s
987 buses and 477 streetcars could only accommodate some 115,000 people;
Washington’s daytime population was almost one million. “Most people,”
suggested Life, “would have to follow prearranged pedestrian routes.”32 In
July, the Operations Research Office of Johns Hopkins University joined
with the Army to study a hypothetical hydrogen bomb attack on
Washington. The researchers didn’t think evacuation of Washington was fea-
sible, estimating that movement of the city’s population over the eight
bridges spanning the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers would take five and a
half hours, and that figure was based on the assumption that each vehicle
would carry five passengers.33
And what about fallout? Although Fondahl had announced in August
1953 that DCD was shifting its attention from shelter to evacuation, he later
observed that it was “obviously useless to evacuate population” only to leave
them exposed to fallout. Civil defense research simply wasn’t keeping pace
with weapons improvements, he told the Civil Defense Committee of
Takoma Park, a suburb along the District’s northeast border.34 Nevertheless,
in April 1955 the Board of Commissioners approved an improvised shelter
and evacuation policy that assumed an advance warning of one hour.
Washingtonians would flee the city in their vehicles; all arterial roads would
become one way leading out of town, with cross-traffic prohibited. At
Warning Red, drivers would halt their cars, and everyone would seek imme-
diate shelter. “Citizens should remember that a basement room will afford
much protection against fall out,” claimed the policy, which conspicuously
lacked details.35
The plan had plenty of critics. Rep. Olin Teague (D-Tex.), chair of the
District civil defense subcommittee, excoriated it. If the warning comes dur-
ing the daytime, when families are separated, will parents “jump into cars and
head for the highways out of town without knowing what is happening to
each other or their children?” he asked dubiously (figure 7.2). He also
wanted to know if Virginia and Maryland were even ready to receive evacuees
from the District. Teague’s doubts led him to block action on his own bill
giving the Board of Commissioners broad emergency powers, yet his concerns
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Figure 7.2 By June 1954, when these elementary students in Washington received an “A for
effort” for seeking shelter during the first Operation Alert, “duck and cover” was already
obsolete. In response to the development of hydrogen weapons, the D.C. Office of Civil
Defense instructed schools to plan to evacuate. Many principals simply asked stay-at-home
parents to pick up their child and as many other pupils as the vehicle could carry. Copyright
Washington Post; reprinted by permission of the D.C. Public Library.

extended beyond the District. Washington needed a workable plan, he said,

because “there’s no question that whatever plan is adopted here is going to
be copied by cities around the country.” Teague believed mass urban evacu-
ations were impossible, pitting him against Peterson, who bluntly declared,
“[t]he reality is you either evacuate or die.” As a Senate Armed Services sub-
committee pointed out, however, few U.S. cities had detailed evacuation
plans, and preparations to house, feed, and care for evacuees weren’t as yet
underway.36 The controversy continued into June. Fondahl claimed all
Washingtonians could evacuate within two hours, but Colonel Barnet W.
Beers, the Defense Department’s civil defense expert, told Teague’s commit-
tee that even with four hour’s warning, “it would be pressing pretty hard to
make an orderly evacuation of Washington.” Chagrined, Fondahl changed
his estimate to three to four hours. Meanwhile, DCD’s deputy director John
Garrett Underhill publicly denounced the belief that Washington could be
evacuated and criticized the commissioners for failing to tell the public just
how destructive the latest nuclear weapons were.37
124 T I O  T

Eisenhower and his team stayed clear of the public fray, but they also
debated the logistics of evacuating the District. At a March 1955 NSC
meeting, Robert Cutler wondered whether the administration should order
DCD to immediately evacuate the city on Warning Yellow or order only the
evacuation of wartime essential personnel. He alluded to the same problem
Gordon Russell Young had identified four years before: a Warning Yellow
would immediately leak out, sparking a panicked rush. Peterson and
Eisenhower thought all of Washington should be evacuated on Warning
Yellow—the President even said every city should evacuate on yellow—but
the Joint Chiefs disagreed, contending that the resulting traffic jams would
still prevent wartime essential personnel from reaching the Arc. Eisenhower
decided to ask Fondahl for his input.38 The next month, Fondahl used slides
to outline the DCD and operation of the Key Point. He also explained his
reasons for proposing a four-mile evacuation: there were more traffic lanes
and shelter space. (While evacuation to the eight-mile line would put on average
21 people in each housing unit, he estimated that at the four-mile line there
would be just five people to a home.) Fondahl also confidently stated that
advance evacuation of the wartime essential personnel posed no other chal-
lenge than a “psychological” one. Eisenhower was unconvinced. Twice he
emphasized the need to get the essential personnel to their relocation sites.
The other great problem, he said, was to save the lives of the general popu-
lace. Peterson also questioned the viability of a four-mile evacuation line,
stating that survival required a minimum distance of eight to nine miles from
the ground zero.39
Clearly a practice evacuation was needed.


We see first, in black and white, clock hands aligned on noon and a calendar
turned to June 15, 1955. An aerial view of a full parking lot follows, then we
see the exterior doors of the Pentagon. Inside an office, five white men in
suits sit at desks. In another room, military officers pore over papers and talk
on telephones. Jump cuts: two twin-rotor helicopters landing on the south-
west lawn; a black officer triggering the alarm system at five minutes past
noon; people looking up from their desks in unison. We see a pipe rapped out
into an ashtray, cigarettes stubbed. A gum-chewing secretary represses a grin
as she locks papers in a file cabinet. Men and women stream into hallways,
their expressions calm, even blank; a few look bored. Queues are orderly on
the Pentagon concourse. Outside, wardens with arm bands and white
helmets preside over an almost leisurely exodus from the exits. Secretary of
Defense Charlie Wilson, looking dapper in a double-breasted suit, pauses at
two microphones to read a brief statement before boarding one of the
So runs the ten-minute silent film prosaically entitled, “Operation Alert,
Pentagon, Washington, D.C., 6/15/1955.”40 As evidenced by the smiling sec-
retary, the camera was hardly a fly on the wall; Pentagonians knew they were
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being filmed during yet another exercise. This time, however, the staging was
much more elaborate: approximately 6,000 federal workers from 30 executive
agencies evacuated the capital and carried out a three-day simulation of operat-
ing the government from the Federal Relocation Arc. (Originally, OPAL 55
called for 15,000 employees to relocate. Although national news magazines and
Washington’s newspapers reported that figure, only 6,000 actually went.)41

Figure 7.3 During Operation Alert 1955, Pentagon workers stream back into the building
after a noon hour drill prompted their evacuation. A helicopter like the one hovering above the
Potomac had already taken Secretary of Defense Charlie Wilson to Mount Weather, where
President Eisenhower presided over an exercise to test the executive branch’s ability to
function outside of Washington, D.C., after a nuclear attack. AP/ Wide World Photos.
126 T I O  T

Operation Alert 1955 (figure 7.3) was also a national exercise imagining
61 bombs of between 20 kilotons and 5 megatons detonating over 60 cities
in the continental United States and territories. “Casualties” nationwide:
8.25 million dead, 12 million injured, 25 million homeless. Warning Yellow
came at 12:05 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, and 640 cities sounded their
horns and sirens. As the President wanted, evacuation began immediately.
Although 62 cities only held “paper” evacuations, 18 cities evacuated several
thousand residents each, for a total of approximately 117,000 people. For
three days, civil defense professionals tested communication networks, trans-
mitted disaster reports, and solved (on paper) various recovery problems. As
they worked, they “telescoped” time, that is, compressed it. At 10 p.m.
Wednesday, for example, they pretended it was D plus 5, the fifth day after
the bombing.42
Media attention trained on Washington and the Arc. “Could the rest of the
country get along without Washington?” asked Newsweek, which offered tanta-
lizing tidbits about the Arc. (“Locations are officially secret . . . but top plan-
ners realize that any self-respecting spy could pinpoint most of them by
trailing next week’s exodus.”) Of course, the White House had no intention
of letting reporters tail the “exodus” to the gates of Site R or Mount
Weather. To shroud OPAL 55 in secrecy, however, would deny Americans a
chance to see their government calmly recover from an imaginary attack. To
help create this scene, the Office of the Press Secretary to the president
assembled a temporary press office in a downtown Richmond, Va., office
building. Dubbed Newpoint, the press office was open 24 hours daily until
OPAL 55 ended early Friday night, June 17. Newpoint featured telephones,
handouts, and government information officers; just as the White House
wanted, it helped get OPAL 55 favorable press coverage.43
Eisenhower’s part began with the Warning Yellow. Clad in a lightweave
tan suit and a brown felt hat, the President strode at a normal pace from his
office to a waiting Cadillac limousine. A Secret Service agent drove him and
two aides to Mount Weather. Meanwhile White House staff got into their
own cars. Some followed the President; others drove to Camp David, which
Eisenhower had recently designated as another presidential relocation center.
Beach and Goodpaster, for example, went to Camp David, while Press
Secretary James Hagerty and Cabinet Secretary Maxwell Rabb went to
Mount Weather. The President arrived at two o’clock, but to conceal Mount
Weather’s general location, an obliging reporter wrote that after riding for
three hours and twenty minutes, Eisenhower was still only about halfway to
his destination.44
This was probably Eisenhower’s first visit to Mount Weather. After a short
tour, the President met with his Cabinet, the heads of executive agencies, and
their assistants, a total of 43 people. Calling themselves the Interim Assembly,
the group spent an hour and an half discussing the “problems” the ODM
wanted them to solve. The Interim Assembly didn’t gather underground;
they met beneath canvas Army tents pitched on the grounds. Round-the-
clock construction likely proscribed an underground meeting, and since
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some participants were spending two nights at the site, they needed beds and
meals. (Eisenhower, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and select White
House staff stayed overnight in Camp David’s well-appointed lodges.)45
Furthermore, if Newpoint produced stories about the President and his
Cabinet hunkered underground, Americans might have wondered why they
were above ground as the imaginary bombs rained down. The tent city also
afforded the opportunity to depict the echelon of the executive branch
regrouping in spartan but safe conditions. Government photographers took
full advantage, shooting pictures that Newpoint gave to the press. We see an
unnamed man in sunglasses, his tie neatly knotted, emerging from the
Bureau of the Budget tent. We see Eisenhower and the Interim Assembly
seated at narrow tables beneath lights strung from tent posts. Their heads
bent, these executive officials intently study papers as the President speaks,
though Secretary of the Treasury George Humphrey is standing, grinning at
the camera, unintentionally jarring viewers’ suspension of disbelief.46
Eisenhower reinforced the exercise’s nuclear reality by delivering a
televised speech from Mount Weather. The Army Signal Corps used the
closed-circuit television system linking the White House and Mount Weather
to relay the feed to New York. NBC and Dumont televised the address, and
the other networks (and NBC) broadcast it on AM radio.47 Americans who
tuned in heard their President review OPAL 55 activity across the nation and
promise them that the United States would carry on.48 But Eisenhower also
parted the veil of nuclear reality by declaring mock martial law across the
nation. The simulated order, in effect for 30 days, surprised many, especially
military leaders who expected to be entirely focused on fighting the war. On
Friday morning, when the Interim Assembly met with the President in the
conference room at Site R, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Arthur
Radford cautiously suggested that martial law required additional discussion.
Val Peterson observed that some people thought the order meant the mili-
tary would take complete control of the government. “By no means!”
exclaimed Eisenhower, who explained that the destruction plotted by OPAL
55 had made him realize “we would have to run this country as one big
camp,” with soup kitchens and shelters for the millions of homeless survivors.
Martial law seemed the only way to begin recovery until Congress could
reconstitute itself and civilian authorities, particularly mayors and governors,
could function. “If anybody knew of a better idea,” said the President, “he
should bring it out.” No one did. When a reporter later asked about the
declaration of martial law, Eisenhower offered a similar answer. After
recounting the exercise’s imagined devastation, he said: “Here there was, as I
saw it, no recourse except to take charge instantly.” The President wanted gov-
ernmental leaders and the public alike to recognize that “the ordinary
processes by which we run this country simply will not work” after a nuclear
attack; but, as other OPAL 55 activity revealed, his point wasn’t getting across.49
At Warning Yellow, some 200,000 federal employees stopped work and
exited their buildings. Most acted out a rehearsal within a rehearsal: they
walked to their cars to demonstrate whether or not there were enough
128 T I O  T

vehicles to transport every worker. At the Treasury Building, for example,

occupants followed signs directing drivers to the left, riders to the right. In
groups of five, riders trailed drivers to their cars. As if playing a twisted game of
musical chairs, individuals left without rides walked to the Mall, where war-
dens counted heads in order to estimate the deficiency. The 6,000 relocating
employees actually got in their cars, or, if they worked at the Pentagon, boarded
buses to get to their respective relocation sites. The State Department alone
sent 600 employees to Front Royal.50
Under the ODM’s direction, the relocators carried out various activities.
Agencies had previously submitted problems to ODM, which sorted them
into 18 different categories such as civil transportation, money and credit,
and public order. ODM also wrote its own problems. On Thursday it asked
the Department of Agriculture to detail the measures “necessary to avoid
panic buying and hoarding and assure consumer confidence that sugar will be
fairly distributed.” At Front Royal, State Department personnel tackled a
problem devised by the Maritime Administration: “Requisition of U.S. privately
owned ships and ships of enemy flag.” The Justice Department and Navy also
worked on this problem, which required back-and-forth communications.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sent 17 employees to the
outskirts of Chillicothe, Ohio, where a monitoring station served as its
relocation site. (No one had readied the site beforehand, so relocators had to
bring bag lunches, prompting a request for a used refrigerator and a
After its first meeting, the Interim Assembly split in half. While most of the
Cabinet Secretaries and agency heads (the principals) left Mount Weather,
their assistants (the liaisons) stayed behind. They worked until 1:30 a.m.
Thursday morning and remained at the site until Friday afternoon. Joined by
ODM staff, liaisons divided into committees and worked on some 60 prob-
lems. For example, the Stabilization Committee studied rationing. It noted
with concern the Government Printing Office’s contracts with four privately
owned printing plants, all located in critical target areas, and estimated that
as much as six months might elapse before the federal government could
issue ration books. Much of the work at Mount Weather consisted of infor-
mation exchange with other sites in the Arc. By the drill’s end, telephone
lines and microwaves had carried 9,685 calls and 13,619 teletypewriter mes-
sages. The sheer bulk of traffic and indiscriminate classification of “messages
of a parochial nature” overwhelmed Mount Weather’s communications and
coding equipment.52
Throughout metropolitan Washington, OPAL 55 found some residents to
be better prepared than others. In northern Virginia, hundreds of municipal
and county employees used cars and public buses to gather at the Fairfax
County Garage, their designated relocation site. They ate a hot lunch cooked
over camping stoves and pretended to give first aid to casualties. Local civil
defense offices encouraged stay-at-home mothers to practice evacuating their
children by disguising OPAL 55 as a picnic. In Montgomery County, the
Ayrlawn Citizens Association arranged a carpool to the Frederick County
P M P 129

town of New Market, 25 miles away. They were met by the Farmers
Emergency Civil Defense Committee, which promised mutual aid. In the
District, only three public schools directly participated in OPAL 55. At
Woodrow Wilson High School, for example, students gathered curbside,
where willing parents waited in their cars, creating an evacuation motor pool
of 160 vehicles. (Students returned to class without getting in the cars.)53 At
11th and F Streets, clothing salesman Henry Salcedo left his store to see what
was happening. When told he was standing at ground zero, he feigned shock.
“I knew there was some sort of business about an air raid,” he said. “But I
didn’t know a thing about it going off around here.” A Woodward &
Lothrop’s saleswoman encouraged patrons to ignore the warning. “It’s noth-
ing but a test,” she cheerfully told several curious shoppers, “go ahead and
browse.” Just as the rites of capitalism continued uninterrupted, so did the
diplomacy of communism. “We’re just working as usual,” said a spokesman
at the Soviet embassy.54
Conspicuously absent from OPAL 55 was Congress. Although the Supreme
Court half-heartedly took part, sounding its building alarms and sending
employees to designated shelter areas, Congress kept working. Practicing
evacuation made little sense since the legislative branch didn’t as yet have a
relocation site. Also, reports of lawmakers setting aside the people’s business
to practice saving their lives had potential political liabilities. It was for this
reason that legislative leaders had deferred establishing a relocation site.
“Congress, mindful that constituents dislike legislators who pamper them-
selves, only recently . . . authorized a search for an alternate Capitol,”
reported Newsweek.55
Evaluations of OPAL 55, both internal and external, noted numerous
deficiencies. Telescoping proved confusing. The ODM expressed disappoint-
ment that some departments, including Commerce and Defense, hadn’t
solved their assigned problems. Meanwhile some agencies wasted time on
absurd problems: “It appeared incongruous and unrealistic that communica-
tions during the early stages of Operation Alert (June 15, 1955) dealt with
such matters as . . . legal questions on the essentiality of the brewing indus-
try rather than being directed to the more important national considerations
of supporting immediate military requirements, taking care of the displaced
and burying the dead.” Almost every agency lacked personnel who could
efficiently operate communications equipment. The participating agencies
had their own criticisms. Many found their relocation sites to be inadequate.
They recommended that future exercises test wartime organization of the
executive branch rather than its peacetime structure. Relocated personnel
also asked for plans for the evacuation and care of their families.56 This
request underscored another major flaw: the unreliable assumption that
wartime essential personnel would evacuate Washington without their loved
ones. An Interior official spoke for many when he flatly declared: “Directive
or no directive, fallout or no fallout, I am going to hunt for my wife and
either live or die with her.”57 Finally, OPAL 55’s planners had drafted damage
patterns using outmoded bombs and had repeated the dubious practice of
130 T I O  T

assigning one bomb per city. Willard Bascom of the National Academy of
Sciences was especially critical, asking why the FCDA designated Washington’s
lone atomic bomb at 200 kilotons when recent public testimony had focused
on the likely effects of a 10-megaton weapon.58 With its warden corps num-
bering just 5,000—and most of these “volunteers” were just names on old
rosters—DCD occupied itself by assessing damage reports. However, this
benign activity was overshadowed by the criticisms of Deputy Director John
Garrett Underhill, who disparaged OPAL 55 as a “fiasco.” Fondahl promptly
“fired” him (Underhill was a volunteer). Unchastened, the former military
intelligence officer kept up a barrage of complaints, calling the exercise a
waste of taxpayer’s money.59
The White House’s own evaluation was far less harsh: “This test lasted
for three days, showed up the inadequacies of our plan, and pointed up
the things that had to be done in order to make our relocation sites
operational.”60 In other words, OPAL 55 was just the beginning.

C C

. . . if there is an atomic attack on Washington . . . there are only three things

you can do—there are three alternatives: dig, die, or get out.
Val Peterson1

. . . when I picture myself in the midst of danger, then I insist with clenched
teeth and all my will that the burrow should be nothing but a hole set apart to
save me, and that it should fulfill that clearly defined function with the greatest
possible efficiency, and I am ready to absolve it from every other duty. Now the
truth of the matter—and one has no eye for that in times of great peril, and only
by a great effort even in times when danger is threatening—is that in reality the
burrow does provide a considerable degree of security, but by no means
enough, for is one ever free from the anxieties in it?
Franz Kafka, “The Burrow”2

On the night of September 22, 1955, Edward Beach took the presidential
pleasure boat Barbara Anne on the Potomac for a cruise. The 25 guests
enjoyed a buffet dinner as they talked about civil defense in the capital region.
Officials from the FCDA, Defense Department, and NSC were aboard,
joined by John Fondahl and suburban officials such as Hal Silvers, the direc-
tor of Civil Defense for Prince Georges County, Md. Beach proposed they
discuss ways in which overlapping jurisdictions might cooperate with one
another to ensure the continued functioning of the federal government and
the safety of the area’s population. Maryland director of Civil Defense
Sherley Ewing found the meeting both productive and encouraging. As he
told the President, this “direct evidence of your interest and leadership will
be a real inspiration to all of us for the future.”3
Eisenhower didn’t personally answer Ewing. Just two days later, he suf-
fered a heart attack while on a working vacation in Colorado and didn’t
return to Washington until November 11. His recovery was complete, how-
ever, and in February 1956 he announced he would seek a second term.4
Victory for Eisenhower that fall meant ongoing continuity of government
preparations advanced steadily, yet it also meant civil defense and dispersal
remained proverbial stepchildren, legally bound to, but spurned by, the
national security state. At the same time, Soviet technological advances
spurred fears that the United States was rapidly losing ground in the arms
132 T I O  T

race. In August 1957, the Soviet Union successfully tested an ICBM; two
months later, it launched the Sputnik satellite. These breakthroughs, as well
as the ongoing development of submarine-launched ballistic missiles, begged
for difficult, informed decisions about the future of civil defense, but
Operation Alerts continued to conjure scenarios based on low-yield bombs
and detection of Soviet aircraft hours before they reached their targets.
This “missile gap” exposed further the implausibility of evacuation.
Warning times soon to be measured in minutes rather than hours gave pause
to even the most optimistic evacuation advocates. Should urban residents
stay or go? Val Peterson had long favored evacuation, but in late 1956 he
changed his position and presented a national plan to build blast and fallout
shelters. He wasn’t alone; calls for shelters came from many quarters. Lacking
presidential and Congressional support, however, Peterson’s plan went
nowhere. The lack of consensus and decisive action sowed confusion, and
nowhere else was this more evident than in the nation’s capital.

“G O”?
In May 1955, Eisenhower signed an NSC directive ordering a full evacuation
of Washington on Warning Yellow. Although District Commissioner Samuel
Spencer soon publicly announced the decision, the White House said little
about the policy until October. Washington, one of 18 cities selected by the
FCDA to write a comprehensive evacuation and recovery plan, had recently
formed a Washington Area Survival Plan (WASP) committee. Beach declared
that the President himself had high expectations for the WASP. “White
House plans depend tremendously on the District,” he said, stating that staff
would join the “evacuation traffic stream” and that Eisenhower had ordered
automatic evacuation because the sight of White House staff leaving the city
prior to a public warning would cause panic.5
Beach also implied that the executive branch had thrown its fate in with the
city. This wasn’t entirely true. Although the White House Emergency Plan
(WHEP) instructed some staff to join the public evacuation, it certainly didn’t
call for the President and his entourage to leave by motorcade. Helicopters
already waited to pluck them from the South Lawn; Beach was also working
on plans to use boats for an evacuation down the Potomac. The Department
of Defense also had a detailed plan at the ready, the Joint Emergency
Evacuation Plan (JEEP), which outlined procedures for using air- and water-
craft to remove 627 Defense personnel and 41 non-Defense officials from
Washington upon receipt of Warning Yellow or by order of the President. Said
Secretary of Defense Charlie Wilson: given the likelihood of traffic jams,
Defense needed “a special plan to transport certain key officials out of the
Washington target area to emergency relocation sites” (figure 8.1).
Accordingly, 132 individuals from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force
would rendezvous at the Pentagon’s heliport. From there, Army helicopters
would carry them to Fort Ritchie, Md., just a few miles from Site R. Air Force
C C 133

Figure 8.1 These signs once marked roads and highways in the Maryland communities
adjoining Washington, D.C. In 1956, Hal Silvers, the civil defense director for Prince Georges
County, Md., publicly criticized the designation of special routes for military and civil defense
use, contending that area residents had the right to use all roads in case of a nuclear attack.
Copyright Washington Post; reprinted by permission of the D.C. Public Library.

helicopters outside the Pentagon Mall entrance would fly 36 Air Force per-
sonnel to Fort Ritchie as well, while 306 individuals from the Army, Air Force,
Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Joint Chiefs of Staff would hurry to
the Pentagon’s boat docks. Small craft operated by the Navy would ferry them
to Bolling Air Force Base to board flights for Martinsburg, West Virginia.
(Martinsburg was a site for the Air Courier Service that would take personnel
to relocation sites and provide document delivery between the sites.) Another
set of boats awaited 105 Naval personnel, who were directed to the Anacostia
Naval Air Station for flights to Martinsburg or the Marine base at Quantico.
The 41 non-Defense personnel had seats aboard Army helicopters headed to
Mount Weather. The roster included Arthur Flemming (ODM director),
Allen Dulles (CIA director), Lewis Strauss (chairman of the AEC), J. Edgar
Hoover (FBI director), and Val Peterson (FCDA administrator).6
Missing from Beach’s announcement was an explanation of how
Washingtonians would swiftly remove themselves beyond the District line.
Pointing out the glaring gap between city and capital, Willard Bascom and
Kenneth Brickner of the National Academy of Sciences questioned the
motives for the new policy. They conceded the merit of beginning evacuation
134 T I O  T

of Washington as soon as possible but noted the White House cited no such
reason. Rather, the “logic of how evacuation can best be accomplished is
submerged in the simple truth that various government employees (includ-
ing the president) have for some time been ordered to ‘relocate’ at the first
(Yellow) warning. The government does not want it said that its people get a
head start (that would ‘look bad’); so the entire population is instructed to
leave.” That “head start,” officially secret yet commonly known, did indeed
“look bad.” In May 1955, widespread rumors that “certain classes of
employees and persons” would receive special treatment during an alert had
compelled Fondahl to issue a firm rebuttal and declaim that the “evacuation
plan when completed will equally affect Government and privately employed
When completed. Written by Fondahl in January 1956, the city’s evacuation
plan was tellingly labeled “interim” and “voluntary.” It served up a hash of
preposterous advice, byzantine instructions, and conspicuous omissions.
Stuck without a ride when the sirens wail? “Walk out on Evacuee Routes if
you have to.” Driving alone? “Pick up passengers to the capacity of your car.”
Hear the Take Cover signal but no shelter is available? “[O]pen the windows
of your car and crouch below the window line.” Basements were described as
useful fallout shelters; so were “foxholes” and cars. The plan called for
evacuation to a distance of 16 miles from the District, yet it failed to identify
any of the “Reception Areas.” Nor did it explain that the city would auto-
matically evacuate on Warning Yellow. Instead, Fondahl provided a confusing
description of the city’s six “traffic drainage areas.” The boundaries of area
three, for example, included eleven different streets, McMillan Reservoir,
Rock Creek, and even an “imaginary line,” but only during daytime—at
night, a portion of area three bounded by five of those streets was assigned to
area six. Hal Silvers called the plan “suicidal” because it failed to account for
traffic bottlenecks in Prince Georges County and wondered why Fondahl
hadn’t solicited his input.8
Despite its flaws, several executive agencies endorsed the plan or simply
told employees to find their own way out of town. The ODM told executive
personnel to “follow the instructions given to the public by local civil defense
authorities.” Assistant Secretary of Defense Carter L. Burgess informed
Defense employees that “[p]rimary responsibility rests with the individual for
evacuating the Washington area.” (Of course, this didn’t apply to those on the
JEEP roster.) Family care was also the obligation of individuals. The United
States Information Agency merely directed its personnel to “proceed” to its
relocation site, East Carolina College in Greenville, N.C., after a warning. The
National Security Agency told its employees to use newspapers to stay abreast
of local civil defense plans. The Personnel Chief also distributed a map—of
Fondahl’s “suicidal” traffic drainage areas.9 Even if employees memorized the
complicated evacuation routes, would they follow them to their relocation
sites? Overlooked was the likelihood that wartime essential employees would
put their obligations as parent and spouse above those of civil servant,
especially during off-hours. So far, this problem had received scant attention.
C C 135

The lack of Washington’s preparedness didn’t go unnoticed. On January 31,

the Military Operations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Govern-
ment Operations convened hearings on national civil defense. Washington
was frequently the subject of attention. During Fondahl’s appearance,
Chairman Chet Holifield (D-Calif.) declared: “So, for all practical purposes,
we are sitting here in the Capital of our Nation, a million people in this
immediate area, without an effective civilian-defense plan for either evacua-
tion or shelter . . .?” Fondahl didn’t take the pointed question personally. He
once again described the vicious circle in which DCD was caught. Citing
public apathy, Congress refused to grant adequate funds, and without that
money he couldn’t build a citywide program. A sympathetic Holifield offered
a juicy sound bite: DCD received one-sixth of the National Zoo’s budget.10
The California legislator clearly wanted to show that the failure of civil
defense in Washington symbolized national failure. Dr. Merle Tuve, a nuclear
physicist and chairman of the National Academy of Sciences’s Advisory
Committee on Civil Defense, had suggested this connection to Holifield
prior to the hearings, offering his thoughts on why five years of civil defense
planning had yielded so few results. “In a large measure this is because they
[the public] are waiting to be led. When they look to Washington for leader-
ship they see a confused picture in which the very people who maintain that
civil defense is a local problem have not provided a local civil defense in their
own city—Washington, D.C. The fact that there is no workable program
right now for the Capital City as a whole or for the Congress or for much of
the Executive branch has been widely publicized.” Willard Bascom whole-
heartedly agreed. “The Federal Government should stop setting a poor
example—stop leading in the wrong direction—as it does in Washington,
D.C.,” he said.11
The WASP committee’s dealings with the FCDA offered strong evidence
of Tuve and Bascom’s point. The committee asked for the latest planning
assumptions concerning warnings, weapons, and attack patterns so its plan
wouldn’t “be obsolete before being placed in effect.” The FCDA refused,
saying the WASP shouldn’t be written with particular assumptions in mind,
but rather, should cover many contingencies, including the use of ICBMS
and attacks that came without warning.12 How could Washington or any
other city write a plan for defense against ICBMS when the FCDA wouldn’t
share its own data?

A first glance seems to show a white middle-class family enjoying a moment
of domestic leisure in their basement. Beneath joists, a middle-aged father,
his brush cut fringed gray, kneels next to his daughter, who perches on a
folding chair. Her older sister leans against a bare wall, peering at what might
be a board game. Wearing a pleated dress and high heels, a smiling mother
stands beside a utility shelf. But something is amiss. The mother isn’t gazing
at her loved ones; she’s reading the label on a can. The shelves don’t hold
136 T I O  T

toys or tools but canned food, a kerosene lamp, a candelabrum. The girls
aren’t occupied with games, but a first aid kit and a battery-operated radio.
Atop a worn card table sits a camping stove. No ordinary snapshot, this
staged photograph depicted the Leo Hoegh family in an “improvised atomic
radiation shelter” in the basement of their suburban Maryland home located
about seven miles from the zero milestone marker. Unless Leo Hoegh had
improvised insulation, thermal-resistant doors, and an oxygen supply, his
family shelter replicated Mount Weather about as much as a child’s play fort
resembled Fort Knox. Had the Warning Yellow come, however, a military
helicopter would have ferried Hoegh, sans family, to Mount Weather, for he
was the new Federal Civil Defense administrator, and the purpose of the
photograph was, as the newspaper caption put it, to show America’s civil
defense chief “practicing what he preaches.”13
The sermon’s theme: a fallout shelter in every basement, a chicken (canned)
in every pot on the camping stove, a family recognizing that nuclear survival
was their own responsibility. By January 1958, when the Hoeghs posed for the
camera, the FCDA had thoroughly reconsidered its preference for evacuation.
Val Peterson had resigned in July 1957, but he was responsible for the shift.
Estimates that fallout would incur the brunt of the casualties in a nuclear war
worried Peterson, as did rapid progress on ballistic missiles. During the
Holifield hearings, he admitted that once ICBMs became operable, “we have
little choice except shelter,” a point one of his assistants also made to the NSC.
Accordingly, in December 1956 Peterson delivered a $32.4 billion blast and
fallout shelter plan that outlined building shelters for 50 million people, with
the federal government paying $28.6 billion of the total cost.14
Peterson wasn’t alone in seeing shelters as the future of civil defense.
A bevy of panels, legislators, and think tanks were releasing shelter plans or
supportive reports. The NSC study Consideration of Policy on Continental
Defense (NSC 5606), finished in the summer of 1956, called for shelters.15 In
January 1957, Holifield introduced a bill to establish a Department of Civil
Defense and to require it to construct “group shelters” in every target zone.
A panel organized at the President’s behest, the Gaither Committee, proposed
in November 1957 a fallout shelter program costing approximately $25 billion.
In early 1958, both the RAND Corporation and a panel headed by Nelson
Rockefeller published reports calling for national shelter programs. Shelter
advocates shared two assumptions: one, Americans had nowhere to go if
Soviet nuclear weapons found their targets; and two, shelters had considerable
deterrence value. As the Gaither report put it, shelters would discourage “the
enemy from attempting an attack on what might otherwise seem to him a
temptingly unprepared target.”16
Eisenhower didn’t agree. The exorbitant costs of shelters bothered the
budget-conscious President, as did his growing conviction that shelters were
really a symptom of the greater malady: the unwinnable nature of nuclear war.
In August 1956, after listening to a grim description of an imaginary Soviet
nuclear attack, he remarked that the nation could easily spend $113 billion
on shelters, but such an attack, followed by American retaliation, would
C C 137

paralyze both nations.17 After listening to a presentation from the head of the
Gaither Committee in November 1957, the President called shelters a low
priority and said defensive measures should protect the military’s striking
forces. Eisenhower also still believed in the principle he had defended at a
March 1956 news conference: “You cannot give civil defense to Atlanta from
New York City or vice versa. The people on the spot have got to take an
interest or it cannot be done.”18
As suggested by the “improvised” Hoegh family refuge, the administra-
tion didn’t entirely reject shelters. In May 1958, Hoegh unveiled the
National Shelter Policy, premised “firmly on the philosophy of the obligation
of each property-owner to provide protection on his own premises.” It
promised to “bring to every American all the facts as to the possible effects of
nuclear attack and inform him of the steps which he and his State and local
governments can take to minimize such effects.” Informational efforts, par-
ticularly concerning fallout, would be intensified, and prototypes would be
built. The administration also promised to require fallout shelters in new fed-
eral buildings. The National Shelter Policy distilled the principle of self-
reliant civil defense into its purest form yet, and it dissolved, for the time
being, the chances of implementing a federally funded shelter program. It
reaffirmed the ideal that Alert America had projected in 1952: civil defense
began at home, in the basement. What were residents of The Cairo apartment
building in Washington, D.C., or apartment dwellers in any of America’s cities
for that matter, supposed to do? What about homes without basements? The
appealing symbolic features of the National Shelter Policy deflected such
questions. Not only did the family shelter symbolize self-reliance, it repre-
sented freedom, individual choice, and private enterprise, the essence of the
“American Way of Life,” as Alert America had put it. Into the privately
owned home went the shelter; into it, stockpiles of food and supplies readily
available at supermarkets and hardware shops. The home, stores, and goods
signified the superiority of capitalism and its capacity to provide for survival.
In contrast, a communal shelter built and paid for by the federal government
smacked of the central planning and coercive ways of Soviet communism.19
Many saw right through the flimsy veil. “Self-help cannot provide nation-
wide protection against the deadly effects of exploding nuclear bombs any more
than self-help can build the bombs,” fumed the Holifield subcommittee.20 Its
chair accused the administration of failing to safeguard Americans. If
Congress were to reject a federally funded program, as it had in years past,
“then I say the blood will be on the head of the Congress,” declared
Holifield. “But until it is offered, until that leadership is offered, the blood is
on the hands of those responsible under the Constitution for the protection
of the lives of the people in case of war.” To the Congressman’s chagrin, the
majority of his colleagues proved quite willing to share responsibility for the
people’s “blood.” So entrenched was opposition to shelters that the legisla-
tive branch refused to fund fallout shelters in new federal buildings.21 Even if
Eisenhower had put forth Val Peterson’s $32-billion shelter plan, it likely
would have met the same fate as Truman’s dispersal plan.
138 T I O  T

The two-year tussle over shelters left metropolitan Washington civil defense
leaders and residents unsure of their next step. In January 1956, DCD
worked with a PTA chapter to offer a civil defense course at Anacostia High
School, in Southeast Washington. Among other topics, the class covered
home shelters. By the year’s end, however, Fondahl had all but renounced
the guidelines given to Anacostia residents. He publicly observed that no
structure within five miles of a hydrogen bomb detonation could offer pro-
tection, and basements could provide just five to ten percent shielding. “The
present situation seems pretty near hopeless,” he admitted. His annual report
for 1956 offered more pessimism as well as familiar complaints. A lack of
funding, public apathy, and a stubborn faith in the military’s ability to pre-
vent an attack left Washington’s civil defense program sputtering, broken.
Worse, disagreements between Congress and the FCDA further alienated the
public. “Controversial statements from high level sources relative to effec-
tiveness of proposed protective measures—shelter vs. evacuation, etc., . . .
have confused the public,” he wrote. Surveying the stagnant state of civil
defense in his hometown, Fondahl didn’t flinch from a damning judgment:
“No one realizes more clearly than the Office of Civil Defense how inade-
quate preparations are in the District of Columbia to cope with any Civil
Defense Emergency.”22
The situation didn’t improve during 1957. DCD bought 1,000 traffic
signs to mark evacuation routes but couldn’t install them until the WASP was
finished. Concerned parents wondered if the evacuation plans devised by
many PTA chapters were still valid; Superintendent of Schools Hobart
Corning didn’t know. Pending identification of reception areas in suburban
locations, a task of the WASP committee, he suspended drills to test school
evacuation plans. Yet progress on the WASP continued fitfully. During a
spring two-day conference, committee members failed to produce a mutually
acceptable final draft, leading to more studies. National Civil Defense Week,
held in mid-September, revived one of OPAL 55’s most unconvincing displays
of readiness. As the sirens blared, some 26,000 federal employees in 11 build-
ings briefly vacated their offices to assemble curbside. Another 14,000
employees in three buildings sought shelter. At Fort Myer, Va., the Military
District of Washington assembled troops and a 32-foot communications
truck for a review by Hoegh. Searching for a way to flatter these empty exer-
cises, Fondahl could only write, “[c]onsiderable publicity was given [to]
these CD events by the local newspapers.”23
The one bright spot for DCD was the reactivation of Washington’s
Ground Observer Corps. In December 1955, a new post formed, using as its
observation spot the roof of the WTOP television station (located in a build-
ing called the “Broadcast House”) at 40th and Brandywine Streets in the
Northwest neighborhood of Tenleytown. Lorenzo Miller’s post had folded
in 1952 because volunteers had balked at driving to Marshall Heights, but
the new post’s location wasn’t a problem for its most dedicated volunteers,
C C 139

many of whom were women. Barbara Luchs, for example, lived just a few blocks
away. In July 1957, the post, which had 150 volunteers, won an award for its
outstanding record. Later that year, Luchs and seven other spotters received
individual rewards for logging 500 hours or more at the post. At the peak of its
success, however, the post went on reserve status—improvements in the Air
Force’s aircraft detection systems meant spotters were no longer needed.24
Fondahl may have looked with envy at neighboring Montgomery County
(Md.), where—it seemed—civil defense thrived, particularly in Rockville, the
county seat. Located about 15 miles from Washington, Rockville experienced
rapid suburbanization in the postwar years. Housing developments con-
sumed farm fields; federal loans supported home ownership and spurred
further construction; city services strained to meet the needs of the swelling
population. In 1940, Rockville’s population was 2,047; in 1960, it was 26,090.
Veterans and federal workers comprised much of the new population. Loans
available to veterans kept mortgage payments as low as $42 per month for new
homes in Twinbrook, a Rockville subdivision, and improvements to the
Washington National Pike (U.S. Route 240) eased workday commutes into the
District, attracting additional federal workers. Like many U.S. suburbs, parts of
Rockville practiced racial exclusion. Covenant clauses, discriminatory lending
policies, and racism kept African Americans out of the new developments.25
Civil defense in Rockville and Montgomery County reflected this racial
divide, with middle-class whites, many of them military veterans and govern-
ment or business professionals, serving as leaders. Arthur Farquhar, for exam-
ple, was an insurance salesman from Sandy Spring and had flown planes in
World War I. In 1952, he had supervised a ground observer post from a shed
on his property but had disbanded it after the FCDA refused his request to
move the post (see chapter 5). Willing to give self-reliant civil defense
another chance, Farquhar briefly served on Montgomery County’s Civil
Defense Advisory Committee. General Lewis Hershey, director of the
Selective Service, chaired the Committee. A skilled bureaucrat and manager,
Hershey “worshipped his own vision of community,” one void of class and
racial tensions, where all residents eagerly volunteered for civic duties.
Though steeped in myth and nostalgia for the rural Indiana of his boyhood,
these views made Hershey, whose crew cuts could never quite tame his wiry
hair, the perfect leader for civil defense. His vice chairman, Rockville resident
Justice M. Chambers, also had a military background; indeed, his courageous
actions at Iwo Jima earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1950.
Chambers had worked for the Treasury Department during the 1930s. After
the war, he served on the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee, then
accepted the position of executive assistant administrator of the FCDA.
Another member of the Advisory Committee, Paul H. Griffith, was a former
assistant secretary of Defense and a World War I veteran. The Advisory
Committee included just two women, but the volunteer ranks were more
evenly divided among white men and women.26
The homogeneity of leaders and volunteers made Rockville and
Montgomery County promising places to build civil defense programs.
140 T I O  T

Furthermore, the FCDA’s training center was near the county town of
Olney, offering area residents “an unusual opportunity to learn all there is to
know about civil defense.”27 The 260-acre facility was a hybrid of college
campus, resort, and firefighting practice grounds. For out-of-towners, it
offered overnight rooms and arranged sightseeing tours to Washington.
A restaurant served meals and an onsite dry cleaner took in laundry. On
“Rescue Street,” volunteers practiced search and rescue in partially destroyed
buildings. For relaxation, they could pitch horseshoes or play ping-pong. In
the classrooms, they listened to lectures on “Methods of Vulnerability
Analysis” and participated in problem-solving exercises on shelters and med-
ical aid.28 The facility fulfilled the FCDA’s mission of providing policy, infor-
mation, and training to self-motivated civil defense volunteers so they could
return to their hometowns and build successful programs. In April 1956,
16 Montgomery County residents did exactly that, spending a weekend at
Olney completing the Home Protection Course. Just three District residents
joined them.29 If the FCDA’s self-reliant civil defense failed in Montgomery
County, then where in America would it work?
Spencerville resident Joseph Cunningham and Chevy Chase resident Charles
H. Tower played their parts. Married with a family, Cunningham worked in
Washington as a businessman. He was also an amateur actor, and in 1956, he
starred in “Warning Red,” an FCDA-commissioned film shot on location at
Olney using members of the local Sandy Spring Theater Group. Cunningham’s
character resembled himself, a suburban homeowner. In the aftermath of a
nuclear attack, depicted by fires lit on Olney’s grounds, Cunningham searched
frantically for his family. The film, intended for national distribution, dramatized
the “dos” and “don’ts” of postattack actions. Tower’s contribution looked not
to the screen but the sky. By May 1956, Tower had tapped civic organizations
in lower Montgomery County to find 75 spotters for the ground observer post
he set up atop the Weller Road School in Wheaton.30
The Cabin John Civil Defense Rescue Squad played its part as well.
Methodist minister D.G. Chandler had organized the squad in early 1954 to
divert young white bikers from racing their motorcycles past his church. He
also hoped to offset community apathy toward civil defense. The bikers, who
were really bored teenagers rather than Brando-like “Wild Ones,” responded
enthusiastically. Within two years, they had used the proceeds from a donkey
baseball game to buy a junked 1941 Ford truck and rebuild it into a rescue
vehicle with siren, stretchers, and firefighting equipment. Four boys attended
the Home Protection Course at Olney. Inspired by their male peers, 16 teenage
girls asked to join the squad, raising its membership to more than 30. The
Red Cross and Glen Echo’s and Cabin John’s volunteer fire departments
provided first aid and firefighting training. Whether marching in Cabin
John’s Fourth of July Parade or showing off their truck at Washington’s
annual home show, the squad made “a neat, attractive appearance wherever
they [went] as representatives of Montgomery County.”31
Henry Rapalus, a National Security Agency employee and Rockville
resident, channeled his interest in broadcasting into volunteer civil defense
C C 141

work. Rapalus, a congenial family man, headed up Rockville’s Radio Amateur

Civil Emergency Service (RACES). In case an attack incapacitated regular
communication lines, RACES would provide a backup network. Rapalus
collected operating crystals for frequencies, vacuum tubes, and microphones,
which he distributed to his fellow radio enthusiasts for practice. In addition
to Rapalus, Rockville had eight “staff” members (actually volunteers) in
charge of other civil defense services, including radiological monitoring,
wardens, police, and personnel and training. At its peak, Rockville’s civil
defense outfit had some 50 volunteers.32
America’s first Civil Defense Week, held in September 1956, drew
Montgomery County’s participation in several ways. A nationally broadcast
NBC program featured the training school at Olney, and almost 80 residents
volunteered to record radio spots about civil defense for three local stations.
School principals scheduled civil defense drills. The teens in Cabin John’s
rescue squad received an invitation to join an exercise staged at Fort Myer on
Sunday, September 9. The next evening, local civil defense leaders met at the
County Building to evaluate the county’s readiness for nuclear war. On
September 11, residents were urged to pull out their leaflet Your Survival
Montgomery County—earlier that year, the County had printed and distrib-
uted 100,000 copies—and check on their individual readiness. Your Survival
Montgomery County recommended that residents ten miles or closer to the
zero milestone marker evacuate, while those living ten to twenty miles from
the marker take shelter, or evacuate if they had no shelter. The leaflet advised
residents living twenty miles away to prepare to receive evacuees. A map iden-
tified eight arterials into the District that would become one way outbound
and feed District and down county residents to reception areas. (In tiny type,
a note explained that assignment of reception areas to “specific groups or
urban areas” awaited completion of the WASP.)33
Yet all wasn’t well in Montgomery County. Rockville’s civil defense office
noted that “[U]ntil the full Civil Defense picture has been developed,” it could
do little more than inventory resources useful for survival and recovery.34 As it
had in the District, the FCDA shift from evacuation to shelter brought
confusion rather than clarity. According to Your Survival Montgomery
County, Rockville residents should take shelter or evacuate on the Warning
Yellow. According to Rockville’s civil defense office, however, residents were
“safer staying in [their] city than trying to get out” (emphasis in original).35
Presumably the WASP committee would offer up-to-date guidelines for all
metropolitan residents, but members remained stymied. In October 1957,
after two years of work, the committee had written three-fourth of the basic
plan. One year later, Fondahl revised this estimate—downward. Now the
plan was considered only 65 percent finished. He blamed the executive
branch, observing: “Absence of policy regarding plans of Federal agencies
continue [sic] to delay finishing the annexes.”36
By the time Hoegh announced the National Shelter Policy, civil defense
activity was dwindling away in Montgomery County. Directed at middle-
class, white, homeowning families, the policy was tailored to the area, but
142 T I O  T

residents had concerns that basement shelters couldn’t meet. A special com-
mittee of the Montgomery County Civic Federation recognized that weapon
delivery improvements presented serious challenges.

