From a speech by Dr. Lois Meek Stoltz, Professor of Psychology, Stanford University, December 4, 1950
1. Strange Lessons
IN THE AUTUMN OF 1950, barely five years after the end of the Second World War, certain strange and ominously warlike lessons were introduced into the classrooms of American schools. They were lessons which had never previously been taught to any children anywhere in the world. For the first time in history, children began learning to crouch under desks with their eyes tightly closed and their heads buried in their arms, to stand motionless with backs to windows and faces pressed against walls, and to lie on the floor with pieces of cloth covering their bodies.
| || "Take cover", and children flung themselves under desks with their hands covering their faces |
The children were advised by their teachers that these measures would help protect them from flying glass, falling debris and flash burns in the event of an atomic bomb attack. If they followed instructions carefully, they were told, they 'would be spared fatal injuries, unless, of course a bomb happened to fall too close to their school . . .
In different areas, the style of air raid drill varied. At a teacher's signal, school children in Albany, New York, pulled down classroom shades, hurriedly crawled under their desks and then, after an interval for an imaginary blast, marched into the corridors, where they lay on the floor against the walls. In Portland, Oregon, they went down on their knees and, pressed their faces to the floor. In Chicago, they curled up under sheets in Classrooms and hallways.
Generally, the drills were divided into two main categories: those in preparation for "an attack with warning," and those in preparation for "a surprise attack," Instructions issued to all elementary school principals in Los Angeles by the Board of Education read in part:
DRILL FOR SURPRISE ATTACK
A. If inside the school building, the pupil should:
l. Drop to his knees with back to the window. Knees together.
2. Fold arms on the floor close to the knees.
3. Bury face in arms . . .
B. If outside the school building, the pupil should:
l. If any protection is within a step or two, crouch or lie down behind building, yard bench, curb or in gutter.
2. If in the open, drop to the ground; curl up with back to the blast. . .
Sine the fall of 1950, such air raid drills as these to instruct children what to do "in case of an atomic bomb attack" have become regular occurrences in schools in most parts of the United States.
The first "surprise attack" drill in New York City took place on February 7, 1951. In the middle of a lesson or recreation period, teachers in school throughout the city suddenly cried, "Take cover", and children flung themselves under desks with their hands covering their faces. Superintendent of Schools William Jansen informed the press afterwards that he was "well satisfied" with the results. "We shall continue to conduct both types of drill at regular intervals," added Jansen, "so that there will become automatic reactions to both types of emergency, the attack without warning and the attack forewarned by sirens."
Commented the New York Post: "New York's hundreds of thousand of children . . . were asked to face the facts of life in the atomic age."
Months of elaborate if largely unpublicized preparations had preceded this unique program for acquainting American children with "the facts of life," At off-the-record conferences during the spring and summer of 1950, school superintendents and key school officials in many communities had been carefully briefed by Federal civil defense representatives regarding plans for the air raid drills. Unknown to the public, special committees of school and
| || "so that there will become automatic reactions to both types of emergency, the attack without warning and the attack forewarned by sirens." |
civil defense personnel had been quietly formed in a number of cities. These committees began drafting instructions for school principals on drill techniques, questionnaires concerning "shelter facilities," sample directives for teachers and pupils, and recommendations on the handling of parents. Of such a committee which functioned in the New York area, Superintendent of Schools Jansen subsequently related: "In order not to create undue anxiety, the committee was known by another name. Its real purpose was known only to its members" (1). . . .
Soon after air raid drills were under way in the schools, the Federal Civil Defense Administration started publishing special material for distribution among educational administrators. One of the first of these publications was a handsomely printed, dramatically illustrated booklet entitled Interim Civil Defense Instructions for Schools and Colleges.
In addition to counseling its recipients "How to teach and what to teach in preparation for attack," the FCDA booklet projected "desirable ways of motivating students and faculties to seek and accept civil defense instructions. . . and induce the required civil defense behavior patterns," Among the promotional techniques advocated were these:
Make clear the rewards, gains, benefits, or disadvantages to be achieved by putting forth the desired efforts. . . .
Give salary scale points or credits to teachers who study systematically the problems of civil defense.
Stressing that the involvement of children in air raid preparations should not be limited merely to their participation in drills, the booklet recommended various methods of keeping them constantly mindful of the possibility of atomic bomb attacks:
Encourage development, in shop and drawing classes, of shelter designs. . . . Develop crews of fire fighters and other units to help in cases of emergency. (Japan used students as firemen.) . . . Take advantage of the enthusiasm and skills of hobby and other groups. . . .
