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Causes, Morality, and Demise of American Civil Defense

Uploaded by tsanzer on Dec 11, 2003


An Examination of the Causes, Morality, and Demise of American Civil Defense


While there are conflicting and overlapping reasons as to why “civil defense” became an important issue in America in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the fact remains that Americans became obsessed with civil protection and the threat of thermonuclear war. This took the form of general preparation for an attack, such as the construction of bomb shelters, stockpiling of food supplies, perfecting emergency drills in schools and homes, and even forming militias like the notorious “Minute-men” which prepared for a guerrilla war against a possible post-nuclear Soviet invasion of the United States. In a very interesting argument, Elaine Tyler May links the rise of civil defense to the growing “cult of domesticity.” She shows that alarm pertaining to the breakdown of the traditional family went hand in hand with the larger fear of American nuclear annihilation. May argues that as a result, civil defense measures were assessed to combat both fears simultaneously. Margot Henriksen contends that this trend of civil defense, and particularly the building of individual bomb shelters, eventually led to a general reexamination of the ethics of civil defense and the morality of nuclear war. Henriksen shows that both a general long-term apathy toward civil defense, as well as the ethical examination of shelter techniques, led to the quick demise of American civil defense.

In a very profound article, Elaine Tyler May argues that “profound connections existed among anxieties over sexual roles, the cold war, and a burgeoning family ideology” (Tyler 153). After World War II, women were urged, either discretely or explicitly, by government agencies, private interests, and the popular media, to get married and to observe the role of homemaker. But in order to give the women a sense of “national purpose,” (analogous of course to the public role that women held in wartime defense industries), women were enlisted in the program of “Home Protection and Safety” developed by Jean Wood Fuller of the newly created Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA). Women were encouraged to draw upon their “natural” domestic capabilities to provide a service in the home that corresponded to the realities of the nuclear age. “Home nursing,” May explains, “was one important area. Mothers could learn first aid in order to enhance and professionalize their nurturing role. In the event of a nuclear...

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Uploaded by:   tsanzer

Date:   12/11/2003

Category:   American History

Length:   7 pages (1,609 words)

Views:   1893

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