In view of major changes in national civil defense concepts, of rapidly increas-

ing Soviet capabilities for delivery of nuclear weapons by short-range missiles
launched from submarines as well as by IRBM’s [intermediate range ballistic
missiles] and ICBM’s, and of the estimated reduction of warning-time to
15 minutes, it is suggested that . . . the necessary changes in survival planning
and preparations be undertaken immediately.37 (emphasis in original)

The National Shelter Policy, however, had no solutions for these problems—
it befit the era of blackout curtains better than it did the missile age.
Nevertheless, the Montgomery County Civil Defense Advisory Committee
tried to establish a home shelter program. It failed, prompting the dispirited
acting chairman, Worthington Thompson, to write an obituary of sorts for
civil defense in Montgomery County. In a letter to the County Council, he
described the committee as “frustrated and discouraged,” warning that
“unless sincerity, vigor and direction are injected into the program, it will fall
into complete decay . . .” He criticized the “something-for-nothing” and
“bargain basement” approach and practically begged the council to take
“prompt and energetic action to develop effective civil defense.”38
Thompson could have addressed his letter to the president, Leo Hoegh,
and every member of Congress. The Montgomery County Council had
hardly originated the “bargain basement” approach. Curtained behind
rhetoric of self-help and individualism, it had been the mainstay of national
civil defense since the FCDA’s founding.

Contradictions and inconsistency also spelled dispersal’s coup de grâce. In
January 1956, the ODM finally updated its guidelines. Rather than set a fixed
minimum distance from presumed ground zeros, ODM Order I-19 spelled
out eight specific criteria, including high yield weapons, to use in site selec-
tion. However, it also rolled over the exemption clause from the previous
guidelines. “[I]t is not the intent of this policy that new facilities be located
on the basis of security considerations only,” Flemming wrote; if a dispersed
site would impede the operations of agencies, then they could ignore the
And ignore it they did. Soon, a spate of federal building projects in the
District made a mockery of the order. At 400 Maryland Avenue SW, the GSA
erected Federal Office Building No. 6. As the uninspired name suggested,
the structure wasn’t affiliated with a specific agency. Federal Office Building
No. 10 went up just a few blocks from No. 6. Row upon row of identical,
symmetrical windows accentuated the generic interior offices, which could be
adjusted using movable partitions. These structures were part of the
C C 143

Southwest redevelopment project, which had begun with the razing of whole
blocks and the relocation of residents in 1954. Construction of the project’s
centerpiece, the 10th Street Mall and L’Enfant Plaza, began in 1960, adding
more office buildings, an underground parking garage, and a shopping
arcade. The GSA didn’t promote dispersal in its ten-year construction plan
for the seat of government, instead, it emphasized the need to consolidate
agencies, demolish tempos, and erect structures that were functional, plain,
and inexpensive. The GSA confidently predicted that completion of the ten-
year program, which included some two dozen new buildings or additions,
would rehouse 35,000 federal workers within or close to the District.40
The GSA did recommend Defense consider “locating certain elements”
outside of Washington. Eisenhower agreed. In March 1958, he told national
security aide Gordon Gray that new buildings for Defense should be located
30–50 miles from Washington.41 The President’s instructions echoed the
NSC’s latest production, “U.S. Policy on Continental Defense” (NSC
5802/1), which advised that “new Federal facilities and major expansion of
existing Federal facilities, important to national security, should not be
located in target areas.”42 At Eisenhower’s request, the Navy’s Bureau of
Yards and Docks undertook a “feasibility study” of shifting some 30,000
Defense personnel from the District to sites between 23 and 35 miles from
the zero milestone marker. These employees worked in District tempos and
other buildings scheduled for razing, adding urgency to the survey. Unlike
the CIA, the Navy worked closely with the NCPC and the NCRPC, which
were identifying suburban sites suitable for federal offices and compatible
with new highway construction.
The Navy should have entitled its November 1958 report an infeasibility
study, however, for it detailed several reasons why “the Department of
Defense [should] be relieved of any restrictions on distance from Washington
in siting the new facilities.” First, many of the 29 sites surveyed posed a threat
to the District’s and Alexandria’s water sources. The NCPC wanted to limit
sewage discharge above the Potomac River’s Little Falls and into Alexandria’s
Occoquan Creek, and it worried that community development around new
federal campuses in these areas would contaminate water sources. Second,
none of the 29 sites adjoined highways able to carry the estimated traffic of
8,000 vehicles that outlying campuses would produce. Third, employees
would resist moving to nearby communities, which were presently too small
to support office campuses. Finally, the Navy questioned the viability of
dispersal at any distance. Thermonuclear weapons detonated over central
Washington during nonworking hours would kill employees who hadn’t
moved. Also, “it can be reasonably assumed that . . . other atomic weapons
will be directed at military targets in the area,” thus spreading the devastation
into the dispersal zone. NCPC chairman Harland Bartholomew, Leo Hoegh,
and the Office of the Secretary of Defense all supported the Navy.43 In May
1959, Eisenhower, despite being sure dispersal was “the right thing to do,”
withdrew his objection to Defense building structures in or close to the
144 T I O  T

Meanwhile the AEC was encountering widespread employee resistance to

its move to Germantown, Md. After construction began in May 1956,
personnel director Oscar S. Smith had set up an information center about the
move, yet many employees refused to believe “the relocation decision [was]
definite and final.” They also doubted “the validity, even the veracity, of the
announced reasons for the move.”45 Although dispersal had indeed dictated
the Germantown site, AEC employees could hardly be faulted for question-
ing the federal government’s commitment to dispersal, since the CIA was
building in Langley and the State Department was expanding its building at
21st and C Streets NW.
The National Bureau of Standards (NBS) also struggled to overcome
employee opposition to a move. By the early 1950s, the NBS was crammed
into a 71-acre campus along Connecticut Avenue in Northwest Washington.
More than half of the 89 structures were aged, creaking tempos requiring
constant and costly repairs. NBS director Dr. A.V. Astin noted that an atomic
bomb “of the small variety, now, so to speak, prehistoric” would obliterate
the unique laboratories and instruments that calibrated weights, measures,
and the properties of materials. Such standards were indispensable to indus-
try and the military, and Astin estimated the loss of this plant and equipment
would take more than ten years to replace. The NBS also wanted space to
expand its work on fuels and nuclear physics.46 In 1956, the NBS requested
$2.75 million to pay for selection of a dispersed building site. The Bureau of
the Budget forwarded the request; the House Appropriations Committee
denied it; the Senate restored $930,000. So the NBS chose a 550-acre parcel
in Gaithersburg, Md., approximately four miles southeast of the AEC’s site.
Architects were hired and costs estimated; another tedious round of haggling
began. Astin soon became exasperated. The House Appropriations
Committee demanded a more detailed budget, but then rejected it because
it was 40 percent higher than the original estimate. The NBS went back to
the drawing board; but Eisenhower left the revised plan out of his 1959
budget. Meanwhile the NBS realized it needed funds to build a nuclear
research reactor at the new site. In 1960, Congress finally approved con-
struction funds and ground was broken in Gaithersburg in June 1961.47
All this for less than 3,000 employees, many of whom wanted to stay put.
In early 1957, a survey uncovered some of the reasons why: increased
commuting times, difficulty in recruiting top-grade personnel, and isolation
from the scientific community. Some recommended a complete rebuilding of
the Washington site; one jokingly wanted a site “nearer the beach.” Only one
of the 425 respondents remarked that the Gaithersburg site diminished the
hazards of a nuclear attack. Finding homes also topped the list of concerns.
Many wanted the NBS to subsidize housing costs or even build a planned
community like Greenbelt. African Americans wondered if the NBS would
help them overcome housing and lending discrimination in Montgomery
County. “At present it would be nearly impossible for me or any other mem-
ber of my race to obtain a suitable site, of my own choosing, for building a
home near the new NBS site,” explained one employee. “This would at best
C C 145

make it difficult for me to move with the Bureau; it may also be true of
others. I do not expect the situation to be remedied.” Another person passed
on a rumor that an employee group looking for residential building sites in
Gaithersburg planned to exclude blacks.48
Whether or not the rumor was true, there was widespread discrimination
against African Americans in the suburbs. In 1948, the Supreme Court had
ruled racially restrictive housing covenants unconstitutional, but they remained
attached to many deeds. These covenants helped keep most suburbs white
domains well into the 1960s. A study of housing trends in Washington
between 1948 and 1958 concluded: “The most serious obstacle to integra-
tion in housing here, as in other localities, is the exclusion of nonwhites from
the new housing supplies, developed mainly with Federal assistance [a refer-
ence to government-backed mortgages], in suburban areas surrounding the
central city.”49 Change was slow to come. In a 20-month period between
early 1962 and fall 1963, only about 20 black families moved into all-white
enclaves in Montgomery County. In 1964, reporter Haynes Johnson
claimed, “there are only about five known examples of integrated housing in
all of Northern Virginia.”50
Not all white suburbanites expressed hostility toward African Americans,
nor was every suburb community white-only. A black woman who moved to
the Montgomery County town of Garrett Park said her white neighbors
warmly welcomed her, while Prince Georges County, Md., had a growing
black population.51 Still, such examples were the exception, not the rule. In
1950, the District’s population (802,178) was 64.5 percent white and 35.5
percent nonwhite. (More than 98 percent of the nonwhite population was
African American.) By 1957, the city’s estimated population was 56 percent
white and 44 percent nonwhite. In just two years, 1955–56, approximately
38,000 white residents left the District for the suburbs. Between 1950 and
1957, Montgomery County added more than 130,000 whites to its 1950
population of 164,401, while Fairfax County and Falls Church, Va., more
than doubled their white populations. White families moving to the area
usually opted for suburban residency, whereas African Americans settled in
the District. By 1965, 60 percent of the District’s residents were black.52
White flight was a national trend, but in Washington it overlapped with
postwar desegregation. For a democratic nation committed to fighting
communism, a segregated capital often proved embarrassing. Foreign visitors
and diplomats of color held out their passports to get lunch counter service,
a State Department official implored a hotel to honor the reservation of the
foreign minister of an African nation.53 In response, both Presidents Truman
and Eisenhower publicly committed themselves to desegregating Washington,
but as historian Constance McLaughlin Green noted: “The battle for
Washington was not to be won merely by a message from the White House.”
Indeed, the persistent initiatives of black Washingtonians, aided by white
allies and national organizations, won the “battle.” Petitions and peaceful
protests, lawsuits and lobbying—such activism prodded recalcitrant bureau-
crats, put cases in courts, and forced change. In 1949, for example, a biracial
146 T I O  T

coordinating committee supported by 61 organizations dusted off two

antidiscrimination laws dating to the early 1870s. The next year, a citizens
group sent all-black or racially mixed teams into 99 downtown restaurants.
Refusal of service at a cafeteria owned by the John R. Thompson Restaurant
Company led to a lawsuit. A series of contradictory rulings eventually
brought the case to the Supreme Court, which upheld the antidiscrimination
laws in June 1953. During this same period, committed citizens pressured
individual facilities to open their doors to blacks and distributed a list of
“eating places which serve all well-behaved people.”54
The most prominent example of desegregation occurred in public educa-
tion. Following the Supreme Court’s May 1954 ruling against segregated
schools, D.C. Superintendent of Schools Hobart Corning proposed partial
integration by September.55 The so-called Corning Plan displeased both
opponents and proponents of segregation. Black parents and the American
Friends Service Committee sharply criticized the provision allowing students
to remain at their current schools until they graduated, while the white
Federation of Citizens Associations unsuccessfully petitioned the courts for
an injunction against any integration. When school began on September 14,
most of the District’s 100,000 pupils were in familiar settings. None of the
five vocational high schools had integrated the student bodies or teaching
staffs. At many white high schools, the number of black students numbered
12 or less. McKinley High School, in Northeast Washington, was a notable
exception; its enrollment included 588 white and 345 black pupils.56
Still, the District complied more diligently than most public school
systems. In a 1957 essay, Associate Superintendent Carl F. Hansen lauded the
principal who persuaded a white mother to keep her child in a class with a
black teacher and related examples of black and white teachers and parents
cooperating with one another. Hansen didn’t overlook instances of racial
conflict, but he had high hopes for integration, even dubbing it a “miracle of
social adjustment.” For every white parent willing to adjust, however, many
more preferred to move. By September 1957, the District had lost an estimated
8,000 white pupils, while black enrollment had grown by almost 13,000,
making the public school system 70 percent black. McKinley High School
itself lost 273 white pupils and added 477 black students.57
White flight was already underway when the schools desegregated, but the
transition led more white families to leave the District for the suburbs. U.S.
News & World Report used warlike language to describe the changes. Whites
were “fleeing the city as Negro neighborhoods crowd up against them” and
“[p]ublic parks are, in large measure, being deserted by whites and taken
over by Negroes.”58 Hansen himself admitted that “adjustment by change of
address” was the choice of many whites.59 Another observer was blunter:
“Parents unwilling to send their children to integrated schools have been
steadily moving their homes to nearby Maryland and Virginia.”60 Of course,
African Americans weren’t “invaders,” and not all whites “retreated” to the sub-
urbs. In the District’s Manor Park neighborhood, for example, white journalist
Mortan Kaplan helped found Neighbors, Inc., in 1958. The volunteer group
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used meetings and personal visits to dissuade white homeowners from leav-
ing the integrated neighborhood.61
White flight and suburbanization offer an interesting perspective on
dispersal. In 1950, Tracy Augur had urged that long-term dispersal include
the creation of new communities for federal workers within the dispersal
zone (20–40 miles from the zero milestone marker) that would be “entirely
outside and physically separate from the developed urban area of Washington
and its contiguous suburbs.”62 By the mid-1960s, two such self-contained
communities were being developed from the ground up: Reston, Va.,
approximately 20 miles west of the zero milestone marker; and Columbia,
Md., about 30 miles northwest of the marker. These “new towns” weren’t
built as residential anchors for dispersed federal campuses or to escape
thermonuclear blasts, but rather, as alternatives to both urban and suburban
living. Like Augur, the new town planners wanted to build model communities.
In 1961, developer Robert Simon bought 6,800 acres in northwest
Fairfax County, Va. Simon, who was familiar with Ebenezer Howard’s
garden city concept, hired two experienced planners, Julian Whittlesey and
William Conklin. Whittlesey had once collaborated with dispersal advocate
Clarence Stein and relished the opportunity to apply new town principles to
Simon’s project. Reston, the resulting community, closely resembled Augur’s
ideal cluster city: it was approximately 20 miles from the center of
Washington; had ample parks and open spaces; and, by 1987, its population
was 50,000. Reston’s signature feature, the five village centers, offered
plazas, shops, and community centers, helping create the organic community
prized by Augur and Stein.63
Beginning in 1965, visionary developer James Rouse built a second new
town on almost 14,000 acres of Howard County, Md., about halfway
between Washington and Baltimore. Loftily named Columbia, the meticu-
lously planned community had villages connected by paths and parkways.
Like Reston, Columbia had approximately 50,000 residents by the mid-
1980s. Rouse actively participated in the planning and development of
Columbia, and he insisted that builders and realtors abjure racial discrimina-
tion. He proudly located his company’s headquarters in the town center and
commissioned architect Frank Gehry to design an exhibition building.
Galleria, the shopping mall, had a glass ceiling, trees, and fountains.
Columbia soon enticed people looking for a community that blended the
best features of urban, suburban, and small town living. Historian Nicholas
Dagen Bloom: “by the late 1960s and early 1970s, Columbia was poised as
an attractive alternative to surrounding suburbs.”64 Augur and Stein could
hardly have wanted more for their own imagined cluster cities.
Except dispersed federal buildings. But it was the 1960s, not the late
1940s, and hydrogen weapons had rendered dispersal obsolete. How ironic,
then, that a wartime essential agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, moved to
Reston in 1973. In the mid-1950s, the Survey had been slated for dispersal
to Gaithersburg, but Congress had blocked the move.65
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L   B 

Government which goes on with some kind of continuity will be like a one-
eyed man in the land of the blind.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, as recorded by Cabinet Secretary Maxwell Rabb1

I magine . . . a turn as a FCDA Attack Warning Officer, circa 1956. Perhaps

you were hired because you served four years in the U.S. Navy as an opera-
tions officer, or because you once worked as an air traffic controller. You can
operate communications systems and exemplify “personal characteristics of
initiative, decisiveness, adaptability, poise, stability under great stress, cooper-
ativeness.” You work at one of the 16 Air Division Control Centers in the
continental United States. Your desk is on a dais in a well-lit room, an array
of telephones and consoles surrounds you. There is the Civil Air Defense
Warning System, composed of four-wire private circuits connecting the Air
Division Control Center to your area’s Key Points, located in police or fire
station communication rooms. It’s your job to send Air Defense Warnings to
these Key Points. Should these circuits fail, you have a long-distance handset
telephone. If a Key Point calls you, a beehive lamp on the dais lights up.
It’s not your responsibility to identify hostile aircraft. The Continental Air
Defense Command (CONAD) in Colorado Springs bears this burden, and it
will use the new National Warning Control System (NAWAC) to contact
you. Based at FCDA headquarters in Battle Creek, Mich., NAWAC provides
multiple telephone circuits between CONAD, the Air Division Control
Centers, and the three Air Defense Forces (Western, Central, and Eastern)
that oversee the divisional centers. If the commander in chief, CONAD,
declares a Warning Yellow, the FCDA Liaison Officer at CONAD presses the
warning tone signal key. On your dais, you hear a recorded siren for 15 sec-
onds, followed by this voice announcement, with the blank fields filled in by
the Liaison Officer:

Attention all warning points, repeat, attention all warning points. This is an air
raid warning. I repeat, this is an air raid warning. Hostile enemy aircraft have
been detected approaching the United States. Their position at —— Greenwich
Mean Time was —— (GEOREF [geographical reference] coordinates). Their
direction of flight was —— (to 8 points of the compass). Their estimated
ground speed was —— miles per hour. This is enemy raid No. —— . Stand by
150 T I O  T

to receive warning times and further track information from the FCDA
Warning Center for your area.

You promptly notify your key points and wait for the warning time. Say your
Air Division Control Center answers to the Eastern Air Defense Force, based
at Stewart Air Force Base in New York. Its FCDA liaison officer calls with a
time and place: “Enemy raid No.——can reach Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
by——Greenwich Mean Time. Stand by to receive further track informa-
tion.” Using maps and this information, you calculate precise warning times
for your Key Points.
Naturally, your position requires regular participation in exercises “for the
purpose of developing proficiency and skill in all phases of the attack warning
operation.” Some drills are unannounced, such as the one staged on
December 20, 1955, at 6 a.m. During this “Surprise Alert,” average alert
receipt took 31 minutes; in a few instances, more than an hour passed. Some
attack warning officers changed the message from “test alert” to Warning
Yellow and told off-duty personnel to stay home. The Emergency Operations
Center at FCDA headquarters in Battle Creek, Mich., wasn’t ready, forcing
supervisors to rearrange furniture. Concluded one participant, “it is still
obvious that headquarters personnel were not completely familiar with the
alerting procedures, and that they must become more efficient in passing the
alerting information in exact terminology” (emphasis in original). The exer-
cise’s denouement was equally embarrassing: a survey of 100 FCDA employ-
ees revealed only 3 had readied their homes for a nuclear attack.2

* * *

If drills like Surprise Alert caught FCDA headquarters personnel unprepared,

then how ready were the Key Points? This question concerned the NSC
Special Committee on Attack Warning Channels and Procedures for Civilians
(hereafter Beach Committee). On March 5, 1955, Eisenhower had signed
NSC 5513/1, “Attack Warning Channels and Procedures for Civilians,” a
detailed chart defining warning conditions, channeling, and public announce-
ments. To suggest improvements, Eisenhower asked Edward Beach to chair a
committee that included, among others, Arthur Flemming, Val Peterson,
and Defense officials.3 By March 1956, one flaw stood out: “certain weak-
nesses in the Civil Defense Organization of the Washington metropolitan
area, as presently supported, cause grave concern as to the continuity of the
essential functioning of the Federal Government and the survival of the local
population.”4 Specifically, the Beach Committee worried that an attack warn-
ing might fizzle out at the District’s Key Point in the old Fort Reno school.
Peterson concluded, “civil defense survival measures in the District of
Columbia must be directly related to the plans for providing continuity of the
Government itself during an emergency. These factors make it imperative
that the Federal Government provide an efficient, dependable attack warning
center for the Washington Metropolitan Area.”5
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In May, Eisenhower asked the FCDA to take responsibility for

Washington’s warning system. Peterson decided since “the bomb knows no
political boundaries,” neither would the warning system. Taking a cue from
dispersal planners, Peterson designated the new warning area, called the
metropolitan target zone, as a circle with a 20-mile radius from the zero
milestone marker (figure 9.1). The zone encompassed the District; the
Maryland counties of Montgomery and Prince Georges; and in Virginia, the
cities of Falls Church and Alexandria and the counties of Arlington and
Fairfax.6 To replace Fort Reno, Peterson proposed a control center “in a pro-
tected place, secure from sabotage or subversion, and sufficiently remote.”
This new “Warning Center” would activate all sirens, horns, the Bell and
Light system, and Conelrad; and FCDA officers, not local civil defense per-
sonnel, would staff the center round-the-clock, seven days a week. Surface
buildings at Mount Weather offered an ideal home for such a center. (The
underground facility wasn’t finished until September 1958.) Mount Weather
was guarded and far from Washington, it was wired to NAWAC, and Bell
System microwaves provided communications capability. Furthermore, an
automated emergency power source was in place, and the FCDA already had
staff working there.7
The NSC approved the plan in September. Peterson confidently predicted
the new Warning Center would be operable within nine months, but he
grossly underestimated the project’s challenges.8 Allan R. Edwards, the
senior attack warning officer, struggled to find personnel willing to work in a
remote facility in a rural area. When he arrived at Mount Weather on October 12,
the circuits were staffed continuously only Monday through Friday. Two of
his available attack warning officers were eager to use their annual leave.
He excused a third, Donald Dorris, to search for nearby housing. “One of
the prime factors (I think) in considering any man to work here,” he
explained, “would be if he is contented and can find a place in these small
communities where his abilities are challenged and where he can find personal
satisfaction in doing community work in such small towns.” Robert D. Jones
was such a man. He built a new home for his family, joined the local Kiwanis,
and became a Scoutmaster. Though not as active in community service as
Jones, Lloyd Anderson, a disabled veteran, assured Edwards that his family
liked the area, that he enjoyed his work. Dorris didn’t. Rather than move his
family to Berryville or a nearby town (such as Front Royal, where the
Andersons lived), he commuted from Falls Church. After just one year, he
requested a transfer, a familiar problem for Edwards. “All other men who
have left this office have not liked the location,” he told a superior. To stop
attrition, Edwards introduced a daily bus service. Attack warning officers
could drive to Leesburg (about 22 miles east of Mount Weather) or to
Winchester (about 25 miles northwest) for an early version of “Park and
Ride.” All but one of his officers used the buses during its first week of service
in March 1957.9
But even content employees get bored. “Conduct, especially on the dais,
should be above approach [sic] at all times,” FCDA official Sanford Dee
Figure 9.1 By the time the federal government finished taking responsibility for the metropolitan Washington attack warning system, evacuation plans were
complex, confusing, and impractical. In addition to the main evacuation routes, which reach to all four sides of the figure, this 1959 map marks a fixed evacuation
boundary line; the District’s night boundary (people south of this line between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. were supposed to evacuate to the south); the District’s
day boundary (people north of this line between 7:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. were supposed to evacuate to the north); two-way roads limited to civil defense traffic;
two-way roads effective “only at the times the associated blue boundary is in effect”; and finally, rail passenger pick-up points. Washington Warning Area Map I,
Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
154 T I O  T

admonished staff in July 1957. “Feet should be kept on the floor, levity and
loud talk should be eliminated, and reading should be confined to official
publications.” Dee also scolded a few officers for failing to keep detailed logs
of their shifts. The next winter, Mother Nature came close to accomplishing
something the Soviets never attempted: shut down Mount Weather. On
February 15, 1958, the worst snowstorm in 40 years swept across the area, and
“practically all business was brought to a standstill.” Even the roads to Mount
Weather weren’t cleared until the morning of February 19. While on duty,
Jones fell and broke his leg; Edwards was out with a viral infection. Stranded by
the storm, the intrepid E. R. McKay nevertheless pressed onward to the facility.
For three days and nights, he and Anderson took turns manning the circuits,
earning praise for “splendid service rendered in this emergency.”10
Integrated control of warning channels and sirens presented another chal-
lenge. As of February 1957, the DCD still staffed Fort Reno 24 hours a day
and was responsible for relaying warnings throughout the area.11 To supplant
the existing system, the FCDA needed three new circuits in the metropolitan
target zone: one, called the Area Communications Circuit (ACC), to allow
voice contact between Mount Weather and the 17 area Key Points; a second
for the warning devices; and a third for Conelrad. By October, the FCDA
had planned the circuits but hadn’t as yet installed them; actual work didn’t
begin until 1958. In Maryland and Virginia, legal transfer of the sirens and
horns required both local and state approval, while additional sirens slated for
installation on privately owned buildings required easement agreements.12
Finally, all three circuits had to connect to an alternate site in case Mount
Weather became inoperable. The FCDA designated its facility at Olney, Md.,
which served as its Region II headquarters, as the back-up control point.13
Changes to the national warning system further complicated the takeover. In
1957, the FCDA streamlined its warning protocol by removing its attack warn-
ing officers from the Air Division Control Centers and consolidating them at
CONAD, now also called the National Warning Center, and the bases of the
Western and Eastern Air Defense Forces.14 This change made the Civil Air
Defense Warning System obsolete. To use the new warning system more
effectively, Edwards requested the installation of additional equipment on his
circuit.15 The new system also had the responsibility of delivering fallout reports.
In May 1958, the Military District of Washington agreed to provide Mount
Weather with postattack radiological readings received at its relocation site at
Fort Belvoir, Va. (The instruments were located at the Nike missile sites.)16
As of June 1958, ACC telephones were still being installed and the
locations for radio–back up units had just been selected. Mount Weather now
controlled the District’s sirens, but several jurisdictions still operated their
warning devices. Installation of 195 new sirens throughout the metropolitan
target zone didn’t begin until September. On November 25, AT&T personnel
accidentally triggered sirens in the District and Montgomery County while
wiring the latter’s sirens into the Mount Weather circuit. (The workers forgot
to return sequential relays to the normal condition.) For three minutes
beginning at 4:30 p.m., the District’s sirens blared steadily—Warning Yellow.
L   B  155

Montgomery County’s sirens sounded for 20 minutes. Startled White House

staff called the National Warning Center to ask if an attack was underway.
One year later, 29 of 46 sirens in Montgomery County failed during a test;
prior to the takeover, the sirens had worked 85 percent of the time. Both
incidents demonstrated that metropolitan Washington didn’t as yet have an
“efficient, dependable” attack-warning system.17
Still, the locals welcomed the federal takeover because it reduced municipal
and county expenses. Fondahl no longer needed dispatchers working round-
the-clock at Fort Reno, and the takeover relieved him of Conelrad operation
and siren upkeep.18 Even with this acquiescence, however, the Eisenhower
administration had contradicted its own principles of self-help and local
responsibility. Rejection of federally funded shelters came at the same time
that the FCDA was taking over metropolitan Washington’s warning network.
If the bomb knew “no political boundaries,” then what about Chicago, San
Francisco, Dallas? Ongoing improvements to the nation’s early warning
capability benefited everyone, but if locally controlled Warning Points couldn’t
function properly at the moment of attack, then millions of Americans wouldn’t
receive a clear, quick warning, no matter how well the DEW radars and the
National Warning Center performed. Washington was a city like Atlanta and
New York, but it was also the capital. Wartime essential personnel somehow
had to reach their relocation sites before the bombs detonated; otherwise,
the Federal Relocation Arc would be another empty outpost in the land of
the blind.

T  A

OPAL 55 had revealed numerous problems with the Arc. Irrelevant messages
had overwhelmed communication lines, and many sites weren’t as yet ready
to function under emergency conditions. (Recall the FCC employees who
had to bring bag lunches to their relocation site.) Many participants hoped
the President might cancel future Operation Alerts; there were more pleasant
ways to spend summer weekends. (“Six long days away from home!”
exclaimed Undersecretary of Commerce Walter Williams about OPAL 56.)19
But Eisenhower was adamant: continuity of government plans were worth-
less unless tested, and he made it clear he wanted to use the exercises to fix
the Arc’s flaws. Meanwhile public participation, a priority during OPAL 55,
was steadily phased out.
Eisenhower put Andrew Goodpaster in charge of improving the Arc’s
communication lines. Goodpaster asked the White House Army Signal
Agency to build a discrete “Red Line Network” connecting Camp David and
the White House shelter to Mount Weather. Additional telephone circuits
linked Mount Weather to the relocation sites of Defense, State, the AEC,
CIA, and FBI. To route calls, the Signal Agency installed a new switchboard
at its above-ground communications center at Mount Weather; a separate
teletype switchboard allowed data transmission. Goodpaster also wanted the
closed circuit television network expanded so the White House shelter,
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Mount Weather, and Camp David could receive and send broadcasts.
Partially completed by July 1956, the Red Line ensured the President could
effectively communicate with the most important branches of the national
security state. In anticipation of the completion of Mount Weather’s
underground facility, the Signal Agency requested 4,000 square feet of
underground space to house communications equipment. Several million
dollars were also spent to upgrade the existing inter-agency circuits. The
Long Lines Department of AT&T was the prime contractor. To conceal
the extent of the Arc’s communication lines, Eisenhower himself insisted that
AT&T use dozens of subcontractors; all told, 24 unaffiliated companies did
installation work in 46 buildings.20
Arthur Flemming set out to square pre-attack preparations with postattack
priorities. In April 1956, he asked executive agencies to submit “documents
which involve matters of supreme national importance requiring immediate
action or execution by the President” after an attack. In a real emergency,
Flemming didn’t want relocated personnel puzzling over the “essentiality” of
the brewing industry, as had happened during OPAL 55. Nor did he want
agencies drafting requests at their relocation sites. With a set of emergency
papers in hand, the President could order immediate actions. The AEC iden-
tified just one document, which the President already possessed: an order to
the chairman of the AEC to release atomic weapons to the Department of
Defense. (After July 1, 1956, changes to the protocol for the transfer of
atomic weapons rendered this order obsolete.) The GSA submitted several
guidelines concerning distribution of critical materials.21 The ODM also
wrote draft Presidential proclamations. One proclaimed a national state of
emergency, and a second suspended the writ of habeas corpus for 60 days and
authorized the FCDA to use the “voluntary and involuntary services of all
persons (except members of the armed forces) and [move] such persons to
places where such services are needed.” Others declared emergency manpower
measures, rules for banking operations, and establishment of a national
censorship office. Such sweeping actions required the cooperation of many
different executive agencies, but were they ready?22
Operation Alert 1956 looked for an answer. The exercise, held from
Friday, July 20, through Wednesday, July 25, plotted more than 120 nuclear
bombs detonating above 75 cities and military bases in 34 states and the
District. Warning times ranged from 1 hour and 40 minutes to 5 hours.
There was no telescoping; participants pretended they were working during
the first six days after the attack. The Washington metropolitan target zone
received a warning period of 3 hours and 15 minutes for its two 20-kiloton
and single 5-megaton surface detonations. Congress, still in session, didn’t
participate, nor did area residents. DCD simply asked residents to listen for
the Warning Yellow, and a Conelrad test bumped television and radio pro-
gramming off the air from 4:10 to 4:25 p.m. Otherwise, OPAL 1956 let
“Business-as-Usual” continue in the city, leaving residents to wonder why
one year after being exhorted to participate in an important drill they were
now superfluous. (In a paper exercise, Fondahl decided 910,000 daytime
L   B  157

residents safely evacuated prior to the attack. A researcher for the FCDA,
however, calculated 550,000 District residents died immediately, with the
death toll reaching 820,000 within 60 days of the bombing. Only the former
estimate was made public.)23
A total of 42 executive agencies activated their sites, but inclement
weather disrupted the first day. Thick fog and driving rain prevented air trans-
port to Mount Weather, and high winds disrupted communications. Within
4 hours of the alert, 21 relocation sites were operating, but others took up to
10 hours to activate. In addition to solving the types of “problems which
would follow a nuclear attack on the United States,” some agencies helped
operate the Arc. On paper, the Postal Service worked out continued delivery
nationwide; it also brought actual mail to the relocated agencies. For its part,
the GSA provided vehicle transportation between Winchester, Va., and
Chambersburg, Pa., two central points within the Arc. During OPAL 56’s last
three days, a small bus left the Post Office in each town at 7 a.m. and noon,
making stops in Martinsburg, W.Va., and Hagerstown, Md. Passengers had
to show government identification cards to board and arrange rides to their
respective relocation sites.24
The GSA’s continuity duties included publication of the daily Federal
Register, which provided a public record of government actions, and an assess-
ment of damage to federal property across the country. Washington and Lee
University in Lexington, Va., served as the GSA’s relocation site, code-named
“Stonewall.” For relocating GSA personnel, OPAL 56 was both retreat and
secret mission. They car-pooled to Lexington, stayed in local hotels, and
were free to sightsee when off-duty. (Operations in the campus buildings was
round-the-clock, but individual shifts ran the customary eight hours.)
Photographs were banned, however, as were souvenirs that might identify
the site. Relocators could only tell their spouses they were going to a “reloca-
tion site,” and personal calls and letters were forwarded from Washington.25
The GSA had troubles drafting the Federal Register that first hectic day.
Ideally, relocated agencies would transmit emergency orders to the GSA,
which would put them in the Register. Air couriers would deliver film of the
Register to the relocation sites of the GSA’s regional offices, which would
then print copies for state and local governments, banks, newspapers, and
broadcasting stations. Ideally. In practice, the system broke down. The
Justice Department “fouled up” (the GSA’s phrase); Agriculture classified
some of its documents as secret, which meant they required encryption;
Labor wanted a waiver from relaying its orders to the GSA so it could keep
its teletypewriter lines clear; the Interstate Commerce Commission claimed
its personnel had more pressing duties. Overburdened communication lines
caused much of this resistance; in some cases, messages were arriving 11
hours late. Unsure what to do, Dr. Wayne Grover, whose day job was
archivist of the United States, telephoned Mount Weather. After learning
that Goodpaster had already instructed staff there to assume presidential
proclamations had appeared in the Register, Grover ordered publication of a
simulated Register and its actual delivery. The GSA’s regional offices thus
158 T I O  T

received, via air courier, a blank template of the Register asking them to
inform Stonewall of the date and hour of arrival. (In two cases, delivery took
37 hours.) The GSA printed a completed Register on Wednesday, July 25,
but didn’t transmit it. This Register included a presidential order taking
possession of the Carolina, Clingfield & Ohio Railroad and an FCC list of
priorities for restoring intercity telephone service.26
The GSA also pretended to evacuate the Declaration of Independence, the
Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Between 1951 and 1952, the National
Bureau of Standards had suspended the three Charters of Freedom in
specially made encasements filled with helium and sealed with lead. An under-
ground vault was installed at the National Archives; in case of an emergency,
the documents could be automatically lowered and secured behind a 50-ton
door. Like the White House shelter, the vault was built to withstand atomic
but not hydrogen blasts. Accordingly, the GSA (to which the National
Archives and Records Service was attached) included in its set of emergency
action documents a presidential order for the evacuation of the Charters.
“Their safety is of the utmost importance,” wrote Grover, “since they will
symbolize for future generations—as well as our own—the continuity of our
form of Government.” However, the documents stayed put during OPAL 56.
The risks of an accident or theft were too great—imagine the uproar if the
Charters of Freedom disappeared from a college campus—so the GSA wrote
a fictional news account of the documents’ safe evacuation. The unreleased
story described an armored car leaving the National Archives but didn’t give
a destination, saying only that the Charters were in a “safe place.”27 In real-
ity, the GSA hadn’t as yet identified that place. More than a year later, the
deputy archivist proposed using Site R, which could provide optimal security
and climate control for the documents. (Space wasn’t a problem; in their
cases, the Charters measured 45 by 39 by 61 inches.)28
OPAL 56 exposed rough patches at even the most developed sites. At the
“crowded rock real estate” of Site R, relocators stood in line to learn about
eating and sleeping arrangements before getting to work. The Joint
Emergency Evacuation Plan (JEEP) failed in the bad weather. A crush of
messages overwhelmed the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and courier
delivery of messages between Site R and Fort Ritchie, where relocated assis-
tant secretaries of Defense were working, took an average of two hours.
Urgent requests generated unexpected quandaries. As part of the exercise,
the attorney general contacted Site R to ask for troops to defend the borders
with Mexico and Canada. The Joint Chiefs of Staff wanted to know “the esti-
mated number of enemy agents, method of entry, and probable areas of pen-
etration” before it would dispatch troops. Such back-and-forth messaging in
the Arc generated 61,000 communications during just the first three days.29
OPAL 56 also perpetuated the nuclear reality of previous exercises.
Recently, Eisenhower had been briefed about the consequences of nuclear
war between the United States and the Soviet Union. The projections clearly
disturbed the President. “Casualties were enormous,” he wrote in his diary,
with 65 percent of the population—more than 105 million people—in need
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of medical care. “Members of the Federal government were wiped out and a
new government had to be improvised by the states.” Only the Soviets’
limited stockpile, not defensive systems (e.g., Nike missiles) and civil defense
readiness, prevented the destruction from being worse. Meanwhile the
United States inflicted three times as much damage on the Soviet Union, and
the “picture of total destruction of the areas of lethal fall-out, of serious fall-out
and of at least some damage from fall-out, was appalling.”30 But not in OPAL
56. Though fallout patterns were plotted, they weren’t used to estimate casu-
alties. OPAL 56 surmised that 60 days after the attack, just 15 million
Americans were dead, and 5 million injured. Even these low casualty esti-
mates weren’t made public, as they were during OPAL 55, due to concern that
they “could have an adverse effect on our current foreign policy [read: upset
America’s allies] and could also create some unnecessary problems within our
own country [read: upset Americans].”31
At a Wednesday afternoon meeting, Flemming stated, “we must pay much
more attention to fall-out problems, especially at the relocation site them-
selves.” Eisenhower himself set several priorities for continuity of government.
“Keep it Simple—Keep it down to rock bottom,” he said. Each relocation
site needed an unyielding “Inspector General” to “weed out” unnecessary
messages. Agency heads also needed to simplify site tasks. Relocators will be
hysterical, “absolutely nuts,” Eisenhower admonished his Cabinet; even the
President will be “bewildered.” Frantic with worry about their families and
reeling from shock, relocators couldn’t possibly execute complex responsibil-
ities. He urged that agencies permanently place cadres of workers at their
sites, for the best way to ensure the Arc’s operation was to have people
already in place, plans in hand, awaiting precise orders from the President.32

E G H W

Fulfillment of Eisenhower’s instructions took more than two years. Despite
Flemming’s request to executive agencies for Emergency Action Papers
(EAPs), the White House didn’t possess a complete set during OPAL 56, or
even by March 1957. “The importance to national security of having
Emergency Action Papers immediately available to the President cannot be
overemphasized,” Eisenhower’s Assistant Sherman Adams testily reminded
Gordon Gray, the new director of the ODM. Gray wasn’t entirely to blame.
He was waiting on individual agencies, none of which “moved with alacrity,”
according to Roemer McPhee, Assistant (later Associate) Special Counsel to
the President. In the meantime, Edward Beach devised procedures to store
the papers in a satchel to be carried by the naval aide.33
The ODM fared better in finishing Mobilization Plan C and Federal
Emergency Plan D-Minus. Based on a scenario in which the United States was
involved in overseas military operations during an “international situation of
the utmost gravity,” Plan C outlined steps to prepare for an attack on the
United States and to wage general war. The measures included imposition of
wage, production, and resources controls; establishment of “National
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Emergency Agencies” for food, transportation, labor, and many other areas;
and activation of the Arc. Plan C drew its authority from Executive Order
10346, issued in April 1952 (see chapter 5); the Federal Civil Defense Act of
1950 (P.L. 920); and presumed Congressional approval of legislative and
appropriations requests. Plan D-Minus—so-called because ODM prepared it
before “D-Day,” the date of an attack on the United States—outlined postat-
tack federal actions. It assumed “little or no warning” of an attack “so crip-
pling in effect as to impair governmental control, seriously reduce military
strength, produce millions of casualties, disrupt industrial and agricultural
production and endanger the existence of the nation and the free world.” Its
somber projections, delivered in unadorned prose, belied the benign OPAL
scenarios. Plan D-Minus envisioned 48 million Americans dead (the 1955
population was 162 million) from the blast, heat, and radiation of atomic and
hydrogen detonations. It imagined desperate survivors scurrying from shel-
ters in search of food and water, only to die from exposure to fallout. The
Soviet bombs in Plan D-Minus destroyed Washington, collapsed the econ-
omy, and cut rail lines; they shattered society into small groups; worst of all,
more were coming, for the Soviets carried out additional attacks with what
remained of their military forces. And yet: “Restoration of our society and its
economy is possible in spite of the existence of confusion, despair, bereave-
ment and psychological deterioration.”34
Eisenhower wasn’t so sure. When Robert Cutler read Plan D-Minus
damage projections at a NSC meeting, “the President interrupted to ask
Mr. Cutler why he felt it was necessary to go any further, since by this time
we would all be dead (laughter).” Joking aside, Eisenhower wanted to use
OPAL 57 to test both Plan C and Plan D-Minus. Although still lacking a full
set of EAPS, he planned to issue a variety of mobilization and postattack
directives. Accordingly, OPAL 57, which cost $1.7 million to stage, had three
phases: the first, held in June, envisioned rising tensions leading to overseas
war; the second, a presidential declaration of a national emergency on June
20 (M-Day); and the third, an attack on the United States on Friday, July 12
(D-Day), involving 156 nuclear detonations totaling 374 megatons. On
M-Day, advance cadres of relocators dispersed throughout the Arc to ready
relocation sites, and then on D-Day, the sites activated to work on problems
arising from Plan D-Minus. Also on D-Day, the Warning Yellow sounded at
noon in Washington, but no public action was taken. For Phase I,
Eisenhower hypothetically approved step 10 of Plan C, an increase of the
armed forces from their current size (approximately 3.3 million) to 5 million.
An “exercise” record of action duly noted the measure as well as the creation
of nine National Emergency Agencies for matters such as labor, production,
food, and energy. Eisenhower strongly believed that if established agencies
took sole responsibility for emergency tasks, these functions “would tend to
become permanent and could not be got rid of after the emergency was
over.” However, the heads of the emergency agencies came from established
agencies. For example, Undersecretary of Agriculture True D. Morse became
the acting administrator of the National Food Agency.35 (One exception: the
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Emergency Censorship Agency, which wasn’t “created” during OPAL 57. In