Summing up, the booklet advised educational administrators to adopt this general attitude toward civil defense measures in the institutions under their supervision:
Be more concerned with achieving the maximum preparation possible, and less concerned with overdoing it.
By and large, this last directive was to be diligently carried out by school officials throughout the country.2. Climate of Horror
"IN ORDER to save your child from burns in the case of direct exposure to an A-Bomb," the principal of a New York school wrote in a form letter addressed to parents, "we are asking him or her to bring to school a piece of sheet large enough for him to curl under. Will you send it with him? Write his name on it in ink. He is to keep it in his desk for use in emergencies."
Similar instructions have been given to school children in many places. Sometimes, the smaller boys and girls have misunderstood the purpose of bringing sheets to school: they have told their parents the sheets are to be used to cover their bodies if they are killed in an atomic bomb attack. . .
This incident occurred at a grade school in Queens, New York. During an air raid drill, the principal strode into a classroom where children were crouching on the floor beneath their sheets. He glanced around the room and then, pointing at a little boy, abruptly declared, "Your right arm is burned off! Your right leg is gone! And half of your face is burned away!" Aghast, the teacher drew the principal aside and asked him why he was terrifying the child. The principal explained, "He wasn't properly covered up with his sheet. He needs to be talked to like that. Now he won't forget." The child did not forget. He did not return to school that day after lunch: his mother telephoned and said he was hysterical.
While an air raid drill was under way in a school in Chicago, a teacher told several of her pupils who were curled up on the floor, "You kids are lying in the wrong place. If you lie there, you'll be crushed to death."
Occasionally, teachers have been known to punish children who misbehave by making them sit near windows. The children are informed that if an atomic bomb should fall, this would be the most dangerous place in the classroom. . .
Disciplinary measures of this sort are not officially recommended. In fact, school and civil defense authorities periodically sermonize on the desirability of taking precautions "to avoid anxiety and panic" among children involved in preparations for an atomic bomb attack.
It must, however, be said that such solicitude on the part of these authorities is not overly apparent in various practices they themselves have initiated.
On October 11, 1951, with considerable fanfare, the New York City Board of Education announced a special "emergency safety measure" in the city's schools. The measure consisted of the distribution of 200,000 identification tags among all second and third grade pupils in public, private and parochial schools. The Board of Education stated that other grades, from kindergarten through high school, would receive tags as soon as they had been manufactured and were available.
The identification tags, familiarly known as "dog tags" and similar in appearance to those worn by members of the armed forces, were metal disks bearing the name and address of their youthful recipients, their date of birth, their parents' names, and code numbers designating their district and school. The purpose of the tags was to identify their wearers "in case of an atomic attack."
Press reports noted the hardly consoling fact that the metal out of which the tags were made had a melting point of 1400 degrees centigrade and could therefore withstand heat which would incinerate bodies . . .
Before issuing the tags, the Board of Education circulated among school teachers a three-page memorandum of instructions. Directing that "all pupils should wear tags at all times,"
The memorandum conceded that while "children should be encouraged to wear tags suspended from the neck . . . girls may wear tags on their wrists." One vital piece of information was omitted from the detailed memorandum: nowhere in it were teachers offered any advice as to how they should explain to their pupils the purpose of the tags.
The way their purpose was interpreted by some children was indicated when a woman asked a seven-year-old girl playing in a park why she was wearing a tag. The little girl gravely replied: "So that people will know who I am if my face is burned away" . . .
The dog tag project precipitated a storm of protest in New York. Overnight, the Board of Education was flooded with messages from indignant parents. Many angrily declared they would not allow their children to wear the tags. Churchmen, physicians and specialists in the field of child care joined in decrying the measure as one which would only spread fear and anxiety among children.
"Dozens of parents have called the Teachers Union office," reported the New York Teacher News; "and expressed their indignation at what one parent called 'a war-of-nerves being waged by the Board of Education against children: "
"I have three children at school in New York City," observed columnist Max Lerner in the New York Post. "Within a matter of weeks all three will be wearing around neck or wrist, metal tags. . . The tag will bring to the mind of the sensitive child a triple image: that of being separated from the family, that of not being recognized and therefore needing the identification of the tag, and that of being destroyed. . . . What ghastly scars these are that we are letting the Office of Civilian Defense leave on the minds of our children:'
The Deputy Director of Information and Training for the New York Civilian Defense. Mrs. Elsa Kruuse, wrote Max Lerner, sharply rebuking him for indulging in "a sentimental binge." She went on to say:
You know that kids are basically tough little characters. They love gore. They have no more than an objective interest in calamities that befall other people. I still have to meet a child that is afraid of dying, of being destroyed, unless his stupid parents have slobbered all over him in their frightening fear and insecurity.
