It is January 1963, only three months have passed since the Cuban Missile Crisis where both superpowers were on the verge of escalating the ongoing tension into a full-scale nuclear war. In June the United States and USSR will agree to set up a direct hotline between the leaders of the nations and soon after the US, UK and USSR will sign The Partial Test Ban Treaty prohibiting the testing of nuclear weapons anywhere except underground. But for now politicians, soldiers, and civilians on both sides of the Atlantic are anxiously looking at the sky.
The USA and the Soviet Union had been stockpiling nuclear warheads since the end of the World War 2, and their most recent invention – intercontinental ballistic missiles, are silently waiting in the underground silos for a signal to launch. Those new weapons can deliver nuclear payload anywhere in the world faster than any bomber, and more importantly neither of the military superpowers know a way to stop them. All 14 NATO members know that the next war could be their last.
Governments across the world are doing their best to prepare their citizens for the worst. The US federal government started the Community Fallout Shelter Program, with instructional films and books distributed across the country. The early 1960’s saw a huge growth of home-made fallout shelters in North America, either as purpose-built underground bunkers, or converted basements and garages. Families gathered enough supplies and food to stay safe for weeks or months in case of a nuclear attack.
But the nuclear paranoia reached way further, with European countries also preparing for the worst. United Kingdom has strongly supported its American ally in their fight against communism, and there was no doubt that the Soviet Union would strike there too if pushed. Just like their North American counterpart, British Home Office released a series of short films and booklets preparing their civil servants and the general population for the possibility of a nuclear war.
I have recently purchased one of such booklets, “Advising the Householder on Protection against Nuclear Attack”. Click on the thumbnail below to view it.
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