March 1955, Eisenhower had asked CBS Vice President Theodore Koop to
lead this agency, and Koop had agreed.)36
On D-Day, Eisenhower flew aboard his new helicopter from the White
House to Camp David, where the closed circuit television network displayed
damage maps drafted at Mount Weather. He spent Saturday and Sunday at
his Gettysburg farm. On Monday, he flew to Mount Weather, then back to
Washington. Throughout the day, he interjected various unannounced
problems into the exercise. He asked the State Department how allies would
react to restrictions of exports of “essential survival items.” Was the Postal
Service ready to deliver essential wartime items, how would the emergency
energy agency get petroleum to the East Coast? What were the long-term
requirements for feeding survivors? He asked Treasury how the nation would
pay the tremendous costs of recovery when the tax base had all but
disappeared. The responses were mixed. State emphatically replied that the
proposed restrictions threatened U.S. alliances, but the problem was passed
to an emergency agency; no decision was made. The Postal Service outlined
specific actions, including an embargo on nonessential mail, but noted its
dependency on fuel for surface and air transport. Treasury said it would bor-
row money from the Federal Reserve Board, issue short-term bonds once
banks were open, and submit legislation for more taxes. The emergency
National Food Agency recommended a document the President’s staff
hadn’t even received.37
Damage estimates compiled at Mount Weather raised serious questions
about the ability of the Arc to even respond to such queries after an attack,
let alone execute these actions. Using the Univac computer that anchored
the new National Damage Assessment Center (NDAC), Mount Weather staff
plotted blast ranges, fires, and fallout patterns, then projected the effects on
federal facilities nationwide. This analysis determined, for example, that 29 of
48 FBI field offices received severe blast and fire damage. All told, only one-
third of the federal government’s field offices could resume operation. The
seat of government was leveled, uninhabitable, unusable. Although only
12 sites within the Arc were damaged, “resumption of government controls
[depended] largely upon the effectiveness of the personnel” who actually
arrived at the relocation sites, and they could carry out only the “most essential
activities and even then in very limited fashion.”38
This “rock bottom” assessment meant that both the Arc and OPALS still
lacked realistic planning assumptions. Most emergency planners didn’t as yet
grasp Eisenhower’s basic point that the destructive effects of nuclear weapons
went far beyond blast, heat, and radiation. They included panic, fear, uncer-
tainty, social and economic disintegration, rumormongering—in a word,
chaos: the nothingness, the disorder, the abyss out of which order formed.
When a Treasury official mentioned ways to ease postattack inflationary pres-
sures, Eisenhower interjected that currency itself would be worthless. He
reiterated the need for martial law in order to “make and enforce regulations
on even such subjects as what work would be done by whom without regard
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to pay.” As a democracy, not “an armed camp,” the government would want
to quickly return to “customary procedures,” but immediately after an
attack, normal operations and rules were impossible. He added that legal
objections didn’t concern him: in a D-Minus scenario, “even the lawyers
would be put out of business.”39
Eisenhower’s prodding yielded some results. By June 1958, most of the
EAPs were finished. According to Goodpaster, many “reflected the idea
that martial law, martial rule would have been declared.”40 The naval aide
kept the President’s set, handing the satchel to his relief when leaving duty.
The contents, which addressed dozens of problems, included versions of the
directives issued during OPAL 56; orders concerning control of the Panama
Canal, publication of the Federal Register, and use of civilian meteorological
facilities; also proclamations regarding the convening of Congress, detention
of alien enemies, and civil liberties. Executive agencies possessed only those
EAPs germane to their functions, keeping copies either at their relocation
sites or else in the personal emergency kits of agency heads. Goodpaster,
Gray, and Evan Aurand (who had replaced Edward Beach as the naval aide)
devised a code word system for execution of emergency actions. Say the pres-
ident authorizes suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. The White House
Army Signal Agency transmits a code word to the Department of Justice’s
site; relocated personnel match the code word to the correct EAP and then
take the required action. Code word lists and the EAPs were stored sepa-
rately. In the “not unlikely” event that agency heads weren’t present (read:
dead), each agency was supposed to set lines of authority so relocators could
act immediately. Eisenhower also asked the NSC to store a complete set of
EAPs in its space at Site R. By October 1958, 41 agencies and departments
had EAPS; 29 had extra copies at their relocation sites.41
Problems with the Arc remained, as OPAL 1958 showed. In Phase II of the
exercise, which began on Tuesday morning, July 15, White House messen-
gers quietly delivered sealed envelopes to department and agency heads, who
were instructed to deliver a second envelope, also sealed, to the person in
charge of the agency’s alert cadre, that is, the first team of relocators. Signed
by Goodpaster, this message told the cadre leader to directly take his team
“immediately to the agency relocation site.” Leaders confirmed their arrival
by sending a message to the “Operational Capability Task Group” at Mount
Weather, then answered a long list of questions. What agency records were
present? Were office, sleeping, and eating facilities sufficient? Had each leader
made plans for his family? Goodpaster also asked what the cadres would do if
a “significant portion of the local community has become panic-stricken and
threatens to enter” their site.42 For their part, ODM telecommunication
employees decided to prognosticate “what would really transpire” if reloca-
tors tried to evacuate. Their scenario wasn’t encouraging. All routes out of
the District are congested, forcing thousands of residents to flee on foot.
Some employees still try to reach the relocation site in private vehicles; some
hitch-hike. Others “rush from the building when the alert sounds, plunge
into the throngs of people milling about the streets and will not be seen or
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heard from again.” Those with families ignore their instructions and speed
off to collect their loved ones. Some succeed, and then find their way to U.S.
Routes 50, 7, or 240 (the three main routes out of Washington into the Arc).
Of the 28 people who make it to the site within two weeks, fallout will kill or
incapacitate 14.43
This wasn’t the only pessimistic appraisal of OPAL 58. A briefing for the
President and the Cabinet on July 7 surmised that at D plus 14 only 35 of 90
relocation sites were operational, demonstrating that the entire Arc needed
“careful review.” The NDAC proved inadequate due to difficulties collecting
national data on bomb detonations and deficiencies in the information stored
in the computer. Analysis of the attack patterns and damage suggested that
only at D plus 90—three months after the attack—could the relocated federal
government “effectively direct the national economy toward recovery.”44
This prognosis underscored the point Eisenhower had made during OPAL 56:
the Arc needed continual staffing.
Leo Hoegh finally made that happen.45 On July 1, 1958, the ODM and
the FCDA were combined into a single agency in order to consolidate the
nonmilitary defense tasks of the executive branch and to end the “considerable
confusion” about overlapping responsibilities. Hoegh, the FCDA’s adminis-
trator, became director of the new Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization
(OCDM).46 In one of his first actions, Hoegh asked 12 departments and
agencies to send cadres of at least 5 employees to Mount Weather. He asked
another 5 to assign 1 or 2 liaison officers to represent their agencies at Mount
Weather. The objective was plainly stated: “To establish a continuous emer-
gency operating capability within the Executive Branch to carry out immediate
emergency actions.” Responsibilities for the cadres included readiness to exe-
cute EAPs, participation in tests, and workaday duties assigned by the sponsor-
ing agency. OCDM eventually wanted the agencies to permanently assign selected
employees to Mount Weather, but it permitted rotation for one-month periods.
Though the cadres worked regular hours, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., one “rotator”
had to be onsite at all times.47 The first cadres, totaling 69 employees, arrived at
Mount Weather’s above-ground buildings on September 22, 1958. They rep-
resented each of the 17 selected departments and agencies as well as the
OCDM.48 Continuous staffing of Mount Weather didn’t, however, solve the
problem of the Arc’s vulnerability to fallout. Furthermore, the cadres were
too small to administer the postattack functions of their respective agencies.
If wartime essential employees couldn’t reach the Arc, as more and more
planners were beginning to admit would be the case, then who would help
Answer: Another Arc.

G R
In October, Flemming declared: “If we don’t have regional sites, we may find
ourselves with nothing from which we can be based and get the country back
on its feet.” He thus approved of an OCDM proposal to build eight
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protected sites across the nation at an estimated cost of $24 million. OCDM
envisioned these sites as little Mount Weathers from which field employees of
wartime essential federal agencies could administer recovery. Eisenhower also
liked the idea and told Hoegh, “you get together a plan for these 8 sites—
showing their cost, design, location (I think they should be on government-
owned land as much as possible) and we shall review this.”49
As planned, each underground center was to provide space for 200 daily
employees (100 OCDM, 100 from other federal agencies) and 500 employees
during an emergency. Construction requirements included 30 p.s.i. blast pro-
tection and a filter system to prevent fallout contamination. Communications
would link each center to Mount Weather, state civil defense offices, and the
other regions. Ideally, each center would operate independently and even act
as a surrogate national center if Mount Weather was incapacitated. Locations
were chosen according to the national civil defense regions. Region 5, based
in Denton, Tex., was home to the first center. Congress approved $2.4 mil-
lion for its construction, scheduled for January 1961, with an occupancy date
of May 1962. The next two scheduled centers were Region 1, encompassing
the northeastern seaboard, and Region 8, covering the northwestern states
and Alaska. These three sites “would provide a protected Federal center in
the central, eastern, and western portions of the country.”50
The Regional Arc was a long time in the making. By 1965, Sudbury,
Mass., had been selected as the site for the Region 1 center, but construction
hadn’t started.51 Region 8, in Bothell, Wash., wasn’t finished until December
1968. Initial construction of Region 2’s center began in 1966; it finally
opened in the summer of 1971, beneath a former cow pasture north of
Olney, Md. Olney was the home of the FCDA’s civil defense school (see
chapter 8), but it had shut down in June 1958. The school’s “Rescue Street”—
with its ladders, building fronts, and prepositioned rubble—could have been a
relic from another century when compared to the new underground facility.
Encased in cement and 16 gauge steel was a subterranean expanse, with
62,000 square feet of floor space on 2 levels. Four-ton blast doors sealed the
two surface entrances. Above computer and radio consoles hung a wall map of
the metropolitan target zone; to absorb a thermonuclear shock, a bed of
springs rested beneath the generators. More than 150 clerks, technicians, and
support staff worked here 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday through Friday.52
“Going regional” did not mean abandonment of the Federal Relocation
Arc. The OCDM was also instructed to determine the “optimum number of
sites” for the Arc and to recommend which sites should be upgraded.
OCDM proposals included reducing the Arc from 90-plus sites to 22 fallout-
proof centers, or even shrinking it to 4 sites “hardened” against blast, heat,
and radiation.53 In September 1959, OCDM decided to seek $3.8 million for
the hardening of 14 sites. Despite a presentation by Hoegh to the appropri-
ations committees, Congress rejected the request. Eisenhower put it in the
supplemental budget; the answer was still no. A December 1960 “Summary
of Emergency Readiness Status” of 38 executive agencies revealed the Arc’s
continuing fragility. Of the 30 agencies that had sites, only 6 had fallout
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protection; OCDM classified the remainder as “interim.” These included the

FCC’s site at its Chillicothe, Ohio, monitoring station and the GSA’s site at
Washington and Lee University. The individual report for each interim site
offered the same terse comment regarding fallout upgrades: “further action
awaiting review of policy on hardened sites.” Many of the six protected agencies,
which included Budget and Justice, shared the same site—Mount Weather.
The “dismal prospects” for future site-hardening especially worried the State
Department, which had spent a lot of money on its Front Royal site. During
1959 alone, its caretakers built a decontamination building, finished a new
power plant, and installed an operating room in the hospital building.
Without fallout protection, however, these improvements were wasted.54
That left just two places for State to find safe haven: Mount Weather or
Site R. And State wasn’t the only department vying for space underground.

T A U

By the fall of 1959, Mount Weather had come a long way since OPAL 55,
when relocators slept in tents. Now, the surface facility resembled a campus
with its own grid of roads. During the workday, a bus ferried workers
between the cafeteria, offices, and the “ample bachelor type” housing. Those
who lived offsite could drive in and park. Meals were served three times a day
at the cafeteria; the same building also had a snack bar and convenience store.
Ironically, on the surface Mount Weather was much like a dispersal site: self-
contained and far from other federal offices.55
But underground was the “Protected Facility.” In September, the wartime
essential cadres, which now totaled 100 employees representing 21 agencies
and the OCDM, moved from the surface to the Protected Facility. The west
entrance was for vehicles, the east for helicopters. Each entrance had a blast
gate, a station with radioactive sensors, and a decontamination chamber.
Inside the hollow heart of Mount Weather were more than two dozen build-
ings. Building 15 was the cafeteria; the first meal served, on September 23,
was a luncheon honoring the 17 individuals who had worked a full year at
Mount Weather.56 During the next three years, the overseers of the Protected
Facility installed or added to its amenities and necessities. Building 17 housed
recreation equipment including rowing machines, ping pong tables, and a
film library—even an indoor driving range was set up. Four dormitories
(three male, one female) offered a total of 1,000 sleeping berths. The hospi-
tal, in the west end of Building 16, featured a patient ward, operating room,
and pharmacy; physicians and nurses from the U.S. Public Health Service
staffed it round-the-clock. Six staff members learned how to cut hair. The
Protected Facility’s operations wing included the NDAC and equipment for
Weather Bureau personnel to calculate fallout patterns. The Interior
Department kept a library of maps of oil refineries and coal mines. From the
broadcast studios, television programming could be transmitted within
Mount Weather via closed circuit (Channel 2) or linked to commercial
networks. The War Room could also broadcast over Channel 2 and was
166 T I O  T

equipped with an Iconorama display system, screen projection of computer

data, and film projectors.57
State desired at least 50, preferably 400 slots at the Protected Facility. The
number didn’t seem so high; Budget wanted 432, OCDM even more. When
State pressed its case, however, Hoegh suggested it ask for slots at Site R.
According to him, the military had plenty of room.58 Like Mount Weather,
Site R was an ongoing project. Its three buildings, each three stories, were
long and narrow, with combined work space for 2,200 people. The Joint
Chiefs of Staff had reserved 600 slots, and the three armed services each
wanted between 300 and 400. The Office of the Secretary of Defense
claimed a few dozen; the NSC, 21. The communications teams and other
military units shared the remaining spots. Recent improvements included
installation of a high-speed Stromberg-Carlson printer connected to the
NDAC at Mount Weather and locked ducts for camera, video, and coaxial
cable.59 The latter project improved the links between the site’s television
studio, Joint War Room, and the services’ individual Situation Rooms. The
communications net was kept in constant readiness—indeed, by 1959, Site R
was transmitting much of the daily traffic originating at the Pentagon—but
the Joint Chiefs decided not to station a permanent cadre of decisionmakers
at the site. They anticipated sufficient warning time to permit relocation from
Washington, though they recognized the decision would “require reappraisal
when Soviet ballistic missiles become operational in any quantity.”60
Site R’s gravest deficiency was its vulnerability to thermonuclear detonations—
it was completed two months prior to the Soviet’s first hydrogen test. In
1960, Defense requested $10 million to expand the air intake system,
improve blast protection, and build two more offices underground, which
would increase site capacity to 3,000. Congress approved the upgrades but
rejected the new construction. This was bad news for State. A Pentagon
source told State’s emergency planner that without the new buildings, the
Joint Chiefs were strenuously opposed to assigning any space to “outsiders.”
Irritated at this intransigence, Secretary of Defense Thomas Gates ordered
the Joint Chiefs to make room. (In the end, State got more space at Mount
Weather.)61 The tussle over space was a classic case of bureaucratic politics,
but it also resulted from legislative parsimony. By refusing to harden even a
few Arc sites, Congress forced this “survival of the fittest” competition upon
emergency planners.
The White House, however, had plenty of space. In 1955, Eisenhower
authorized the construction of a hardened, underground facility at Camp
David, which was secluded and close to Site R. The Navy’s Bureau of Yards
and Docks designed the facility, the ODM paid for it. In 1957, excavation
began near the existing cabins. By January 1958, a portion of the vast, deep
shelter was ready. It had work and living space for 50 people (the president,
his family, and wartime essential White House staff) and could stay
“buttoned-up” for ten days, sealed shut to the outside world. The commu-
nications equipment remained on the surface until 1959, when additional
construction permitted its placement underground. The completed shelter,
L   B  167

code-named “Citrus,” now had space for 350 people and a “buttoned-up”
capacity of 30 days. Citrus had full shielding against fallout and could withstand
thermonuclear blasts, though not direct hits. (According to Evan Aurand,
Citrus was a “medium-hard” shelter while Mount Weather and Raven Rock
were “hard.”)62
What about Congress? Since 1950, legislators had stymied dispersal and
only grudgingly created the FCDA; they habitually slashed civil defense
budgets; they sat out OPALs and refused to pay for fallout protection for even
a dozen Arc sites. At least they were consistent, for they hadn’t done much to
ready themselves for nuclear war—until 1959. That year, construction finally
began on a 112,544-square-feet relocation facility beneath a wing of the his-
toric Greenbrier Hotel, in White Sulphur Springs, West Va., some 250 miles
from Washington. Buried 20 feet under the surface, the facility, code-named
“Casper,” had steel-reinforced concrete walls 2 feet thick and blast doors
weighing more than 20 tons. Like Mount Weather, it had a medical clinic,
cafeteria, and dormitory. The underground shelter was but part of the site;
architects ingeniously designed the hotel’s West Virginia Wing to double as
legislative chambers. The vast Exhibit Hall, with its towering 20-foot-high
ceiling, hosted car and trade shows; but on D-Day, its disguised blast door
would have swung shut. Two auditoriums, one rowed with 470 chairs with
armrest desks, provided meeting space for the House and the Senate. A nearby
corridor linked the Wing to the shelter underground. The $14 million facility
was maintained by a company called Forsythe Associates, which posed as a
television repair service. Hotel employees knew about Casper—many even
helped test underground equipment during the slow season—as did most, if
not all, of White Sulphur Springs’s 2,800 residents. (“It’s common knowl-
edge here,” the former mayor told Ted Gup, who revealed Greenbrier’s
secret in May 1992.)63
Eisenhower was partially responsible for the Greenbrier facility. At a
January 1955 meeting, he exhorted Congressional leaders to begin planning
a relocation site. In April, the Architect of the Capitol asked the Library
of Congress’s Legislative Reference Service if Congress had the authority to
convene outside of the District. (A 1794 statute empowers the president to
convene Congress elsewhere in case of dangerous conditions at the seat
of government, which is why the EAPs included a proclamation about the con-
vening of Congress.) The next month, Goodpaster learned that Congressional
leaders were considering authorizing $5 million to build a relocation facility.
Meanwhile the ODM surveyed potential locations, identifying two northern
and three southern sites, and in June presented the list to aides to Speaker of
the House Sam Rayburn (D-Tex.), Rep. Joe Martin (R-Mass.), Sen. William
Knowland (R-Calif.), and Sen. Lyndon Johnson (D-Tex.).64
However, the completion of the Greenbrier facility in the spring of 1962
didn’t guarantee survival or continuity for the legislative branch: only
Congressional leaders were briefed about its existence. Furthermore, Article I,
Section 2 of the Constitution requires state governors to call elections to fill
vacancies in the House. (The 17th Amendment authorizes governors to
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appoint senators to fill vacant seats until special elections can be held.) A nuclear
strike on Washington would presumably kill hundreds of representatives, but
they couldn’t be constitutionally replaced without an election, a dubious
proposition in D-Minus America. This problem didn’t pass unnoticed—
between 1951 and 1960, various senators and representatives introduced a
total of 19 bills to amend Article I, Section 2—but none were passed.65
Compared to the Supreme Court, Congress was doing well. In February
1954, the Court’s marshal, T. Perry Lippitt, asked the FCDA for help in
putting together a civil defense program. A Bell and Light system was
installed, and basement rooms were designated as shelters. Lippitt organized
an elaborate warden service and assigned detailed responsibilities, right down
to the filling of 30-gallon water drums. Then in April 1956, the Court signed
a contract with the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C., to house the Justices
and Court personnel during an emergency. Unlike the Greenbrier, the Grove
Park Inn didn’t modify its facilities; no underground bunker was built. Each
spring, the Marshall sent microfilmed payroll records to the clerk of the U.S.
District Court in Asheville; otherwise, no records or supplies were cached in
Asheville. In 1957, a preliminary relocation plan was drafted, apparently at
the ODM’s request, but as Court Clerk James R. Browning admitted, “[i]t
was not implemented in any way.” Meanwhile the contract with the Grove
Park Inn sat in a filing cabinet, forgotten. In April 1966, the inn’s owners
asked if the Court wished to continue the agreement, much to Chief Justice
Earl Warren’s surprise. “I have no knowledge of this situation even to the
extent of knowing whether the Governments [sic] wants this arrangement
continued,” he told the court clerk.66

T S H B  P . . .

We do not expect that there will be a war but no one can tell when or if an
attack might come.
Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, November 29, 19611

I want to say—and this is very important—at the end, we lucked out. It was
luck that prevented nuclear war.
McNamara, in the 2003 film fog of war: eleven lessons
from the life of robert s.

We see Kennedy’s right arm raised straight, his stance firm, taking the oath
of office. Behind Chief Justice Earl Warren stands Eisenhower, a white scarf
pulled tight round his neck. Suddenly he looks very old. We see Kennedy
forcefully delivering his speech, his exhales visible, as if the very words are
shots fired into the bitter cold.
Images of the inauguration of John Fitzgerald Kennedy on January 20,
1961, reinforce a key theme of his address, that the torch had just passed to
“a new generation of Americans,” one that promised to “bear any burden,
meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival
and success of liberty.”2 True, Kennedy was almost 30 years younger than his
predecessor. True, he and his administration, led by “The Best and the
Brightest,” brought to Washington much-heralded glamor and excitement.3
True, they chafed to apply new theories such as flexible response to the Cold
War. We shouldn’t belabor the contrasts, however; there was much continuity
between the generations as well as the administrations. The Berlin airlift and
the Korean War, the development of thermonuclear weapons and missiles—
surely these actions met the Kennedy litmus test for liberty. Contrary to candi-
date Kennedy’s accusations, there was no missile gap; in 1960, the United
States possessed many more ICBMs than did the Soviet Union. The ill-fated
Bay of Pigs invasion grew out of plans inherited from Eisenhower, and when
Walt Rostow, chair of the State Department’s Policy Planning Council, said the
United States must never shirk from using nuclear weapons, he sounded like
John Foster Dulles discussing “nuclear brinkmanship.”4
The day before his inauguration, Kennedy got a top secret introduction to
another form of continuity. The customary transition meeting included a
170 T I O  T

briefing about nuclear war and postattack plans. Eisenhower began this part
with a dramatic demonstration: as Kennedy watched, he telephoned for the
White House’s fleet of evacuation helicopters, and then had Evan Aurand
time their arrival. They set down on the White House’s south lawn in exactly
five minutes, rotors whipping the air. Meanwhile Andrew Goodpaster
opened up the naval aide’s satchel. He showed Kennedy Federal Emergency
Plan D-Minus and the binder of EAPs. He pulled out the first document.
Like all the EAPs, Eisenhower had initialed it to indicate he had read and
approved the order, but the signature line was blank. Goodpaster summa-
rized the order regarding the convening of Congress and told Kennedy
about “the extra document—not a part of the Emergency Action Paper
series—included in the satchel which would authorize the use of atomic
weapons in an emergency.” Then Kennedy was shown another book explain-
ing the prior authorizations Eisenhower had given to military commanders
to use atomic weapons if the president was incommunicado while a nuclear
attack was underway. Finally Goodpaster reviewed the White House
Emergency Plan (WHEP), the military’s Joint Emergency Evacuation Plan
(JEEP), and the underground facilities at Mount Weather and Camp David.5
The meeting made quite an impression. Kennedy and Goodpaster even
discussed “how these procedures would work in the event of a surprise
emergency” during the inauguration. Kennedy had traveled far from his days
as a junior Congressman. As president he presided over a vast nuclear arsenal;
close to his side, 24 hours a day, were orders giving him sweeping emergency
powers; in a mere five minutes, he, his family, and select staff could scramble
aboard helicopters for transport to any one of several underground sites. But
one thing hadn’t changed since October 1949, when Kennedy first com-
plained about the “deplorable” state of civil defense: the deplorable state of
civil defense. Then, he had asked Truman to guarantee “that the civil popu-
lation of our country will be ready to protect itself in any unlooked for and
unhoped for emergency”; now, Kennedy wielded the power to make good
on his 11-year-old request.6
He wasted no time. He instructed Frank B. Ellis, the new director of
the OCDM, to review civil defense and mobilization programs. Ellis
was reminiscent of Louis Johnson, Truman’s second secretary of defense.
Like Johnson, his appointment was political reward—in this case, for get-
ting out the Democratic vote in his home state of Louisiana—and he was
blunt and brash. The OCDM was insufficient vessel for Ellis’s ambition,
prompting him to unsuccessfully insist on cabinet rank. He noisily stumped
for a “revival for survival,” centered on fallout shelters. Just as Johnson
had proved no match for Truman, Kennedy effortlessly outmaneuvered
Ellis by giving the shelter issue to White House aide Carl Kaysen, who
recommended either abandonment of civil defense altogether or its trans-
fer to the Defense Department. With Secretary of Defense Robert
McNamara’s support, Kennedy chose the latter. The new Office of Civil
Defense was created on July 20, 1961, and was headed by Assistant Secretary
Steuart L. Pittman. The OCDM, less than three years old, was recast as the
T S H  B  P . . . 171

Office of Emergency Planning (OEP) that same month. Ellis stayed on for a
short time and then took a federal judgeship.7
It looked like another civil defense shell game. Eisenhower had folded civil
defense into his mobilization agency; now civil defense was across the
Potomac at the Pentagon. This time, however, the President used the “bully
pulpit” to spark the revival for survival and wring funding from Congress. On
May 25, 1961, he delivered a speech exhorting America to finally accept the
challenge of civil defense, specifically shelters. Kennedy echoed the logic put
forth ten years earlier by leaders such as Stuart Symington and Millard
Caldwell—the best defense is an overwhelming offense—but he added an
alarming twist: fallout shelters were “insurance for the civilian population” in
case of “an irrational attack, a miscalculation, an accidental war which cannot
be either foreseen or deterred.” Imagine Eisenhower, who dedicated consid-
erable effort to establishing rational controls over America’s nuclear
weapons, or Truman, who sugarcoated news of the Soviet atomic test with
assurances that all was well, publicly uttering such words—right before meeting
the Soviet premier, no less. (Kennedy met with Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna
in early June.) Two months later, Kennedy went a step further. The summit
hadn’t gone well, a showdown over divided Berlin was underway. On July
25, in a televised address, Kennedy promised the United States would defend
West Berlin, if necessary; ordered draft quotas doubled, even tripled; and
reiterated the call for a national fallout program, including stockpiling of
In early 1947, Sen. Arthur Vandenberg (R-Mich.) reportedly told Truman
he needed to “scare hell” into Congress and the American people if he
wanted a $400-million anticommunist aid package for Greece and Turkey.
We don’t know if Kennedy was thinking about the subsequent “Truman
Doctrine” speech when he delivered the Berlin speech, but he certainly
frightened people. “I don’t want a war. I don’t want to build a bomb shelter,
but I don’t see what else we can do about it,” said one disheartened woman,
expressing the sentiments of many Americans. Had they known the President
and the military were drafting a detailed contingency plan for a nuclear first
strike against the Soviet Union, their fears would probably have deepened. As
it happened, the Soviets added to the crisis by ordering East Germany to seal
off their sector of Berlin on August 13; construction of der Mauer, the Berlin
Wall, began within days. Requests for shelter information inundated
Washington. Concerned citizens filed into church basements to listen to civil
defense speakers, and manufacturers such as the Peace-O-Mind Shelter Co.
of Stephenville, Tex., rushed to offer affordable kits.9
Shelter fever finally caught up with Congress, which appropriated $207.6
million for Kennedy’s shelter program. Most of the money paid for surveys
to designate fallout shelter space for 50 million people in public and private
buildings and to salt away emergency food, water, and first aid kits. Overseen
by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Navy’s Bureau of Yards and Docks,
the surveys were carried out during 1962 and identified possible fallout space
for 104 million people. Approximately 34 million “slots” had a Protection
172 T I O  T

Factor (PF) of 250 to 1,000; the remaining slots’ PF ranged from 40 to 250.
(According to this formula, a PF of 1,000 meant the sheltered person
received a dose of radiation 1,000 times smaller than the person outside the
shelter. In 1956, the FCDA had calculated a healthy person could be exposed
to 200 roentgens of radiation without needing medical care.) Eventually, dis-
tinct black and yellow signs designated a total of 46 million slots. Legislators
also proved that civil defense began at home by opening up the Capitol
buildings to shelter surveyors.10
In Washington, the Berlin crisis and the shelter program revived the city’s
moribund civil defense. In April 1959, Sen. Henry Jackson (D-Wash.), chair-
man of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, had held a hearing
on the District’s civil defense program. John Fondahl again found himself
explaining the reasons for the city’s woeful preparedness: lack of funding, a
skeleton staff, and inconsistent federal guidance. This time, though, he also
had to defend himself. One of Jackson’s investigators had poked around the
DCD office at Fort Reno, where he found cartons of undistributed pam-
phlets, warden armbands, and shelter signs. A D.C. government audit had
uncovered shoddy inventory methods.11 The massive Washington Area
Survival Plan project, which dated back to 1955, still wasn’t finished.
Although the District of Columbia Survival Plan finally appeared later that
year, almost a decade of playing Sisyphus was enough for Fondahl. In
September, he retired and George R. Rodericks from the District’s Department
of Public Health took his place. Rodericks, who had served as a staff officer
for General George Patton during World War II, brimmed with energy, but
his first year on the job was marked by stagnation and setbacks. In 1960, Rep.
Chet Holifield (D-Calif.) asked about the state of civil defense in the District.
He learned that no public buildings, including schools, had been modified to
offer fallout protection; the city had just issued its first building permit for a
home fallout shelter; and evacuation reception centers in neighboring states
were designated but far from ready.12
By October 1961, however, Rodericks could effuse that the “tempo of
public interest in Civil Defense continues to increase at a rate never before
demonstrated in this city.” The Veterans of Foreign Wars partnered with
DCD to build a fallout shelter prototype in its national headquarters at 200
Maryland Avenue NE. Local papers and broadcasters were willingly dissemi-
nating public service announcements about civil defense. Wallace and
Barbara Luchs opened their newly finished home shelter at 3633 Appleton
Street NW for public tours. Socialite and Kennedy supporter Marjorie
Merriweather Post paid $20,000 to build and stock five fallout shelters at
Hillwood, her expansive estate in Northwest Washington. Civil Defense
courses resumed. In a three-month period, DCD gave lessons to 87 teachers
and 196 other residents. Subjects included nuclear detonations, the basics of
radiation and fallout, and shelters.13 DCD also helped carry out the citywide
shelter survey, and Rodericks wrote a pamphlet on proper shelter management.
(He admonished shelter managers to never allow pets, rumor-mongering, or
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Kennedy’s support for civil defense also inspired suburban communities

and residents. A Silver Spring (Md.) developer had the recreation rooms in
his new apartment building designed to shield against fallout. According to a
shelter expert, this was the first structure in the Washington area to include
fallout protection in the blueprints.15 Montgomery County began construct-
ing a $500,000 underground communications center next to the County
Building in Rockville.16 In November 1961, the Fairfax Elementary School
“Fun Fair” displayed a domed shelter and invited a physicist to answer ques-
tions, most of which came from well-informed young boys. “The foot of
concrete surrounding the shelter is equal to four inches of lead, isn’t it?”
asked one. A six year old named Tommy George wanted to know if the
shelter offered both blast and fallout protection. (It did.) Clearly adults
weren’t the only ones wondering where the current Cold War crisis might
lead, but civil defense veterans had witnessed such surges of interest before.17
Kennedy soon rued the crisis atmosphere he helped create. People and
pundits were debating shelter ethics such as the right to shoot neighbors
trying to gain entry. Some White House advisers proposed finishing the
50-million person survey, and then dusting off the do-it-yourself National
Shelter Policy put forth in 1958. The administration did issue a new civil
defense pamphlet that included guidelines on home shelters, but it also
sought $460 million for a Shelter Incentive Program encouraging nonprofit
institutions to designate public fallout shelters within their buildings. This
time Congress balked at the high costs and only granted funds to continue
the ongoing survey and stocking. The President didn’t fight for the Incentive
Program and fell silent about civil defense. In Washington and across the
nation, interest in shelters faded as fast as it had flared. Newspaper columnist
Inez Robb spoke for many when she wrote: “Please—No Civil Defense Yak.”18
It was thus easy to overlook a January 1962 statement from Steuart
Pittman: “Probable short warning time in the missile age and the increasing
danger of fallout require that first priority in State and local survival planning
be given to movement to shelters; or lacking shelters, to taking the best cover
which is immediately available.” Civil defense officials were finally admitting
evacuation wasn’t possible. The Warning Yellow, the steady blare, now meant
turn on a radio or television, wait for instructions, and prepare to take cover.
The meaning of Warning Red, the undulating siren, remained the same—
take cover now.19 From shelter to evacuation to shelter—civil defense attack
instructions had come full circle, back to the early 1950s. The only problem
was that weapons technology hadn’t reverted to the early 1950s, as the world
was reminded on October 22, 1962.

W   C M C

These were the Cuban missiles: the Luna, range 31 miles, designed for bat-
tlefield use; the “Kennel,” as the United States dubbed it (FKR to the
Soviets), a surface-to-surface cruise missile with a 100-mile range; and the
medium range SS-4 (R-12 to the Soviets), measuring 74 feet in length, with
174 T I O  T

a range of 1,100 nautical miles. To build and protect bases for these missiles,
more than 40,000 Soviet servicemen, officers, and technicians came to Cuba
beginning in July 1962. To arm these missiles, a Soviet freighter secretly
transported weapons to Mariel, Cuba, on October 4. For the Kennels, there
were 36 twelve-kiloton warheads; for the Luna tactical missiles, 12 two-kiloton
warheads; and for the SS-4s, 45 one-megaton warheads. Fired from San
Cristóbal, one of the base sites, an SS-4 missile could just reach Washington.20
Fidel Castro, Cuba’s fractious communist leader, wanted the missiles and
warheads to protect his dictatorship and his life. He had good reason to fear
for both. The very day the Soviet ship docked at Mariel, U.S. covert opera-
tions planners met with Robert Kennedy, the attorney general, to review
Operation Mongoose, an omnibus sabotage initiative that sought the end of
communism in Cuba and the removal of Castro. Khrushchev and the Soviet
military wanted the weapons in Cuba not only to defend a junior ally, but also
for strategic and deterrent reasons. The Soviet Navy envisioned building a
base for its new submarines armed with ballistic missiles. From Cuba, the
submarines could foray the entire U.S. East Coast, and with the land-based
missiles pointed at Florida and beyond, “no general in the Pentagon would
again dare consider a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union or an attack
on Cuba.”21
Nor would the President dare consider tolerating the deployment of
missiles and nuclear warheads less than 100 miles from America. From
the moment National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy told Kennedy of
the photographic evidence of the bases, obtained from a U-2 reconnaissance
flight, he resolved to force their removal. Everyone he consulted agreed; the
challenge was to uproot the missiles without sparking World War III. For
guidance, the President looked to 15 of his most trusted advisers, including
his brother Robert. Known as the ExComm (short for the Executive
Committee of the NSC), these men spent the better part of two weeks work-
ing day and night to resolve the crisis. At their first meeting, held mid-day on
October 16, most ExComm members urged Kennedy to swiftly order a
military response such as an air strike or an invasion. A naval blockade of the
island nation was also proposed. Over the next two days, the ExComm, prod-
ded by McNamara, tilted toward the blockade, although an air strike still had
advocates. On the morning of Friday, October 19, the ExComm broke into
small groups to devise separate plans for an air strike and a blockade. On
Saturday, Kennedy convened the ExComm at the White House. During
heated discussion, General Maxwell Taylor again urged the President to
order an air strike on Tuesday, when U.S. forces would be in full readiness,
but Kennedy decided on the blockade.22
Meanwhile press and public speculation was growing. On Monday
evening, October 22, Kennedy addressed the nation in a television broadcast
from the White House. Just hours before, Soviet leaders had decided to
authorize their commander in Cuba, General Issa Pliyev, to use his Luna and
FKR missiles in the event of a U.S. attack, then had suddenly hesitated—they
would wait to see what the American president said. After briskly reviewing
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the danger posed by the weapons in Cuba, Kennedy reminded viewers of a

historical lesson from the 1930s, that appeasement of aggressors only led to
war. “Our unswerving objective, therefore, must be to prevent the use of
these missiles against this or any other country, and to secure their with-
drawal or elimination from the Western Hemisphere.” Kennedy explained
the “strict quarantine” the U.S. Navy would impose against the shipment of
offensive weapons to Cuba. He also promised that should the Soviet Union
and Cuba continue the buildup, he was ready and willing to order the use of
military force. The outcome of the crisis now hinged on two contingencies:
whether the Soviet Union would respect the blockade, and what the United
States would do if it didn’t. With the world watching, the crisis was entering
a very dangerous phase.23
The next morning, phones at DCD headquarters and suburban civil
defense offices began ringing with queries about shelters. Rodericks prom-
ised to keep DCD’s phones manned until 1 a.m., if needed, but this was a
symbolic gesture—callers were being told that public fallout shelter space was
“non-existent or minimal.” Although the building survey had been under-
way for months, only 103 of some 1,000 suitable structures in the District
were “licensed” fallout shelters (meaning owners permitted use of the
buildings as shelters). None of the buildings, licensed or not, were marked
and stocked with emergency supplies. Neighboring communities faced the
same deficiency. Alexandria, Va., had 61 shelter sites, but they lacked signs as
well as the water canisters, enriched biscuits, and sanitary kits that counted as
provisions. Prince Georges County, Md., went into the crisis with 500
unmarked, unstocked shelters. Pittman admitted the rest of the country hadn’t
progressed much further than the nation’s capital. By Thursday, October 25,
just five D.C. shelters were marked and stocked. They included Union
Station and the Departmental Auditorium, which, ten years earlier, had
hosted Alert America. Located in the center of Washington, these structures
stood absolutely no chance of protecting occupants from the effects of a one-
megaton warhead.24
Evacuation wasn’t an option for the public, either. The “probable”
reduced warning time to which Pittman had referred in January was now
very real. An SS-4 fired from Cuba could reach Washington in less than
15 minutes, while the travel time for an ICBM fired from the Soviet Union
was about half an hour. Rodericks and District officials said nothing about
trying to evacuate the city; instead, they reissued the revised warning signals.
To concerned parents, D.C. School Superintendent Carl F. Hansen could
only say: “If an ‘alert’ or ‘take cover’ signal is sounded while your children are
at school, they should remain there under the supervision of the principal and
teachers . . . If the parent were to attempt to go to the school to get a child a
hazardous and confusing situation would be created.”25 City stores reported
increased sales of bottled water, transistor radios, and pemmican (a canned
concentrate of raisins and nuts), but no “panic buying in response to the
Cuban crisis.” Tourists continued to visit the Capitol, where plasterers and
painters were taking advantage of the Congressional recess to do routine
176 T I O  T

maintenance work.26 Kennedy asked the ExComm what protection could be

provided for the 92 million Americans within range of the SS-4s, but the
ensuing discussion about posting shelter signs and stockpiling only proved to
CIA Director John McCone “that not very much could or would be done;
that whatever was done would involve a great deal of publicity and public
Continuity of government planners had long anticipated such a crisis.
The buildup to war envisioned in OPAL 57, for example, eerily mirrored the
current situation, but readiness of the Federal Relocation Arc and emergency
plans brought mixed results. On Wednesday, October 24, OEP Director
Edward McDermott briefed Naval Aide Tazewell Shepard on the status of
the EAPs. The satchel held 24 EAPs prescribing Plan D-Minus actions; how-
ever, prior to the crisis Kennedy had approved a recommendation to replace
Plan D-Minus with a “more comprehensive and logical arrangement,” still
unfinished. McDermott cautioned Shepard that the presence of the 24
orders in the satchel merely proved “they ran the clearance process—not that
they are necessarily the 24 most important actions to be taken.” Some were
obsolete, others were of “doubtful legality.” Accordingly, the OEP and
White House staff were considering “possible legislative action to enhance
Presidential authority.”28
Considering possible action? At 10 a.m. that same day, the naval blockade
went into effect and the ExComm met in the Cabinet Room of the White
House. McNamara explained that two Soviet ships and their submarine
escorts were approaching the blockade line, creating “a very dangerous situ-
ation.” A minute or so later, an aide handed a note to McCone, who said,
“we’ve just received information through ONI [Office of Naval Intelligence]
that all 6 Soviet ships that are currently identified in Cuban waters—and
I don’t know that that means—have either stopped or reversed course.”
McCone hurriedly left to verify the report. As McNamara explained how the
Navy would fire practice depth charges to force Soviet submarines to surface,
Robert Kennedy looked at his brother: “these few minutes were the time of
greatest worry by the President. His hand went up to his face & covered his
mouth and he closed his fist. His eyes were tense, almost gray, and we just
stared at each other across the table.” The time available for updating the
EAPs was fast expiring.29
And McDermott, an attorney from Dubuque, Iowa, had plenty else to do.
Right after the President’s speech on October 22, the OEP instructed
wartime essential executive agencies and departments to send additional
employees to Mount Weather to supplement the cadres already there on
permanent assignment. McDermott reminded the new arrivals that the “full
activation of the Classified Facility [Mount Weather] will be under stress
conditions” and enjoined them to “observe the same restraint” they showed
at home. McDermott also asked executive agencies to ready their relocation
sites and ordered 24-hour operation in Washington and at OEP regional cen-
ters, only one of which (Denton, Tex.) was in an underground protected
facility by this time. The vulnerability of the regional centers to blast, fire, and
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fallout called into question their ability to stand-in for the federal govern-
ment; and across the nation, regional offices of the federal government
revealed a near total lack of readiness. Few had relocation sites, reliable com-
munication lines, or ways to remove valuable records from target zones.30
Among the new arrivals at Mount Weather were members of the new
White House Emergency Information Program, which McDermott had
begun assembling in June 1962. McDermott and Press Secretary Pierre
Salinger wanted to permanently place information officers in Mount
Weather’s Protected Facility and two other presidential relocation sites.
Mount Weather already possessed impressive communications capabilities—
by 1962 it could produce audio and video programming; record and retrans-
mit color video broadcasts delivered from another point; and feed audio and
video broadcasts to the major networks—but McDermott and Salinger
believed too little attention had been given to content. Who would craft mes-
sages on behalf of the President? Although Mount Weather had personnel
trained in speaking and writing, they weren’t White House staff. The crisis
forced activation of the program earlier than planned. On October 16,
Salinger asked the OEP to create a “senior editorial board” at Mount
Weather, but nine days passed before the involved agencies or departments
(Defense, State, USIA, CIA, and OEP) designated their representatives.
Instead, on October 23, McDermott and Salinger dispatched several OEP
information officers to the Protected Facility for “standby emergency pur-
poses.” Permanent staff at Mount Weather also activated teletype links with
the wire service bureaus in New York and Atlanta, and the OEP designated
technicians at the major television and radio broadcast networks to operate
the Emergency Broadcasting System.31
The report that some Soviet ships en route to Cuba had turned back
didn’t defuse the crisis. Late on the night of October 24, Kennedy received a
letter from Khrushchev calling the blockade “an act of aggression.” He
promised other Soviet vessels would ignore the blockade and retaliate if
attacked. U.S. armed forces raised their Defense Condition from three to
two, the highest level of alert short of general war. The next day, McCone
told the ExComm that some of the missiles in Cuba were now operational.32
The slide toward war brought renewed attention to standing evacuation
procedures for the civilian and military echelon of the executive branch. Since
their introduction, the WHEP and JEEP had grown in size and complexity.
The WHEP had ballooned from its original length of 23 pages to more than
200 pages by November 1960. Pick-up points for the President now
included the West Terrace of the Capitol; Hains Point, where the Washington
Channel, Anacostia, and Potomac converge; and Fort Washington, about 13
miles due south of the White House. The JEEP now required the Air Force
to measure radiation levels and weather conditions at pick-up and departure
sites so that alternate points could be used if necessary.33 Despite the revi-
sions, deficiencies remained, prompting the OEP to identify new pick-up
points for the vice president, Congressional leaders, and the Supreme Court.
On October 26, McDermott asked Chief Justice Earl Warren to track the
178 T I O  T