But the number of parents who did not share Mrs. Kruuse's point of view was large enough to compel the Board of Education to make some hasty changes in its original plan. In a "Message to Parents" on November 2, just three weeks after the project had first been made public, Superintendent of Schools Jansen announced that. although the distribution of the tags would continue, the wearing of them should no longer be regarded as compulsory. "The Board of Education. . . ," stated Jansen placatingly, "has no wish to interfere with your right as parents to decide whether or not your children should wear the tags."
Jansen added that "parents would be wise to save, for possible later use, tags which are not being worn,"an observation perhaps motivated by the fact that more and more parents were unceremoniously throwing the tags away or mailing them, with caustic comments, to the Superintendent of Schools : . .
Children in a New York City school display the metal identification tags or "dog tags," they have been given to wear for purposes of identification "in case of an atomic bomb attack." Newspapers have publicized the fact that the metal of which the tags are constructed will withstand heat that will incinerate human bodies.
Despite similar opposition, however, dog-tag projects for school children were initiated in a number. of other cities.
"We ask you, Mr. President: Will these tags save the lives of our children?" a group of mothers in Tacoma, Washington, wrote in a letter to. President Truman. "No! They will only make it easier for us to identify their lifeless, mutilated bodies. We don't want our children to die! . . . The only security for our children is peace."
In some cities, the data included on the dog tags was more comprehensive than in New York: it denoted, in addition to other information concerning their youthful wearers, their blood type and classification for transfusion purposes.
A singular variation of the "identification program" was proposed in Detroit. There, according to a UP dispatch to the New York World-Telegram on March 6, 1951, it had been suggested that children be tattoed with numbers "for identification purposes in case of an atomic attack."
If wearing dog tags and hiding under desks in preparation for atomic bomb attacks are scarcely conducive to a tranquil state of mind among American children, the general climate of the times cannot be expected to make them feel much more secure. On every side, they are confronted with dire portents of war and disaster. Billboards along highways, air raid shelter signs on the streets, and posters in buildings grimly warn what to do "in the event of an enemy attack." Newspapers, motion pictures, radio shows and television programs vividly portray the frightful destructive capacities of atomic and hydrogen bombs. Mock air raids, involving tens of thousand of men, women and children as actors, painstakingly simulate ruin and death in scores of cities and towns across the land.(2).
As the New York Daily Compass columnist, William S. Gailmor, wrote on November 2, 1951:
The very elements in officialdom who exhort the public, including parents, to be calm and unhysterical in these days of crisis and "emergency," blitz the population with a non-stop barrage of fear bombs. . .
On the morning of December 13, 1952, tens of thousands of residents
of Westchester, New York, found this newspaper on their doorsteps. There was little to
indicate at first glance that the lurid headlines dealt merely with a typical "civil
defense test operation."
Most macabre perhaps of all the projects launched by the Federal Civil Defense Administration is one which was first brought to the attention of the public by an Associated Press dispatch on June 14, 1952. The dispatch reported that the FCDA had "estimated that the average American city would have to bury 40,000 dead within two days if one atomic bomb were dropped on it," and that the agency was therefore undertaking extensive preparations, in conjunction with municipal authorities and "committees of clergymen, funeral directors, engineers, health officers and others," for the disposal of the numerous anticipated corpses.
According to the AP dispatch, the FCDA had already requested a congressional appropriation of two million dollars to stockpile a million shrouds, which would "probably be olive drab plastic sheets," since "FCDA specialists say that to obtain 40,000 coffins of wood or any other material would be out of the question" in any city following an atomic bomb attack. Other major considerations were these:
FCDA officials feel that the first thing to do would be to get the bodies out of sight. If this were not done the psychological effect on survivors would be bad. . . .
Identifying bodies would be the next task-and a major one. This would be done primarily by checking the personal effects of each victim, making a record of them and storing them in a bag. New York, which is training teams for this work, estimates it would take three persons ten minutes to accomplish this simple task for each body.
