Friday, December 11, 2009


This afternoon I happened upon this 1959 U.S. Government Document in the San Francisco library where I work. The contributors to the Army-sponsored "symposium" were called on to estimate the civilian death rate at various distances from a nuclear blast. They divided their fellow Americans into victim-groups defined as the PROTECTED WARNED, the EXPOSED WARNED, and the EXPOSED UNWARNED. In an area for a mile and half around any single "detonation site" the death rate was projected to be the same for all groups – a rate of 100%.

As a first grader in 1959 I learned about fire drills (when we marched out of the building in orderly rows) – but we had more frequent and quite different drills to prepare for a nuclear attack by the Godless Communist Russians. There would be seven minutes, we were told, between the time the alarm sounded and the bombs hit. We used to practice crouching under our tiny desks for seven minutes.