other justices’ whereabouts in order to facilitate evacuation. Months earlier,

however, Warren had made it clear what he thought of evacuation plans.
When the OEP had asked for a list of important Court employees who
should receive special passes to “expedite their travel in case of emergency,”
Warren, who could inquire by name about his elevator operators’ children,
had declared that every employee should receive a pass. The OEP never
responded. Warren was also rankled that his wife Nina couldn’t accompany
him to Mount Weather. Like so many wartime essential designees, he refused
to allow his official duties to trump his marriage vows. If scrambled, the
helicopters might well have landed at deserted—or very crowded—
rendezvous points.34
The District government mimicked the activation of Mount Weather by
putting its emergency relocation site at Lorton, Va., on 24-hour readiness.
Beginning in March 1959, DCD had put together a “command center” in
several rooms of the Main Administration Building of the Youth Detention
Center operated by the D.C. Department of Corrections. (Inmates provided
much of the labor to build the center.) By October 1962, a wall of sandbags
rested against the building’s brick foundation and communication booths
lined an interior wall covered with acoustic tiles. Two-way radios and
telephones linked the center to power stations, fire and police dispatchers,
and civil defense offices in Maryland and Virginia. Stored at the center were
maps of the city’s water and gas mains as well as microfilm of vital records.
The prison cafeteria and dispensary doubled as an emergency mess and
medical clinic. On the night of October 23, Rodericks, the fire and police
chiefs, and the heads of District government agencies met at the center.
Rodericks asked them to identify and send additional records required to
operate from the center. Like Mount Weather, Lorton didn’t assume day-by-
day governmental functions but remained on standby.35
The crisis peaked on October 27. That morning, as the ExComm
discussed preparing to board an approaching Soviet tanker, another message
from Khrushchev arrived. The Soviet Premier offered to remove the missiles
from Cuba if the United States removed Jupiter missiles from a NATO base
in Turkey. As the ExComm debated the “trade or invade” option, it learned
the Soviets had just downed a U-2 plane flying reconnaissance over Cuba.
Many U.S. military leaders wanted to retaliate. They didn’t know that just
hours before, the Soviet defense minister, with Khrushchev’s approval, had
authorized General Pliyev to use the operational missiles in Cuba to defend
his forces against a U.S. attack. Kennedy rejected calls for a reprisal, however,
and refocused his attention on hammering out a compromise. He had it by
late afternoon: the United States would lift the blockade and would promise
not to invade Cuba in exchange for removal of the Soviet missiles. The reply
to Khrushchev said nothing about the Jupiters, but Robert Kennedy privately
assured Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin that the United States would
remove the missiles from Turkey. This ingenious if risky solution allowed
both superpowers to stand down and get what they wanted, yet left the
unmistakable impression that the United States, not the Soviet Union, had
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dictated the terms. The next morning, Khrushchev accepted the deal. Castro
was furious, but the crisis had ended.36
The 13 days raise several razor-sharp “what ifs” that cut to shreds the
vague scenarios put forth in OPALs. What if the United States had attacked the
missile sites on Tuesday, October 23, and Pliyev, acting without orders,
fought back with his Luna and FKR missiles? What if, on Saturday, October
27, the United States had retaliated for the downed U-2 plane, and Pliyev,
acting under orders, launched the warheads? Or what if, on that same day,
the Soviet B-59 submarine being pummeled by practice depth charges fired
by a U.S. destroyer didn’t surface, but instead fired its torpedo armed with a
nuclear warhead? The submarine was short on oxygen, and officers were
imploring their commander to strike back. Three predesignated officers each
had to authorize the firing of the nuclear torpedo. Two did; the other, a man
named Arkhipov, didn’t.37
What if he had said yes?
We might imagine, as historian Robert L. O’Connell has, the conse-
quences. A Soviet submarine commander fires a nuclear torpedo on October
27, destroying a U.S. aircraft carrier. Two U.S. destroyers counterattack, air
strikes against the Soviet missiles bases in Cuba are immediately ordered.
General Pliyev uses his tactical nuclear weapons, obliterating an entire Marine
division at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay. At 4:18 p.m., an SS-4 missile is
fired at Washington; its warhead detonates 2,000 feet above the Lincoln
Memorial. The radius of total destruction from the blast is 1.5 miles. The
Kennedys, Lyndon Johnson, the ExComm, the JCS—dead. In Omaha, SAC
General Thomas Power implements the SIOP (Single Integrated Operational
Plan), the comprehensive blueprint for launching a strategic nuclear attack
against the Soviet Union and its allies. Some 950 nuclear bombs rain down;
Soviet submarines manage to fire only two more nuclear weapons, both
aimed at the naval base in Norfolk, Va. Soviet bombers never leave their run-
ways or hangers. Although more than 250,000 Americans die and
Washington is destroyed, the United States emerges intact from the Two
Days’ War, as O’Connell calls it. The Soviet Union is not so fortunate. Its
government doesn’t exist, and practically the entire population is dead or will
soon die from starvation and radiation poisoning. Fallout chokes the atmos-
phere, incurring global casualties and leading to famine in India and China as
well as to food shortages in Europe and North America.38
Could the federal government have functioned in the aftermath of such a
cataclysm? Say the new president, Speaker of the House John W. McCormack
(D-Mass.), was at home in Boston. He’s flown to Mount Weather and ush-
ered into the broadcast studio in the Protected Facility. Over Channel 2, he
addresses the cadres of wartime essential personnel. They number no more
than a few hundred. Just as Eisenhower had predicted, the President is
“bewildered,” and he gropes for words to rally his charges. A pall hangs in
the facility. The cadres who arrived days before left behind families in
Washington—already guards have locked up frantic men and women who
want to leave to find their loved ones. Fallout readings from the Nike
180 T I O  T

antiaircraft missile bases surrounding Washington and Baltimore are coming

in. As broadcast technicians test the video and audio links with the networks
in New York, OEP information officers struggle to write copy so President
McCormack can address the nation. A few civil defense officials from the
outer ring of Washington’s suburban communities are radioing or calling,
desperately seeking instructions. Those in the inner ring—Alexandria,
Arlington, Silver Spring, Greenbelt—are dead.
After his national broadcast, the 70-year-old McCormack, a veteran of
World War I (or the War to End All Wars, as it was briefly called by
Americans), experiences a surge of confidence. He asks liaison officers at
Mount Weather to select field offices as interim federal headquarters for their
agencies and departments. The State Department’s relocation site at Front
Royal is sending embassy reports on the international response to the war.
McCormack is briefed on Plan D-Minus and the EAPs. After consulting with
OEP personnel and, via phone, military officers at Fort Ritchie and Site R,
McCormack declares martial law in metropolitan Washington, Baltimore,
and Norfolk. He designates the Marine base at Quantico as a staging area for
relief supplies and heavy construction equipment for the Washington area.
Congress adjourned on October 13, so most legislators are in their home dis-
tricts or states; McCormack instructs them to find their way to Greenbrier for
an emergency session. The midterm elections are just ten days away, but as
McCormack said in his television address, it’s imperative the elections be held.
However, McCormack loses hope as another of Eisenhower’s predictions
comes true: law, order, and civility devolve into chaos. In Virginia, Maryland,
and Delaware, residents are dying from radiation exposure. They sheltered
during the war but soon ventured out in search of food, water, and family
members. Elsewhere in the country, millions of urban residents—from New
York to Los Angeles, from Dallas to Minneapolis—choke highways in pan-
icked, mass evacuations, even though they escaped attack. In his speech, the
President assured them the war is over, but rumors are rampant that he lied
and that the Soviet Union is going to counterattack within days, if not min-
utes; that the President knows this, but he wants 40 million Americans to die
because fallout-poisoned soils cannot raise sufficient food to feed the popula-
tion. Senators and representatives are trickling into Greenbrier, but they
aren’t ready to act on the legislative requests the President forwarded from
Mount Weather’s set of EAPs. Skittish governors are unsure whether polling
places can be set up; to stop riots and looting, they’re mobilizing National
Guard units. Inflation spirals out of control as producers, wholesalers, and
merchants double, even triple, the prices of staples and basic goods. The
handful of Federal Reserve Board and Treasury officials at Mount Weather
rummage through OPAL records and mobilization plans, searching for a solu-
tion. To ensure the armed forces receive all the POL (petroleum, oil, and
lubricants) they need, the OEP’s energy and minerals specialist is urging the
President to seize control of oil companies. Regional OEP offices report
widespread rumors that a “Fifth Column” of communists are plotting
nationwide sabotage. McCormack doubts it, but to allay state and local
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authorities, he suspends the writ of habeas corpus and authorizes the attor-
ney general to detain individuals for internal security. All nine Supreme Court
justices are dead. McCormack considers what Eisenhower said when reached
by phone at his Gettysburg farm: “John, you’ve got no choice but to declare
national martial law.”

* * *

The above scenarios, both O’Connell’s and my own, might seem perfervid.
Admittedly, counterfactual history is the equivalent of infinity—it can go on
forever—so let’s turn back to the historical record. During the crisis, the gov-
ernment’s echelon remained in Washington: the president and the vice pres-
ident; many members of Congress, including Senate President pro Tempore
Carl Hayden (D-Ariz.); the Supreme Court justices; Cabinet Secretaries,
who, because of dispersal’s failure, were congregated in central Washington.
By 1960, Cabinet officials were supposed to rendezvous on the Mall for evac-
uation by helicopter, but a State Department emergency planner pointedly
noted the difficulty of assembling such a large group after an attack warning.
And the “problem of assembly of Cabinet members in other than office
hours presents even graver difficulties, unless the whole city is laid out for
exodus plans and a disciplined policing by Civil Defense volunteers and any
other available forces is arranged.”39 As we know, DCD didn’t have those
volunteers. After the crisis, McDermott admitted to Secretary of Commerce
Luther H. Hodges, “protection of the Cabinet officials has high priority in
our current planning but, for the interim period, ad hoc measures must be
adopted” (emphasis in orginal).40 The ghost of the National Security
Resources Board lingered still—on went the planning to plan. Since evacua-
tion was impossible once Soviet missiles were fired, the echelon faced a
dilemma: relocate as a precaution and risk causing citywide, even national
panic, as word spreads that the president and others have left the capital; or
stay in Washington and hope the missiles never leave their launch pads.
The “families first” credo isn’t imagined, and its powerful hold didn’t
escape the attention of emergency planners—after all, they were the ones
expected to leave their loved ones. In 1959, OCDM participants in a Mount
Weather seminar on “Post-Attack Government Manpower Considerations”
declared, “the overriding factor is that of employee’s [sic] responsibility to his
family as related to his responsibility to his Government.” In response, the
OCDM proposed designating a special reception area for the dependents of
agency employees. The problem with such a plan, as one employee pointed
out, was that if the press or Congress learned of these “special arrangements,
it would be very bad from a morale and public relations standpoint” (emphasis
in original). During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the OEP arranged to gather
dependents at a central point for evacuation by car, but that hardly seemed
workable, nor did it appease employees. After the crisis, an OEP official
noted that those “who have emergency assignments at [the Protected
Facility] are concerned about making adequate provisions for their families.
182 T I O  T

This problem should probably receive appropriate immediate attention . . . if

we expect to have an adequate staff in the event of an actual emergency.”41
Declaration of martial law: more than once, Eisenhower had suggested
that “rock-bottom” recovery, the most feasible expectation in D-Minus
America, would require military administration and controls. He wasn’t the
only one. On October 16, 1962, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public
Information Arthur Sylvester startled OEP officials when he bluntly stated,
with reference to the White House Emergency Information Program, that in
the event of an attack on the United States, martial law would definitely be
imposed. (One observer said he was “utterly, completely flabbergasted that
the DOD would express such a position openly in the White House.”)42 The
satchel of EAPs contained proclamations enabling martial law. At the same
time, a federal takeover of major corporations was a foregone conclusion to
many emergency planners. The Justice Department “does have a procedural
planning responsibility in preparing for the take-over of public service corpo-
rations such as AT&T, General Motors, NBC, New York Central, etc.,”
remarked an OEP planner in January 1961. Years later, when the OEP joined
Standard Oil for a mobilization exercise at the company’s fortified relocation
complex at Iron Mountain, close to Hudson, N.Y., “[c]oncern was expressed
by some that the Government seemed to be intending to take complete
control over the company and everything else.”43 The scenarios might be
imagined, but such flights of fancy are tethered to facts.
Instead of a scenario that puts John McCormack in the presidency, we
could imagine Kennedy alive and well. Say he reluctantly accepts the urging
of his naval aide to immediately fly to Mount Weather after he authorizes the
air strikes, while Johnson is spirited to Camp David. We might imagine that
the crisis and its outcome have forged a leader capable of quelling panic,
reconstituting Congress, and preserving constitutional government. But if
we want to avoid the unrealistic optimism that dominated OPAL scenarios,
perhaps we should shift our attention from the imagined effects of 3 nuclear
weapons to those of 400. What if the Soviet Union implemented its version
of SIOP? What if we replace one SS-4 missile with 50 ICBMs; add 250
bombs dropped from Soviet aircraft; increase the number of submarine bal-
listic missiles from 3 to 100?44
What then is the future that never happened?

After the Cuban Missile Crisis, numerous Federal Relocation Arc sites were
phased out, mostly due to fallout and blast vulnerability. The Bureau of
Labor Statistics abandoned its plan to relocate to the basement of the Johns
Auditorium at Hampden-Sydney College, some 60 miles southwest of
Richmond, Va., and donated its desks to the college.1 In the fall of 1963, the
State Department began liquidating its Front Royal relocation facility.
Despite the lack of fallout protection, the Department of Agriculture, which
still owned the reservation, gladly took over State’s buildings to use as its new
relocation site. (Its current site was in University Park, Pa.)2 The Federal
Reserve Board, which had planned to relocate to its bank in Richmond, built
a hardened site at Mount Pony, outside of Culpeper, Va. Constructed of rein-
forced concrete, the underground facility was ready in December 1969. Its
gigantic vault held billions of dollars to replace currency lost in a nuclear
war.3 The Treasury Department also searched for new quarters. Until then,
its various bureaus had planned to separately relocate to far-flung sites: Fort
Knox, Ky.; Richmond; Wilmington and Greensboro, N.C.; and Parkersburg,
W.Va. (Only the Office of the Secretary of the Treasury had space at Mount
Weather.) In 1963, Treasury successfully negotiated with the Airlie
Foundation to use its conference center in Warrenton, Va., as a consolidated
relocation site. The United States Information Agency had no choice but to
look for a new site: the building it used at East Carolina College in
Greenville, N.C., was condemned and demolished.4 Mount Weather, Site R,
and Camp David continued to serve as the anchors for the scaled-back Arc.
Regular upgrades of computer and communications equipment, as well as
new construction, especially on the surface of Mount Weather, kept these
facilities up-to-date.
While the Arc shrunk, the presidential relocation infrastructure expanded.
So-called Presidential Emergency Facilities (PEFs) were built across the
country during the 1960s and 1970s. Congress disguised the funds for PEFs
as appropriations for Army construction, and the White House Military
Office (WHMO) oversaw their disbursement. According to Bill Gulley, who
worked in the WHMO from 1966 to 1977, PEFs were first built in
Washington, then around the country, until they numbered more than 75.
On Peanut Island, close to the Kennedy estate in Palm Beach, Fla., Navy
Seabees built a fallout shelter ten feet underground.5 Many PEFs were hard-
ened communication towers for the Arc. “Cartwheel” was located in Fort
Reno Park in Northwest Washington, just blocks from the school that once
184 T I O  T

served as the city’s Key Point (see chapter 7). Surrounded by fields,
Cartwheel’s cylindrical brick tower resembled a silo; a red corrugated shed
added to the farm-like appearance. But Cartwheel’s two surface structures
concealed a long underground bunker and sophisticated communications
equipment.6 The National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP or
“kneecap”) provided yet another relocation option for the chief executive.
Beginning in 1975, any one of several modified 747s stood ready to serve as
the NEACP. (Prior to 1975, a 707 filled this role.) Andrews Air Force Base,
just minutes from the White House by helicopter, kept one of the planes
ready round-the-clock.7
Civil defense proved less durable than continuity of government. The
DCD abandoned its volunteer programs but continued surveying for fallout
shelters. By 1965, it claimed to have identified more than 2.9 million shelter
spaces in the District and stocked some with “survival ration biscuits” and
water drums.8 The Northern Virginia Regional Planning Commission also
oversaw an ambitious shelter survey. Though the most densely populated
areas fell within the blast and heat range of modern nuclear weapons, the sur-
vey surmised that “the primary hazard to the populace of Northern Virginia
will be from radioactive fallout.”9 Ironically, Congress, no great supporter of
shelters, allowed the Architect of the Capitol to work with the DCD on the
Capitol Hill Fallout Shelter Program. Its aim was to provide shelter for no
less than 36,000 people within the Capitol Building Group. By 1965, almost
280,000 pounds of food had been cached in 11 different buildings. Stacked
in the Old Subway Tunnel and basement beneath the Capitol, for example,
were 259 cases of carbohydrate supplement (in lemon or cherry flavor) and
1,393 cases of biscuits (actually 75 calorie wafers made from bulgur wheat.)10
The shelter surveys and stocking capped off the fallout program begun in
1961, but it wasn’t enough to sustain civil defense in metropolitan
Washington. By 1967, Montgomery County’s civil defense office had shifted
its planning toward coping with natural disasters.11 The same was true of
many other local offices, leaving DCD director George Rodericks to try to
sustain faith in shelters. In 1971, he claimed there “really wouldn’t be much
point” for the Soviets to attack Washington (he reasoned the president et al.
would evacuate in advance), so fallout shelters, even in the center of
Washington, were still needed. Few shared his optimism, and Rodericks him-
self was preoccupied with antiwar marches. In most shelters, the provisions
had become forgotten clutter.12 Soon the DCD was recast as the Office of
Emergency Preparedness. Its major duties were now readiness for natural
disasters and crowd control for parades and demonstrations.
In 1974, Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger revived the idea of
evacuating the capital region. A Pentagon program called Crisis Relocation
Planning (CRP) plotted the evacuation of all residents within 15 miles of the
zero milestone marker to reception areas as far away as 200 miles. Similar
evacuations were planned for other cities. CRP officials assumed that rising
international tensions would precede a nuclear war, leaving enough time to
order evacuations. Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wisc.), who later served as secretary of
P 185

defense under President Bill Clinton, called CRP “extremely dangerous non-
sense,” and Alexandria’s civil defense coordinator noted that the reception
areas hadn’t even been prepared.13 The history of civil defense in metropoli-
tan Washington was repeating itself; Schlesinger might just as well have
dusted off John Fondahl’s 1956 interim evacuation plan.
Unlike shelters and evacuation, dispersal didn’t get another look, yet Tracy
Augur’s vision continued to fulfill itself in modest ways. One of the short-term
dispersal sites, Greenbelt Area A, became home to NASA’s Goddard Space
Flight Center. The new town trend set by Reston and Columbia continued with
the development of St. Charles and Clarksburg, Md. Located a few miles north-
east of Germantown, Clarksburg was planned to be a “pedestrian-oriented com-
munity surrounded by open space.”14 Clarksburg is also part of the I-270
high-tech corridor that dispersal of the AEC and NBS helped make possible.
The 1957 AEC building, once a solitary outpost, is now part of an expansive
Department of Energy complex. Likewise, the NBS, now known as the
National Institute of Standards and Technology, has added numerous buildings
to its Gaithersburg site, resulting in two adjoining campuses. Since the 1960s,
technology and research firms have flocked to the Germantown/Gaithersburg
area, further evidence of how the Cold War helped create “cities of knowl-
edge.”15 In the mid-1960s, Tysons Corner, Va., ten miles west of the District,
also began attracting research and technology companies, many with defense
contracts. The completion of the Capital Beltway in 1964 and additional road
improvements in northern Virginia fueled this development, as did Tysons
Corner’s convenient access to the Pentagon, Dulles airport, and residential
communities such as McLean, Va.16 In 1990, historian Kermit Parsons
marveled at the number of new towns in the capital region and the presence of
several federal buildings in Augur’s Dispersal Zone. Perhaps, Parsons suggested,
echoing Daniel Burnham, the rejected dispersal plans had taken on lives of their
own, “sliding silently into the minds of later planners.”17
At the time, Parsons could only guess at the location of two sites in the
Relocation Arc.18 But the days of secrecy were numbered; the end of the Cold
War brought unprecedented revelations about continuity of government pro-
grams. Ted Gup led the way, providing detailed accounts of Mount Weather
and Greenbrier.19 Many “outed” facilities, including the latter, were moth-
balled and became tourist attractions. In the late 1990s, the Library of
Congress used donated funds to buy the Federal Reserve Board’s Mount Pony
facility and convert it into storage for its collection of films, video, and sound
recordings.20 (Franklin Roosevelt’s idea that a building designed for war could
serve as a warehouse had finally come true.) The DCD’s command center at
Lorton was abandoned and fell into disrepair. Though Mount Weather and
Site R remained on “active duty,” continuity of government seemed like
another Cold War relic. Touring the Greenbrier bunker, author Tom
Vanderbilt felt it “difficult to escape the cultural connotations of Cold War
kitsch.”21 If continuity of government and civil defense represented insurance,
then it seemed time to let the policy lapse, or at least lower the coverage.
Until September 11, 2001.
186 T I O  T

W   ⁄ 
Looking back to that terrible day, we can glimpse continuity of government
in action. The Secret Service rushed Vice President Cheney to the White
House shelter, now called the Presidential Emergency Operations Center
(PEOC), at 9:36 a.m., just before American Airlines Flight 77 struck the
Pentagon. He was soon joined by other high-ranking executive officials,
including Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who made the decision
to ground all U.S. air traffic (more than 4,500 aircraft) from the PEOC. The
D.C. police quickly called in off-duty officers. Fires raged in the gaping hole
punched into the Pentagon, yet its evacuation was orderly.22 Speaker of the
House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and other Congressional leaders were taken to
“a secure government facility 75 miles west of Washington.”23 (Probably
Mount Weather—that afternoon, a reporter driving on Route 601, which
leads to the site, encountered a sizable government motorcade escorted by
the U.S. Park Police.24 If so, then the reported distance was wrong; Mount
Weather is approximately 54 miles by road from Washington.) President
Bush, in Sarasota, Fla., was airborne by 9:55 a.m., stopping briefly at
Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana to record a message about the attacks
before landing at Offutt Air Force Base outside Omaha. (A Cold War–era
underground center at Offutt provided a secure environment and space for
up to 50 people to stay several days, if needed.) Though the President wanted
to return to Washington, he accepted the recommendations of the Secret
Service and the Vice President that he wait until his security in the capital
could be assured. The hours spent at Offutt later drew criticism, but the land-
ing was a prudent measure consistent with continuity of government plans.25
Bush also ordered the emergency relocation of 100 executive branch
officials. Just hours after the Pentagon attack, Military District of Washington
helicopters, accompanied by F-16 fighters, took these officials to two undis-
closed sites. It’s likely these cadres were their departments’ and agencies’ “B
teams” or their present-day equivalent. (By 1980, the designation of wartime
essential personnel with relocation assignments had evolved into a three-tiered
system for vital agencies: the A team, which included the agency or department
head, would remain in Washington; the B team would proceed to Mount
Weather; and the C team would go to its agency’s relocation site in the Arc).26
Although press accounts didn’t identify the sites, they were said to date to the
1950s and to “make use of local geological features to render them highly
secure,” evidence pointing to Mount Weather and Site R. Initially intended as
a temporary precaution, activation of the cadres continued for months. Just
like the teams that Leo Hoegh sent to Mount Weather in September 1958, the
9/11 cadres soon began rotating in and out of “bunker duty” at regular inter-
vals. In March 2002, an executive official bluntly explained the reason for the
indefinite use of this “administration-in-waiting”: should terrorists detonate a
nuclear device in Washington, it “would be ‘game over.’ ”27
But amid the successes were many failures. At 10 a.m. on September 11,
police emptied the Capitol and Congressional buildings, but evacuees
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weren’t told where to go or what to do. Dozens of members of Congress

found their way to the Capitol Police headquarters on D Street NE. The
evacuation of Congressional leaders didn’t take place until the afternoon; by
this time, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) had already gone
home and had to return to the Hill. The Office of Personnel Management
released 180,000 federal employees in the District from work at 10:30 but
failed to tell the D.C. police, who learned of the decision from news reports.
Vehicles trying to leave the city jammed roads for three hours. Calls over-
whelmed landline and cell phone networks, impeding emergency and gov-
ernmental communications. The President had trouble communicating with
the Vice President and others; at one point, he even had to use a cell phone.
The audio on televisions in the PEOC briefly went out.28 Such failures
prompted the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution to
form the Continuity of Government Commission, dedicated to ensuring the
essential functioning of the three federal branches after a catastrophe. As the
Commission observed in its first report, the “status quo [is] unacceptable.”29
Washington, New York, and the nation have recovered from 9/11, but the
threat of future terrorist attacks remains. Does the history of Washington’s
preparations for nuclear war offer any guidance, any “warnings”—yellow and
red—to improve the status quo? I believe there are five.
The first is that emergency plans, agencies, and personnel for the capital,
city, and region must be aligned. Today’s D.C. Emergency Management
Agency (DEMA) can’t suffer the same fate as its predecessor, the DCD,
which was ignored by the executive branch, bullied by Congress, and isolated
from its suburban counterparts. As Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.’s delegate
to Congress) observed on September 17, 2001, the “District cannot protect
our neighborhoods or do its part to protect the federal presence unless D.C.
is at the table throughout the planning and execution process.” Early signs
weren’t encouraging. Less than two weeks after the terrorist attacks, the
House Appropriations Committee voted to withhold 50 percent of the fed-
eral funding for various D.C. programs until the city devised better emer-
gency plans. Considering the troubles experienced by the federal government
itself on 9/11, the Committee’s action was unfair and counterproductive.
Fortunately, subsequent Congressional and executive action was more posi-
tive. In 2002, the District received almost $13 million to improve its emer-
gency readiness. DEMA met with representatives from the White House,
GSA, and Office of Personnel Management to improve communications and
to facilitate a coordinated response to an emergency. New evacuation routes
were worked out with federal agencies as well as the Maryland and Virginia
transportation departments; furthermore, a plan approved in August 2002 to
evacuate all federal workers within 15 minutes includes a “trigger” to notify
the District, media, and authorities in Maryland and Virginia.30
In August 2005, however, the inadequate federal, state, and local
responses to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans brought
renewed scrutiny of post 9/11 emergency preparations for Washington.
Katrina spared New Orleans a direct hit, but the water of Lake Pontchartrain
188 T I O  T

roiled through breached levees, flooding the city. Tens of thousands of resi-
dents unable or unwilling to heed the pre-storm evacuation order huddled
under highway overpasses, retreated to their attics, or sought refuge at the
squalid Superdome, which, though officially designated as a mass shelter,
lacked sufficient food, water, and bedding for evacuees. The lack of coordi-
nated action was clearly evident four days after the hurricane, when FEMA
director Michael Brown admitted during a televised interview that he had
just learned thousands of desperate residents had gathered at the city’s con-
vention center, which hadn’t been prepared as a shelter. A few weeks later, as
Hurricane Rita hurtled toward the Texas Gulf Coast, Houston residents duti-
fully obeyed an evacuation order only to find themselves inching along
jammed highways, trapped in a maddening procession that belied one of the
justifications offered 50 years earlier for the interstate highway system: “quick
evacuation of target areas.” Referring to the “Katrina-caused chaos,” David
Snyder, a member of the Emergency Preparedness Council of the
Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments, asked, “Could it happen
here?” Snyder thought it could, primarily because “there’s no one person or
agency in this area charged with assuring regional coordination among levels
of government and among different functions such as law enforcement,
transportation and communication with the public.” Such a deficiency very
well could disrupt implementation of Washington’s evacuation or result in
conflicting instructions being issued to the public.31
The second warning: “Keep it Simple—Keep it down to rock bottom.”
These words of advice from Eisenhower to his emergency planners are just as
valid today as they were in 1956, and they apply equally to local, regional,
and federal planning. Consider evacuation. As we’ve learned, most Cold War
emergency planners indulged wildly unrealistic ideas about rapidly moving
the District’s population beyond its borders. Compared to its antecedents,
the current D.C. Evacuation Map is a superior plan. Not only does it provide
simple, direct instructions about the routes to be used, it’s based on the coor-
dination of traffic signals and the deployment of uniformed police officers to
70 key intersections. Even simple plans, however, are useful only when prop-
erly executed. On July 4, 2005, a test evacuation of central Washington ran
into several obstacles. Following the annual fireworks display on the National
Mall, authorities channeled motorists and pedestrians to seven of the city’s
planned evacuation routes. There was public confusion, traffic signals failed
to synchronize to emergency timing, and uncharged radio batteries impeded
The third warning is closely related to the first two: avoid the “planning to
plan” approach of the National Security Resources Board. The April 2002
District Response Plan (DRP), a latter-day version of the 1959 District of
Columbia Survival Plan, commits this mistake in a few places, stating, for
example: “While the DRP focuses primarily on operational planning, other
types of planning such as pre-incident planning, contingency planning,
action planning, and strategic planning are equally critical to ensuring
effective emergency operations.” The DRP also lists more than a dozen other
P 189

area, federal, and even international plans with which it might be used;
however, the Emergency Support Functions section, which provides specific
instructions for response areas such as mass care and communications,
provides few precise links to these plans.33 Without synchronicity, simplicity,
and practice, will the Emergency Support Functions work as plotted during
an emergency?
Fourth warning: find and fix the weak spots in the chain of continuity
preparations. Though obvious, this point requires iteration. The
Commission on the Continuity of Government has pinpointed one of the
weakest spots, the inability of the House of Representatives to expeditiously
replace members killed or incapacitated in a catastrophe. Since 2001, six
different proposals to amend Article I, Section 2 have been introduced in the
House and Senate, but none have progressed beyond the committee stage.
The lack of action recalls the 19 failed attempts to amend the same part of the
Constitution during the 1950s. As the Commission observes: “It is surely
not pleasant to contemplate the possibility of future catastrophic attacks on
our governmental institutions, but the continuity of our government
requires us to face this dire danger directly.”34
Finally, emergency planners must be straight with Washingtonians and all
Americans. In 1958, the NSC stated that the government should “[p]rovide
appropriate and adequate information to the public of the nature and extent
of the dangers from nuclear attack on the United States now and in the
future, and of the measures being taken or which could be taken to alleviate
them.”35 The Department of Homeland Security doesn’t as yet meet that
standard, as explained in the introduction. If the DHS is to avoid falling into
the yawing credibility gap that plagued its predecessors dating back to the
FCDA, then it must neither mollycoddle nor mislead Americans; it must
declare, not dissemble; and it must prize honesty over hokum.
As Robert Oppenheimer told Eisenhower in 1953: “Only a wise and
informed people could be expected to act wisely.”36
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S A

Unless otherwise indicated, all federal record groups (RG) are located at the
National Archives, College Park, Md.
RG 40 General Records of the Department of Commerce
RG 51, Lawton Files Records of the Office of Management and Budget,
Office Files of Director Frederick J. Lawton, 1950–54
RG 56, Central Files General Records of the Department of the Treasury,
Central Files of the Secretary of the Treasury, 1933–56
RG 59 General Records of the Department of State, Records
Relating to the Vital Records Program for Emergency
RG 64 Records of the National Archives and Records
Administration, Office of the Archivist, Planning and
Control Case Files
RG 87 Records of the U.S. Secret Service, General
Correspondence and Subject File
RG 111 Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer
RG 121, REM Records of the Public Buildings Service, Records
Relating to the Renovation and Modernization of the
Executive Mansion, 1948–53
RG 167 Records of the National Institute of Standards and
Technology, Records Concerning the Move of the
National Bureau of Standards to Gaithersburg,
Maryland, 1952–66
RG 218, CDF Records of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Central
Decimal File
RG 263 Records of the Central Intelligence Agency, History
Source Collection
RG 269 General Records of the General Services Administration
RG 304 Records of the Office of Civil and Defense
Mobilization, National Security Resources Board Files
RG 326 Records of the Atomic Energy Commission, Office of
the Secretary General Correspondence 1951–58, Plants,
Labs, Buildings & Land 5
RG 328 Records of the National Capital Planning Commission,
National Archives, Washington, D.C.
RG 330 Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense,
Assistant Secretary of Defense, Civil Defense Division
RG 341 Records of the Headquarters United States Air Force
(Air Staff), Control and Warning Branch Files, 1951–61
192 S A

RG 351, BOC Records of the Government of the District of

Columbia, Board of Commissioners General Files,
National Archives, Washington, D.C.
RG 396 Records of the Office of Emergency Preparedness
Alexandria Records Alexandria City Council Records, City of Alexandria
Archives and Records Center, Alexandria, Va.
AOC Record Group 40.3, Microfilm Reel 77, Art and
Reference Subject Files, Architect of the Capitol,
Washington, D.C.
BAS Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
CDNS House, Committee on Government Operations, Civil
Defense for National Survival, Hearings before the House
Military Operations Subcommittee of the Committee on
Government Operations, 84th Cong., 2nd sess.
January–June 1956
CF Dwight D. Eisenhower Records as President, White
House Central Files, Confidential File, Subject Series,
CR Congressional Record
DCCA Records of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association,
Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
DDEL Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Abilene,
Disaster File White House Office, NSC Staff Papers, Disaster File
Series, DDEL
EAS White House Office, Office of the Staff Secretary,
Emergency Action Series, DDEL
FCA Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of
Columbia Collection, Georgetown University Special
Collections, Washington, D.C.
FRUS Foreign Relations of the United States (Washington,
D.C.: U.S. Department of State, Office of the
HST Papers, PSF Papers of Harry S. Truman, President’s Secretary’s
Files, HSTL
HST Papers, WHCF Papers of Harry S. Truman, White House Central Files,
HSTL Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, Independence,
HSW Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
LOC Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
MCA Montgomery County Archives, Rockville, Md.
MCHS Montgomery County Historical Society, Vertical File,
Civil Defense, Rockville, Md.
NSC Briefing Notes White House Office, Office of the Special Assistant for
National Security Affairs, NSC Series, Briefing Notes
Subseries, DDEL
NSC Policy Paper White House Office, Office of the Special
Subseries Assistant for National Security Affairs, NSC Series,
Policy Paper Subseries, DDEL
S A 193

NYT New York Times

PPP Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States
(Washington, D.C.: USGPO)
SSAS White House Office, Office of the Staff Secretary, Subject
Series, Alphabetical Subseries, DDEL
WBOT Records of the Greater Washington Board of Trade,
George Washington University Special Collections,
Washington, D.C.
WP Washington Post
WS Washington Star
Washingtoniana Washingtoniana Division, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Memorial Library, Washington, D.C.
Whitman File Dwight D. Eisenhower Papers as President (Ann Whitman
File), DDEL
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1. “D.C. Schools Will Graduate 6000 in 2 Days,” WP, June 7, 1948, sec. B, p. 1;
“The Problem of Civil Defense Today,” June 28, 1948, box 13, folder “Civil
Defense 2 of 2,” U.S. Grant III Papers, HSW; David McCullough, Truman
(New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), 648.
2. Joint Chiefs of Staff, “Strategic Vulnerability of Washington, D.C.,” September 3,
1948, box 40, folder “Vulnerability of Washington, D.C.,” RG 330.
3. As T.S. Eliot ends his poem “The Hollow Men” (1925), “This is the way the
world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.”
4. The Joint Chiefs of Staff weren’t the first to imagine an atomic attack on
Washington, D.C. In November 1945, Life envisioned an atomic bombardment
of Washington. See “The 36-Hour War,” Life 19, no. 21 (November 19, 1945).
Nor was Washington the only target in these imaginary attacks. Atomic attack
scenarios for other U.S. cities began regularly appearing in newspapers and mag-
azines. See Kenneth D. Rose, One Nation Underground: The Fallout Shelter in
American Culture (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 52–66.
5. In the late 1940s, the metropolitan area was defined as the District of Columbia;
the city of Alexandria, Va.; Arlington and Fairfax Counties (Va.); and
Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties (Md.).
6. Constance McLaughlin Green, The Secret City: A History of Race Relations in the
Nation’s Capital (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1967), 280–2.
7. Carl Abbott, Political Terrain: Washington, D.C., from Tidewater Town to Global
Metropolis (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 7–8.
8. Lucy G. Barber, Marching on Washington: The Forging of an American Political
Tradition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 44–107, 179–218.
9. Stanley Harrold, Subversives: Antislavery Community in Washington, D.C.,
1828–1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003), 256.
10. Constance McLaughlin Green, Washington: Village and Capital, 1800–1878, vol. 1,
Washington: A History of the Capital, 1800–1950 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton
University Press, 1962), 296.
11. For the international ramifications of the District’s segregation during the Cold
War, see Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of
American Democracy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), 96–9.
12. Alan Lessoff, The Nation and Its City: Politics, “Corruption,” and Progress in
Washington, D.C., 1861–1902 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press,
1994), 1–14.
13. Frederick Gutheim (consultant) and the National Capital Planning Commission,
Worthy of the Nation: The History of Planning for the National Capital
(Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1977), 113–36 (the quote is
on 135), 345–56.
196 N

14. Howard Gillette, Jr., Between Justice and Beauty: Race, Planning, and the Failure
of Urban Policy in Washington, D.C. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University
Press, 1995), 135–69.
15. “Statement of Commissioner Robert E. McLaughlin before the Senate
Committee on Government Operations,” April 27, 1959, box 228, folder
4–100, RG 351, BOC.
16. Executive departments, bureaus, and agencies designated as “wartime essential”
included obvious choices such as the Departments of State and Defense, the
military services, the CIA, and the FBI. Given the enormous challenges of
mobilizing and fighting modern war, however, the list of qualifying agencies was
quite extensive. For example, the Coast and Geodetic Survey (within the
Department of Commerce) was essential because it provided charts used by
the Navy and the Air Force. Likewise, during wartime the military expected to
use the mapping capability of the Geological Survey (within the Department
of the Interior). The Civil Service Commission’s investigative unit, which had
compiled a file of 5.5 million security index cards and 2.5 million “subversive
activity information cards” by 1955, was also considered wartime essential. Even
the Housing and Home Finance Agency was essential because of its $2.5 billion
mortgage portfolio (circa 1955). Rather than list all known wartime essential
executive agencies, I refer to them individually as needed. Sources: NSC, “Plan
for Continuity of Essential Wartime Functions of the Executive Branch,” January
25, 1954, box 6, folder “NSC 159/4 . . . (1),” NSC Policy Paper Subseries,
Annexes I and II; H.F. Hurley to L.J. Greeley, March 1, 1955, box 2, folder
“Office of Defense Mobilization (2),” John S. Bragdon Records, Miscellaneous
File, Civil Defense Subseries, DDEL.
17. FCDA, The National Plan for Civil Defense against Enemy Attack (Washington,
D.C.: 1956), 2. For more on civil defense in the 1950s, see Rose, One Nation,
22–35; Laura McEnaney, Civil Defense Begins at Home: Militarization Meets
Everyday Life in the Fifties (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000);
Harry B. Yoshpe, Our Missing Shield: The U.S. Civil Defense Program in
Historical Perspective (Washington, D.C.: FEMA, 1981), 105–287.
18. DCD, District of Columbia Survival Plan, 1959, LOC.
19. Steven J. Zaloga, The Kremlin’s Nuclear Sword: The Rise and Fall of Russia’s
Strategic Nuclear Forces, 1945–2000 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution
Press, 2002), 31.
20. Allan M. Winkler, Life under a Cloud: American Anxiety about the Atom
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1993; reprint, Urbana: University of
Illinois Press, 1999), 68–75.
21. Even before continuity preparations were underway, Clinton L. Rossiter
addressed this problem in his book Constitutional Dictatorship: Crisis
Government in the Modern Democracies (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
1948). According to Rossiter, a dictatorship would be needed after an atomic
attack; the challenge was to set up, prior to war, constitutional limits to ensure
the dictatorship wasn’t permanent.
22. Guy Oakes, The Imaginary War: Civil Defense and American Cold War Culture
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 3–9, 52–4; Paul Boyer, By the Bomb’s
Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age
(New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), 319–33; Andrew D. Grossman, Neither Dead
nor Red: Civilian Defense and American Political Development during the Early
Cold War (London: Routledge, 2001), 1–19; McEnaney, Civil Defense, 3–10.
N 197

23. DCD, “In Case of an A-Bomb Attack What Should You Do?,” January 1951,
Vertical Files, folder “Defense 1951,” Washingtoniana.
24. John Mintz, “U.S. Called Unprepared for Nuclear Terrorism,” WP, May 3,
2005, sec. A, p. 1.

A N W P

1. Lynn Eden, Whole World on Fire: Organizations, Knowledge, and Nuclear
Weapons Devastation (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2004), 15–26. As
Eden’s excellent book explains, for 50 years, U.S. military and security planners
greatly underestimated the mass fires (or firestorms) that the thermal effects of
nuclear detonations would produce.
2. David Miller, The Cold War: A Military History (New York: St. Martin’s Press,
1998), 75.
3. William Daughtery et al., “The Consequences of ‘Limited’ Nuclear Attacks on
the United States,” International Security 10, no. 4 (Spring 1986): 3–45.
4. Steven J. Zaloga, The Kremlin’s Nuclear Sword: The Rise and Fall of Russia’s
Strategic Nuclear Forces, 1945–2000 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution
Press, 2002), 12–21, 26–8.
5. Zaloga, Kremlin’s Nuclear, 72–5, 241, 254; Miller, The Cold War, 95–9, 110–2.
6. NSC Planning Board, “U.S. Policy on Continental Defense,” July 14, 1960, in
William Burr, ed., “Launch on Warning: The Development of U.S. Capabilities,
1959–1979,” National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 43, April
2001, accessed June 23, 2005 at ⬍ NSAEBB/
7. Kenneth Schaffel, The Emerging Shield: The Air Force and the Evolution of
Continental Air Defense 1945–1960 (Washington, D.C.: USAF, Office of Air
Force History, 1991), 210–7.