The dispatch- concluded:
| || United States was possibly suffering from some sort of "guilt complex" because of the use of the atomic bomb against Japan, and that Americans therefore subconsciously felt the need of inflicting air drills upon themselves. |
Graveyards are already being planned by some cities. . . . Since twenty and three-quarters acres would be required to inter 40,000 persons, allowing for three-by-six grave-sites, with three feet for aisles, large vacant tracts in the suburbs are being set aside by some communities. Cities envision using parks as temporary burying grounds. New York is considering sending bodies up the Hudson River, by barge, using piers as morgues.
That the fate of children was not being overlooked in such thoroughgoing preparations was indicated in a news story which appeared in the Bridgeport Herald under the headline, "KIDS REGISTER FOR BOMB TOLL." The story reported:
Child-by-child registration of Bridgeport's grammar and high school students, for use as possible casualty lists in the event of A-bombing, is now underway . . . school officials are preparing quadruple lists of students' names, addresses, and next of kin.
Civilian Defense officials pointed out that the lists would enable post-bombing search parties to pinpoint every school-age child in the city in a matter of moments.
Another headline in the Herald read: "Funeral Directors Line Up Emergency Morgue Sites". . .
After so short a period of peace, the nation was getting ready to bury its children in a new war.
3. The Matter of Fear
"PLEASE, MOTHER, can't we go some place where there isn't any sky?"
In this poignant entreaty, a small boy in Chicago voiced the apprehension gnawing at the minds of countless American children. Haunted by visions of havoc and flaming death, they manifest their fear in diverse ways. Some children insist on carrying first-aid kits with them wherever they go; some feel suddenly ill, will not attend school or cannot eat on days when atomic bomb drills are scheduled; some beg their parents to move away from large cities; some wear their dog tags at all times, even when bathing or in bed, because they believe the metal disks are talismans which will somehow magically save their lives if an atomic bomb falls . . .
Describing effects of the first air raid drills in schools in the Mosholu area in the Bronx, an article in the April 1951 issue of the magazine, March of Labor, related:
Then it began. Little Shiela A. on Gun Hill Road woke up screaming three times a week regularly that month. Peter B., a husky rough-and-tumble urchin living over on Hull Avenue, began finding excuses for not going to school on the days when they were to have the A-Bomb drills. Helene W. on 208th Street was put under a psychiatrist's care in December, when she began to have hysterical outbursts . . .
A report which the author of this book received from a staff member of a large social service agency in New York City read in part:
| || strongly supported the view that the best way to combat war tensions in children was to work for peace . . . |
A young mother came for counseling in relation to her eight year-old daughter who had been troubled with acute disturbances in her sleep. The little girl slept fretfully, fought off sleep and then when she would drowse off would whimper and cry out and wake herself up crying. The mother finally got the reasons for the child's fright from the little girl's fragmentary remarks that she was going to be burned by a bomb. The child told her mother she had learned about the bomb in school . . .
In an article entitled, "Are Bomb Drills Scaring Our Kids?" which appeared in the June 1951 issue of Today's Woman, journalist Andre Fontaine wrote:
Our children are scared . . .
Generally, the most fear seems to be felt along the East and West Coasts. So far that's where school drills are practiced most. But many large inland cities are planning them for the near future. . .
In the Midwest a teacher asked her class of nine-year-olds, "What are you most afraid of?" Thirty of the thirty-two answered, "Bombs." If they could have three wishes granted, she asked, what would they be? In every single answer appeared, "No more war."
Frequently, the children do not show their fear directly. "There is always some tendency," observes Dr. Benjamin Spock, co-director of the Rochester (Minnesota) Child Health Institute, "to get their fears out of sight. Children may show fear indirectly by suddenly becoming afraid of the dark, by refusing to go to school or to bed at night or by not wanting to leave their parents.".(3)
The problem of mounting anxiety among school children is being attentively studied by civil defense authorities.
Federal civil defense officials have recommended that children be given various "constructive tasks" to relieve their tension. The suggested tasks include distributing civil defense pamphlets; surveying empty buildings as "possible housing for evacuees", and compiling lists of persons who would need "special attention in an attack" , such as the aged, invalids, pregnant women and babies . . .
A memorandum issued to heads of schools by the civil defense division of the New York State Department of Education suggests that atomic bomb drills be made "a fairly natural, everyday experience . . . as we have learned to brush our teeth to protect them from decay."
