Civil Defense, 1956

July 3, 1956

Report Outline
Uneasiness Over Status of Defense
Civil Defense Attainments and Shortcomings
Obstacles to Effective Civil Defense
Proposals to Strengthen Civil Defense
Special Focus

Uneasiness Over Status of Defense

Coming Test of Defenses in Operation Alert

Readiness of the people of the United States to withstand an enemy nuclear attack is to be tested more extensively than ever before, from July 20 to 26, by Operation Alert 1956—the country's third annual civil defense training exercise. In view of widespread uneasiness over the progress and effectiveness of preparations to hold down deaths and injuries if bombs or missiles start falling, there is keen interest to see what advances have been made in civil defense planning since last year's Operation Alert. That test “clearly exposed the nation's un readiness to cope with a thermonuclear attack.”

President Eisenhower, who took a leading part in the 1955 exercise, is scheduled to be in Panama during the opening days of this year's alert. However, the participants will include—in addition to federal, state, and local civil defense personnel—cabinet officers, numerous other top-level federal officials, thousands of employees from more than 30 agencies of the federal government, and sections of the general public in some communities. In the course of a five-hour mock raid 63 population centers, nine Air Force bases, and four Atomic Energy Commission installations are to be “hit” by 139 plane-dropped and submarine-launched “explosives” ranging in force from 20 kilotons to five megatons. More than one-third of the “bombs” are to be in the megaton range, and about two-thirds of the “detonations” are to be made at ground level in order to test the ability of civil defense workers to deal with problems created by radioactive fallout.

The civil defense program has come in for steady criticism ever since it got under way half a dozen years ago. Its shortcoming's and the problems involved received a new and thorough airing this year at hearings before a House Government Operations subcommittee, headed by Rep. Chet Holifield (D-Cal.), which began in January and continued until the end of June. In the course of the hearings Willard Bascom, civil defense adviser to the National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council, asserted that the United States had no national civil defense policy. Maj. Gen. Otto L. Nelson, Jr. (ret.), chairman of a committee of experts appointed to review Project East River, declared that the present program was “so ineffective and fragmentary that it is worse than no program at all.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Jul. 29, 2016  Modernizing the Nuclear Arsenal
Mar. 08, 2002  Weapons of Mass Destruction
Jan. 31, 1997  Chemical and Biological Weapons
Jun. 24, 1994  Nuclear Arms Cleanup
Jun. 05, 1992  Nuclear Proliferation
Jun. 29, 1990  Obstacles to Bio-Chemical Disarmament
Apr. 22, 1988  The Military Build-Down in the 1990s
May 24, 1987  Euromissile Negotiations
Jul. 11, 1986  Chemical Weapons
Apr. 27, 1984  Reagan's Defense Buildup
Jun. 04, 1982  Civil Defense
Jul. 17, 1981  Controlling Nuclear Proliferation
Jun. 05, 1981  MX Missile Decision
Aug. 15, 1980  The Neutron Bomb and European Defense
Sep. 07, 1979  Atomic Secrecy
Mar. 17, 1978  Nuclear Proliferation
May 27, 1977  Chemical-Biological Warfare
May 13, 1977  Politics of Strategic Arms Negotiations
Nov. 15, 1974  Nuclear Safeguards
Jul. 01, 1970  Nuclear Balance of Terror: 25 Years After Alamogordo
Jun. 18, 1969  Chemical–Biological Weaponry
Jun. 30, 1965  Atomic Proliferation
Mar. 21, 1962  Nuclear Testing Dilemmas
Aug. 16, 1961  Shelters and Survival
Oct. 12, 1959  Chemical-Biological Warfare
May 13, 1959  Nuclear Test Ban
Dec. 04, 1957  Scientific Cooperation and Atlantic Security
May 15, 1957  Changing Defense Concepts
Jul. 03, 1956  Civil Defense, 1956
Nov. 16, 1955  International Arms Deals
Oct. 04, 1954  Industrial Defense
Apr. 15, 1954  National Defense Strategy
Feb. 10, 1954  New Aproaches to Atomic Control
Oct. 10, 1953  Atomic Information
Apr. 11, 1952  Biological Warfare
Oct. 03, 1951  World Arms Race
Feb. 04, 1948  International Control of Atomic Energy
Dec. 06, 1946  International Inspection
Aug. 27, 1943  Gas Warfare
Jul. 24, 1937  The New Race in Armaments
May 05, 1932  Abolition of Aggressive Weapons
Emergency Preparedness