 B  B’ I L

1. “Army of 3690 from WPA Starts Strengthening Capital Defenses,” WP, June 11,
2. Louis J. Halle, Spring in Washington (New York: Antheneum, 1963), viii, 8–11.
3. Constance McLaughlin Green, Washington: Capital City, 1879–1950, vol. 2,
Washington: A History of the Capital, 1800–1950 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton
University Press, 1962), 468–9; Green, The Secret City: A History of Race Relations
in the Nation’s Capital (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1967), 251–6.
4. Green, Washington, 473.
5. David Brinkley, Washington Goes to War (New York: Ballantine Books, 1988),
107; Leslie T. Davol, “Shifting Mores: Esther Bubley’s World War II Boarding
House Photos,” Washington History 10, no. 2 (Fall/Winter 1998–99): 49, 52.
6. Stephen Vaughn, Holding Fast the Inner Lines: Democracy, Nationalism, and the
Committee on Public Information (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina
Press, 1980), 98–114; Elwyn A. Mauck, “History of Civil Defense in the United
States,” BAS 6, nos. 8–9 (August–September 1950): 265; Virgil L. Couch,
“Civilian Defense in the United States, 1940–1945,” unpublished mss., box 1,
folder “Civilian Defense in the U.S., 1940–1945 (1),” Virgil L. Couch Papers,
DDEL, 3–5.
7. Mauck, “History,” 266.
198 N

8. Donald A. Ritchie, James M. Landis: Dean of the Regulators (Cambridge, Mass.:

Harvard University Press, 1980), 103–5.
9. Mauck, “History,” 266; Ritchie, James M. Landis, 105; Laura McEnaney, Civil
Defense Begins at Home: Militarization Meets Everyday Life in the Fifties
(Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000), 17–8; “Conferees Return
OCD to LaGuardia,” NYT, January 15, 1942, sec. 1, p. 14.
10. “House Forbids OCD Funds for ‘Dancers,’ Donald Duck,” NYT, February 7,
1942, sec. 1, p. 1.
11. Ritchie, James M. Landis, 105, 108–15; Sidney M. Milkis, “Franklin D.
Roosevelt and The Transcendence of Partisan Politics,” Political Science
Quarterly 100, no.3 (Autumn 1985): 492–6.
12. Brinkley, Washington, 96.
13. CR, 77th Cong., 1st sess., December 12, 1941, vol. 87, part 9, 9741–2; 77th
Cong., 2nd sess., June 15, 1942, vol. 88, part 4, 5222; Ritchie, James M. Landis,
111; Mike Reilly to Frank Wilson, December 16, 1941, box 50, folder “103-A
Bomb Protection, Etc.,” RG 87, 7.
14. WS, “You and an Air Raid: What You Should Know,” 1942, Pamphlet File, “Civil
Defense,” HSW; CR, 77th Cong., 2nd sess., May 11, 1942, vol. 88, part 3,
4072-3; Ritchie, James M. Landis, 110–1; Theodor Horydczak Collection,
“Potomac Electric Co. Building: Air raid equipments and personnel III,” LOC,
Prints and Photographs Division.
15. Caryl A. Cooper, “The Chicago Defender: Filling in the Gaps for The Office of
Civilian Defense, 1941–1945,” The Western Journal of Black Studies 23, no. 2
(1999): 111–8; Barbara Orbach and Nicholas Natanson, “The Mirror Image:
Black Washington in World War II-Era Federal Photography,” Washington
History 4, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 1992): 4–25, 92–3; Spencie Love, One Blood:
The Death and Resurrection of Charles R. Drew (Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina Press, 1996), 49; photographs in RG 208, Records of the Office of War
Information, Series “Negro Activities in Industry, Government, and the Armed
Forces, 1941–1945,” Still Picture Records, Special Media Archives Services
Division, National Archives, College Park, Md.
16. Gregory Hunter, “Howard University: ‘Capstone of Negro Education’ during
World War II,” Journal of Negro History 79, no. 1 (Winter 1994): 63–5;
Brinkley, Washington, 251–2.
17. Report of the Committee for the Protection of Cultural and Scientific Resources,
April 12, 1943, box 2, folder “Documents 1941–1951,” LOC Archives,
Committee for the Protection of Cultural and Scientific Resources, LOC,
Manuscript Division; Alvin W. Kremer, October 7, 1942, box 735, LOC
Archives, Central File: MacLeish/Evans, accessed November 16, 2004 at
18. Edward T. Folliard, “All Presidents Are Architects,” WP, January 11, 1948;
William Seale, The President’s House: A History, vol. II (Washington, D.C.: White
House Historical Association, 1986), 980–4.
19. Brinkley, Washington, 95; L.E. Albert to Frank Wilson, February 16, 1942, box 50,
folder “103-A Bomb Protection, Etc.,” RG 87; Reilly to Wilson, December 16,
1941, 7.
20. “Defense Setup of District Held Undermanned, Ineffectual,” WP, January 14, 1943.
21. Dr. Robert McElroy, “Narrative Account of the Office of Civilian Defense,”
November 1944, box 1077, RG 330.
N 199

22. “President Announces Termination of OCD but Urges Continued Volunteer

Efforts,” May 2, 1945, box 8, folder “(OEM) Office of Civilian Defense,” HST
Papers, Files of Raymond R. Zimmerman; “All Civilian Defense Inactivated by
Order of Commissioners,” WS, May 7, 1945.
23. Arata Osada, comp., Children of the A-Bomb: Testament of the Boys and Girls of
Hiroshima (Ann Arbor: Midwest Publishers, International, 1982), 97, quoted in
Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb (New York: Simon and
Schuster, 1986), 719.
24. Rhodes, Making, 699–734 (the Tibbets quote is on 710).
25. Ibid., 740–2.
26. For Americans’ responses to the use of the atomic bombs, see Paul Boyer, By the
Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic
Age (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), 7–21.
27. Brinkley, Washington, 278.
28. Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, Buildings of the District of Columbia
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 157–8.
29. Brinkley, Washington, 71–3; R. Alton Lee, “Building the Pentagon,” USA Today
Magazine 121, no. 2572 (January 1993): 90 ff.; Alan P. Capps, “The Pentagon,”
American History Illustrated 28, no. 2 (May/June 1993): 46 ff.; Alfred
Goldberg, The Pentagon: The First Fifty Years (Washington, D.C.: Office of the
Secretary of Defense, 1992), 6–19.
30. Lee, “Building the Pentagon”; Capps, “The Pentagon”; Gene Gurney,
The Pentagon (New York: Crown Publishers, 1964), 1–15, 29; Brinkley,
Washington, 72.
31. Robert McMahon, “The Republic as Empire: American Foreign Policy in the
‘American Century,’ ” in Harvard Sitkoff, ed., Perspectives on Modern America:
Making Sense of the Twentieth Century (New York: Oxford University Press,
2001), 94.
32. Paul Y. Hammond, Organizing for Defense: The American Military
Establishment in the Twentieth Century (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press,
1961), 187–205.
33. Daniel Yergin, Shattered Peace: The Origins of the Cold War, rev. ed. (New York:
Penguin, 1990), 5.
34. Gurney, The Pentagon, 85–7.
35. Melvyn P. Leffler, A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman
Administration, and the Cold War (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992),
10–23; Aaron L. Friedberg, In the Shadow of the Garrison State: America’s Anti-
Statism and Its Cold War Grand Strategy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University
Press, 2000), 336.
36. Michael J. Hogan, A Cross of Iron: Harry S. Truman and the Origins of the
National Security State, 1945–1954 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1998), 1–22.
37. Michael S. Sherry, In the Shadow of War: The United States since the 1930s
(New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1995), 139.
38. Ted Gup, The Book of Honor: The Secret Lives and Deaths of CIA Operatives
(New York: Anchor Books, 2001), 15.
39. Richard G. Hewlett and Francis Duncan, Atomic Shield 1947/1952, vol. II,
A History of the United States Atomic Energy Commission (University Park:
Pennsylvania State University Press, 1969), 42.
200 N

40. B. Franklin Cooling, “Civil Defense and the Army: The Quest for Responsibility,
1946–1948,” Military Affairs 36, no. 1 (February 1972): 11.
41. The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, The Effects of Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima
and Nagasaki (Washington, D.C.: USGPO, 1946), 11, 33–43.
42. “What Atom Bomb Means to U.S.: Revision of Plans for Defense,” United States
News 21, no. 1 (July 5, 1946): 16–7.
43. Nehemiah Jordan, “U.S. Civil Defense Before 1950: The Roots of Public Law
920” (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Secretary of the Army, 1966), 58–9.
44. Colonel Dziuban, “Civil Defense, the Problem,” August 28, 1946, box 1069,
folder “Strategic Plans Civil Defense,” RG 330.
45. Jordan, “U.S. Civil Defense,” 64–9; Office of the Secretary of Defense, “A Study
of Civil Defense,” February 1948, box 55, RG 328, Office Files of Director John F.
Nolen, Jr.; Mauck, “History,” 269.
46. Ansley Coale, “Reducing Vulnerability to Atomic Attack,” BAS 3, no. 3 (March
1947): 71–4, 98.
47. David B. Parker, “Can Washington Be Defended against an Atomic Bomb
Attack?” Coast Artillery Journal (May/June 1947): 23; Parker, “2 Bombs in
Rivers—All Washington Dies,” WP, August 3, 1947; Ralph E. Lapp, “Atomic
Bomb Explosions—Effects on an American City,” BAS 4, no. 2 (February 1948):
48. Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley, Driven Patriot: The Life and Times of
James Forrestal (New York: Knopf, 1992), 139–49.
49. William H. Kincade, “U.S. Civil Defense Decision-Making: The Ford and Carter
Administrations” (Ph.D. diss., American University, 1980), 242–7.
50. Jordan, “U.S. Civil Defense,” 75.
51. Office of Civil Defense Planning, Civil Defense for National Security
(Washington, D.C.: USGPO, 1948).
52. Charles Sawyer to Forrestal, December 28, 1948, box 30, folder “381 Civil
Defense,” RG 304; “Comments on ‘Civil Defense for National Security,’ ” undated,
box 35, binder “Comments on ‘Civil Defense for National Security,’ ” RG 330.
53. Hoopes and Brinkley, Driven Patriot, 444–68.
54. Wiley to James Webb, May 10, 1947; Lawton to Wiley, June 11, 1947, box 30,
folder “381 (Decentralization of Federal Activities),” RG 304.
55. Alexander Wiley, “We Must Decentralize,” Reserve Officer (February 1948),
reprinted in CR, 80th Cong., 2nd sess., February 3, 1948, vol. 94, part 9, A640-3;
CR, 80th Cong., 2nd sess., February 11 and 24, March 25, 1948, vol. 94, parts
3 and 9, 3457-8, A783-4, A1080-1.
56. “Arthur M. Hill Resigns as Chief of National Resources Board,” WS, December
7, 1948.
57. The National Security Act of 1947 authorized the NSRB to provide advice to the
president on “the strategic relocation of industries, services, government, and
economic activities, the continuous operation of which is essential to the
Nation’s security.”
58. Stephen E. Ambrose, Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy since 1938, 7th
rev. ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 1993), 90–2; Martin Walker, The Cold War:
A History (New York: Henry Holt, 1993), 53.
59. Friedberg, In the Shadow, 209.
60. Kreager to Symington, “Background on NSRB Board Meetings,” May 1, 1950,
box 18, folder “Secretariat—NSRB Board,” RG 304, Office File of W. Stuart
N 201

61. “Notes on Population Growth of D.C. Area,” August 1948, box 6, folder
“Security—D.C. Dispersal,” RG 304, Office File of I.D. Brent.
62. General Services Administration, “Basic Principles and Assumptions Governing
Preparation of the Long-Range Plan for the Security of the Nation’s Capital,”
June 1950, box 48, folder “545-15-85 ‘Security for the Nation’s Capital,’ ” RG
328, Planning Files, i.

 T P  P  D

1. For more on the attractions of dispersal as protection, see Tom Vanderbilt,
Survival City: Adventures among the Ruins of Atomic America (New York:
Princeton Architectural Press, 2002), 73–81; Kathleen A. Tobin, “The
Reduction of Urban Vulnerability: Revisiting 1950s American Suburbanization
as Civil Defense,” Cold War History 2, no.2 (January 2002): 1–32.
2. Michael Quinn Dudley, “Sprawl as Strategy: City Planners Face the Bomb,”
Journal of Planning Education and Research 21, no. 1 (Fall 2001): 54–5. For
more on the perceived social and community benefits of dispersal, see Timothy
Mennel, “Victor Gruen and the Construction of Cold War Utopias,” Journal of
Planning History 3, no. 2 (May 2004): 116–50.
3. Dudley, “Sprawl,” 56–7; Robert Wojtowicz, “Building Communities in the
Twentieth Century,” Journal of Urban History 28, no. 6 (September 2002):
813–4 (the Stein quote is on 813); Richard Walker and Robert D. Lewis, “Beyond
the Crabgrass Frontier: Industry and the Spread of North American Cities,
1850–1950,” Journal of Historical Geography 27, no. 1 (January 2001): 3–9.
4. John H. Kyle, The Building of TVA: An Illustrated History (Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University Press, 1958), 15–21; Joseph L. Arnold, The New Deal
in the Suburbs: A History of the Greenbelt Town Program, 1935–1954 (Columbus:
The Ohio State University Press, 1971), 47–9; Tracy B. Augur, “The Dispersal
of Cities as a Defense Measure,” BAS 4, no. 5 (May 1948): 131.
5. “Planning Cities for the Atomic Age: Mere Survival Is Not Enough,” American
City (August 1946): 75–6.
6. Augur, “Dispersal of Cities,” 131–4.
7. Eric Arnesen, Black Protest and the Great Migration: A Brief History with
Documents (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003), 36.
8. Stephen Grant Meyer, As Long as They Don’t Move Next Door: Segregation and
Racial Conflict in American Neighborhoods (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and
Littlefield, 2000), 79–97; Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis:
Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University
Press, 1996), 23, 211–8; Heather Ann Thompson, “Rethinking the Politics of
White Flight in the Postwar City,” Journal of Urban History 25, no. 2 (January
1999): 163 ff. (the quote is from Thompson, note 38).
9. Robert B. Fairbanks and Zane L. Miller, “The Martial Metropolis: Housing,
Planning, and Race in Cincinnati, 1940–55,” in Roger W. Lotchin, ed., The
Martial Metropolis: U.S. Cities in War and Peace (New York: Praeger, 1984),
191–222 (the quote is on 206).
10. Augur, “Dispersal of Cities,” 131.
11. Kermit Parsons, “Shaping the Regional City: 1950–1990: The Plans of Tracy
Augur and Clarence Stein for Dispersing Federal Workers from Washington,
D.C.,” Proceedings of the Third National Conference on American Planning
202 N

History (Hilliard, Ohio: The Society for American City and Regional Planning
History, 1990), 656–8.
12. NSRB, “A Recommendation to the President by the National Security Resources
Board on Security for the Nation’s Capital” (NSRB-R-13), October 27, 1948,
box 48, folder “545–15–85 ‘Security for the Nation’s Capital,’ ” RG 328,
Planning Files.
13. “Notes on Population Growth of D.C. Area,” August 1948, box 6, folder
“Security—D.C. Dispersal,” RG 304, Office File of I.D. Brent (hereafter Brent File).
14. I.D. Brent to Reginald Miller, January 19, 1949; NSRB, “A Recommendation to
the President by the National Security Resources Board on Security for the
Nation’s Capital—Emergency Plan,” November 23, 1948, box 5, folder
“Security for the Nation’s Capital,” RG 304, Office File of Gayle Arnold
(hereafter Arnold File).
15. Michael J. Hogan, A Cross of Iron: Harry S. Truman and the Origins of the
National Security State, 1945–1954 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1998), 217–8; Ken Hechler, Working with Truman: A Personal Memoir of the
White House Years (New York: G.P. Putnam’s, 1982; reprint, Columbia:
University of Missouri Press, 1996), 45–9.
16. Steelman to James Webb, January 5, 1949, box 11, folder “Chronological File,
January 1949,” RG 304, Reading File of John R. Steelman.
17. Kenneth D. Johnson to Reginald Gillmor, January 10, 1949; William Gill to
Gillmor, January 6, 1949; I.D. Brent to Gillmor, January 19, 1949, box 5, folder
“Security for the Nation’s Capital,” RG 304, Arnold File.
18. Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, Buildings of the District of Columbia
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 58.
19. Augur to J.W. Follin, July 14, 1949, box 6, folder “Security for the Nation’s
Capital,” RG 304, Brent File.
20. Arnold, New Deal, 24–142 (the Augur quote is on 92); Cathy D. Knepper,
Greenbelt, Maryland: A Living Legacy of the New Deal (Baltimore: The Johns
Hopkins University Press, 2001), 13–39.
21. Arnold, New Deal, 234–6.
22. Steelman to Philip Fleming, May 31, 1949, box 3, folder “Greenbelt Project,”
RG 304, Arnold File.
23. Augur et al. to Brent, June 21, 1949, box 6, folder “Security for the Nation’s
Capital,” RG 304, Brent File.
24. Augur to Follin, July 14, 1949.
25. This description is adapted from information and the map provided in “Security
for the Nation’s Capital—Short-Term Emergency Plan,” November 17, 1949,
box 6, RG 304, Brent File.
26. Ibid., 2.
27. Richard G. Hewlett and Francis Duncan, Atomic Shield, 1947/1952, vol. II,
A History of the United States Atomic Energy Commission (University Park:
Pennsylvania State University Press, 1969), 362–6.
28. David McCullough, Truman (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), 748; Paul
Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of
the Atomic Age (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), 336.
29. The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 designates the order of succession if
both the presidency and vice presidency are vacant: the Speaker of the House; the
president pro tempore of the Senate; and cabinet secretaries, in the order
their departments (or predecessors) were created. In 1949, the ranking of the
N 203

secretaries was State, Treasury, Defense, the Attorney General, Interior,

Agriculture, Commerce, and Labor.
30. Kennedy to Truman, October 8, 1949, box 1, folder “C.D., General,” RG 304,
Records Relating to Civil Defense, 1949–1953 (hereafter Civil Defense
Records); “Kennedy Complains to Truman on Lack of Civil Defense Plan,”
Washington Times-Herald, October 10, 1949, p. 31. Hale’s bill (H. Res. 385),
Trimble’s bill (H.J. Res. 48), and Patman’s bill (H. Res. 358) were all introduced
during the 81st Cong., 1st sess. See, respectively, CR, October 10 and 17, 1949,
vol. 95, part 11, 14131–2, 14170; part 16, A6372; and from the 81st Cong.,
2nd sess., January 18, 1950, vol. 96, part 13, A381-3. For McMahon’s
announcement, see “McMahon Inquiry Seeks Facts in Civilian Atomic Defense,”
WS, October 19, 1949; for Wiley’s suggestion, see “Senator Warns on Bomb,”
WP, November 20, 1949.
31. AEC, “The City of Washington and an Atomic Bomb Attack,” November 1949,
box 1, folder “Civilian Defense Program,” RG 304, Office File of Arthur M. Hill
and John Steelman.
32. WP, November 17, 1949, p. 1; “The President’s News Conference of November
17, 1949,” PPP: Harry S. Truman, 1949, 569.
33. Donald R. Whitnah, editor-in-chief, Government Agencies, The Greenwood
Encyclopedia of American Institutions (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press,
1983), 407–9; Hechler, Working with Truman, 158–61.
34. Grant to Hill, April 2, 1948, box 32, folder “381-Security for the Nation’s
Capital—Emergency Plan,” RG 304.
35. Hill to Grant III, May 18, 1948; Grant III to Hill, August 5, 1948; Grant III to
Arnold, February 8, 1949, box 32, folder “381-Security for the Nation’s
Capital—Emergency Plan,” RG 304.
36. Grant III to Arnold, March 15, April 11, and April 29, 1949, box 6, folder
“Security for the Nation’s Capital,” RG 304, Brent File.
37. Augur to Follin, November 15, 1949, box 6, folder “Security for the Nation’s
Capital,” RG 304, Brent File.
38. Steelman to Louis Johnson, June 3, 1949; Steelman to Johnson, July 1949;
Steelman to Johnson, December 19, 1949, box 12, “Chronological File” folders
for June, July, and December 1949, RG 304, Reading File of John R. Steelman;
Johnson to Steelman, August 1, 1949, box 9, folder “NSRB Doc. 112—
Background,” RG 304, Board Documents.
39. Brent to Gill, December 20, 1949, box 6, folder “Security for the Nation’s
Capital,” RG 304, Brent File.
40. National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Washington Present and
Future: A General Summary of the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital
and Its Environs, monograph no. 1 (Washington, D.C.: National Capital Park
and Planning Commission, April 1950), 5.
41. This description is adapted from the General Services Administration, “Basic
Principles and Assumptions Governing Preparation of the Long-Range Plan for
the Security of the Nation’s Capital,” June 1950, box 48, folder “545-15-85
‘Security for the Nation’s Capital,’ ” RG 328, Planning Files.
42. Ibid., 13.
43. Ibid., 19–21.
44. Ibid., 10–2, 16–9.
45. Augur to Nolen, January 24, 1950, box 48, folder “545-15-85 Security for the
Nation’s Capital,” RG 328, Planning Files; Steelman to Wurster, February 7 and
204 N

March 2, 1950, box 1, folder “Chronological File, January 1950–July 1950,”

RG 304, Brent File.
46. Washington Present and Future, 5–10.
47. Augur to Follin, March 31, 1950, box 6, folder “Security for the Nation’s
Capital,” RG 304, Brent File.

 T D D I

1. “The President’s News Conference of October 13, 1949,” PPP: Harry S.
Truman, 1949, 511–2.
2. “Gen. Young Uses Army Training to Streamline His District Domain,”
Washington Times-Herald, January 5, 1950, p. 21.
3. Gordon Russell Young to the Commissioners, February 10, 1950; Young state-
ment, March 3, 1950, John Nolen, Jr., Papers, HSW.
4. Truman to John Steelman, March 3, 1949, box 2, folder “Civilian
Mobilization,” RG 304, Office File of Arthur M. Hill and John R. Steelman
(hereafter Hill File).
5. T.J. Hayes to G.R. Young, February 6, 1950, box 2, folder “Civil Defense—
District of Columbia,” RG 304, Office File of I.D. Brent (hereafter Brent File),
4; “NSRB to Control D.C. Civil Defense,” Washington Times-Herald, March 9,
1950, p. 1.
6. “Civil Defense Policy Adopted for District by Commissioners,” WS, February
14, 1950, sec. A, p. 1; “Police Official Due to Head Civil Defense Setup at
Start,” WP, March 2, 1950, p. 1.
7. “D.C. Nominees Sought to Take Atom Courses,” WS, February 14, 1950, sec. B;
“Specialists to Get Study on A-Bomb,” WP, March 26, 1950, sec. M, p. 9.
8. Harold Sandbank to Albert Shire, June 1, 1950, box 4, folder “General Services
Administration,” RG 304, Letters Sent to Government Agencies.
9. “Defense of Washington,” WP, May 25, 1950.
10. “Model Atom Defense Plan Set for D.C.,” WP, May 23, 1950, sec. A, p. 1.
11. “Hypothetical Narrative,” unsigned, May 19, 1950, box 2, folder “District Civil
Defense—Work File,” RG 304, Brent File.
12. “U.S. Is Still in Planning Stage on What to Do if A-Bomb Hits,” WS, August 14,
13. “Report Shows Many States Study Civilian Defense, Defer Action,” WS, March
9, 1950, sec. A, p. 15.
14. Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation; My Years in the State Department
(New York: W.W. Norton, 1969), 402.
15. Clay Blair, The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950–1953 (New York: Times
Books, 1987), 58–9; Joseph C. Goulden, Korea: The Untold Story of the War
(New York: Times Books, 1982), 43.
16. Goulden, Korea, 47 (“settled down” quote); Robert W. Merry, Taking on the
World: Joseph and Stewart Alsop—Guardians of the American Century
(New York: Viking, 1996), 193–4 (“border incident” quote).
17. Acheson, Present, 405.
18. “Washington Unit Rushes Plan for Civilian Defense,” Washington Times-Herald,
June 27, 1950, 4.
19. Clipping from the WP, July 11, 1950, Vertical File, folder “1950,” Tugwell
Room, Greenbelt (Md.) Public Library.
20. Quoted in “Civil Defense: The City Under the Bomb,” Time LVI, no. 14
(October 2, 1950): 12.
N 205

21. CR, 81st Cong., 2nd sess., June 28, 1950, vol. 96, part 7, 9420.
22. Committee on the District of Columbia, Authorizing the District of Columbia
Government to Establish an Office of Civil Defense, 81st Cong., 2nd sess., June 30,
1950, H. Rept. 2469, House of Representatives Reports vol. 11382; “Civilian
Defense Bill for D.C. to Come Up in House Tomorrow,” WS, July 9, 1950, sec. A,
p. 19; Pace to Lawton, August 4, 1950, and Roger Jones to William Hopkins,
August 10, 1950, box 73, folder “August 11, 1950 {HR 6461-HJ Res. 461},”
HST Papers, White House Bill File.
23. CR, 81st Cong., 2nd sess., July 13 and 26, 1950, vol. 96, part 8, 10089, 11066;
August 1, 1950, vol. 96, part 9, 11500.
24. CR, 81st Cong., 2nd sess., August 25, 1950, vol. 96, part 10, 13520-3; “House
Votes $290,000 Fund for District Civil Defense,” WP, August 26, 1950;
“Conferees Approve $100,000 for District Civilian Defense,” WS, September
17, 1950.
25. David McCullough, Truman (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), 790–7
(the quote is on 792).
26. Oral history interview with Frederick J. Lawton by Charles T. Morrissey,
Washington, D.C., June 17 and July 9, 1963, HSTL; Lawton memorandum,
July 3, 1950, box 6, folder “Truman . . . Agendas & Memorandums, 7/49-
7/52,” Papers of Frederick J. Lawton, HSTL.
27. “President’s News Conference,” November 17, 1949 and “President’s News
Conference,” March 2, 1950, PPP: Harry S. Truman, 1949 and 1950, 572, 182.
28. Lawton memoranda, September 1 and 6, 1950, box 6, folder “Truman . . .
Agendas & Memorandums, 7/49-7/52,” Lawton Papers; press release, August
30, 1950, box 21, folder “National Defense—Civil Defense,” Papers of Stephen
Spingarn, Assistant to the President File, HSTL; Senate Document 218 (81st
Cong., 2nd sess.), Senate Miscellaneous Reports vol. 11401; “Officials Explain
Dispersal Plan for Bureaus,” WS, August 31, 1950.
29. CR, 81st Cong., 2nd sess., August 31, 1950, vol. 96, part 10, 13972, 13975,
14005; “Plan to Decentralize Washington Delayed after House Criticism,” WS,
September 1, 1950.
30. “The President’s News Conference of August 31, 1950,” PPP, 607.
31. “Third War Threat May Erase ‘Tempos’ of Earlier Conflicts,” WS, August 31, 1950;
“Senator to Urge Succession Plan as Defense Step,” WS, September 15, 1950.
32. CR, 81st Cong., 2nd sess., August 31 and September 14, 1950, vol. 96, part 10,
14005, 14012, 14789–90; “Senator to Urge Succession Plan.”
33. “The President’s News Conference of October 26, 1950,” PPP, 690.
34. Fondahl to Young, October 2, 1950, box 228, folder 4-100, RG 351, BOC.
35. “D.C. Civil Defense Will Be Based on 70,000 Wardens,” Washington Daily
News, October 21, 1950; “Headquarters Set Up for District Wardens in Old
Force School,” WS, December 8, 1950.
36. DCD, Manual for Wardens, 1951, LOC.
37. “This Civil Defense Warden Gets Results,” WS, August 12, 1952.
38. Minutes of the Civil Defense Committee, Federation of Citizens Associations,
January 19, 1952, box 1, folder 25, FCA.
39. “Officials Here Seek 100,000 Volunteers for Civil Defense Jobs,” WS, March 6,
40. “Lives May Depend on You,” box 1, folder “Civil Defense—Misc.,” HST
Papers, Files of Spencer R. Quick, HSTL (hereafter Quick Files).
41. “Women Must Play Greater Defense Role,” WP, December 11, 1951, clipping in
box 4, folder 23, D.C. Federation of Women’s Clubs Papers, HSW.
206 N

42. The District of Columbia Citizen, “Civil Defense Edition,” October 1951,
Vertical File, folder “Defense,” Washingtoniana.
43. “Officials Here Seek.”
44. Board of Commissioners, March 29, 1951, box 229, folder 4-109, RG 351, BOC.
45. “Fondahl Sets 50,000 Aides as July 1 Goal,” WP, February 27, 1951; Fondahl to
the Commissioners, February 28, 1951, box 229, folder 4-116, RG 351, BOC.
46. “Fondahl Sets 50,000”; “Civil Defense Officials Complain of District’s
Indifference to Needs,” WP, July 20, 1951.
47. “Civil Defense Officials Complain.”
48. “District below Manpower Goal in Civil Defense,” WS, September 2, 1951.
49. NSRB, United States Civil Defense (Washington, D.C.: USGPO, 1950);
“Truman Urges Vast Set-Up to Direct Civilian Defense,” WP, September 19,
1950; Frank P. Zeidler, “Civil Defense: Community Problems and the NSRB
Plan,” BAS 6, no. 11 (November 1950): 337–41; “Special Message to the
Congress,” September 18, 1950, PPP, 641.
50. “Civil Defense: No Answers Available,” Newsweek 36, no. 16 (October 16,
1950): 25.
51. CR, 81st Cong., 2nd sess., November 30 and December 1, 1950, vol. 96, part
12, 16007, 16009; Anne Wilson Marks, “Washington Notes,” BAS 7, no. 1
(January 1951): 17; House, Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950, 81st Cong., 2nd
sess., December 19, 1950, H. Rept. 3209, House of Representatives Reports,
vol. 11385, 13.
52. Oral history interview with David H. Stowe by Jerry N. Hess, Washington, D.C.,
May 27, 1969, HSTL; Donald Dawson memorandum, November 28, 1950;
Walter White to Truman, January 15, 1951, box 1743, folder “2965
{1945–1951},” HST Papers, White House Official File; Clarence Mitchell to
White, December 8, 1950, box A181, folder “Civil Defense Caldwell,
Millard . . . March,” Records of the NAACP, Group II, LOC, Manuscript
53. CR, 81st Cong., 2nd sess., January 2, 1951, vol. 96, part 12, 17089-92; “Civil
Defense Begins,” New Republic 123, no. 26 (December 25, 1950): 9; “Federal
Civil Defense Act,” BAS 7, no. 2 (February 1951): 59–62.
54. John Russell Young to Caldwell, January 3, 1951, box 229, folder 4-116, RG
351, BOC.
55. Caldwell to Young, January 18, 1951, box 2, folder “Federal, State, Local
Relationships D”; James Wadsworth to H.L. Godwin, February 7, 1951, box 1,
folder “Civil Defense, General,” RG 304, Civil Defense Records.
56. “Survival,” box 5, folder “Civil Defense Campaign—General Folder 1,” Quick Files.
57. John De Chant, January 25, 1951, box 2, folder “Federal, State, Local
Relationships D,” RG 304, Civil Defense Records.
58. Newsweek 38, no. 17 (October 22, 1951): 27; Cabinet meeting notes, July 20,
1951, box 1, folder “Jan. 2–Dec. 31, 1951,” Papers of Matthew Connelly, HSTL.

 D, O  T,  U?

1. “Truman to Try again on Decentralization,” Washington Daily News, November
11, 1950.
2. CR, 81st Cong., 2nd sess., December 7, 1950, vol. 96, part 12, 16240, 16242.
3. Clay Blair, The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950–1953 (New York: Times
Books, 1987), 421; Symington to Larson, December 8, 1950, box 4, folder
N 207

“General Services Administration,” RG 304, Letters Sent to Government

4. Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, Buildings of the District of Columbia
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 186.
5. “U.S. Dispersal Will Be within 20-Mile Radius,” WS, November 26, 1950;
House Committee on Public Works, Dispersal of Government Agencies, Vicinity
of the District of Columbia, Hearings before the Committee on Public Works, 81st
Cong., 2nd sess., December 8, 1950, 1–31, 56–8.
6. Stein to Holland, undated, reprinted in Senate Committee on Public Works,
Dispersal of Federal Buildings, Hearings before the Senate Committee on Public
Works, Subcommittee on Public Buildings, 81st Cong., 2nd sess., December 13,
14, and 18, 1950, 106. For more on Stein’s efforts to couple planned communi-
ties to dispersal, see Kermit Carlyle Parsons, ed., The Writings of Clarence S.
Stein: Architect of the Planned Community (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1998), 503–6, 567–8, 592.
7. Robert A. Caro, Master of the Senate (New York: Knopf, 2002), 592, 611, 933.
8. House Committee, Dispersal, 17, 29–31 (the Cunningham quote is on 17).
9. Senate Committee, Dispersal, 2–7, 18–25, 34–5 (the Jones quote is on 18).
10. “Regional Council to Draft Role in Dispersal,” WS, October 11, 1950.
11. Senate Committee, Dispersal, 122–9, 145–51 (the Gutheim quote is on 127).
12. “Annual Budget Message to the Congress: Fiscal Year 1952,” January 15, 1951,
PPP: Harry S. Truman, 1951, 103–4; “Military Seen Moving More Than Others
in Transfer Plan,” WP, January 14, 1951; “Agency Removal List Combined,”
WP, January 16, 1951.
13. Senate Committee on Public Works, S. Rept. 216, 82nd Cong., 1st sess.,
April 11, 1951, Senate Reports vol. 11487.
14. Lawton memorandum, February 16, 1951, box 6, folder “Truman . . . Agendas &
Memorandums, 7/49-7/52,” Papers of Frederick J. Lawton, HSTL.
15. Senate Committee, Dispersal, 186–8; “Wisdom of Scattering U.S. Agencies Still
Questioned,” WS, March 18, 1951.
16. “Dispersal Unpopular in Suburbs, which Feel U.S. already Has too Much Land,”
WS, March 25, 1951; House Committee on Public Works, Dispersal of Federal
Agencies, Hearings on H.R. 1728 before the Subcommittee on Public Buildings and
Grounds of the Committee on Public Works, 82nd Cong., 1st sess., February 5, 6,
and 8, 1951, 139–40.
17. CR, 82nd Cong., 1st sess., April 18 and 23, 1951, vol. 97, part 3, 4028-52,
18. Truman to Holland, April 24, 1951, box 927, folder “Dispersal of Government
Departments 285-I,” HST Papers, WHCF, Official File.
19. “Truman again Asks Dispersal of U.S. Buildings to Suburbs,” WS, January 21,
20. “Alternate Pentagon Takes Shape Nearby,” Washington Daily News, June 21,
1951; “ ‘Second’ Pentagon Underground?,” WS, March 11, 1951.
21. “Underground Sites Policy Adopted by the Army and Navy Munitions Board,”
June 26, 1947, box 146, folder “Agencies—Munitions Board,” HST Papers,
PSF, Subject File; James Forrestal to Arthur Hill, May 18, 1948; Hill to the
Secretary of State, May 24, 1948; Munitions Board to the JCS, July 9, 1948;
JCS, Document A-3222, cited in I.D. Brent to William A. Gill, January 18,
1950, box 1, folder “Chronological File January 1950–July 1950,” RG 304,
Office File of I.D. Brent (hereafter Brent File); “100 Underground War Plant
208 N

Sites Found,” Pittsburgh Press, December 1, 1948; “ ‘Second’ Pentagon

22. Directive Number S-3020.1, May 17, 1955, in Department of Defense,
Wartime Readiness Plans Book, October 10, 1955, box 36, binder “Wartime
Readiness Plans Book,” RG 330, 2; Louis Johnson to Wiley, November 7, 1949,
box 6, folder “Security for Nation’s Capital,” RG 304, Brent File; “Johnson Tells
of Plan to Move Capital If It Is Ever Attacked,” WS, November 11, 1949;
“ ‘Second’ Pentagon Underground?”
23. Memorandum for the Committee on Disaster Planning, November 29, 1949,
box 37, folder “Disaster Planning,” RG 330.
24. N.J. McCamley, Cold War Secret Nuclear Bunkers: the Passive Defence of the
Western World during the Cold War (South Yorkshire, U.K.: Leo Cooper, 2002),
6–9;, “Site R-Raven Rock,” accessed July 5, 2005 at
25. Lt. Edgar B. Stern memorandum, June 11, 1951, accessed June 23, 2005 at
Briefing Sheet for the Chairman, JCS, December 28, 1960, RG 218, CDF 1960,
box 17, folder 3180.
26. Inventory of Military Real Property, June 30, 1955, box 77, binder “Inventory
of Army Real Property Continental U.S.,” RG 330, Assistant Secretary of
Defense (Comptroller), Inventories of Military Real Property, 1954–57.
27. Leo G. Sands, “The Microwave Era Begins,” Radio & Television News (October
1950): 35–8; Bell System, “Radio Relay: Communication by Microwave,”
undated; Long Lines Department of AT&T, “The Latest Word in
Communications,” 1947. Preceding items accessed September 22, 2003 at
28. Captain F.M. Mead memorandum, June 12, 1951, accessed June 23, 2005 at
29. “Justification of the Radio Relay System,” May 1951, accessed June 23, 2005 at
30. David McCullough, Truman (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), 792–3, 798.
31. Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation; My Years in the State Department
(New York: W.W. Norton, 1969), 140–1.
32. Department of Defense Directive 200.05-1TS, November 10, 1951; John J.
McLaughlin to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, May 18, 1951, box 37,
folder “Disaster Planning,” RG 330.
33. MDW, “Air Raid Precaution Organization—The Pentagon,” November 9,
1951, in Wartime Readiness Plans Book.
34. Defense Directive, November 10, 1951.
35. CR, 81st Cong., 2nd sess., December 14, 1950, vol. 96, part 12, 16564.
36. The description is based upon a drawing in 1/8 inch scale by Lorenzo Winslow,
September 14, 1950, box 7, folder “White House East Wing—Alterations
Project 49-100-9,” RG 121, REM. Other details are from Winslow to Allan S.
Thorn, August 18, 1950, box 7, folder “White House East Wing—Alterations
Project 49-100-9”; Thorn to Supervising Engineer, March 11, 1952, box 3,
folder “Specifications: Alternations and Additions to East Terrace, 1/11/51,”
RG 121, REM.
37. Naval Aide to the President, May 16, 1945, box 131, folder “Naval Aide to the
President,” HST Papers, PSF, General File.
N 209

38. William Seale, The President’s House: A History vol. II (Washington, D.C.: White
House Historical Association, 1986), 980–4; L.C. Chamberlin to Thorn,
December 21, 1950, box 7, folder “White House East Wing Alterations Project
49-100-9”; W.E. Reynolds to Dennison, January 25, 1951, box 4, folder
“Confidential Reading File of the Supervising Architect,” RG 121, REM.
39. Seale, President’s House, 1039; Commission on the Renovation of the Executive
Mansion (hereafter Commission), Minutes of the 26th Meeting, August 16,
1950, box 1, folder 2, RG 121, REM, 3.
40. Seale, President’s House, 1025–31; Bess Furman, White House Profile; A Social
History of the White House, Its Occupants and Its Festivities (Indianapolis: Bobbs-
Merrill, 1951), 334; U.S., Commission on Renovation of the Executive
Mansion, Report, Compiled Under Direction of the Commission by Edwin
Bateman Morris (Washington, D.C.: USGPO, 1952), 35–42; James Webb to
Truman, December 27, 1948, box 150, folder “Budget Misc. 1945–53 (folder
1),” HST Papers, PSF, Subject File.
41. Seale, President’s House, 1031; William B. Bushong, “Lorenzo Simmons
Winslow: Architect of the White House, 1933–1952,” White House History 5
(Spring 1999): 23–32; William J. Moyer, “The Man behind the White House
Remodeling,” WS Sunday Magazine, December 16, 1951, 14–5.
42. In July 1949, a pit was dug in the White House garden to test soil conditions for
the foundation. Borings struck bedrock at 70 feet. See Memorandum for the
President, July 27, 1949, box 301, folder “Commission on the Renovation of the
Executive Mansion Correspondence (folder 1),” HST Papers, PSF, White House
File. Details of the July 26, 1950 meeting come from Thorn memorandum,
July 27, 1950, box 7, folder “White House East Wing Alterations Project 49-
100-9,” RG 121, REM.
43. Thorn memorandum, August 17, 1950, box 8, folder “A.S. Thorn Supervising
Architect Misc. Pending,” RG 121, REM.
44. Office of the Chief of Engineers to Winslow, October 5, 1950, box 7, folder 2,
RG 121, REM.
45. Thorn, July 27, 1950; Winslow to Thorn, August 18, 1950; Thorn memoran-
dum, December 21, 1950, box 4, folder “Confidential Reading File of the
Supervising Architect,” RG 121, REM. The East Wing shelter was four levels
below the executive mansion’s first or state floor, according to Michael R.
Beschloss, The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev, 1960–1963 (New York:
Edward Burlingame, 1991), 476.
46. Commission, Minutes of the 26th Meeting; Winslow to W.E. Reynolds, August
8, 1950; Thorn memoranda, August 17 and 31, 1950, box 7, folder “White
House East Wing Alterations Project 49-100-9,” RG 121, REM.
47. Seale, President’s House, 663, 978–83.
48. Winslow to Thorn, August 18, 1950.
49. For details of the foundation work on the White House, see Richard Doughtery,
“The White House Made Safe,” Civil Engineering (July 1952): 46–52, reprinted
in Commission, Report, 97–100.
50. Commission, Minutes of the 26th Meeting; Thorn memorandum, July 27,
1950; Thorn to Winslow, July 28, 1950, box 4, folder “Confidential Reading
File of the Supervising Architect”; Thorn to Supervising Engineer, December
13, 1951, box 3, folder “Specifications: Alterations and Additions to East Terrace
1/11/51,” RG 121, REM.
210 N

51. GSA, “Emergency Improvements,” attached to Thorn memorandum, June 22,

1951; Charles Barber to Thorn, September 1, 1950, box 7, folder “White House
East Wing Alterations Project 49-100-9,” RG 121, REM.
52. Thorn, July 27, 1950.
53. “Estimate Revisions to Shelter in East Wing,” July 10, 1950; W.E. Reynolds to
David Stowe, December 7, 1950; Thorn to Winslow, December 14, 1950;
Thorn directive, January 2, 1951; Thorn to Dennison, September 14, 1951, box
4, folder “Confidential Reading File of the Supervising Architect”; Winslow to
Dennison, August 27, 1951, box 7, folder “White House East Wing Alterations
Project 49-100-9,” RG 121, REM.
54. Thorn memorandum, August 8, 1950; Reynolds to Dennison, December 14,
1950, box 4, folder “Confidential Reading File of the Supervising Architect”; Office
of the Chief of Engineers to Winslow, October 5, 1950; Commission, Minutes of
the 31st, 33rd, and 38th Meetings, box 1, folders 2 and 3, RG 121, REM.
55. H.L. Bowman to Winslow, December 19, 1950, box 7, folder “White House
East Wing Alterations Project 49-100-9”; Thorn memorandum, December 21,
1950; Thorn to Bowman, December 28, 1950, box 4, folder “Confidential
Reading File of the Supervising Architect,” RG 121, REM.
56. These figures are taken, respectively, from “Estimate Revisions to Shelter in East
Wing”; “White House Alterations East Wing,” July 18, 1950, box 8, folder
“A.S. Thorn Supervising Architect Misc. Pending”; Design and Construction
Division to Thorn, September 15, 1950, box 4, folder “Confidential Reading
File of the Supervising Architect,” RG 121, REM.
57. Thorn memorandum, June 22, 1951; Thorn to Lawton, June 26, 1951, box 7,
folder “White House East Wing Alterations Project 49-100-9”; Thorn memo-
randum, May 29, 1951, box 4, “Confidential Reading File of the Supervising
Architect,” RG 121, REM.
58. Thorn memorandum, January 15, 1951; Reynolds to Dennison, January 25,
1951; Thorn to Dennison, February 20, 1951, box 4, “Confidential Reading
File of the Supervising Architect”; Winslow to Thorn, January 15, 1951, box 7,
folder “White House East Wing Alterations Project 49-100-9”; Minutes of the 36th
Meeting, January 26, 1951, box 1, folder 3; Design and Construction Division to
Captain George Miller, August 7, 1952, box 7, folder 2, RG 121, REM.
59. Acting Supervising Architect memorandum, June 6, 1952; Thorn memorandum,
August 11, 1952, box 7, folder 2; Colonel Gillette inspection report, March 28,
1952; Thorn to Winslow, April 10, 1952; Thorn memorandum, December 20,
1950; Thorn to Dennison, May 2, 1951, box 4, folder “Confidential Reading
File of the Supervising Architect.”
60. Commission, Minutes of the 50th Meeting, September 6, 1951, box 1, folder 4;
W.M. Russell to Thorn, June 14, 1951, box 4, folder “Confidential Reading File
of the Supervising Architect”; Thorn to J. Paul Hauck, September 12, 1951, box
4, folder “Extra Copies of Memorandums”; Thorn memorandum, January 17,
1952, box 7, folder “White House East Wing Alterations Project 49-100-9”;
Thorn, Change Notice 15, February 27, 1952, box 3, folder “Specifications,
Alterations, and Additions to East Terrace, 1/11/51,” RG 121, REM.
61. Gillette inspection report, March 28, 1952; Thorn to Winslow, April 10, 1952,
box 4, folder “Confidential Reading File of the Supervising Architect”; Chief of
Mechanical-Electrical Section to Thorn, April 24, 1952, box 7, folder “White
House East Wing Alterations Project 49-100-9,” RG 121, REM.
N 211

62. “The Presidency—Guided Tour,” Time LIX, no. 7 (February 18, 1952): 17–8;
“A 7-Million-Dollar Home: What It’s Like to Live in New White House,” U.S.
News & World Report 32, no. 12 (March 21, 1952): 19–22; Rex W. Scouten,
“President Truman’s Televised Tour,” White House History no. 5 (Spring 1999):
46–50; Seale, President’s House, 1050–1.
63. Acting Supervising Architect to R.O. Jennings, June 4, 1952, box 4, folder
“Confidential Reading File of the Supervising Architect”; Acting Supervising
Architect memorandum, June 6, 1952; Design and Construction Division to
Captain George Miller, August 7, 1952; Thorn memorandum, August 11, 1952;
Acting Chief, U.S. Chemical Corps Protective Division to Thorn, September 26,
1952, box 7, folder 2, RG 121, REM.
64. “Revised List of Furnishings,” April 14, 1953, box 7, folder 2; Design and
Construction Division memorandum, April 16, 1953; J.B. Harrison to Thorn,
May 11, 1953, box 7, folder “White House East Wing Alterations Project 49-
100-9,” RG 121, REM.
65. David Miller, The Cold War: A Military History (New York: St. Martin’s Press,
1998), 72.
66. Robert J. Lewis, “Architect Says Kennedys Will Find White House Cozy,” WS,
January 22, 1961, sec. F, p. 8.
67. Oral history interview with Admiral Robert L. Dennison by Jerry N. Hess,
October 6, 1971, Washington, D.C., HSTL, 98.