The memorandum adds:
We advise that children aged two to eight make at least weekly trips to the shelter. . . . In the case of children, aged five through eight, this trip can be made part of dramatic play. . . .
In the case of children five and under in some schools or school systems, each might be asked to bring a woolly toy from home. It would be very comforting for him to hold in his arms if he stays in the shelter for a time. . . .
. . . children, eight years old and under, can. . . dramatize these practices outdoors with "airplane spotters" and "raid warnings" and using boxes, barrels and similar play equipment as hiding places. . . . coats are useful here. Young children like to crawl inside or under objects when they can. . .
Another solicitous proposal is that children be taught to smile during atomic bomb drills. . .
There are some civil defense officials and their co-workers in educational and psychiatric circles who even contend that air raid drills can have distinctly salutary effects upon children. According to them, the drills should give children a "sense of security" and serve as "good therapy for childhood fears." With the Cold War likely to continue indefinitely, they say, it is desirable that children come to accept the A-bomb as a normal part of their lives.
"If you were to find your youngsters playing war games and pretending to bomb one another," Dr. Kurt Fantl, consulting psychiatrist to the Los Angeles Health Department, has advised parents, "you should encourage them. You might be horrified at what you consider their cruelty and savagery, but you would be wrong."
Nor have enterprising toy manufacturers overlooked the commercial possibilities of this situation. As the Chicago SunTimes reported on January 29, 1951, in a news item headed, "A-Bomb Provides Basis for New Children's Game":
Now there's a game to teach children how to protect themselves in case an atomic bomb should fall.
It's a visual aid type of game, called "Atomic Bombing Care," in which two pictures must be matched with each other, to give the complete "lesson."
4. Duck and Cover
EARLY IN 1952 a ten-minute motion picture designed "to instruct children in the precautions to take in case of an atomic bomb attack" was released in New York City. Sponsored by the Federal Civil Defense Administration and the National Education Association, and produced for commercial distribution by Archer Productions, Inc., the film was entitled Duck and Cover. A news item in the New York Herald-Tribune, which characterized the film as "the first 'non-horror' film about the atomic bomb," gave this summary of its content:
Part animation and part live action, it takes as its symbol a cartoon character called "Bert the Turtle," who ducks and takes cover at the first sign of danger and does not uncover until the danger is past. . . . Almost all the live actors are city school children. The atomic blast is depicted only by a bright flash.
The central theme of the film was that an atomic bomb might fall at any hour of the day or night and therefore children must be ready at all times to "duck and cover" as swiftly and instinctively as a turtle hides in his shell to protect himself. To illustrate this point, children were shown reacting to a sudden flash of light by diving under desks in school, flinging themselves off bicycles and into gutters, crouching on the floors of buses, dropping down in streets and playgrounds, and even plunging under tablecloths during meals at home and on picnics.
In an announcement that the film was about to be shown in schools throughout New York City, John C. Cocks, Civil Defense Administrator of the Board of Education, opined that among the film's "outstanding virtues" were "a very sound and effective mental hygiene approach. . . and a quality of overlying cheerfulness and quiet optimism about its factual approach. "
Max Gerwitz, assistant superintendent of schools in Queens, serenely predicted, "The children are going to listen' and have a good time. . ."
On the evening of November 17, 1952, the author of this book attended a special showing of Duck and Cover, held in New York City under the auspices of the Committee for the Study of War Tensions in Children. The purpose of the showing, which took place before an audience of psychiatrists, psychologists, educators, social workers and parents, was to make "an evaluation of the effect of such media upon children." After the film, there was a panel discussion, led by Dr. Peter Neubauer, child psychiatrist and director of the Council Child Development Center..(4)
Without exception, the panel speakers sharply criticized the film. They pointed out that it stressed "the constant likelihood of disaster" without offering any positive solution; that the emphasis on the possibility of a bomb falling when children were alone would produce "intense feelings of insecurity"; and that the main effect of the film would undoubtedly be "to promote anxiety and tension in children."
Following these comments, Dr. Neubauer said: "Of course, our object is not just to make adverse criticisms of this film. We must also, if we are to be of any help to the civil defense authorities, make constructive suggestions. We must answer the question: if such media as this film do not effectively prepare children for the possibility of an atom bomb raid, how can these media be changed or improved to accomplish this aim?"
The audience was then asked to participate in the discussion.
A psychiatrist took the floor and stated that any film such as Duck and Cover should take into account the fact that security in family life and parental affection were the most important factors in preventing war tension among children. A child psychologist urged that the film be altered to include "more material of a positive nature," such as evidence of "the Government's extensive defense measures against possible attack." An educator suggested that children be assured that if an air raid should occur, teachers or parents would be on hand to care for them . . .
After several members of the audience had spoken along similar lines, this writer asked for the floor.
| || stimulating the "correct amount of anxiety" among millions of American mothers and fathers than the atomic bomb preparations for their children? |
"It seems to me," I said, "that Dr. Neubauer's question covers a far broader field than just this film. I think his question is actually this: how can we most effectively prepare our children for war? Obviously, it's not enough merely to convince them that war is inevitable, as this film does very effectively. There are other attitudes that have to be developed in children if we want to get them ready for war. For instance, children must be made familiar with concepts of sudden death; they must become accustomed to the idea of killing; and, of course, they must be sufficiently brutalized so that they'll be prepared to take up arms as soon as they're old enough. It's my personal opinion that motion pictures, television programs, radio shows and comic books are already doing an extremely thorough job in this respect. In fact, I think it would be difficult for these media of communication to do more toward inuring children on a mass scale to violence, bloodshed, brutality and murder.".(5)
There was evident relief in the audience when I added that I myself was not in favor of educating children along such lines. "I believe that Dr. Neubauer should have asked a different question," I said. "The question I think we must answer is not how can we most effectively prepare our children for war, but rather, how can we best prepare them for peace?"
In the case of our own three children, I pointed out, my wife and I were teaching them that war was not inevitable, and that the overwhelming majority of people in the world wanted peace no less than we did. We were teaching our children that the most important thing was not to get ready for war but, on the contrary, to work in every conceivable way to prevent war and to effect means of living in peace with all other nations. .
I then asked the panel members: "Why is it there are no air raid drills for children in England or in western or eastern European countries, in fact, nowhere in the world except in the United States? Most of these other countries, after all, would be far more vulnerable to atomic bomb attacks in a war. Is it that the people of these nations aren't so politically astute as we are and don't understand so well the likelihood of war? Or is it that parents in these other lands don't love their children as much as we love ours and therefore are less concerned about protecting their lives?".(6)
| || The psychological aim of civil defense authorities is to produce among the population here a "controlled anxiety" which will steer them between the extremes of do-nothing indifference and latent panic. This plan. was explained by Dr. George James, assistant director of the state department of health's division of medical service . . . |
It could not be said that the panel speakers offered very persuasive answers to these questions. One suggested the United States was possibly suffering from some sort of "guilt complex" because of the use of the atomic bomb against Japan, and that Americans therefore subconsciously felt the need of inflicting air drills upon themselves. Another expressed the opinion that I had "greatly oversimplified the problem." A third said that "catch-all phrases about peace" could not alleviate war tensions in children.
Other speakers, especially parents in the audience, strongly supported the view that the best way to combat war tensions in children was to work for peace . . .
At the end of the meeting, the Committee to Study War Tensions in Children issued a statement evaluating the film, Duck and Cover, which read in part:
The film projects numerous anxiety-producing elements. Throughout, the child is informed that he is in continuous and dreadful danger no matter where he is, or what he is doing . . .
The film creates an assumption inevitably of an A-Bomb falling in our midst. . . . The child is left with the idea that there is no alternative but readiness to protect himself from destruction by the enemy. This creates a climate of fatalism and fear . .
The statement concluded:
The endorsers of this statement believe, therefore, that the Board of Education. . . should withdraw its endorsement of this film, and turn its attention toward counteracting the contagion of fear and hate already being promulgated among our children by TV, the movies, radio and sections of the press. Our schools should remain the centers of sane and thoughtful preparation of children and their teachers for contributions to a world at peace.
Nevertheless, Duck and Cover continued to be shown to school children in New York, as well as in many other cities.
5. The Threat of Peace
"You HAVE TO TRAIN a child to keep from running in the path of an automobile," Dr. Edwin Van Kleek, Assistant Education Commissioner of New York Civil Defense, complacently observes. "Is it not logical to explain to him what to do if an atom bomb strikes?"
But large numbers of mothers and fathers remain far from impressed by this "logic," which casually assumes that A-bomb raids are as likely to occur as automobile accidents. Unwilling to resign themselves to the inevitability of an atomic war, and fearful that the air raid drills may cause grave emotional disturbances in their children, more and more parents have urged that these measures be abandoned in the schools.