 A   A

1. “The Civil Defense Alert America Convoy,” HST Papers, Official File, box 1743,
folder “2965 (1952–53)”; “Personal and Otherwise,” Harper’s Magazine 211,
no. 1265 (October 1955).
2. Fondahl to the Commissioners, “Progress Report,” October 31, 1951; DCD,
Information Bulletin, December 17, 1951, Office of Civil Defense Memoranda
Orders, Washingtoniana; DCD, “In Case of an A-Bomb Attack What Should
You Do?,” January 1951, Vertical Files, folder “Defense 1951,” Washingtoniana;
“Civil Defense Far From Ready to Cope with Attack,” WS, April 6, 1951; Senate
Committee on Government Operations, Civil Defense in the District of
Columbia, Hearings before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the
Committee on Government Operations, 86th Cong., 1st sess., April 27, 1959, 76.
3. “The Alert America Convoy Comes to Washington!,” packet of newspaper
clippings and publicity material in box 2, folder 17, Student Research File
(B File), HSTL.
4. FCDA, “Alert America Campaign Progress Report,” October 15, 1951, box 1,
folder 6, Student Research File (B File), Civil Defense, HSTL.
5. For more on the Freedom Train, see Richard M. Fried, The Russians Are
Coming! The Russians Are Coming!: Pageantry and Patriotism in Cold-War
America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 29–49.
6. “Civil Defense Alert America Convoy.”
7. “The Alert America Convoy!”; Frank Wilson to Helen Crabtree, January 15,
1952, box 5, folder “Civil Defense Campaign Correspondence,” HST Papers,
Files of Spencer R. Quick, HSTL (hereafter Quick Files).
8. “Civil Defense Alert America Convoy.”
9. “Alert America Convoy Comes to Washington!”
212 N

10. Ibid. For more on the FCDA’s use of Alert America to manipulate public
response and action, see Andrew D. Grossman, Neither Dead nor Red: Civilian
Defense and American Political Development during the Early Cold War
(London: Routledge, 2001), 69–105.
11. “Alert America Convoy Comes to Washington!”
12. Laura McEnaney, Civil Defense Begins at Home: Militarization Meets Everyday
Life in the Fifties (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000), 3–10,
123–46 (the quote is on 123).
13. Guy Oakes, The Imaginary War: Civil Defense and American Cold War Culture
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 3–9.
14. Fried, Russians, 45–6; “Alert America Convoy Comes to Washington!”
15. Minutes of the January 5, 1952 meeting, box 1, folder 25, FCA; Meeting Notes,
January 7, 1952, box 1, folder 30, DCCA; Notes for the Military and Naval
Affairs Committee, February 15, 1952, box 106, folder “Military and Naval
Affairs 1951–52,” WBOT; “Civil Defense Raid Shelter Survey to Start,” WP,
February 22, 1952, p. 19; Notes of the Executive Board Meeting, February 25,
1952, box 4, folder 23, District of Columbia Federation of Women’s Clubs
Records, HSW; William Cawley, “Injury of Mrs. Julie McConnaughy,” March
26, 1952, box 28, folder “Civil Defense Training,” RG 56, Central Files.
16. “400 CD Volunteers Attend First of Three Indoctrination Talks,” WS, March 5,
17. “Adv. Council Joins GOC Recruit Drive” and “ADC Deputy for Operations
Explains Air Defense System,” The Aircraft Flash 1, no. 1 (October 1952): 3,
6–7; Directorate of Requirements, “General Operational Requirement for an
Aircraft Control and Warning System for Air Defense, 1952–1958,” December
27, 1951, box 1, folder “R&D 1–4SOR3(GOR-3),” RG 341, 2–3; Kenneth
Schaffel, The Emerging Shield: The Air Force and the Evolution of Continental Air
Defense 1945–1960 (Washington, D.C.: USAF, Office of Air Force History,
1991), 156–60.
18. Air Defense Command, “Organization—Air Bases and Units,” October 12,
1951, box 7, folder “Ground Observer Corps—General Folder 2,” Quick Files;
“ ‘Operation Skywatch’ Proves Valuable to Air Defense System in First 11
Weeks,” The Aircraft Flash, 5; William G. Key, “Air Defense of the United
States,” Pegasus (November 1952): 1–6, box 6, folder “Ground Observer Corps-
General Folder 1,” Quick Files.
19. “Plane Spotters Observe 125 in D.C. Test,” WP, June 24, 1951; The Aircraft
Flash, 4.
20. DCD, August 8, 1951, Office of Civil Defense Memoranda Orders,
Washingtoniana; “These Ground Observers, Taking Nothing for Granted,
Prepare for Any Emergency, Including an Atomic Bomb Attack,” Pittsburgh
Courier, Washington ed., September 1, 1951.
21. On the segregation of Washington, see Constance McLaughlin Green, The
Secret City: A History of Race Relations in the Nation’s Capital (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1967), 274–312; “Segregation in the District of
Columbia,” WS, October 19, 1952, reprinted in The Negro History Bulletin 16,
no. 4 (January 1953): 79–85. For details on theater “spotters,” see Shirlee
Taylor Haizlip, The Sweeter the Juice (New York: Simon and Schuster,
1994), 64.
22. William D. Cawley to McDonald, January 7, 1952, box 28, folder “Civil Defense
Ground Observer Corps,” RG 56, Central Files.
N 213

23. “D.C. Starts 24-Hour Skywatch, but Needs Men to Continue,” WP, July 15,
1952; “Civil Defense Class Hears Camalier Plea for More Workers,” WS,
June 11, 1952.
24. “Civil Defense Folds Its Lone Volunteer Air Spotter Post,” WP, June 28, 1953,
clipping in Samuel Spencer Papers, box 4, folder 95, HSW; DCD, “Office of
Civil Defense Organization,” attached to DCD Memorandum Order no. 8,
July 6, 1953, box 228, folder 4-100, RG 351, BOC, 10.
25. “ ‘Operation Skywatch’ Proves Valuable,” 5.
26. For more on Washington’s “invasion” by UFOs, see Dan Gilgoff, “Saucers Full
of Secrets,” Washington City Paper, December 14–20, 2001; Curtis Peebles,
Watch the Skies!: A Chronicle of the Flying Saucer Myth (Washington, D.C.:
Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994), 60–72; “Flying Objects near Washington
Spotted by Both Pilots and Radar,” July 22, 1952, p. 27, and “ ‘Objects’
Outstrip Jets over Capital,” NYT, July 28, 1952, p. 1; “8 on Screen; Planes Sight
Odd ‘Lights,’ ” WP, July 22, 1952, sec. A, p. 1; “ ‘Saucer’ Outran Jet, Pilot Says;
Air Force Puts Lid on Inquiry,” WP, July 28, 1952, sec. A, p. 1.
27. “Air Force Debunks ‘Saucers’ as Just ‘Natural Phenomena,’ ” NYT, July 30
1952, p. 1.
28. CIA, “Comments and Suggestions of UFO Panel,” January 21, 1953, 1,
accessed June 23, 2005 at ⬍⬎; Peebles, Watch, 80–7.
29. Quoted in Peebles, Watch, 84.
30. Assistant Director for Scientific Intelligence to Walter Bedell Smith, September
24, 1952, quoted in Peebles, Watch, 77–9. For more on the CIA’s interest in
UFOs, see Gerald K. Haines, “A Die-Hard Issue: CIA’s Role in the Study of
UFOs, 1947–90,” Studies in Intelligence 1, no. 1 (1997).
31. “Statement by the President on the Ground Observer Corps ‘Operation
Skywatch,’ ” July 12, 1952, PPP: Harry S. Truman, 1952, 474–5.
32. Edward J. Ruppelt, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects (Garden City,
N.Y.: Doubleday, 1956), 150–63 (the quotes are on 151 and 157, respectively).
33. “ ‘Sightings’ Increase Here,” NYT, July 30, 1952, p. 10.
34. Though many doubted the Air Force’s explanation, weather conditions did
produce inversions on July 19 and 26. A Civilian Aviation Administration study
of the sightings described eddies forming along the inversions’ edges, causing
bulges that reflected radar signals. Pushed by the wind, the bulges moved swiftly
off the sweep of the radarscopes. Furthermore, one of the F-94 pilots scrambled
to intercept the UFOs concluded that another pilot had mistaken light coming
from the ground as something in the air, a common error when flying at low alti-
tudes. See Peebles, Watch, 63–7; Ruppelt, Report, 169–70; Gilgoff, “Saucers.”
35. FCDA Daily News Digest no. 349, July 30, 1952, box 5, folder “Civil Defense
Campaign—General Folder 2,” Quick Files; “Fondahl Flays Slash in D.C.
Defense Fund,” Washington Times-Herald, July 6, 1952; Senate Committee,
Civil Defense, 76.
36. “Officials Report D.C. Civil Defense Stalled,” WP, September 12, 1952;
Engineer Commissioner memorandum, December 4, 1952, box 228, folder 4-
102, RG 351, BOC; DCD, Information Bulletin, September 29, 1952, Office of
Civil Defense Memoranda Orders, Washingtoniana.
37. “Public Apathy Still Cripples Defense Plans,” WS, June 8, 1951.
38. Robert Jay Lifton, “Imagining the Real: Beyond the Nuclear ‘End,’ ” in Lester
Grinspoon, ed., The Long Darkness: Psychological and Moral Perspectives on
Nuclear Winter (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1986), 79–99.
214 N

39. Lewis Mumford, “Social Effects,” Air Affairs (March 1947): 370–82.
40. Søren Kierkegaard, “The Sickness Unto Death,” in Robert Bretall, ed.,
A Kierkegaard Anthology (New York: Modern Library, n.d.), 344.
41. Paul Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the
Dawn of the Atomic Age (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), 293.
42. Daniel Lang, “A Reporter at Large,” The New Yorker, November 16, 1946, 84 ff.
43. Sylvia Eberhart, “How the American People Feel about the Atomic Bomb,” BAS
3, no. 6 (June 1947): 146–9, 168.
44. “Civil Defense Officials Complain of District’s Indifference to Needs,” WP, July
20, 1951.
45. Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan, “A Preliminary Report on
Public Attitudes toward Civil Defense,” box 144, folder “Agencies—FCDA,”
HST Papers, PSF, Subject File.
46. Millard Caldwell, “Civil Defense and National Security,” FCDA Press
Information no. 254, June 20, 1952, box 5, folder “Civil Defense Campaign—
General Folder 1,” Quick Files.
47. Barnet Beers to Robert Lovett, February 26, 1952, box 1088, folder “Michigan
Survey of Public Attitudes”; Caldwell to Lovett, box 1091, folder “Minutes of
Staff Meetings,” RG 330; “Summary Statement No. 4—The Federal Civil
Defense Program,” March 26, 1952, FRUS, 1952–1954, vol. II, part 1, 49.
48. Caldwell, “Civil Defense.”
49. “Statement by the President on Civil Defense,” January 12, 1952, PPP, 25–6.
50. Michael S. Sherry, In the Shadow of War: The United States since the 1930s
(New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1995), 125.
51. Christopher Bright, “Nike Defends Washington: Antiaircraft Missiles in Fairfax
County, Virginia, during the Cold War, 1954–1974,” Virginia Magazine of
History and Biography 105, no. 3 (Summer 1997): 317 ff.
52. Symington to Burton, June 20, 1950, box 2, folder 4, RG 51, Lawton Files, sub-
series 47, 3b; Symington address to the Joint Atomic Energy Committee,
December 4, 1950, box 15, folder “Federal Civil Defense Administration,” RG
304, Office File of W. Stuart Symington.
53. Caldwell, “Civil Defense.”
54. James Wadsworth to Symington, November 29, 1950, box 2, folder “Federal,
State, Local Relationships, A,” RG 304, Records Relating to Civil Defense,
55. “Message to the Congress,” April 24, 1952; “Statement by the President,” July
15, 1952, PPP, 289–90, 478 (the quote is on 290); Harry B. Yoshpe, Our
Missing Shield: The U.S. Civil Defense Program in Historical Perspective
(Washington, D.C.: FEMA, 1981), 16, 162–83.
56. “Let’s Just Hope No A-Bomb Hits D.C.,” WP, March 8, 1953, sec. B, pp. 1, 7;
Transcript of “District Round Table Program,” WWDC, May 10, 1953, Office
of Civil Defense Memoranda Orders, Washingtoniana.
57. FCDA Daily News Digest no. 303, May 23, 1952, box 5, folder “Civil
Campaign—General Folder 1,” Quick Files.
58. “Plane Spotting Post to Close in Maryland,” WP, November 3, 1952.
59. “Report of Security Survey,” May 18, 1955, box 1, folder “Front Royal,” RG 59,
60. “Record of Conversation between Earl G. Millison and Melvin N. Blum,” tran-
scribed by Edward Mike, undated, box 1, folder “Basic Data on Relocation Site,”
RG 59.
N 215

61. Permit, USDA Agricultural Research Administration, May 7, 1952, box 1, folder
“Dept. of Agriculture Permit,” RG 59.
62. “Record of Conversation.”
63. “Record of Conversation”; “Report of Security Survey.”
64. Table attached to Benjamin Taylor memorandum, February 27, 1961, box 13,
folder “Federal, State & Local Plans August 1961,” RG 396, OCDM National
HQ Central Files, 1958–61.
65. Tom Vanderbilt, Survival City: Adventures among the Ruins of Atomic America
(New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2002), 145.
66. USIA Announcement 56–40, February 1, 1956, box 5, folder “Vital Records
Program, 1955 & 1956,” RG 59; GSA Relocation Officer to Participants, July
13, 1956, box 116, folder “056-129 Part 7 (General),” RG 64; Hampden-
Sydney College historian to Christopher Bright, May 29, 2004. I’m grateful to
Mr. Bright for sharing this letter with me.
67. Andrew Goodpaster to the President of Sweet Briar College, January 30, 1956,
box 8, folder “Relocation Sites (1),” EAS.
68. USMC Commandant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, April 4, 1961, box 17, folder
“3180 (17 November 1960) Sec. 2,” RG 218, CDF 1960.
69. Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Benson to John Foster Dulles, June 7, 1954, box
1, folder “Dept. Of Agriculture Permit,” RG 59.
70. The agency was the Office of Emergency Planning. See William Rice to Justice
Chambers, November 5, 1963, box 6, folder “Special Facilities Branch,” RG
396, Classified P-95 Records, Accession 66A03.
71. Bureau of the Budget Bulletin 51-11, March 21, 1951, box 1, folder
“Background Information on Vital Records Program,” RG 59; “Emergency
Relocation Plan Being Devised for Agencies,” WP, April 27, 1951; Truman to
J. Edgar Hoover, September 25, 1951, box 28, folder “NSRB 7 of 10,” HST
Papers, WHCF, Confidential File.
72. Truman to Gorrie, June 11, 1952 and attached Gorrie memorandum, undated;
NSRB Bulletin 53-1 Draft, August 20, 1952, box 28, folder “NSRB 10 of 10,”
HST Papers, WHCF, Confidential File; Stowe to Maurice Staats, May 1, 1952,
box 13, folder “Correspondence, 1952 [2 of 3, May–August],” Papers of
David Stowe, HSTL; Gorrie to Truman, April 3, 1952, box 146, folder
“Agencies—NSRB,” HST Papers, PSF, Subject File; Executive Order 10346
and related materials, box 1671, folder “1591 (Feb. 1951–53),” HST Papers,
Official File.
73. Truman to Hoover, September 25, 1951; undated Gorrie memorandum; Gorrie
to Truman, April 3, 1952; NSRB Activities Fourth Quarter, July 15, 1952, box 1,
folder “National Security Resources Board,” HST Papers, Staff Member and
Office Files, David H. Stowe Files.

 T E W

1. Author interview with General Andrew J. Goodpaster (Ret.), July 15, 2003,
Washington, D.C.
2. Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President (New York: Simon and
Schuster, 1990), 34–7, 43–5, 220–1 (the quote is on 34).
3. For the “hidden-hand” Eisenhower, see Fred I. Greenstein, The Hidden-Hand
Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader (New York: Basic Books, 1982). For the “hands-
off” Eisenhower, see H.W. Brands, “The Age of Vulnerability: Eisenhower and
216 N

the National Insecurity State,” American Historical Review 94, no. 4 (October
1989): 963–89; Martha Smith-Norris, “The Eisenhower Administration and the
Nuclear Test Ban Talks, 1958–1960: Another Challenge to ‘Revisionism,’ ”
Diplomatic History 27, no. 4 (September 2003): 503–41.
4. Oral history interview with Arthur S. Flemming by Thomas Soapes, November
24, 1978, Washington, D.C., DDEL, 24–7; author interview with Goodpaster.
5. Robert R. Bowie and Richard H. Immerman, Waging Peace: How Eisenhower
Shaped an Enduring Cold War Strategy (New York: Oxford University Press,
1998), 4–5, 178–83 (the quote is on 179); author interview with Goodpaster.
6. Eisenhower as recorded by Maxwell Rabb, Minutes of the Interim Assembly,
June 18, 1955, box 5, folder “Special ‘Cabinet’ Meeting of June 17, 1955,”
Whitman File, Cabinet Series, 8.
7. Eisenhower to Henry Luce, July 6, 1960, box 21, folder “Luce, Harry,”
Whitman File, Name Series.
8. John Prados, Keepers of the Keys: A History of the National Security Council from
Truman to Bush (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1991), 65–7.
9. Ibid., 61–3, 77.
10. “Special Message to the Congress,” April 2, 1953, PPP: Dwight D. Eisenhower,
1953, 142–6.
11. Richard Rhodes, Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb (New York: Simon
and Schuster, 1995), 508–10.
12. As David Holloway writes: “It is, to some degree, a matter of taste whether one
calls [the Soviet bomb] a thermonuclear bomb or a boosted weapon.” Stalin
and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy, 1939–1956 (New Haven,
Conn.: Yale University Press, 1994), 303–9 (the quote is on 308).
13. Joseph E. McLean, “Project East River—Survival in the Atomic Age,” and
Roland Sawyer, “It’s Up to You, Mr. President,” BAS 9, no. 7 (September
1953): 244–52; Harry B. Yoshpe, Our Missing Shield: The U.S. Civil Defense
Program in Historical Perspective (Washington, D.C.: FEMA, 1981), 189–96.
14. NSC 159/4, September 25, 1953, FRUS, 1952–1954, vol. II, part 1, 475–89.
15. “Summary of Present Decentralization Policies,” undated, box 19, folder
“Space—Washington, D.C.,” RG 269, Central Files 1949-73; “Analysis of
Department of Defense Space Utilization at Seat of Government,” December
31, 1949 and December 31, 1952, boxes 554 and 555, folders “Space Reports
Washington Area March-December 1949” and “Space Reports Washington Area
1952,” RG 330, Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower, Personnel &
Reserve), Utilization of Space Reports, 1948–55.
16. Ralph E. Lapp, “Eight Years Later,” BAS 9, no. 7 (September 1953): 234–6;
“Architect Urges Key U.S. Depts. Be Moved,” WP, October 23, 1953.
17. Donald Monson, “City Planning in Project East River,” BAS 9, no. 7 (September
1953): 265–7.
18. “U.S. to Keep New Buildings from Downtown Washington,” WS, August 2,
1954; Rowland Hughes to John Taber, July 15, 1954, box 92, folder
“M7–2/3.5 FCDA Space,” RG 51, Subject Files of the Director, 1952–61.
19. Record of Actions by the NSC, January 29, 1954, box 1, folder “Record of
Actions Taken by NSC 1954 (1),” Whitman File, NSC Series; Robert Cutler to
Dr. Elliott, March 5, 1954; Flemming to Wilson, January 18, 1956, box 7, folder
“[Emergency Governmental Relocation Sites] [1954–58],” NSC Briefing Notes;
Flemming, Defense Mobilization Order draft, box 24, folder “Continental
Defense—Continuity of Government (1),” Disaster File.
N 217

20. “U.S. to Keep.”

21. Allan M. Winkler, Life under a Cloud: American Anxiety about the Atom
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1993; reprint, Urbana: University of
Illinois Press), 93–4.
22. Minutes, December 13, 1954, box 1, folder “Minutes of the 20th Meeting,” RG
328, National Capital Regional Planning Council, Minutes; ODM Statement,
February 18, 1955, box 7, folder “[Emergency Governmental Relocation Sites]
[1954–58],” NSC Briefing Notes.
23. Gordon Dean to Joseph Dodge, March 16, 1953; Strauss to Cole, undated, box
91, folder “Space Vol. I”; “The Inception, Design and Construction of the New
Headquarters Building at Germantown, Maryland,” March 22, 1957, box 91,
folder “Space Vol. II,” RG 326; S.Rept. 142, 84th Cong., 1st sess., U.S. Senate
Reports vol. 11815.
24. “New Headquarters Building for AEC,” minutes of October 27, 1954 meeting;
Lewis Strauss to the Commissioners, March 9, 1955; John A. Derry to R.W.
Cook, April 28, 1955, box 91, folder “Space Vol. I,” RG 326; Marie Hallion and
Clarence Hickey, “The Atomic Energy Commission and Its Site at
Germantown,” The Montgomery County Story 44, no. 3 (August 2001): 190.
25. “Inception,” 9–10; John Nolen, Jr., to Strauss, June 29, 1955, box 91, folder
“Space Vol. II,” RG 326.
26. J.L. Kelehan memorandum for the files, May 2, 1955, box 91, folder “Space
Vol. I,” RG 326.
27. Libby to Eisenhower, May 3, 1955, box 91, folder “Space Vol. I,” RG 326.
28. Hallion, “Atomic Energy,” 191–2.
29. Peter Grose, Gentleman Spy: The Life of Allen Dulles (Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
1994), 388, 417–18.
30. In its editorial “CIA Belongs in the District,” the Washington Daily News,
December 15, 1955, reported that Dulles publicly stated he wanted the CIA to
be as close as possible to the White House.
31. Minutes of Cabinet Meeting, December 10, 1954, box 4, folder “Cabinet
Meeting of December 10, 1954,” Whitman File, Cabinet Series, 5–6.
32. Grose, Gentleman Spy, 417–18.
33. CIA, “Public Comment on the New CIA Building, 1955–1956,” May 19, 1956,
1–8 (the Fisher quote is on 2); CIA, “Chronology of Local Government Actions
on the Langley Site, March 1955–March 1956,” May 28, 1956, box 25, folder
14, RG 263; NCPC, “Final Report on the Proposal to Locate the CIA
Headquarters at Langley, Virginia,” March 2, 1956, box A, folder 8, John
Nolen, Jr. Papers, HSW; “CIA Belongs in the District”; “CIA’s Langley Site
Opposed by NCPC,” WS, December 16, 1955; “Council Launches a Renewed
Effort to Get the CIA to Locate in District,” WP, December 24, 1955.
34. “Public Comment” (the Dulles quote is on 3); “Statement of the Regional
Council Members Relating to the Langley Proposal,” December 5, 1955, box 9,
folder 0-041, RG 351, BOC; “20 Minute Factor Vital in CIA Building Site,”
WS, May 11, 1955; Grose, Gentleman Spy, 418.
35. “Public Comment”; “Chronology of Local Government Actions.”
36. “Description of New Headquarters Building of CIA,” undated; “CIA Staff Starts
Move to Langley,” WS, September 21, 1961, clipping, box 25, folder 14, RG 263.
37. NSC, “Plan for Continuity of Essential Wartime Functions of the Executive
Branch,” January 25, 1954, box 6, folder “NSC 159/4 . . . (1),” NSC Policy
Paper Subseries, 2.
218 N

38. “Plan for Continuity,” 4.

39. NSC memorandum of discussion, January 29, 1954, box 5, folder “182nd
Meeting of NSC,” Whitman File, NSC Series; “Plan for Continuity,” Annex II.
40. Annex B to ODM Report, attached to “Progress Reports on Continental
Defense,” June 14, 1954, box 2, folder “Continental Defense, Study by Robert
C. Sprague (4),” White House Office, Office of the Special Assistant for National
Security Affairs, NSC Series, Subject Subseries, DDEL, 13.
41. NSC memorandum, January 29, 1954, 4.
42. Record of Actions by the NSC, January 28, 1954, box 1, folder “Record of
Actions . . . 1954(1),” Whitman File, NSC Series.
43. Richard P. Pollack, “The Mysterious Mountain,” The Progressive 40, no. 3
(March 1976): 12–6; Ted Gup, “Doomsday Hideaway,” Time 138, no. 23
(December 9, 1991): 26–9.
44. Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II, Seven Days in May (New York: Harper
and Row, 1962), 15, 115, 270, 322, 329.
45. The Departments were Agriculture, Commerce, HEW, HUD, State,
Transportation, Labor, Interior, and Treasury. The Federal agencies were the
Postal Service, FCC, Federal Reserve Board, Civil Service Commission, Veterans
Administration, Selective Service, and the Federal Power Commission. See
Pollack, “The Mysterious Mountain.”
46. Gup, “Doomsday Hideaway,” and “The Doomsday Blueprints,” Time 140, no. 6
(August 10, 1992): 32–9.
47. Gup, “Doomsday Hideaway” (the Fowler quote is on 28); Biography of Paul L.
Russell, January 1974, box 5, folder “Russell, Paul L.,” RG 70, Records of the
U.S. Bureau of Mines, Biographical Information Files.
48. “Report on the Relocation Operation Readiness of November 20, 1954,”
December 1, 1954, box 4, folder “Cabinet Meeting of December 3, 1954,”
Whitman File, Cabinet Series.
49. “Phonevision” was a type of subscription television service offered by Zenith to
allow movie-viewing in homes. A device unscrambled the broadcast signal, which
was delivered over a dedicated phone line or by air. It seems the ODM or the
Signal Corps used the technology to set up this early form of video-conferencing.
I’m grateful to Albert LaFrance for sharing these details about Phonevision
with me.
50. “Report on the Relocation.”
51. Ibid.
52. Untitled report, circa July 1956, box 1, folder “Current Matters,” EAS.
53. Eisenhower to Flemming, December 14, 1954, box 14, folder “Flemming,
Arthur S. 1953–55 (2),” Whitman File, Administration Series.
54. “Report on the Relocation,” 5, 10.

 P M P

1. The scenario is based upon these sources. Soviet bombers and bases: Steven J.
Zaloga, The Kremlin’s Nuclear Sword: The Rise and Fall of Russia’s Strategic
Nuclear Forces, 1945–2000 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press,
2002), 15–24; Christoph Bluth, Soviet Strategic Arms Policy before SALT
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 5–7, 174–5. DEW, Pinetree,
and CONAD: Kenneth Schaffel, The Emerging Shield: The Air Force and the
Evolution of Continental Air Defense 1945–1960 (Washington, D.C.: USAF,
N 219

Office of Air Force History, 1991), 169–71, 209–17, 238–9. D.C. warning
system: National Academy of Sciences’s Advisory Committee on Civil Defense,
“The Attack Warning System of the Metropolitan Washington Area,” October 1,
1955, box 796, folder “Civil Defense,” RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate,
Committee on the District of Columbia, file SEN 84A-FS, National Archives,
Washington, D.C., 1–9, 12–13. Background on Conelrad: FCC, “Emergency
Control of Electromagnetic Radiation Pursuant to Executive Order No. 10312,
Dated December 10, 1951,” box 699, folder “136-F CONELRAD,” HST
Papers, WHCF, Official File. Four-mile evacuation: Fondahl memorandum,
April 7, 1955, box 24, folder “Continental Defense—Continuity of Government
(2),” Disaster File. President’s evacuation: “White House Emergency Plan,”
August 3, 1955, box 19, folder “White House Emergency Plan—WHEP
[1955–58],” NSC Briefing Notes, 1.
2. Brigadier General R.E. Koon to Edward Beach, May 31, 1955, box 1, folder
“Emergency Procedures—Attack Warning 1955 (2),” EAS.
3. National Academy of Sciences, “Attack Warning System.”
4. “An Interview with Governor Val Peterson,” BAS 9, no. 7 (September 1953):
5. Fondahl to Gordon Young, March 13, 1951; Young to the Commissioners,
March 27, 1951, box 229, folder 4-116, RG 351, BOC.
6. NSC memorandum of discussion, March 4, 1955, box 6, folder “239th Meeting
of NSC,” Whitman File, NSC Series, 5.
7. Author interview with Henry Rapalus, July 10, 2003, Rockville, Md.
8. Fondahl memorandum, April 7, 1955, 5–7.
9. Government of the District of Columbia, Order no. 49, January 12, 1954, box
231, folder 4-154, RG 351, BOC.
10. NSC memorandum, March 4, 1955, 8.
11. Beach to the NSC Special Committee, April 8, 1955, box 1, folder “Emergency
Procedures—Attack Warning 1955(1),” EAS.
12. Bluth, Soviet Strategic, 7, 175 (the quote is on 175); Zaloga, Kremlin’s Nuclear,
17, 24, 31–5.
13. Donald P. Steury, ed., Intentions and Capabilities: Estimates on Soviet Strategic
Forces, 1950–1983 (Washington, D.C.: History Staff, Center for the Study of
Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, 1996), 5–7, 26–30.
14. Carlton Savage, “Continental Defense,” February 10, 1953, FRUS, 1952–54,
vol. II, part 1, 231. For more on continental defense policies between 1953 and
1955, see Richard M. Leighton, Strategy, Money, and the New Look, 1953–1956,
vol. III, History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, ed. Alfred Goldberg
(Washington, D.C.: Office of the Secretary of Defense, 2001), 114–39.
15. GSA, “Air Raid Drill Fact Sheet,” December 10, 1952 and “Information for Use
in Government-Wide Air Raid Drill,” December 12, 1952, box 28, folder “Civil
Defense Air Raid Drills,” RG 56, Central Files; “Office of Civil Defense
Organization,” attachment to DCD Order no. 8, July 6, 1953, box 228, folder
4-100, RG 351, BOC, 16.
16. GSA, “Information for Use,” attachment 1 and reports.
17. GSA, “Air Raid.”
18. DCD, Basic Indoctrination Manual, January 15, 1953, Vertical File, folder
“Civil Defense and Defense, Public Proclamations,” 50; DCD Order no. 3,
September 14, 1953, Office of Civil Defense Memoranda Orders,
220 N

19. J.J. Hurley to Victor H. Anderson, November 5, 1953; Hurley, “Attendance

List,” December 21, 1953, box 1, folder “U.S. Capitol-Senate Wing,” RG 396,
Records Relating to the U.S. Capitol, Senate, and House Protection Plans,
1951–54 (hereafter Capitol Records); Press Release, October 24, 1951; William
Jenner to David Lynn, July 7, 1953; Harold Goodwin to W.B. Bookwalter,
November 24, 1953; Bookwalter to Lynn, November 25, 1953; Gordon F.
Harrison to J. George Stewart, February 14, 1955, AOC.
20. Guy Oakes, The Imaginary War: Civil Defense and American Cold War Culture
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 84–104 (the first quote is on 96;
the second, 98). For more on the elaborate nature of civil defense exercises,
see Tracy C. Davis, “Between History and Event: Rehearsing Nuclear War
Survival,” The Drama Review 46, no. 4 (Winter 2002): 11–45.
21. “Summary of Meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on Armaments,” March 16,
1953; “Memorandum of Discussion at the 146th Meeting of the National Security
Council, Wednesday, May 27, 1953,” May 30, 1953, FRUS, 1952–1954, vol. II,
part 2, 1135–37, 1169–74.
22. “Mixup Mars Civil Defense Attack Test,” Washington Times-Herald, July 20,
1953, clipping in box 4, folder 96, Samuel Spencer Papers, HSW.
23. “Confusion over Civil Defense Pointed up in District Survey,” WS, March 17,
24. DCD, “Briefing on CPX Phase of Operation Alert,” June 14, 1954, Office of
Civil Defense Memoranda Orders, Washingtoniana.
25. Hornell Hart, “The Remedies versus the Menace,” BAS 10, no. 6 (June 1954):
26. Spencer to Eisenhower, March 16, 1954; Beach to Sherman Adams, April 16,
1954; Flemming to Beach, March 22, 1954, box 656, folder “133-B Civil
Defense (1),” White House Central Files, Official File, DDEL.
27. “Vast D.C. Area ‘Obliterated’ in Mock Raid” and “Civil Defense Spotty in
Nation-Wide Raid,” WP, June 15, 1954, sec. A, pp. 1, 10; “D.C. Ghost City as
Thousands Go to Shelters,” WS, June 14, 1954, clipping in box 5, folder 104,
Spencer Papers; Donald Menn to Mr. Kreer, June 15, 1954, box 4, folder “Vital
Records Program 1953 & 1954,” RG 59; Norman Hartman to Ira Willard, June
17, 1954, folder “Continuation of Regular Meeting, July 13, 1954,” Alexandria
28. Harry B. Yoshpe, Our Missing Shield: The U.S. Civil Defense Program in
Historical Perspective (Washington, D.C.: FEMA, 1981), 189–204.
29. Jeremy L. Korr, “History of the Capital Beltway in Montgomery County,” The
Montgomery County Story 43, no. 3 (August 2000): 140.
30. “Special Message to the Congress,” February 22, 1955, PPP: Dwight D.
Eisenhower, 1955, 276.
31. CDNS, part 3, March 1956, 644–5.
32. “5-4-3-2-1 and the Hydrogen Age Is upon Us,” Life 36, no. 15 (April 12,
1954): 24–33.
33. As reported in DCD memorandum to Commissioners, March 11, 1955, Office
of Civil Defense Memoranda Orders, Washingtoniana; Fondahl memorandum,
April 7, 1955.
34. “Civil Defense Study Shifts to Dispersal,” WP, August 31, 1953; Fondahl mem-
orandum, April 7, 1955, 5; Minutes of the Takoma Park Civil Defense
Committee, March 9, 1955, City of Takoma Park (Md). Records, Civil Defense
Materials, 1954–59, Historic Takoma Park Archives, 2.
N 221

35. Board of Commissioners, “Statement of Basic Civil Defense Policy in the Event
of Thermonuclear Attack on Metropolitan Washington,” April 28, 1955, box
229, folder 4-119, RG 351, BOC, 3.
36. John W. Finney, “Millions Seen in Peril, Lacking CD Program,” WP, May 20,
1955, sec. A, p. 3; “Teague Plans Reappraisal of CD Program,” WS, May 19,
1955, sec. A, p. 3, and “Civil Defense Chief Tangles with Teague on D.C.
Exodus,” Washington Daily News, May 25, 1955, clippings in box 7, folder 112,
Spencer Papers.
37. “Full City Evacuation Time Estimated at Two Hours,” WS, June 2, 1955; “4-
Hour D.C. Evacuation Difficult, House Told,” WS, June 7, 1955; “D.C.
Citizens’ Evacuation Called Senseless,” WP, June 5, 1955; “3 to 4 Hours Set for
City Evacuation in Air Raid,” WP, June 10, 1955, clippings in box 7, folder 112,
Spencer Papers.
38. NSC memorandum of discussion, March 4, 1955, 7–10.
39. NSC memorandum of discussion, April 8, 1955, box 6, folder “244th Meeting
of NSC,” Whitman File, NSC Series, 2–5; Fondahl memorandum, April 7, 1955.
40. Motion Picture, “Operation Alert, Pentagon, Washington, D.C., 6/15/1955,”
RG 111.
41. “Report and Recommendations on Operation Alert, 1955,” July 5, 1955, box 5,
folder “Cabinet Meeting of July 1, 1955,” Whitman File, Cabinet Series.
42. “Report on Operation Alert 1955,” January 4, 1956, box 2, folder “Operation
Alert 1955 Standards,” RG 396, Operations and Exercise File, 1953–61.
43. “Atom Exodus . . . 15,000 to ‘Flee’ Washington in M-Day Test,” Newsweek
XLV, no. 24 (June 13, 1955): 28–9; Oakes, Imaginary War, 86–9; press
statement, May 27, 1955, box 16, folder “Civil Defense (1),” CF.
44. White House Staff Briefing Sheet for box 3, folder “OPAL 1955(4),” EAS; White
House Locator List, June 15, 1955, box 16, folder “Civil Defense (1),” CF; “When
Ike ‘Fled’ Washington,” U.S. News & World Report 38, no. 25 (June 24, 1955): 66.
45. White House Staff Briefing Sheet; Goodpaster to Whitman, June 27, 1955, box
3, folder “OPAL 1955(4)”; undated map of Camp David, box 3, folder “OPAL
1955(1),” EAS.
46. For details of the Interim Assembly, see “Report and Recommendations,”
Attachment D. For photographs of OPAL 55, see “When Ike ‘Fled’ ”; Time LXV,
no. 26 (June 27, 1955): 17; and Oakes, Imaginary War, 89–91.
47. Memorandum, June 17, 1955, box 10, folder “Operation Alert June 1955,” RG
396, Declassified P-95 Records, Accession 64A927.
48. “Ike Declares ‘Martial Law,’ ” Washington Daily News, June 16, 1955, clipping
in box 7, folder 112, Spencer Papers; Oakes, Imaginary War, 88–9.
49. The “recourse” quote is from “The President’s News Conference of July 6, 1955,”
PPP, 672. All other quotes are Maxwell Rabb’s rendering of the President’s words
in the Minutes of the Interim Assembly, June 18, 1955, box 5, folder “Special
‘Cabinet’ Meeting of June 17, 1955,” Whitman File, Cabinet Series.
50. “Operation Alert Sidelights,” “15,000 Evacuate City In Mock H-Bombing,”
WS, June 15, 1955; “Operation Alert Is Called Good Test of Real Thing,” WS,
June 16, 1955, sec. A, p. 4; “Ike, 15,000 Quit Capital in Civil Defense Drill; 60
Cities Undergo Tests,” WP, June 16, 1955, sec. A, p. 1; “Instructions to RM
Participants”; “Basic Information Concerning State Department Relocation Site
for Operation Alert 1955,” box 3, folder “Operation Alert, 1955,” RG 59, 5.
51. “Operations [sic] Alert—1955 Summary of Exercise Problems,” box 10, folder
“Operation Alert June 1955”; George McConnaughey to Flemming, June 29,
222 N

1955, box 10, folder “Relocation—Operation Alert—Report,” RG 396,

Declassified P-95 Records, Accession 64A927.
52. “Report and Recommendations,” Attachments D and E.
53. “15,000 U.S. Workers Quit City Today in A-Raid Test,” WP, June 15, 1955, sec. A, p. 1;
“Ike, 15,000”; “15,000 Evacuate City.”
54. “Operation Alert Sidelights”; “So 11th and F Was ‘Hit’ by an H-Bomb: Ho,
Hum,” WS, June 16, 1955.
55. “Atom Exodus”; “Ike, 15,000”; “So 11th and F Was ‘Hit’ ”; “Mock Martial
Law Ordered for Nation,” WS, June 16, 1955, clipping in box 7, folder 112,
Spencer Papers.
56. “Report and Recommendations,” Attachments B, C, and E; Loeber to
Alexander, June 28, 1955, box 10, folder “Operation Alert—Staff Comments,”
RG 396, Declassified P-95 Records, Accession 64A927.
57. “Officials Call Alert Test a Success for Weak Points that It Revealed,” WP, June
26, 1955, clipping in box 7, folder 113, Spencer Papers.
58. Willard Bascom, “Operation Alert, June 15, 16, 1955: Criticisms and
Recommendations for the Future,” box 259, folder “NAS—Civil Defense,”
Papers of Merle A. Tuve, LOC, Manuscript Division.
59. “Fired CD Official Will Keep ‘Fighting,’ ” Washington Daily News, June 16,
1955; “District’s CD Deputy Fired after Criticism,” WS, June 16, 1955,
clippings in box 7, folder 112, Spencer Papers; “Underhill Fired after Rapping
Drill,” WP, June 16, 1955, sec. A, p. 1; Newsweek, “So Much to Be Done,” XLV,
no. 26 (June 27, 1955): 21. The figures on the warden corps come from Henry
Backenheimer to the Federation of Citizens Associations, January 1955, box 1,
folder 4, DCCA.
60. Untitled report, circa July 1956, box 1, folder “Current Matters,” EAS.

 C C
1. Quoted in Thomas J. Kerr, Civil Defense in the U.S.: Bandaid for a Holocaust?
(Boulder, Co.: Westview Press, 1983), 63.
2. Franz Kafka, “The Burrow,” in The Great Wall of China: Stories and Reflections,
trans. Willa and Edwin Muir (New York: Schocken Books, 1970), 60.
3. Beach to Lambie, September 23, 1955, box 19, folder “Beach, Edward L.
(Comdr.),” Papers of James M. Lambie, Jr., DDEL; Ewing to the President,
September 23, 1955, box 656, folder “133-B Civil Defense (2),” White House
Central Files, Official File, DDEL; Beach to the NSC Special Committee, September
15, 1955, box 1, folder “Emergency Procedures—Attack Warning 1955(4),” EAS.
4. Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President (New York: Simon and
Schuster, 1990), 394–405.
5. Beach to Flemming, May 18, 1955, box 1, folder “Emergency Procedures—
Attack Warning 1955(1),” EAS; “Apathy Will Be to Blame if 96,000 Die in
Attack,” WS, June 23, 1955, sec. A, p. 8; “White House Won’t Get Out Till
D.C. Gives the Word,” Washington Daily News, October 18, 1955, clipping in
box 7, folder 116, Samuel Spencer Papers, HSW.
6. Staff Notes no. 4, August 1, 1956, box 24, White House Office, Staff Research
Group Records, 1956–61, DDEL, 4; Directive S-3020.1, May 17, 1955, 8, and
“Joint Emergency Evacuation Plan,” October 24, 1955, both in Department of
Defense, Wartime Readiness Plans Book, box 36, folder “Wartime Readiness
Plans Book,” RG 330.
N 223

7. National Academy of Sciences’s Advisory Committee on Civil Defense, “The

Attack Warning System of the Metropolitan Washington Area,” October 1,
1955, box 796, folder “Civil Defense,” RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate,
Committee on the District of Columbia, file SEN 84A-FS, National Archives,
Washington, D.C., 23–4; DCD Bulletin no. 9, May 11, 1955, box 392, folder
“Civil Defense Correspondence, Memos 1950–55,” WBOT, Series XVIII, 2.
8. DCD, “District of Columbia Interim Voluntary Evacuation Plan,” January 24,
1956, box 27, folder “Civil Defense 1953,” RG 56, Central Files; “Evacuation
Plan Called Suicidal,” WS, June 27, 1956.
9. Department of Defense Instruction C-3020.9, January 12, 1956, box 2, folder
“EP-Attack Warning 1956–1957(1),” EAS; ODM memorandum, December 20,
1955, quoted in USIA Announcement 56–40, February 1, 1956, box 5, folder
“Vital Records Program, 1955 & 1956,” RG 59; National Security Agency,
“Emergency Evacuation of the Washington Area,” June 25, 1956, personal
papers of Henry Rapalus, Rockville, Md.
10. CDNS, part 2, March 6, 1956, 516–20; Haldore Hanson, “If the Enemy Did
Attack . . .,” The New Republic 134, no. 9 (February 27, 1956): 15;
“We’re Sitting Ducks,” Washington Daily News, March 7, 1956, p. 3.
11. Bascom to Tuve, April 4 and 19, 1956, box 262, folder “Civil Defense”; Tuve to
Holifield, January 17, 1956, box 259, folder “Civil Defense,” Papers of Merle A.
Tuve, LOC, Manuscript Division.
12. Fondahl to Peterson, January 18, 1956; Harold Aitken to Fondahl, February 3,
1956, box 262, folder “Civil Defense,” Tuve Papers.
13. AP photograph, January 5, 1958, Washington Star Photograph Collection,
14. CDNS, part 4, April 17, 1956, 1179; memoranda of discussions at the 288th
Meeting of the NSC, June 15, 1956 (written June 18) and 306th Meeting,
December 20, 1956 (written Dec. 21), FRUS, 1955–1957 XIX, 326, 379–83.
15. Memorandum of 288th Meeting, 326.
16. Kerr, Civil Defense, 95, 106–12 (the quote is on 108); David L. Snead, The
Gaither Committee, Eisenhower, and the Cold War (Columbus: The Ohio State
University Press, 1999), 91.
17. NSC memorandum of discussion, August 18, 1956, box 8, folder “293rd &
294th Meeting of the NSC,” Whitman File, NSC Series, 7–8.
18. “Memorandum of a Conference with the President,” November 6, 1957, FRUS,
1955–1957, vol. XIX, 620–4; “The President’s News Conference of March 14,
1956,” PPP: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1956, 309–10.
19. Laura McEnaney, Civil Defense Begins at Home: Militarization Meets Everyday
Life in the Fifties (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000), 58–62;
Kerr, Civil Defense, 112–13.
20. Harry B. Yoshpe, Our Missing Shield: The U.S. Civil Defense Program in
Historical Perspective (Washington, D.C.: FEMA, 1981), 251.
21. Kerr, Civil Defense, 113–15.
22. “Course in Disaster Protection for S.E.,” The Courier S.E. Washington Weekly
Newspaper, December 16, 1955; DCD Quarterly Report, April 16, 1956, box
229, folder 4-1056, RG 351, BOC; “There’s No Place to Hide If an H-Bomb
Blasts D.C.,” WP, December 16, 1956; DCD, Annual Report for 1956,
January 4, 1957, Vertical Files, Washingtoniana, 1.
23. DCD, Quarterly Reports, July 10 and October 7, 1957, box 229, folder 4-1056,
RG 351, BOC.
224 N

24. DCD, Quarterly Report, October 7, 1957; “30 D.C. Skywatchers Honored by
Civil Defense,” WP, December 12, 1957, sec. C, p. 20. Barbara Luchs and her
husband Wallace also built the District’s first home fallout shelter. See chapter 10.
25. Eileen S. McGuckian, Rockville: Portrait of a City (Franklin, Tenn.: Hillsboro
Press, 2001), 125–57.
26. George Q. Flynn, Lewis B. Hershey, Mr. Selective Service (Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 1985), 304–9 (the quote is 309); oral history interview with
Brigadier General Paul H. Griffith by Jerry N. Hess, March 9, 1971, Washington,
D.C., HSTL; FCDA Press Release 267, undated, box 5, folder “Civil Defense
Campaign—General folder 2,” HST Papers, Files of Spencer R. Quick, HSTL;
Minutes of the Civil Defense Advisory Committee Meeting, January 5 and March 1,
1956, box 8, folder “Civil Defense,” Papers of Paul H. Griffith, HSTL.
27. “ ‘Get Acquainted’ with the New Program in Montgomery County’s Civil
Defense,” Maryland News, undated clipping, MCHS.
28. FCDA, “The Staff College, Olney, Maryland,” box 28, folder “Civil Defense
Training,” RG 56, Central Files.
29. Montgomery County Office of Civil Defense Press Release, April 30, 1956, box 8,
folder “Civil Defense,” Griffith Papers.
30. “CD Movie Made in Olney,” Montgomery County Sentinel, January 19, 1956,
clipping, MCHS; Charles H. Tower to Eisenhower, May 29, 1956, box 100,
folder “3-C-14 Ground Observer Corps (2),” White House Central Files,
Official File, DDEL; “Civil Defense Annual Report 1955,” attached to Minutes
of the Civil Defense Advisory Committee Meeting, March 1, 1956, 3.
31. “Cabin John CD Squad Protects County Area,” Montgomery County Sentinel,
March 15, 1956, clipping, MCHS.
32. Rapalus memorandum; “City of Rockville—Civil Defense Staff Members,”
Rapalus papers; author interview with Henry Rapalus, July 10, 2003,
Rockville, Md.
33. “National Civil Defense Program Initiated in Montgomery County,” Maryland
News, September 7, 1956, clipping, MCHS; Montgomery County Office of Civil
Defense Press Release, March 23, 1956; Your Survival Montgomery County
Maryland; G. Roy Hartwig to Paul Griffith, August 16, 1956, box 8, folder
“Civil Defense,” Griffith Papers.
34. “Proposed Areas of Study for the Civil Defense Elements of the City of
Rockville—1955–56,” box 1, folder “Civil Defense,” RG 17, Alexander Greene
Papers, MCA.
35. Your Survival Montgomery County; “Organization and Operation Plan for
Rockville Civil Defense,” Rapalus papers.
36. DCD, Quarterly Reports dated October 7, 1957 and September 30, 1958, box
229, folder 4-1056, RG 351, BOC.
37. Montgomery County Civic Federation, “Suggestions for a More Effective Civil
Defense Program in Montgomery County,” February 11, 1958, box 1, folder 9,
Office of County Manager, Series I, Subject Files, MCA.
38. Worthington Thompson to the Montgomery County Council, June 2, 1959,
box 1, folder 9, Office of County Manager, Series I, Subject Files, MCA.
39. Defense Mobilization Order I-19, January 9, 1956, box 91, folder “Space
Vol. II,” RG 326; Flemming to Charles Wilson, January 18, 1956, box 7, folder
“[Emergency Government Relocation Sites][1954–58],” NSC Briefing Notes.
40. Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, Buildings of the District of Columbia
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 235–7; GSA, “Federal Buildings
N 225

Construction Program, Washington and Vicinity 1956–1965,” January 1956,

box 29, folder “Current Public Building Program,” RG 328, Office Files of John F.
Nolen, Jr.; GSA, “Federal Space Problem in Washington, D.C. and Its Solution,”
August 1959, box 29, folder “Federal Buildings Construction Program,” John S.
Bragdon Records as Special Assistant to the President, DDEL.
41. Goodpaster memorandum, April 9, 1958, box 21, folder “Office of Defense
Mobilization (4),” SSAS.
42. NSC 5802/1, February 19, 1958 (revised May 15, 1958), box 23, folder
“Continental Defense, 1957–61 (1),” Disaster File, 7.
43. Department of the Navy, Bureau of Yards and Docks, “Feasibility Study on
Location of Department of Defense Buildings,” November 19, 1958;
Bartholomew to Robert Merriam, December 11, 1958, box 6, folder
“Government Buildings,” Robert E. Merriam Records, DDEL; Merriam to the
President, May 26, 1959, box 41, folder “Staff Notes May 1959(2),” Whitman
File, Diary Series.
44. Goodpaster memorandum, May 28, 1959, box 41, folder “Staff Notes May
1959 (1),” Whitman File, Diary Series.
45. AEC Announcement 363, September 21, 1955; Harbridge House, Inc., “Abstract
of a Survey of Employee Disposition toward the Relocation of Headquarters of the
Atomic Energy Commission,” April 3, 1957; “Notes on Germantown
Headquarters Plans Briefing,” box 91, folder “Space Vol. II,” RG 326.
46. Astin to George T. Moore, July 14, 1955, box 1, folder “Reasons for Move to
Gaithersburg”; James P. Collins, “The Decision to Move the National Bureau of
Standards,” box 5, folder “Jim Collins M.S.,” RG 167.
47. Sinclair Weeks to Spessard Holland, May 29, 1956, box 5, folder “1956”; “New
Home for National Bureau of Standards,” box 5, folder “1964”; Astin to the
Secretary of Commerce, February 2, 1961, box 1, folder “Reasons for Move to
Gaithersburg”; “New Home for National Bureau of Standards,” box 5, folder
“1964,” RG 167.
48. Management Planning Division, “Summary of the Responses on the Move to
Gaithersburg,” February 11, 1957, box 5, folder “1957,” RG 167.
49. James B. Banks et al., “Civil Rights in Washington, D.C., 1948–1958: Status and
Trends in Housing,” in Ben D. Segal et al., eds., Civil Rights in the Nation’s
Capital: A Report on a Decade of Progress (New York: National Association of
Intergroup Relations Officials, 1959), 41–2. For more on how federal home
ownership programs spurred white flight, see Peter Dreier et al., Place Matters:
Metropolitics for the Twenty-First Century (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas,
2001), 107–10.
50. Haynes Johnson, “Integration Outside District Has a Smooth Beginning,” WS,
April 15, 1964; Robert E. Baker, “Suburbs Opening for Negroes,” WP, October
17, 1963.
51. Johnson, “Integration.”
52. “Race Problem in Nation’s Capital,” U.S. News & World Report 43, no. 13
(September 27, 1957): 35; Washington Board of Trade News, August 1957;
Robert A. Harper and Frank O. Ahnert, Introduction to Metropolitan Washington
(Washington, D.C.: Association of American Geographers, 1968), 15–8.
53. Bruce Bliven, “Black Skin & White Marble,” New Republic 119, no. 25
(December 20, 1948): 13–15.
54. Constance McLaughlin Green, The Secret City: A History of Race Relations in the
Nation’s Capital (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967), 286, 296–8
226 N

(the quote is on 286); George B. Nesbitt, “Non-White Residential Dispersion

and Desegregation in the District of Columbia,” Journal of Negro Education 25,
no. 1 (Winter 1956): 12.
55. The Brown v. Board of Education decision didn’t apply to the District of
Columbia. In voiding the “separate but equal” principle, the Court cited the 14th
Amendment’s requirement that no state could deny equal protection of the laws.
The Court simultaneously reviewed Bolling v. Sharpe, a suit filed by black parents
of children enrolled in the District’s public schools. Citing the 5th Amendment’s
due process clause, the Court also ruled the District’s segregation to be unconsti-
tutional. For more on the desegregation of the District’s schools, see the articles
in Washington History 16, no. 2 (Fall/Winter 2004/05), a special issue com-
memorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Brown and Bolling decisions.
56. Samuel Spencer to Eisenhower, May 26 and June 7, 1954, box 282, folder “71-U
Segregation in District of Columbia,” White House Central Files, Official File,
DDEL; Walter Goodman, “The Capital Keeps Calm,” New Republic 131, no. 17
(October 25, 1954): 10–13; Carl F. Hansen, Miracle of Social Adjustment:
Desegregation in The Washington, D.C. Schools (New York: Anti-Defamation
League of B’Nai Brith, 1957), 45–50; Eugene Davidson, “An Analysis of
Desegregation in the District of Columbia,” box A226, folder “Desegregation:
Schools Branch Action—District of Columbia 1954–55,” NAACP Records,
Group II, LOC, Manuscript Division.
57. Hansen, Miracle, 50–9; U.S. News, “Race Problem,” 38.
58. U.S. News, “Race Problem,” 35.
59. Hansen, Miracle, 59–60.
60. David Lawrence, “Washington’s Worry,” U.S. News & World Report 46, no. 14
(April 6, 1959): 120.
61. Green, Secret City, 323.
62. GSA, “Basic Principles and Assumptions Governing Preparation of the Long-
Range Plan for the Security of the Nation’s Capital,” June 1950, box 48, folder
“545-15-85 ‘Security for the Nation’s Capital,’ ” RG 328, Planning Files, 19.
63. Nicholas Dagen Bloom, Suburban Alchemy: 1960s New Towns and the
Transformation of the American Dream (Columbus: The Ohio State University
Press, 2001), 17–32.
64. Joshua Olsen, Better Places, Better Lives: A Biography of James Rouse
(Washington, D.C.: Urban Land Institute, 2003), 136–94; Bloom, Suburban
Alchemy, 33–47 (the quote is on 47).
65. William Maher to John Derry, February 27, 1956, box 91, folder “Space Vol. II,”
RG 326.

 L   B

1. Rabb to Flemming, July 31, 1956, 9, attached to Record of Action, July 26,
1956, box 7, folder “Cabinet Meeting of July 25, 1956,” Whitman File, Cabinet
2. The following sources were used to describe the warning system and the
“surprise alert”: Kenneth Schaffel, The Emerging Shield: The Air Force and the
Evolution of Continental Air Defense 1945–1960 (Washington, D.C.: USAF,
Office of Air Force History, 1991), 238; “Report on the New FCDA Attack
Warning Plan,” November 8, 1956, box 2, folder “25b Staff Study”; Position
Description, Civil Defense Officer (Attack Warning), August 6, 1956, box 3,
N 227

folder “Position Description CD Officer”; “Back-Up Data for Holifield

Committee,” March 6, 1956, box 3, folder “23 Holifield Committee”; Leslie
Kullenberg to Attack Warning Division, January 28, 1957, box 3, folder “30
Memos—Inter-Office”; Harold Aitken to Val Peterson, September 13, 1955,
box 3, folder “33 NAWAC,” RG 396, Warning File and Communications
Subject File, 1951–59 (hereafter Warning File); Aitken to all personnel, undated,
and Kullenberg, “Report on Surprise Alert,” December 21, 1955, box 2, folder
“Surprise Alert Dec. 20, 1955,” RG 396, Operations and Exercise File,
3. Note by the Executive Secretary to the NSC, March 5, 1955, box 15, folder
“NSC 5513/1—Attack Warning,” NSC Policy Paper Subseries.
4. Beach to the NSC Special Committee, March 19, 1956, box 2, folder “EP—
Attack Warning 1956–57 (2),” EAS.
5. Peterson to James Lay, June 29, 1956, box 15, folder “NSC 5513/1—Attack
Warning,” NSC Policy Papers Subseries.
6. The Maryland counties of Calvert, St. Marys, and Charles also received warning
information from the new center. Portions of Anne Arundel and Howard
Counties, Md., lay within 20 miles of the zero milestone marker; however, they
weren’t included as part of the new warning area. Washington Warning Area
Control Point Operating Procedures, effective July 1, 1958, box 1, folder
“Classified Location SOP,” RG 396, Warning File, 1.
7. Peterson to Lay, June 29, 1956, and August 15, 1956, box 15, folder “NSC
5513/1—Attack Warning,” NSC Policy Papers Subseries.
8. Peterson to Lay, “Actions by FCDA to Implement the Washington Area Warning
Center,” August 28, 1956, box 15, folder “NSC 5513/1—Attack Warning,”
NSC Policy Papers Subseries; memorandum of discussion, September 28, 1956,
box 8, folder “298th Meeting of NSC,” Whitman File, NSC Series.
9. Edwards to Director, Attack Warning Division, October 19, 1956, March 8,
1957, and October 6, 1957, box 1, folder “Washington Warning Center Weekly
Reports,” RG 396, Warning File.
10. Dee to all personnel, July 24, 1957, box 1, folder “National-SOP”; Edwards to
Dee, February 21, 1958, box 1, folder “Classified Location Special and Periodic
Reports—1958,” RG 396, Warning File.
11. DCD, “Standard Operating Procedure for Attack Warning Division,” February
1957, Office of Civil Defense Memoranda Orders, Washingtoniana, 2.
12. Barnet Beers, Status Report no. 3, March 14, 1958, folder “Regular Meeting,
March 25, 1958,” and E.G. Heatwole to the Alexandria City Council, January 7,
1958, folder “Regular Meeting February 11, 1958,” Alexandria Records.
13. Edwards to Roderick, October 4, 1957, box 1, folder “Washington Warning
Center Weekly Reports,” RG 396, Warning File; Flow Chart, Appendix 2 to
Washington Warning Area Control Point.
14. “Proposed Changes to the Chart ‘Attack Warning Channels for Civilians,’ ”
January 30, 1957, box 2, folder “EP Attack Warning 1956–57(4),” EAS; “Basic
Rules for Issuance of Air Raid Warning,” March 29, 1957, box 2, folder “16
Conelrad”; “FCDA Emergency Personnel Alerting Plan,” October 22, 1957,
box 1, folder “National—SOP,” RG 396, Warning File.
15. Edwards to Director, Attack Warning Division, April 29, 1957, box 1, folder
“Washington Warning Center Weekly Reports,” RG 396, Warning File.
16. “Washington Warning Area Control Point Public Action Signal Determination
Charts,” Appendix 4, September 26, 1958, box 1, folder “Classified Location
228 N

SOP”; Beers to Assistant Administrator Communications, June 19, 1958, box 1,

folder “Classified Location—Correspondence,” RG 396, Warning File.
17. Washington Warning Area Control Point, Appendix 2; Beers to Assistant
Administrator Communications, June 19, 1958; “Air Attack Warning System
Expanded in Capital Area,” OCDM Press Release, August 28, 1958; Harry
Roderick, “Malfunctioning of Siren Circuit,” December 2, 1958, folder
“Washington, D.C. Special Reports,” RG 396, Warning File; M.L. Reese to the
Montgomery County Council, December 10, 1959, box 1, folder 9, Series I,
Subject File, MCA.
18. DCD Quarterly Report, September 30, 1958, box 229, folder 4-1056, RG 351,
19. Memorandum dictated July 19, 1956, box 9, folder “July 1956,” RG 40,
Records of Undersecretary of Commerce Walter Williams.
20. Goodpaster memorandum, May 19, 1955; Harold Botkin to Flemming, June 8,
1955; Goodpaster to Lt. Colonel George McNally, July 6, 1955; McNally to
Goodpaster, August 10, 1955; Goodpaster to McNally, August 13, 1955, box 2,
folder “EO-Communications (1)”; McNally to Chief, Army Communications
Service Division, September 13, 1955; diagrams of the Red Line circuits, box 2,
folder “EP-Communications (5),” EAS.
21. Flemming to Franklin G. Floete, April 27, 1956; Floete to Flemming, May 16,
1956, box 116, folder “056-129 Part 2 Essential Records,” RG 64; Lewis Strauss
to Flemming, May 15, 1956, box 172, folder “Security 16 Emergency Action
Papers,” RG 326, Office of the Secretary General Correspondence, 1951–58.
22. ODM, Alert Documents nos. 2 and 3, in “Key Documents for Operation Alert
1956,” box 116, folder “056-129 Part 7 (General)”; copies of telegrams received
at GSA relocation site, July 20, 1956, box 116, folder “056-129 part 7C,” RG 64.
23. “6-Day Air Raid Test Opens Today,” WP, July 20, 1956, sec. A, pp. 1–2;
“U.S. Cities ‘Razed’ in Atomic Drill” and “ ‘Business-as-Usual’ Attitude Greets
A-Drill,” WP, July 21, 1956, sec. A, pp. 1, 8; “Operation Alert 1956,” report
prepared for the FCDA by the Stanford Research Institute, March 1, 1956, box
2, binder “Operation Alert 1956,” RG 396, Operations and Exercise File,
1953–61; “General Instructions for Operation Alert 1956,” April 2, 1956, box
7, folder “Cabinet Meeting of April 6, 1956,” Whitman File, Cabinet Series.
24. ODM, “Operation Alert 1956 Final News Roundup,” July 25, 1956, box 10,
folder “Operation Alert 1956 General,” RG 396, Declassified P-95 Records,
Accession 64A927; ODM, “Briefing for Operation Alert 1956 (Revised),” box
3, folder “OPAL 1955 (2)”; Flemming to Eisenhower, July 21, 1956, folder “OPAL
1956 (4),” EAS; “Agencies to Be Served by Mail Messenger” and “Motor
Transport Service for Operation Alert 1956,” June 29, 1956, box 116, folder
“056-129 Part 7,” RG 64.
25. GSA Relocation Officer to participants, July 13, 1956, box 116, folder “056-129
Part 7 (General)”; Code Word List for OPAL 1956, folder “056-129 Part 7C,”
RG 64.
26. GSA Relocation Officer to Wayne Grover, August 13, 1956, box 116, folder
“056-129 Part 7B”; “Facts Bearing on Success of Communications System in the
Exercise,” undated, box 116, folder “056-129 Part 7C”; GSA News, “Special
Edition Operation Alert 1956”; Federal Register, July 22 and 25, 1956, box 116,
folder “056-129 Part 7 (General),” RG 64.
27. GSA News, “Special Edition”; BAS 9, no. 7 (September 1953): 267; exercise
news copy, July 22, 1956, box 116, folder “056-129 Part 7C”; Wayne Grover to
N 229

the Director, Office of Management, May 10, 1956, folder “056-129 Part 2
Essential Records,” RG 64.
28. Deputy Archivist to Deputy Commissioner, Public Buildings Service, August 29,
1957, box 2, folder “Part II,” RG 64, Office of the Archivist, Wayne C. Grover
Day File.
29. “Operation Alert 1956,” July 24, 1956, box 7, folder “Cabinet Meeting of July
25, 1956,” Whitman File, Cabinet Series; Rabb to Flemming, July 31, 1956, 5;
Department of Defense, “Final Evaluation Report for Operation Alert 1956,”
undated, box 3, folder “Final Evaluation Report for OPAL 1956 (1),” EAS; Report
by the Joint Strategic Plans Committee to the JCS, July 24, 1956, box 35, folder
“CCS354.2 U.S. (7-20-56) Sec. 2,” RG 218, Geographic File, 1954–56.
30. Eisenhower diary entry, January 23, 1956, box 12, folder “January 1956 Diary,”
Whitman File, Diary Series.
31. Rabb to Flemming, July 31, 1956, 2; Flemming to Heads of Executive
Departments, April 2, 1956, box 7, folder “Cabinet Meeting of April 6, 1956,”
Whitman File, Cabinet Series, 3; untitled report, circa July 1956, box 1, folder
“Current Matters,” EAS, 4.
32. Rabb to Flemming, July 31, 1956, 6–10. See also Guy Oakes, The Imaginary
War: Civil Defense and American Cold War Culture (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1994), 150–1.
33. Beach to Adams, July 30, 1956, box 3, folder “OPAL 1956(4)”; Adams to Gray,
March 6, 1957, box 2, folder “EP—Emergency Action Papers (1),” EAS; Author
telephone interview with Roemer McPhee, August 25, 2003.
34. ODM, Mobilization Plan C, June 1, 1957, box 5, folder “Mobilization Plans
(4),” White House Office, Office of the Staff Secretary, Arthur Minnich Series,
DDEL; Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization, Federal Emergency Plan
D-Minus, June 1959, box 2, folder “Fed. Emergency Plans (1),” EAS.
35. The two quoted items come from the NSC memorandum of discussion, July 12,
1957, box 9, folder “330th Meeting of NSC,” Whitman File, NSC Series, 1, 4.
The other information comes from “Operation Alert, 1957” and attachments,
January 28, 1957, box 8, folder “Cabinet Meeting of February 1, 1957”;
“Operation Alert, 1957” and attachments, May 20, 1957, box 9, folder
“Cabinet Meeting of May 24, 1957”; “Exercise Record of Action,” June 21,
1957; “Briefing Guides for Operation Alert,” box 9, folder “Cabinet Meeting of
June 21, 1957,” Whitman File, Cabinet Series; teletype, July 15, 1957, box 5,
folder “OPAL 1957 (bomb damage assessment) (3),” EAS; Secretary of Defense
to the Secretaries of the Military Departments et al., May 8, 1957, box 3, folder
“Department of Defense,” RG 396, Operations and Exercise Files, 1953–61.
36. Eisenhower to Koop, March 21, 1955; Koop to Eisenhower, April 5, 1955, box
1, folder “Emergency Designees (1),” EAS. In 1958, Eisenhower asked other
prominent private citizens to head up some of the emergency agencies.
37. Evan Aurand to White House Emergency Staff, July 3, 1957, box 4, folder “OPAL
1957(5)”; teletype, July 17, 1957, box 5, folder “OPAL 1957 (bomb damage
assessment) (3)”; memorandum for Goodpaster, July 19, 1957, box 4, folder
“OPAL 1957(7),” EAS; Bradley Patterson to Goodpaster, June 13, 1957, box 9,
folder “Cabinet Meeting of June 17, 1957,” Whitman File, Cabinet Series.
38. Teletype, July 15, 1957, box 4, folder “OPAL 1957 (messages) (3)”; teletype, July
19, 1957, box 5, folder “OPAL 1957 (bomb damage assessment) (1),” EAS.
39. The quotes come from L. Arthur Minnich’s paraphrasing of the President. See
Minutes of Cabinet Meeting, July 19, 1957, box 9, folder “Special Cabinet
230 N

Meeting on Operation Alert—July 19, 1957,” Whitman File, Cabinet Series.

Unsigned notes on White House stationery suggest the President’s actual words
were harsher than those recorded. According to these notes, the President said,
“Martial law—tell people what to do and shoot them if they don’t—have to do
it.” Also: “Won’t be any lawyers—most of em [sic] will be in big cities and be
killed.” Box 4, folder “Operation Alert 1957 (7),” EAS.
40. Author interview with General Andrew J. Goodpaster (Ret.), July 15, 2003,
Washington, D.C.
41. Eisenhower to the Naval Aide, December 13, 1957, box 1, folder “EAP—
Correspondence (4)”; withdrawal sheet, box 1, folder “Emergency Action
Documents—Copies of Documents Ready for President’s Approval”; Goodpaster
to ODM Director, December 4, 1957, box 2, folder “EP-Emergency Action
Papers (1),” EAS; Cabinet Record of Action, June 23, 1958, box 11, folder
“Cabinet Meeting of June 13, 1958” and Cabinet Action Status Report,
October 3, 1958, box 12, folder “Cabinet Meeting of October 9, 1958,”
Whitman File, Cabinet Series; Robert Cutler to Gray, June 9, 1958, box 10,
folder “Emergency Action Documents [1958–59],” White House Office, NSC
Staff Papers, Executive Secretary’s Subject File Series, DDEL.
42. “Exercise Document Operation Alert 1958,” undated, box 11, folder “Cabinet
Meeting of July 7, 1958,” Whitman File, Cabinet Series.
43. ODM Telecommunications Area, “Operation Alert 1958—Evacuation and
Capability Estimate,” June 13, 1958, box 12, folder “Evaluations OPAL 1958
Reports,” RG 396, Declassified P-95 Records, Accession 64A927.
44. “Suggested Report to the Cabinet,” September 29, 1958, box 12, folder
“Cabinet Meeting of September 26, 1958,” 3; “Briefing of President,” July 7,
1958, box 11, folder “Cabinet Meeting of July 7, 1958”; “Report by Operation
Alert Seminar Groups on Operational Readiness, Security, and Emergency
Information,” undated, box 12, folder “Cabinet Meeting of October 9, 1958,”
Whitman File, Cabinet Series.
45. Goodpaster memorandum, August 7, 1958, box 21, folder “Office of Civil and
Defense Mobilization (1),” SSAS; Eisenhower to Hoegh, August 25, 1958;
Robert Gray to Eisenhower, September 24, 1958, box 12, folder “Cabinet
Meeting of September 26, 1958,” Whitman File, Cabinet Series.
46. S. Rept. 1717, 85th Cong., 2nd sess., June 17, 1958, Senate Reports vol.
47. The following departments or agencies were asked to assign cadres to Mount
Weather: Agriculture, Budget, Commerce, GSA, HEW, Housing and Home
Finance Agency, Interior, Labor, Postal Service, Treasury, and Veterans
Administration. In addition, the AEC, Small Business Administration, Defense,
Federal Reserve Board, Justice, and State were asked to assign liaisons to Mount
Weather. See Robert Gray to Goodpaster, August 6, 1958, box 2, folder
“Emergency Procedures—EAPS (2),” EAS; Hoegh to Heads of Departments
and Agencies, September 2, 1958, box 12, folder “Federal Emergency
Relocation Plan [April 1959–September 1960](2),” SSAS.
48. Cabinet Record of Action, September 29, 1958, box 7, folder “Cabinet Meeting
of June 21, 1956,” Whitman File, Cabinet Series.
49. “Discussion of Operation Alert 1958,” October 9, 1958; Cabinet Record of
Action, October 25, 1958; “Approved Recommendations Growing Out
of Operation Alert, 1958,” October 31, 1958, box 12, folder “Cabinet Meeting
of October 9, 1958,” Whitman File, Cabinet Series. In addition to the Regional
N 231

Arc, the ODM created the Federal Executive Reserve, “composed of leading
persons from the industrial, educational, and financial worlds” who “represent a
substantial standby capability for augmenting the executive resources of
Government.” These individuals were given security clearances. In the spring of
1959, five teams of “reservists” received tours of Mount Weather. The State
Department brought in 45 people; and the Interior Department, 27. Even the
Housing and Home Finance Agency had a team. Hoegh to Goodpaster, June 18,
1959, box 21, folder “Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization (2),” SSAS.
50. Lewis Berry to Director of Administration, September 23, 1960, box 11, folder
“Shelters and Vulnerability Reductions 2-1,” RG 396, Selected OCDM Central
Files, 1959–60 (hereafter Central Files).
51. William Durkee to Buford Ellington, August 23, 1965, box 1, folder “Federal
Regional Centers,” RG 396, Assistant Director’s Subject Files, 1961–65.
52. Harry B. Yoshpe, Our Missing Shield: The U.S. Civil Defense Program in
Historical Perspective (Washington, D.C.: FEMA, 1981), 538; “A New Civil
Defense Center,” WS, August 6, 1971; “Civil Defense Stands by in Underground
Olney Center,” The Sentinel, October 21, 1971, clippings, MCHS.
53. “Review of Federal Relocation Arc,” November 5, 1958, box 3, untitled binder,
RG 396, Declassified P-95 Records, Accession 66A-03; Record of Action,
Director’s Staff Meeting, December 11, 1958, box 1, folder “Committees
Director’s Staff (A-G),” RG 396, OCDM National HQ Central Files, 1958–61
(hereafter National HQ Files).
54. “Relocation Site Activities, Calendar Year, 1959,” February 29, 1960, box 1,
folder “Confidential—Use of Buildings”; Joe Walstrom memorandum, May 16,
1961, box 4, folder “Site Hardening,” RG 59; Dean Poblens to Jack Scott,
November 23, 1959, box 4, folder “High Point Classified Location”; John J.
O’Neill to Eugene J. Quindlen, September 14, 1959, box 4, folder “Federal,
State & Local Plans”; “Summary of Emergency Readiness Status of Federal
Agency Headquarters,” December 31, 1960, box 21, folder “Agency Readiness
Summaries as of 12-31-60,” RG 396, National HQ Files.
55. Hoegh, September 2, 1958.
56. Hoegh to Goodpaster, September 23, 1959, box 5, folder “White House Gen.
Goodpaster,” RG 396, National HQ Files.
57. “Requirement for Special Resource Data at the Classified Location,” March 24,
1960, box 5, folder “Federal, State & Local Plans 1-8,” RG 396, Central Files;
OEP, “Interim Standing Operating Procedures for Emergency Use of the
Classified Location,” September 14, 1962; Robert Phillips to J.M. Chambers,
November 29, 1962, box 6, folder “Special Facilities Branch,” RG 396,
Declassified P-95 Records, Accession 66A03.
58. William Y. Elliott to Mr. Henderson, April 10, 1959, box 1, folder “Background
Information on V.R. Program,” RG 59.
59. In March 1960, the JCS ordered the establishment of a Department of Defense
Damage Assessment Center at Site R. See Memoranda for the Chief, Defense
Atomic Support Agency, March 21, 1960, and January 13, 1961, box 27, folders
“3181 (17 March 1959) Gp. 3” and “Gp. 4,” RG 218, CDF 1959.
60. Walstrom, “Emergency Relocation: The Alternate Joint Communications
Center,” July 22, 1960, box 1, folder “Background Information on
V.R. Program,” RG 59; “Briefing Sheet for the Chairman, JCS,” April 14, 1959,
box 27, “folder 3181 (4 March 1959)”; Memorandum for the Secretary of
Defense, September 17, 1959, box 27, folder “3181 (4 September 1959)”;
232 N

Memorandum for the Secretary of the Army, May 13, 1959, box 27, folder
“3181 (17 March 1959)”; Arleigh Burke to the Secretary of Defense, September
21, 1959, box 22, folder “3180 (23 March 1959),” RG 218, CDF 1959.
61. Gates to the Chairman of the JCS, October 5, 1960; Chairman of the JCS to
Gates, September 9, 1960; “Concept for the Use of the Alternate Joint
Communications Center,” Briefing Sheet for the Chairman of the JCS,
December 28, 1960, box 17, folder “3180 (9 May 1960),” RG 218, CDF 1960;
Walstrom memorandum, July 22, 1960.
62. Staff Notes no. 4, August 1, 1956, box 24, White House Office, Staff Research
Group Records, 1956–61, DDEL, 3; J. Patrick Coyne to Robert Cutler, January
3, 1958; “Readiness Status of Selected Relocation Sites,” December 30, 1957,
box 7, folder “[Emergency Governmental Relocation Sites][1954–58],” NSC
Briefing Notes; White House Army Signal Agency to AEC et al., July 29, 1958,
box 2, folder “Emergency Procedures—EAPs (2)”; Aurand to Goodpaster,
October 17, 1960, box 2, folder “Emergency Procedure—General (5),” EAS;
Bill Gulley with Mary Ellen Reese, Breaking Cover (New York: Simon and
Schuster, 1980), 146–50.
63. Ted Gup, “The Ultimate Congressional Hideaway,” WP Sunday Magazine, May
31, 1992; Thomas Mallon, “Mr. Smith Goes Underground,” American
Heritage 51, no. 5 (September 2000): 60–8; Stephen I. Schwartz, ed., Atomic
Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons since 1940
(Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 1998), 214.
64. Mallon, “Mr. Smith”; Mary Louise Ramsey to J. George Stewart, April 21, 1955,
AOC; Goodpaster memorandum, May 1955, box 8, folder “White House
Relocation Site (4),” EAS; Flemming to Sherman Adams, June 30, 1955, box
16, folder “Civil Defense (1),” CF.
65. As reported in “Notes for Mr. Richardson,” January 20, 1960, box 5, folder
“Federal, State & Local Plans,” RG 396, Central Files.
66. T. Perry Lippitt to Val Peterson, February 16, 1954; “Emergency Plan Supreme
Court Building,” box 2, folder “Supreme Court CD Organization,” RG 396,
Records Relating to the U.S. Capitol, Senate, and House Protection Plans,
1951–54; James Browning to Earl Warren, November 19, 1959; John Davis to
Warren, April 29, 1966; Warren to Davis, April 29, 1966, box 414, folder
“Court-Subject File-Marshal Civil Defense,” Papers of Earl Warren, LOC,
Manuscript Division.

 T S H B P . . .