In Philadelphia, a delegation of mothers representing the Committee of Women for Peace presented the Board of Education with a statement which declared that to use the Civilian Defense program as a method to condition children for living in a world at war; to use children as messengers of propaganda; to send them home hysterical to their parents in order to get parents to act. . . ; this is not preparedness but insanity which we do not wish to see reflected in our children. . . . We propose a program of education toward peace and a friendship with the peoples of all countries.
| || As Report for the Business Executive put it in June 1950, with corporation profits from armament orders soaring to unprecedented heights: |
In the 1951 School Board elections in Cleveland, Mrs. Marie Reed Haug, an official of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers union, campaigned on a platform including the demand that atomic bomb drills be abolished in the schools. She received 44,000 votes.
In New York City, the Committee to Combat War Tensions in the Schools has advanced the slogan: "Peace is the only cure for war tensions."
School authorities, however, have not been greatly influenced by this viewpoint. As psychiatrist Dr. Ross Bleak told a conference of parents which was organized in Brooklyn by the Parents' Committee to Safeguard Children Against War Tensions: "It would appear that the 'war is inevitable' crowd has more influence over our school officials than those who feel that peace is possible."
There is reason, moreover, to believe that the protection of children is perhaps not the most compelling motive for the air raid drills in the nation's schools. '
Time and again, prominent figures in U. S. political and military circles have bitterly complained about the "public apathy" toward the "war danger" and stressed the need for taking steps to correct the situation. In the words of Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York: "This apathy cannot be tolerated." The extent to which civil defense policies are affected by such considerations was indicated in an article in the May 1951 issue of Safety Review, a publication issued by the Office of Industrial Relations of the U. S. Navy Department. Regarding proceedings at the Annual Convention of the Greater New York Safety Council, the article stated:
The psychological aim of civil defense authorities is to produce among the population here a "controlled anxiety" which will steer them between the extremes of do-nothing indifference and latent panic. This plan. was explained by Dr. George James, assistant director of the state department of health's division of medical service . . .
The article quoted Dr. James as' saying: "The only safe answer to this dilemma is the compromise which can produce just the correct amount of anxiety which will best promote psychological and physical preparedness . .. Into each individual's picture of his own personal future, the problem of atomic attack must begin to take an increasingly prominent place."
And what, indeed, could do more toward stimulating the "correct amount of anxiety" among millions of American mothers and fathers than the atomic bomb preparations for their children?
Nor is it only civil defense authorities who recommend the maintenance of war tension in the United States. Other, far more powerful elements have advanced this thesis.
As Report for the Business Executive put it in June 1950, with corporation profits from armament orders soaring to unprecedented heights:
| || War scares, if not overdone to make the public immune to fright, can be used to keep the boom rolling almost endlessly. With any slowing, new plans can be trotted out, new alarms sounded, big new appropriations voted. |
War scares, if not overdone to make the public immune to fright, can be used to keep the boom rolling almost endlessly. With any slowing, new plans can be trotted out, new alarms sounded, big new appropriations voted.
"Just keep this point in the back of your minds," the big business journal, U. S. News'" World Report, admonished its readers on August 4, 1950. "A peace offensive can break out
. . . if a real 'peace scare' should now develop, watch out. . . the boom would crack."
One thing, at least, was clear about the air raid drills which began in the schools one month after U. S. News had warned of the dangers of peace: the drills were not likely to cause a "peace scare", , , .
In the light of these facts, American parents are faced with a shocking and momentous question: are the happiness and security of their children being bartered as part of the price of the Cold War boom?
There are other developments in the land which indicate the answer to that question.
(1) U. S. Government officials had their own special reasons for not wanting to publicize too widely the fact that they had initiated and were supervising the plans for atomic bomb drills in the nation's schools. For one thing, they were sensitive to criticism of "Federal interference" in State and local educational affairs. For another, it was desirable that the air raid drills should have an appearance of local spontaneity.
An interesting example of the Government's policy of disclaiming responsibility for air raid drills in schools occurred when the eleven-year-old son of a neighbor of this author wrote a letter to President Harry S. Truman in the fall of 1952 protesting against the holding of drills in his school.