1. Quoted in Circular Memorandum to Regional and Division Engineers, Bureau
of Public Roads, November 29, 1961, box 2, folder “Civil Defense Misc.,”
Papers of Leonard J. Dow, LOC, Manuscript Division.
2. “Inaugural Address,” January 20, 1961, PPP: John F. Kennedy, 1961, 1.
3. David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest (New York: Fawcett Crest Books,
1972), 50–81.
4. For Rostow’s statement, see Kenneth D. Rose, One Nation Underground: The
Fallout Shelter in American Culture (New York: New York University Press,
2001), 36.
5. Goodpaster memorandum, January 25, 1961, box 1, folder “Memos—
re Change of Administration (4),” Whitman File, Presidential Transition Series.
For Eisenhower’s predelegation for the use of nuclear weapons, see William Burr,
N 233

ed., “First Declassification of Eisenhower’s Instructions to Commanders

Predelegating Nuclear Weapons Use, 1959–1960,” National Security Archive
Electronic Briefing Book No. 45, May 18, 2001, accessed June 23, 2005 at
6. “Kennedy Complains to Truman on Lack of Civil Defense Plan,” Washington
Times-Herald, October 10, 1949, p. 1; Kennedy to Truman, October 8, 1949,
box 1, folder “C.D., General,” RG 304, Records Relating to Civil Defense,
7. Douglass Cater, “The Politics of Civil Defense,” The Reporter 25, no. 4
(September 14, 1961): 32–4; Thomas J. Kerr, Civil Defense in the U.S.: Bandaid
for a Holocaust? (Boulder, Co.: Westview Press, 1983), 116–19.
8. Kerr, Civil, 118–19; “Special Message to the Congress,” May 25, 1961 and
“Radio and Television Report to the American People,” July 25, 1961, PPP,
402, 533–40.
9. For the first strike planning, see Fred Kaplan, “JFK’s First-Strike Plan,” The
Atlantic Monthly 288, no. 3 (October 2001): 81–6; William Burr, ed., “First
Strike Options and the Berlin Crisis, September 1961,” National Security
Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 56, September 25, 2001, accessed June
23, 2005 at ⬍⬎. For
an overview of U.S. nuclear strategy, see David Alan Rosenberg, “Constraining
Overkill: Contending Approaches to Nuclear Strategy, 1955–1965,” Seminar 9
(1994), Colloquium on Contemporary History, Naval Historical Center,
accessed June 23, 2005 at ⬍
html⬎. For public fears, see Walter Karp, “When Bunkers Last in the Backyard
Bloom’d,” American Heritage 31, no. 2 (February/March 1980): 84–93; Allan M.
Winkler, Life under a Cloud: American Anxiety about the Atom (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1993; reprint, Urbana: University of Illinois Press), 127–30.
10. Kerr, Civil Defense, 105, 120–6; Harry B. Yoshpe, Our Missing Shield: The U.S.
Civil Defense Program in Historical Perspective (Washington, D.C.: FEMA,
1981), 346–50; Wallace Bowers memorandum, September 15, 1961, AOC.
11. Senate Committee on Government Operations, Civil Defense in the District of
Columbia, Hearing before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation of the
Committee on Government Operations, 86th Cong., 1st sess., April 27, 1959.
12. DCD, Bulletin no. 8, Series 1959, Office of Civil Defense Memoranda Orders,
Washingtoniana; Robert McLaughlin to Holifield, February 19, 1960, box 228,
folder 4-100, RG 351, BOC; Donald Smith, “Oh, So That’s Whatever
Happened to Civil Defense,” WS Sunday Magazine, January 10, 1971.
13. DCD Newsletters for October 1961, June–July 1962, and October 1962, AOC;
Kathleen Perkins to Wilbur Lawyer, July 26, 1960, box 228, folder 4-104, RG
351, BOC; Stephanie Brown, “In the Event of a National Emergency: Marjorie
Merriweather Post’s Fallout Shelters,” paper delivered at “Washington Builds for
War: Defense, the Homefront, and Security in the Capital Region,” Sixth
Biennial Symposium on the Historic Development of Metropolitan Washington,
D.C., March 5, 2005, Washington, D.C.
14. DCD, “Instructions to Shelter Occupants for Emergency Use of Shelters,”
Pamphlet File, folder “Civil Defense,” HSW; H.C. Fellows to the President of the
Federation of Citizens Associations, December 14, 1961, box 3, folder 77, FCA.
15. Benjamin Taylor to Marvin Blumberg, May 12, 1961, box 19, folder “Shelters &
Vulnerability Reduction May–June 1961,” RG 396, OCDM National HQ
Central Files, 1958–61 (hereafter National HQ Files).
234 N

16. “Communications Center Here to Be Underground,” November 1, 1962, clip-

ping, MCHS.
17. Editorial, Fairfax City Times, November 8, 1961, 4.
18. Rose, One Nation, 78–112; Winkler, Life Under, 129–31; Kerr, Civil Defense,
122–9; Yoshpe, Our Missing, 15–6; Inez Robb, “Please—No Civil Defense Yak,”
Raleigh (N.C.) Times, September 3, 1962, clipping in box 2, folder “Civil
Defense Notes,” Dow Papers.
19. DCD Newsletter, May 1962, AOC; “CD Signal’s Automatic Evacuation
Meaning Is Dropped,” WP, May 4, 1962, sec. A, p. 8.
20. Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali, “One Hell of a Gamble”: Khrushchev, Castro,
and Kennedy, 1958–1964 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997), 188–9, 217, 242.
21. Fursenko, One Hell, 188–9 (the quote is on 189); “Chronologies of the Crisis,”
compiled for Laurence Chang and Peter Kornbluh, eds., The Cuban Missile
Crisis, 1962: A National Security Archive Documents Reader (New York: The
New Press, 1992), accessed June 23, 2005 at the National Security Archive
22. “Chronologies of the Crisis”; Ernest R. May and Philip D. Zelikow, eds., The
Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis
(Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1997),
45–76, 189–203.
23. Furensko, One Hell, 242–3; “Chronologies of the Crisis”; “Radio and Television
Report to the American People,” October 22, 1962, PPP: John F. Kennedy, 1962,
24. “Civil Defense Queries Rise in D.C. Area,” WP, October 24, 1962, sec. A, p. 4;
“103 Shelters Licensed, Five Are Ready for Use,” WP, October 26, 1962, sec. A,
p. 14; “Shelter Sites Grow, 103 Certified here,” WP, October 27, 1962, sec. A, p. 1.
25. DCD Newsletter, November 1962, AOC.
26. “Stores in Capital Find No Panic,” NYT, October 26, 1962, p. 18.
27. May, Kennedy Tapes, 338–40; McCone memorandum, October 23, 1962,
FRUS, 1961–1963, vol. XI, 173–4.
28. McDermott to Shepard, October 24, 1962, box 2, folder “Emergency
Planning,” RG 396, Declassified P-95 Records, Accession 64A927.
29. May, Kennedy Tapes, 347–55.
30. McDermott to Leo Bourassa, October 27, 1962, box 3, folder “Special Facilities
Branch,” RG 396, Declassified P-95 Records, Accession 66A03; Alice L. George,
Awaiting Armageddon: How Americans Faced the Cuban Missile Crisis (Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003), 48–51.
31. McDermott to Sen. Spessard Holland and attachment, September 28, 1962;
“Concept of Operations for the White House Emergency Information
Program,” October 4, 1962; McDermott to Edward R. Murrow, October 17,
1962; Robert Philips to J.M. Chambers, October 22, 1962; Chambers to
Salinger, October 25, 1962; Phillips to McDermott, October 25, 1962; “Recent
Developments White House Emergency Information Program,” April 26, 1963,
box 4, folder “White House Information 1961–62,” RG 396, Declassified P-95
Records, Accession 64A927. For the Kennedy administration’s handling of the
media during the crisis, see George, Awaiting, 87–114.
32. “Chronologies of the Crisis.” By October 26, 24 of the SS-4s were operational.
See Furensko, One Hell, 266.
33. Aurand to Wilton B. Persons, November 11, 1960, box 2, folder “Turnover—
Memos for Records,” Whitman File, Presidential Transition Series; “Helicopter
N 235

Annex to White House Emergency Plan,” box 9, folder “White House

Emergency Plan (1),” EAS; “Department of Defense Joint Emergency
Evacuation plan (Short title: JEEP),” Appendix 1 to Annex E, December 23,
1961, accessed June 23, 2005 at Albert LaFrance, “A Secret Landscape: The Cold
War Infrastructure of the Nation’s Capital Region” ⬍⬎.
34. Memorandum, October 26, 1962, box 414, folder “Court—Subject File—
Marshal Civil Defense,” Papers of Earl Warren, LOC, Manuscript Division;
George, Awaiting, 51–2; Ed Cray, Chief Justice: A Biography of Earl Warren
(New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997), 366–7, 399–400.
35. DCD, “Report on Operation Alert 1959,” May 18, 1959, box 6, folder “III
(Reports)—Evaluations—Phase 1,” RG 396, Operations and Exercise Files,
1953–61, 5; DCD Newsletter, June–July 1962, AOC; “Just How Ready Is
Washington for a Nuclear Attack?” WS, November 11, 1962, sec. C, p. 1.
36. “Chronologies of the Crisis”; Fursenko, One Hell, 271–3. For transcripts of
White House meetings on October 27, see May, Kennedy Tapes, 492–629.
37. Kevin Sullivan, “40 Years after Missile Crisis, Players Swap Stories in Cuba,” WP,
October 13, 2002, sec. A, p. 28.
38. Robert L. O’Connell, “The Cuban Missile Crisis: Second Holocaust,” in Robert
Cowley, ed., What Ifs? of American History: Eminent Historians Imagine What
Might Have Been (New York: Berkley Books, 2003), 251–72.
39. For more on the whereabouts of legislators during the crisis, see Robert C.
Albright, “Politics Brings Varied Views of Cuban Actions,” WP, October 27,
1962, sec. A, p. 2; “Capital Praises Kennedy’s Stand,” NYT, October 29, 1962;
Richard L. Lyons and Julius Duscha, “Politicians See No Clear Picture of Cuba
Action’s Effect on Vote,” WP, October 30, 1962, sec. A, p. 1. For evacuation
plans for Cabinet officials, see William Y. Elliott to Gordon Gray, October 14,
1960; Elliott to the Secretary of State, March 19, 1959, box 1, folder
“Background Information on V.R. Program,” RG 59, 8.
40. McDermott to Hodges, November 9, 1962, box 6, folder “Special Facilities
Branch,” RG 396, Declassified P-95 Records, Accession 66A03.
41. George, Awaiting, 52; E.L. Keenan, “Comments on Draft Emergency
Operations Order,” October 2, 1959, box 6, folder “Federal, State & Local
Plans,” RG 396, National HQ Files; Hubert R. Gallagher to Assistant Director
for Plans and Operations, March 7, 1960, box 5, folder “Federal, State & Local
Plans 1–8,” RG 396, Selected OCDM Central Files, 1959–60; G. Lyle Belsley,
“Administrative Readiness Deficiencies,” November 6, 1962, box 2, folder
“Emergency Planning,” RG 396, Declassified P-95 Records, Accession
42. Unsigned memorandum for files, October 16, 1962, box 4, folder “White
House Information 1961–62,” RG 396, Declassified P-95 Records, Accession
43. Ralph Thompson to the General Counsel, January 25, 1961, box 17, folder
“Relationships I-K,” RG 396, National HQ Files, 2; Charles Primoff memoran-
dum, April 10, 1970, box 40, folder “Government Preparedness 1969–72,” RG
396, Subject Files.
44. In 1962, the Soviet Union had 56 ICBMs, 104 SLBMs, and 263
strategic nuclear warheads deliverable by bombers. Steven J. Zaloga,
The Kremlin’s Nuclear Sword: The Rise and Fall of Russia’s Strategic Nuclear
Forces, 1945–2000 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press,
2002), 248.
236 N

1. Hampden-Sydney College historian to Christopher Bright, May 29, 2004.
2. Henry H. Ford to Mr. Crockett, February 14, 1963, box 1, folder “Front
Royal”; W. Trone to Mr. Porter, November 18, 1963, box 2, folder “EP8 Vital
Records Program—Discontinuance,” RG 59.
3. Robert Y. Phillips to Edward McDermott, October 10, 1963, box 6, folder
“Special Facilities Branch,” RG 396, Declassified P-95 Records, Accession
66A03; Stephen I. Schwartz, ed., Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of
U.S. Nuclear Weapons since 1940 (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution
Press, 1998), 213.
4. A. Weatherbee to Bernard Boutin, May 24, 1963, and Edward R. Murrow to
Edward McDermott, August 30, 1963, box 6, folder “Special Facilities Branch,”
RG 396, Declassified P-95 Records, Accession 66A03; author phone interview
with the Archivist of the Airlie Foundation, June 30, 2005.
5. Bill Gulley with Mary Ellen Reese, Breaking Cover (New York: Simon and
Schuster, 1980), 35–8. For more on the Kennedy fallout shelter, see Tom
Vanderbilt, Survival City: Adventures among the Ruins of Atomic America
(New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2002), 141–4.
6. Albert LaFrance, “A Secret Landscape: The Cold War Infrastructure of the
Nation’s Capital Region,” accessed June 28, 2005 at ⬍http://coldwar-⬎.
7. Edward Zuckerman, The Day after World War III (New York: Viking, 1984),
62–6; “America’s Doomsday Project,” U.S. News & World Report 107, no. 6
(August 7, 1989): 26–8. Zuckerman’s book remains the best full-length study of
continuity of government preparations during the 1970s. For the Reagan admin-
istration’s continuity preparations, see James Mann, “The Armageddon Plan,”
The Atlantic Monthly 293, no. 2 (March 2004): 71–4.
8. DCD, “Government of the District of Columbia, Community Shelter Plan Study
for Washington, D.C.,” vol. I, June 1965, Washingtoniana; DCD, “Shelter
Provision Information,” February 6, 1963, AOC.
9. Northern Virginia Regional Planning Commission, “Community Shelter
Program,” September 1968, Fairfax City Regional Public Library, Virginia Room.
10. J. George Stewart to Lyndon Johnson and John W. McCormack, July 24, 1963;
R. Stuart Hummel to T. Perry Lippitt, July 13, 1964; “Capitol Hill Emergency
Self-Protection Plan,” July 1, 1968, AOC, 2, 16.
11. “Civil Defense Office Is Still with Us, Changed to Meet Peaceful Disaster,”
Montgomery Sentinel, April 6, 1967, clipping, MCHS.
12. Donald Smith, “Oh, So That’s Whatever Happened to Civil Defense,” WS
Sunday Magazine, January 10, 1971.
13. Paul Hodge, “Civil Defense Studies Plan for Evacuation of Northern Virginia,”
WP, January 20, 1977; Barbara Halliday, “ ‘The Ultimate Disaster’: In Nuclear
Attack, Alexandrians Would Head for the Hills,” Fairfax Journal, June 30, 1978,
sec. A, p. 2.
14. Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Clarksburg Master
Plan and Hyattstown Special Study Area, June 1994, 1, 20–1.
15. In Cities of Knowledge: Cold War Science and the Search for the Next Silicon
Valley (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005), Margaret Pugh
O’Mara explains how Cold War priorities and politics gave rise to high-tech,
N 237

university-centered communities or areas in California’s Silicon Valley, Atlanta,

and Philadelphia.
16. Paul E. Ceruzzi, “Operations Research, Military Contracting, and the Growth of
Tysons Corner, Virginia, 1945–1970,” paper delivered at “Washington Builds
for War: Defense, the Homefront, and Security in the Capital Region,” Sixth
Biennial Symposium on the Historic Development of Metropolitan Washington,
D.C., March 5, 2005, College Park, Md.
17. Kermit Parsons, “Shaping the Regional City: 1950–1990: The Plans of Tracy
Augur and Clarence Stein for Dispersing Federal Workers from Washington,
D.C.,” Proceedings of the Third National Conference on American Planning
History (Hilliard, Ohio: The Society for American City and Regional Planning
History, 1990): 689.
18. Ibid., 684.
19. See chapters 6 and 9.
20. Schwartz, Atomic Audit, 213.
21. Vanderbilt, Survival City, 139. Throughout his book, Vanderbilt provides fasci-
nating descriptions and analysis of missile silos, atomic test sites, and other “ruins
of the atomic age.”
22. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, The
9/11 Report (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2004), 61; Dan Balz and Bob
Woodward, “America’s Chaotic Road to War,” WP, January 27, 2002, sec. A,
p. 1; “America under Attack,” Camera Works, September 13, 2001 and “Was
Washington Prepared?,” news graphic, WP, September 17, 2001, accessed
September 20, 2001 at ⬍⬎.
23. Laura Meckler, “Emergency Plan Gets Full Tryout,” Tulsa (Kans.) World,
September 12, 2001, 7.
24. Paul Bedard, “Things that Go Bump in the Night at Cheney’s Cave,” White
House Weekly, December 4, 2001.
25. The 9/11 Report, 61, 465–6; Howard Kurtz, “ ‘Armageddon’ Plan Was Put into
Action on 9/11, Clarke Says,” WP, April 7, 2004, sec. A, p. 29.
26. Zuckerman, The Day After, 219–24.
27. Barton Gellman and Susan Schmidt, “Shadow Government Is at Work in
Secret,” WP, March 1, 2002, sec. A, p. 1.
28. Steve Twomey et al., “District Unprepared to Cope with Attack,” WP,
September 17, 2001, sec. A, p. 1; Balz, “America’s Chaotic”; Dana Milbank,
“Cheney Authorized Shooting Down Planes,” WP, June 18, 2004, sec. A, p. 1.
29. The Continuity of Government Commission, Preserving Our Institutions: The
Continuity of Congress (May 2003), 14.
30. Carol D. Leonnig and Steve Twomey, “D.C. Developing New Emergency Plans in
Response to Last Week’s Breakdown,” WP, September 18, 2001, sec. B, p. 1;
“D.C.’s Trouble in the House,” WP, September 25, 2001, sec. A, p. 22; Spencer S.
Hsu, “Sept. 11 Chaos Prompts Exit Plan,” WP, August 17, 2002, sec. A,
p. 1; “Preparedness: D.C. Emergency Management Agency,” online discussion
July 18, 2002, accessed August 17, 2002 at WP ⬍http://washingtonpost. com⬎.
31. David Snyder, “Ready for This?,” WP, September 18, 2005, sec. B, p. 1; Sari
Horwitz and Christian Davenport, “Terrorism Could Hurl D.C. Area into
Turmoil,” WP, September 11, 2005, sec. A, p. 1.
32. DEMA, Family Emergency Preparedness Guide, evacuation map, accessed July 3,
2005 at ⬍⬎; “Terrorism Could Hurl.”
238 N

33. Government of the District of Columbia, District Response Plan, The Basic Plan,
7–9. For an example of the lack of precise planning links, see Emergency Support
Function #1: Transportation, 10 and 15, April 4, 2002, accessed July 3, 2005 at
34. Continuity Commission, Preserving, ii.
35. “NSC 5802/1,” February 19, 1958 (revised May 15, 1958), box 23, folder
“Continental Defense, 1957–61(1),” Disaster File, 9.
36. See chapter 7.

9/11 attacks, 186–7 support of Alert America, 79

transfer of atomic weapons, 156
Acheson, Dean, 47–9, 66 work on White House shelter, 70, 72
Agriculture Department atomic weapons
Beltsville, Md., research station, 35, delivery systems for, 9–10
62, 95 effects described, 9
continuity of, 95, 106, 160, 183 AT&T, 65, 154, 156, 182
Front Royal, Va., station, 94, 183 see also Bell System
participation in exercises, 109, 128, 157 attack warning
Air Force signals see under Warning Red;
Air Defense Command, 82, 86 Warning Yellow
Air Defense Control Centers, 112–14 systems, 7–8, 85, 111–13, 149–50, 154
Air Defense Forces, 114, 149–50, 154 time of, 6, 10, 47, 99, 105, 121–3,
Continental Air Defense Command 142, 173, 175
(CONAD), 111, 149 see also Distant Early Warning Line;
Filter Centers, 82, 86 Washington, D.C., attack
need for ground observers, 82 warning system of
Operation Skywatch, 83–6 Augur, Tracy
Alert America see under Federal Civil advocacy of dispersal, 28–30, 60
Defense Administration background of, 28–9
Alternate Joint Communications Center dispersal plans for metropolitan
see Site R Washington, D.C., 32–43,
American Heritage Foundation, 79 104–5, 147
Anacostia job with Office of Defense
Naval Air Station at, 11, 113, 133 Mobilization, 100
neighborhood of, 47, 138 job as Urban Planning Officer, 30, 63
River, 11, 26, 30, 35, 54, 84, 122, 177 see also dispersal
Andrews Air Force Base, 1, 34, 66, 85,
184 ballistic missiles, 6, 10, 132, 135–6,
Architect of the Capitol, 117, 167, 184 142, 166, 175, 182, 235 n.44
Arctic Circle, 10, 111 see also Nike antiaircraft missiles
Arlington County, Va., 39, 151, 195 n.5 Bartholomew, Harland, 143
Army Corps of Engineers, 45–6, 64, 70, Bascom, Willard, 114–15, 130, 133, 135
72–3, 91, 102, 108, 171 Beach, Edward, 98, 113–15, 126,
Army Signal Corps, 65, 108, 127 131–3, 150, 159, 162
Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Beers, Barnet, 123
discovery of Soviet bomb tests, 35, 99 Bell and Light system, 112–13, 116–17,
dispersal to Germantown, Md., 5–6, 151, 168
101–3, 144, 185 Bell System, 65, 151
imagined attack on Washington, see also AT&T
D.C., 36 Berlin Crisis, 171–2
relocation site of, 155 Berryville, Va., 5, 106, 151
240 I

Bloom, Nicholas Dagen, 147 gender roles and, 53–4, 80

Board of Commissioners lack of realism in planning, 8, 24,
explained, 3–4, 45 117–21, 129–30, 137, 142
request for help from FCDA, 56–7 military’s views of, 22, 170–1
support for civil defense, 4, 46, 49, in Montgomery County, Md., 93,
54, 79, 122 119–20, 128–9, 139–42, 173,
during World War II, 14, 16 178, 184
see also Washington, D.C., need for after Soviet atomic test, 35–6
government of in northern Virginia, 120–2, 128,
Boyer, Paul, 89 154, 184–5, 175, 180
Brickner, Kenneth, 114–15, 133 overview of, 5
Bull, Harold R., 22 place of in national security state, 56,
Bureau of the Budget 92–3, 131
decentralization and, 31, 62 post-World War II planning for, 21–4
dispersal and, 26, 31, 33, 37–8, 49, in Prince Georges County, Md., 48,
61, 144 119–20, 122, 178, 180
hostility toward Office of Civilian shift from evacuation to shelters, 135–7
Defense, 14 states and cities seek guidance for,
relocation site of, 165–6 55–6, 93, 138, 141–2, 171
Bureau of Yards and Docks see under Navy struggle to keep pace with weapons’
Bush, George W., 186–7 improvements, 6, 10, 22, 98–9,
Bush, Vannevar, 119 119–20, 122–3, 135, 142, 173
in Washington, D.C. see D.C. Office
Caldwell, Millard, 56–7, 90–2, 171 of Civil Defense
Camp David during World War II, 12–16
communication system of, 155–6, 161 see also fallout shelters; Federal Civil
as presidential relocation site, 126–7, Defense Administration; see
166, 170, 183 under Congress
as presidential retreat, 69 Clay, Lucius, 1, 25
Capital Beltway, 115, 121, 185 Coast and Geodetic Survey, 109,
Castro, Fidel, 174, 179 196 n.16
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Cold War, origins of, 18–19
continuity of, 133, 155, 196 n.16 Columbia, Md., 6, 147, 185
creation of, 19–21 Commerce Department, 109, 129, 155
Cuban Missile Crisis and, 176–7 communism, 18–20, 29, 137, 145, 174
move to Langley, Va., 103–5 see also Soviet Union
opposition to dispersal, 103, 143–4 Conelrad, 112–15, 151, 154–6
participation in exercises, 109 Congress
proposed dispersal of, 50, 101 on 9/11, 186–7
relocation site of, 96 civil defense in Capitol buildings and,
UFO scare and, 85 117–18, 172, 184
Chaney, Mayris, 13–14 continuity of, 6–7, 31, 35, 127, 160,
Charters of Freedom, 158 162, 167–8, 177
Chavez, Dennis, 59–60 creation of D.C. Office of Civil
Cincinnati, Ohio, 29–30 Defense, 45–7, 49
Civil Air Defense Patrol, 5, 55, 121 creation of FCDA, 56
civil defense criticisms of Office of Civilian
apathy toward, 54, 87–93, 173 Defense, 13–14
debate over evacuation, 122–4 during Cuban Missile Crisis, 175,
exercises see under individual names 180–1
failure of, 7–8, 57, 87, 92–3, 137–8, failure to participate in exercises, 121,
141–2 129, 156
I 241

fallout shelters and, 137, 171–3 decentralization, 24–5, 31, 50, 59,
governance of Washington, D.C., 61–3, 101
3, 45 Declaration of Independence
hostility toward dispersal, 4, 50–1, protection of, 158
60–3, 100, 144, 147 Defense Department
reduction of budget of D.C. Office of authorization to use nuclear weapons,
Civil Defense, 77, 86–7, 93, 135 156, 170
reduction of budget of FCDA, 57, 92 civil defense and, 123, 131, 170–1
reduction of budget for Federal continuity of, 63–4, 66–8, 177
Relocation Arc, 164, 166 creation of, 19–20
relocation site of, 7, 129, 167–8, Crisis Relocation Planning of, 184–5
180, 185 evacuation plans of, 64, 67, 132–4
view of civil defense as state and local see also Joint Emergency
responsibility, 120 Evacuation Plan
Constitution, The Office of the Secretary of Defense,
Article I, Section 2, 167–8, 189 63, 67, 132–33, 158, 166
protection of, 158 opposition to dispersal, 38, 100, 143
Continental Air Defense Command participation in exercises, 124–5, 129,
(CONAD) see under Air Force 158
continuity of government proposed dispersal of, 31, 37–8, 42,
after 9/11, 186–9 143
defined, 2, 4 relocation sites of, 63–8, 155, 166 see
as deterrent, 98 also Fort Ritchie, Md.; Raven
difficulties of, 105, 109, 150 Rock Mountain; Site R
emphasis on executive branch, 7, 165–8 Dennison, Robert, 69, 71, 73, 75
of executive departments and Departmental Auditorium, 77, 90, 175
agencies, see under individual Detroit, Mich., 28–9, 60
names dispersal
of judicial branch, 7, 168, 177–8 antecedents of, 28
of legislative branch see under Congress Congressional hostility toward, 4,
overview of, 5–6 50–1, 60–3, 100, 144, 147
planning of, 30–32, 42, 99–100, 106, defined, 4–6
131 described, 27–8
of president, 75, 107, 126, 166–7, effects of hydrogen weapons on
169–70, 183–4 planning of, 100–1, 143, 147
recommendations for, 187–9 Eisenhower administration plans for,
revelations about, 185 101, 142–3
tests of see Operation Readiness; plans for metropolitan Washington,
Operation Alert D.C., 30, 33–5, 37–43
see also Eisenhower, Dwight D., Project East River proposals for, 100
involvement in continuity Truman administration plans for,
planning 49–52, 59–63
Continuity of Government see also Augur, Tracy; decentralization
Commission, 187, 189 see under Atomic Energy
Corning, Hobart, 138, 146 Commission; Central
Council of National Defense (CND), Intelligence Agency; Defense
12–13 Department; National Bureau of
Crisis Relocation Planning (CRP) see Standards
under Defense Department Distant Early Warning Line (DEW), 10,
Cuban Missile Crisis, 173–9, 181, 183 111, 114, 155, 218 n.1
Culpeper, Va., 38, 183 District of Columbia see Washington,
Cutler, Robert, 98, 105–6, 124, 160 D.C.
242 I

District of Columbia Emergency New Look of, 7, 98

Management Agency (DEMA), opposition to national shelter
187–9 program, 136–7
District of Columbia Office of Civil participation in tests, 108, 125, 161–2
Defense (DCD) support for decentralization, 101
in Alert America, 79, 81 support for desegregation of
budget of, 49, 53, 77, 86, 93, 135 Washington, D.C., 3, 145
changed mission, 184–5 support for dispersal, 98, 101, 103,
civil defense classes of, 81, 138, 172 143–4
creation of, 48–9 transition meeting with John
Cuban Missile Crisis and, 175, 178 Kennedy, 169–70
FCDA and, 57, 89, 131, 135, 138 views on martial law, 127, 161–2,
ground observer posts and, 84, 138–9 180–2
Lorton, Va., command center, 178, Ellis, Frank, 170–1
185 Emergency Action Papers (EAPs)
participation in exercises, 116–17, assembled, 98, 156, 159–60, 162–3,
119, 130, 156–7 167
plans of, 57, 117, 122 in Cuban Missile Crisis, 176, 180, 182
problems with Congress, 87, 93, 135, purposes of, 6
172 shown to John Kennedy, 170
racial divisions and, 54, 84
recruitment of volunteers, 52–4, 79, Fairfax County, Va., 34, 66, 91, 102–3,
81, 89, 117, 184 105, 128, 145, 147, 151, 195 n.5
responsibility for attack warning, 7–8, fallout, 6, 9, 101–2, 118, 122, 129,
112–13, 124, 150, 154–5 154, 159–61, 165, 180
support for continuity of federal fallout shelters, 132, 134, 136–7, 170–3,
government, 7, 96, 115, 121, 175, 184, 224 n.24, 236 n.5
123–4, 181 Falls Church, Va., 145, 151
see also Fondahl, John see under Farquhar, Arthur, 93, 139
Congress Federal Buildings Services see General
District of Columbia Survival Plan, 5, Services Administration, warden
132, 172, 188 see also Washington corps of
Area Survival Plan committee Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),
Dondero, George, 50, 60 77, 96, 133, 155, 161, 196 n.16
Drew, Dr. Charles, 14–15 Federal City Council, 104
Dulles, Allen, 103–5, 133 Federal Civil Defense Administration
Dulles, John Foster, 127, 169 (FCDA)
Alert America campaign of, 77–81,
Eberstadt, Ferdinand, 19–20 84, 86, 90, 119, 137, 175
Edwards, Allan, 151, 154 budget problems of, 57, 92–3
Eisenhower, Dwight D. creation of, 56–7
attitude toward civil defense, 98–9, criticized, 135, 138
119, 137, 155 D.C. Office of Civil Defense and, 57,
background of, 97 89, 131, 135
creation of National Emergency fallout shelter standards, 171–2
Agencies, 160–1, 229 n.36 merged with Office of Defense
heart attack of, 131 Mobilization, 163
insistence on tests, 98, 109, 121, 155 move to Battle Creek, Mich., 101
involvement in continuity planning, Olney, Md., training center, 117,
5–7, 97–8, 105–6, 124, 126, 140–1, 154, 164
131–2, 150–1, 155–6, 158–64, participation in exercises, 126–7, 150,
166–7, 188 156–7
I 243

promotion of evacuation, 121–4, 132 participation in exercises, 108–9, 121

recruitment of white middle class work on attack warning systems, 150
volunteers, 80–1 Fondahl, John
shift from evacuation to shelter, 7, Alert America and, 77–9, 81
136–7, 141 appointed director of the D.C. Office
takeover of Washington’s warning of Civil Defense, 46
system, 7–8, 150–5 difficulties of, 7, 77, 82, 86–7, 120,
warning protocol, 149–50, 154 135, 138–9, 172
see also civil defense see under explanation of apathy toward civil
Congress defense, 88–9, 138
Federal Communications Commission FCDA and, 55–7, 141
(FCC), 128, 155, 158, 165 participation in exercises, 130, 156
Federal Emergency Plan D-Minus, plans of, 115, 122–4, 134, 185
159–60, 170 retirement of, 172
federal government work of, 47, 52–4, 83–4, 131, 155
employment in Washington, D.C., 2, see also D.C. Office of Civil Defense
26, 31, 33–4, 38–9, 42–3 Forrestal, James, 19, 23–4, 56, 63
essential agencies of see wartime Fort Belvoir, Va., 16, 154
essential agencies Fort Knox, Ky., 15, 136, 183
post-attack functioning of see Fort Meade, Md., 66–7
continuity of government Fort Reno, Washington, D.C., 112,
see also dispersal 150–1, 154–5, 172, 183
Federal Register, 157, 162 Fort Ritchie, Md., 63–4, 132–3, 158, 180
Federal Relocation Arc Freedom Train, 79
communication lines of, 155–6 Front Royal, Va. see State Department,
deactivation of sites, 183 relocation site of
Eisenhower’s interest in, 97–8,
105–6, 124 Gaither Committee, 136–7
existence revealed, 185 Gaithersburg, Md., 5, 144–5, 147, 185
origins of, 95–6 General Services Administration (GSA)
overview of, 5–6, 95 construction projects of, 142–3
regional centers of, 163–4 decentralization and, 59
use of during exercises, 109, 113, dispersal planning of, 38–43, 61, 143
125–8, 157–8, 160–3, 176 participation in exercises, 157–8
weaknesses of, 155, 161–4, 166–7, relocation site of, 95, 157, 165
176–7 warden corps of (Federal Buildings
Federal Reserve Board, 161, 180, Services), 116–17
183, 185 work on continuity of government,
Federal Triangle, 1, 23, 26, 39, 79, 113 96, 187
Federal Works Agency, 24, 26, 30–1, Geological Survey, 147, 196 n.16
37–8 Germantown, Md., 5, 103, 144, 185
see also General Services Gillette, Douglas, 70, 74
Administration Godwin, H.P., 84, 112
Federation of Citizens Associations, Goodpaster, Andrew, 97–8, 126, 155,
81, 146 157, 162, 167, 170
Federation of Civic Associations, 54 Grant III, Ulysses S., 1, 37
Flemming, Arthur Gray, Gordon, 143, 159, 162
appointed director of the ODM, 98 Green, Constance McLaughlin, 145
continuity planning of, 105–6, 156, Greenbelt, Md.
159, 163 civil defense in, 48, 180
dispersal policies of, 102–3, 142 development of, 32–3, 144
evacuation plans for, 133 as planned dispersal site, 33–5, 185
244 I

Greenbrier relocation site, 167–8, Joint Emergency Evacuation Plan

180, 185 (JEEP), 132–4, 158, 170, 177
Grover, Wayne, 157–8 Justice Department, 128, 157, 165, 182
Gup, Ted, 107, 167, 185
Gutheim, Frederick, 61, 104 Kennedy, John F.
as Congressman, 35, 49, 170
Hampden-Sydney College, 95, 183 during Cuban Missile Crisis, 174–9
Hansen, Carl, 146, 175 fallout shelter program of, 171–3
Harpers Ferry, W.Va., 38, 41–2 foreign policy of, 169
Hart, Hornell, 120–1 inauguration of, 169
Hayes, Thomas, 46–7, 53, 57 transition meeting with Eisenhower,
Heidegger, Martin, 88 169–70
High Point see Mount Weather, Va. Kennedy, Robert, 174, 176, 178
Hill, Arthur M., 25, 30–2 Khrushchev, Nikita, 171, 174, 177–9
Hiroshima bombing, 9, 16, 21–2, 119 Kierkegaard, Soren, 88
Hoegh, Leo Korean War, 32, 48–51, 59, 69, 87,
appointed FCDA Administrator, 99 89–90, 92, 169
opposition to dispersal, 143
plans for regional relocation La Guardia, Fiorello, 13, 22
centers, 164 Landis, James M., 13–14, 22
sending of wartime essential Langley, Va., 103–5, 144
employees to Mount Weather, Lapp, Ralph E., 23, 100
163, 166, 186 Lawton, Frederick J., 25, 49–50, 62, 96
shelter policy of, 136–7, 141–2 Library of Congress, 15, 185
Holifield, Chet Lifton, Robert Jay, 88–9
criticism of Eisenhower
administration, 137 MacArthur, Douglas, 49, 59, 97
hearings of, 135–6 Marshall, George, 29, 66
interest in Washington’s civil defense, martial law, 127, 161–2, 180–2
135, 172 Maryland, 6, 34, 43, 63–4, 95, 101–2,
Holland, Spessard, 60, 62–3 121–2, 133, 146, 151, 154, 187
Homeland Security Department, 8, 189 see also individual cities and counties
Hopley, Russell J., 24, 55–6 McCarthy, Joseph, 47, 90
Howard University, 14–15 McCormack, John, 179–82
Humphrey, George, 106, 127 McDermott, Edward, 176–7, 181
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, 187–8 McKellar, Kenneth, 51, 70
hydrogen weapons McMahon, Robert, 19
effects described, 9 McMillan Plan, 3
Soviet tests of, 75, 99 McNamara, Robert, 169–70, 174, 176
U.S. tests of, 9–10, 75, 99, 101 McPhee, Roemer, 159
see also Soviet Union, nuclear weapons microwave communications, 65–6, 94,
of; United States, nuclear 107, 128, 151
weapons of military
ability to protect United States from
intercontinental ballistic missiles attack, 90–1
(ICBM) see ballistic missiles views on civil defense, 22
see also Defense Department
John McShain, Inc., 71–2, 74 Military District of Washington
Johnson, Louis, 35, 38, 49, 64, 66, 170 (MDW), 45, 66, 138, 154, 186
Johnson, Lyndon, 167, 179, 182 Miller, Lorenzo, 82–4, 138
Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1–2, 63–4, 108, Millison, Earl G., 93–5
124, 127, 132–3, 158, 166 Mobilization Plan C, 159–60
I 245

Montgomery County, Md. National Security Act, 19–20, 200 n.57

attack warning system of, 151, 154–5 National Security Agency, 134, 140
CIA and, 104 National Security Council (NSC)
civil defense in, 93, 128–9, 139–42, continuity planning of, 96, 99–100,
173, 184 105–6, 131, 160, 162, 166
ground observer posts in, 93, 140 creation of, 20–1
segregation in, 139, 144–5 debate on evacuation of Washington,
Mount Pony, Va., 183, 185 D.C., 115, 124, 132
Mount Weather, Va. dispersal policies of, 101, 143
on 9/11, 186 Executive Committee (ExComm) of,
communication system of, 155–6, 164 174–6, 178
Cuban Missile Crisis and, 176–82 policymaking of, 98, 119, 136, 189
daily operations of, 154, 165–6 studies of Washington’s attack
developed as relocation site, 95, 107 warning system, 150–1
existence revealed, 107–8, 185 National Security Resources Board
Operation Alerts and, 125–8, 157, (NSRB)
161–2 civil defense and, 45–7, 49, 55–6,
Operation Readiness and, 109 91–3, 120
personnel and agencies with continuity of government planning of,
assignments at, 133, 136, 163, 5, 7, 25–6, 30–2, 42, 96, 105,
165–6, 183, 218 n.45 200 n.57
takeover of Washington’s attack disbanded, 98
warning system, 151, 154–5 dispersal planning of, 30–2, 36–8, 42,
Mumford, Lewis, 88–9 59, 61
Munitions Board, 63 formed, 19–21, 25
ineffectiveness of, 5, 25, 96, 100
Nagasaki bombing, 9, 17, 21–2, 119 national security state
National Academy of Sciences, 114, civil defense and, 21–4, 56, 87, 92,
130, 133, 135 131
National Archives, 157–8 dispersal and, 38
National Association for the estimates of Soviet striking capability,
Advancement of Colored People 116
(NAACP), 15, 56, 81 origins of, 19–21
National Bureau of Standards (NBS) naval aide to the President, 69, 75, 81,
campus in Washington, D.C., 1–2, 144 98, 159, 162, 170, 176, 182
dispersal of, 5–6, 144–5, 185 see also Beach, Edward; Dennison,
operations at Front Royal, Va., 94 Robert
protection of Charters of Freedom, 158 Naval Gun Factory, 1, 11, 23
National Capital Park and Planning Navy, Bureau of Yards and Docks, 143,
Commission (Park Commission), 166, 171
32–3, 37–8, 42–3 New Deal, 3, 11–12, 14, 20, 25, 32
National Capital Planning Commission new towns, 6, 147, 185
(NCPC), 102, 104–5, 143, 217 Nike antiaircraft missiles, 91, 111, 154,
National Capital Regional Planning 159, 179–80
Council (NCRPC), 101, 104–5, 143 Nolen Jr., John, 33–4, 39, 42, 102
National Damage Assessment Center nonessential agencies, 37, 42–3
(NDAC), 161, 163, 165–6 nuclear weapons see atomic weapons;
National Emergency Airborne hydrogen weapons see under
Command Post (NEACP), 184 Soviet Union; United States
National Mall, 32, 39, 51, 101–2, 104,
128, 181, 188 Oakes, Guy, 118
see also ‘tempos’ O’Connell, Robert, 179, 181
246 I

Office of Civil and Defense support for shelters, 132, 136–7

Mobilization (OCDM), 163–6, work on warning systems, 115, 150–1
170–1, 181 Pinetree Line, 111–12, 114
Office of Civilian Defense (OCD), see also Distant Early Warning Line
13–16, 46 Pittman, Steuart, 170, 173, 175
Office of Defense Mobilization (ODM) Pliyev, Issa, 174, 178–9
continuity planning of, 106, 134, Postal Service, 157, 161, 230 n.47
156, 159–60, 166–8 Potomac River, 11, 26, 38, 47, 104,
creation of, 98 122, 132, 143, 177
dispersal policies of, 101–4, 142 Presidential Emergency Facilities
merged with FCDA, 163 (PEFs), 183–4
participation in exercises, 108–9, presidential succession, 35–6, 202 n.29
126–9, 162 Prince Georges County, Md., 32, 34,
see also Flemming, Arthur 62, 131, 133–4, 145, 151, 175,
Office of Emergency Planning (OEP), 195 n.5
171, 176–8, 180–2 see also under civil defense
Office of War Information (OWI), Project East River, 99, 101
Offutt Air Force Base, 111, 186 Quantico, Va., 38, 62, 133, 180
see also Strategic Air Command Quirauk Mountain, Md., 65–6
Operation Alert
1954, 120–21, 123 Rabb, Maxwell, 126, 149
1955, 124–30, 138, 155–6, 159, 165 Radford, Arthur, 115, 127
1956, 155–9 Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service
1957, 160–2, 176 (RACES), 5, 141
1958, 162–3 RAND Corp., 136
Eisenhower’s part in creation of, 6, 98 Randolph, A. Phillip, 11–12
unrealistic scenarios of, 132, 159, 182 Rapalus, Henry, 115, 140–1
Operation Fireball, 119–20 Raven Rock Mountain, 63–4, 66–7, 87,
Operation Readiness, 106, 108–9 108, 167
Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 119, 189 see also Site R
Oxon Hill, Md., 34 Rayburn, Sam, 50, 56, 167
Reston, Va., 6, 147, 185
Parsons, Kermit, 185 Reynolds, W.E., 60, 121
Pearl Harbor, 12, 69, 115 Rockville, Md., 115, 139–41, 173
Pentagon Rodericks, George, 172, 175, 178, 184
9/11 attack on, 186 Roosevelt, Eleanor, 13–14
communication links to, 66, 111, Roosevelt, Franklin
113, 166 civil defense and, 13–14
construction of, 17–18 death of, 16
evacuation plans for see Joint Pentagon and, 17–18, 67
Emergency Evacuation Plan White House and, 15, 70–1
imagined attacks on, 1, 9, 23, 36,
117, 120 Schwartz, Max, 52, 54, 87
importance of, 2, 19–20, 103 shelters see fallout shelters
in Operation Alert 1955, 124–5, 128 Sherry, Michael, 90
shelters in, 66 Silvers, Hal, 131, 133–4
Peterson, Val Site R, 64–5, 67–8, 95, 126–7, 132,
appointed FCDA Administrator, 99 158, 162, 165–6, 180, 183, 185–6
debate on merits of sheltering versus see also Raven Rock Mountain
evacuation, 121, 123–4 Smith, Howard, 62–3
evacuation plans for, 133 Social Science Research Council,
participation in exercises, 127 22, 89
I 247

Soviet Union Treasury Department

aircraft of, 1, 5, 10, 82, 87, 90, 111, continuity of, 106, 180
113, 116, 132 participation in exercises, 81, 109,
Cold War and, 18–20, 48, 59 117, 127–8, 161
Cuban Missile Crisis and, 174–9 relocation sites of, 183
deterrence of, 91–2, 98 tunnel to White House, 69, 73
espionage of, 6, 18, 104 Truman, Harry S.
nuclear weapons of, 1, 10, 131–2, authorization of Conelrad, 112
136, 142, 169, 182, 235 n.44 authorization of development of
propaganda of, 25, 85, 87 hydrogen bomb, 6
striking capability of, 10, 108, 116, continuity of government planning of,
120–1, 158–60, 166 5, 64, 75, 96, 105
test of atomic bomb, 32, 35–6, 41, Doctrine of, 23, 171
64, 171 end of World War II and, 16–18
test of hydrogen bomb, 75, 99–100 Korean War and, 48–9, 59
War Scare of 1948 and, 23–5 reaction to Soviet atomic test, 35, 171
see also Washington, D.C., imagined reelection of, 31
attacks on support for civil defense, 23–4, 46,
Spencer, Samuel, 121, 132 55–6, 81, 86, 90–2, 170
Springfield, Va., 34 support for desegregation of
Stalin, Joseph, 6, 18 Washington, D.C., 3, 145
State Department support for dispersal, 4, 49–52, 59,
Cuban Missile Crisis and, 177, 180–1 61–3, 104
offices in Washington, D.C., 17, 21, treatment of NSRB, 25, 31–2
50, 61, 101, 144 use of the Bureau of the Budget, 37
participation in exercises, 109, 121, White House renovation and, 69–71,
127–8, 161 73–4
relocation site of, 93–6, 109, 121, Tuve, Dr. Merle, 135
128, 155, 165–6, 180, 183 Tysons Corner, Va., 66, 185
Steelman, John, 32
Stein, Clarence, 28, 60, 147 UFOs, 85–6
Stewart Air Force Base, 112, 150 Underhill, John Garrett, 123, 130
Stowe, David, 49–50, 75, 96 United States
Strategic Air Command (SAC), 111, air defense systems described, 91,
114, 179 111–14
Strauss, Lewis, 102, 133 nuclear weapons of, 9–10, 170, 179
submarine-launched ballistic missiles part in Cold War’s origins, 18–19
(SLBM) see ballistic missiles United States Information Agency
Suitland, Md., 34 (USIA), 95, 134, 177, 183
Supreme Court United States Strategic Bombing
continuity of, 7, 168, 177–8 Survey, 21–2, 27, 36, 61, 119
during Cuban Missile Crisis,
177–8, 181 Valley Forge Foundation, 79
participation in exercises, 129 Vanderbilt, Tom, 185, 237 n.21
rulings on racial segregation, 145–6 Virginia, 2, 5, 15, 34, 43, 62, 101–2,
Symington, Stuart, 55–7, 59, 91, 171 146, 187
see also individual cities and counties
Takoma Park, Md., 48, 122
Teague, Olin, 122–3 Wadsworth, James, 33–4
‘tempos’ Warning Red
on National Mall, 17, 21, 26, 31, defined, 77, 173
38–9, 43, 50–1, 61–2, 103–4 test activation of, 47, 113, 116, 121–2
proposed construction of, 34–6 see also attack warning
248 I

Warning Yellow imagined attacks on, 1–2, 23, 36, 47,

accidental declaration of, 114, 154 67, 111–14, 117, 136, 158–60,
declaration of, 96, 112–13, 124, 132, 179–81 see also Operation Alert
136, 141 lack of home rule, 3, 93
defined, 77, 173 national security state in, 21
difficulty of keeping secret, 114–15, planning for civil defense office in,
124, 134 45–7
test activation of, 126–7, 149–50, population of, 12, 26, 122, 145
156, 160 present–day emergency plans of,
see also attack warning 187–9
Warren, Earl, 168–9, 177–8 segregation of, 2–3, 14–15, 54, 84,
Warrenton, Va., 95–6, 183 145–7
War Scare of 1948, 24–6 slavery in, 3
wartime essential agencies symbolic importance of, 3–4, 8, 49,
defined, 4–5, 196 n.16 122–3, 135
dispersal of, 30, 38, 40–1, 101–2, 147 UFO scare in, 85–6
participation in exercises, 108–9, 121, see also dispersal, plans for
124–9, 156–63, 160, 182 metropolitan Washington, D.C.
responsibilities of, 105–6, 164, 186 Washington National Airport, 1, 11, 45,
vulnerability of, 105 86
wartime essential personnel Washington Navy Yard see Naval Gun
advance evacuation of, 113–14, 120, Factory
124, 155, 163, 177–8, 181 white flight, 2, 29–30, 145–7, 225 n.49
cadres of at Mount Weather, 7, 106, White House
159, 163, 165, 176 East Wing, 15
during Cuban Missile Crisis, 176, reconstruction of, 69–75
178–9 security of during World War II, 15–16
expected actions during crisis, 115, shelters, 15, 68–75, 87, 98, 113, 155,
129, 134, 162–3, 181–2 186–7
Washington Area Survival Plan Signal Agency, 155–6, 162
committee (WASP), 132, 135, 138, White House Emergency Information
141 Program, 177, 182
Washington and Lee University, 15, 95, White House Emergency Plan (WHEP),
157, 165 113, 132, 170, 177
Washington Board of Trade, 46, 81 White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., 6, 167
Washington, D.C. Whittington, Will, 59–60
on 9/11, 185–7 Wiley, Alexander, 24–5, 36, 64
Alert America in, 77–80 Wilson, Charlie, 124–5, 132
attack warning system of, 14, 111–15, Winslow, Lorenzo S., 68–75
150–5 Works Progress Administration,
civil defense in see under D.C. Office 11, 14
of Civil Defense World War I, 12–13, 97, 139, 180
civil defense during World War II, World War II
14–16 civil defense during, 12–15
during Cuban Missile Crisis, 175–6 effects on Washington, D.C., 11–12,
difficulty of evacuating, 109, 115, 14, 16–17
121–4, 132–5
effects of World War II on, 11–12, Young, Gordon Russell, 45–7, 115, 124
14, 16–17 Young, John Russell, 45, 57
exercises staged in, 116–17, 119–21,
124–30 zero milestone marker, 33–5, 37–9, 42,
government of, 3, 45–6 102–4, 136, 141, 143, 147, 151,
ground observer posts in, 82–5, 138–9 184