The boy received an answer from Ward W. Keesecker of the Office of Education of the Federal Security Agency, stating that the letter "to the President of the United States has been referred to this Office for acknowledgement and consideration," Keesecker's answer went on:
"I wish to assure you that the President appreciates your writing to him and that the Office of Education is glad to have your views with respect to air raid drills you are having in your local school system. However, I am unable to see how the Office of Education can be of any assistance in the matter you presented. . . education is principally a State and local function and the Federal Government is without authority to regulate or intercept in the administration of schools in the various States and local communities. The problem you presented is one to be determined by appropriate State or local authorities in accordance with State law. Consequently you may want to take up your case with appropriate local school officials,"
It was strange, to say the least, that a communication such as the boy's should be referred by the President of the United States to an official of a Federal agency who claims he does not know how his office can be of any assistance in the matter.
Also noteworthy is the fact that Keesecker's reply to the boy makes no mention of the major role of the Federal Civil Defense Administration in planning and coordinating the air raid drills in the nation's schools.
(2) According to a Federal Civil Defense Administration report on February 16. 1953, nearly 2.000 civil defense exercises were conducted by cities and states in 1952, involving 2.000.000 civil defense workers and 42.000.000 private citizens. The agency stated that during the fiscal year of 1952 the Federal Government had made available $100,317,256 for civil defense measures to which states and local governments had added approximately twenty-two million dollars.
The most elaborately staged mock air raids have taken place in New York City. Typical of the New York raids was one on the evening of September 10, 1952. An "atomic missile" fell near Times Square, and, according to the careful estimates of civil defense officials, "killed" 112,409 citizens and "wounded" another 116,501. Approximately five thousand civil defense personnel went into action in the heavily populated two-mile area which had been selected as the "main disaster area." In the words of the New York Times:
"Defense units evacuated the dead, gave first aid to the wounded, worked 'feverishly' to repair water main breaks, broken gas mains and electric conduits and provided shelter for, the 'homeless.' . . . The realism of the scene . . . brought gasps from the onlookers. . . . The buildings at Forty-Second Street and the Avenue of the Americas seemingly were enveloped in smoke and flame. Pots of colored fire were lighted on the roofs.' As the bombers roared over the smoke drifted down over the park and neighboring buildings. . . . Dummies were laid out on stretchers and lowered to the ground by hoists."
So thorough are the preparations in many cities for atomic bomb attacks that provisions are being made not only for human beings but also for animals. For example, in collaboration with civil defense authorities, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is making available for dog owners detailed instructions on the care of their pets. Among such instructions are the following:
"You could get under the bed when an air raid warning sounds and take your dog' with you-but he might not stay there. It is best to play safe. Lash your dog firmly to a heavy piece of furniture, away from windows. Put water where he can reach it."
The instructions also solicitously recommend that "in order to prevent hysteria under bombing or shellfire," sodium bromide tablets be given to dogs.
Similar instructions are obtainable from the civil defense authorities regarding the care of cats, horses, rabbits, birds and monkeys.
(3) Not a few psychiatrists assert that the fear displayed by children seemingly because of atomic bomb drills and other such war preparations is actually symptomatic of some deep-rooted psychological problem or "early traumatic experience" which has been brought to the surface by this particular stimulus. Only "emotionally unstable children," such psychiatrists contend, are adversely affected by drills, dog tags and so forth.
It may seem strange that these psychiatrists claim that the manner in which a baby is weaned may produce extreme anxiety in later years; but that a properly reared child will not be disturbed by the thought that an atomic bomb may fall at any moment and cause his own death or that of his parents. One must admit, however, that child experts who advance such a thesis are spared the possibly onerous task of speaking out against war preparations for children
(4) The other panel members were Dr. Kenneth Clark, psychologist at the Northside Center for Child Development; Cornelia Goldsmith, Chief of the day care and foster homes division of the Department of Health; and Dr. Exie Welsch, child psychiatrist and secretary of the American Orthopsychiatric Association. Chairman of the meeting was Dr. Stella Chess, child psychiatrist at the Lower-Fifth Avenue Hospital and chairman of the Committee for the Study of War Tensions in Children.
(5) See Chapter V for a detailed treatment of this trend in TV, radio, movies and comic books.
(6) On January 27, 1951, in a speech on a nationwide radio and TV hook-up, former President Herbert Hoover declared: "There is in Europe today no such public alarm as has been fanned up in the United States. None of those nations has declared emergencies or taken measures comparable with ours. They do not propagate war fears or war psychosis such as we get out of Washington. Not one European country conducts such exercises in protection from bombs as we have had in New York."