In light of current events in Russia, we’re going to take a look at something long forgotten in the United States: Civil Defense, and how the US government has been failing it’s citizenry since 1979.
Prior to World War 2, there wasn’t really a notion, nor a need, for a “civil defense” structure within the United States as we understand the term. While there had been efforts to mobilize the nation’s non-military workforce, including women, during World War 1, there simply wasn’t that great of a threat of external attack, and the false start was quickly dismantled after that war ended.
Once large-scale war returned to Europe in 1939, however, it became clear that the United States would be facing severe challenges. As a result, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) was established on May 25, 1940, to coordinate a national strategy for mobilizing the population to defend the country in the event of a direct attack. These preparations, as tentative as they were, came into sharp focus following the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the staggering Japanese offensive throughout the Western Pacific Ocean. Very shortly, German U-Boats swarmed towards American waters, and promptly sank over 100 merchant vessels along the US Atlantic and – some in sight of land – in the first three months on 1942, alone. Pearl Harbor-style raids by Japanese aircraft carriers along the Pacific Coast were seen as a real possibility. As well, there was a real fear of Japanese and German commandos sending landing parties ashore from submarines to sabotage everything from industrial plants to railroads and bridges; machine gun-equipped security posts were set up to guard Hoover Dam.
Even though the feared attacks never went further than U-Boat raids on shipping and one of the strangest series of raids ever seen (aside from the actual invasion of Alaska), an extensive network of air raid shelters and local security was established, and remained functional until the end of the war, when it was disbanded.
The war had not been over for a year, though, before the War Department (the Defense Department’s predecessor) published the “Provost Marshal General Study 3B-1, “Defense Against Enemy Action Directed at Civilians,” which concluded that atomic warfare did not eliminate, but actually increased the importance of a civil defense program.
That document led to the establishment of a huge network of programs, studies, shelters and supplies, that placed some level of planning for the civilian population of the United States to survive a projected nuclear attack. The resulting Civil Defense program continued it’s attempt to prepare American civilians for surviving a nuclear attack until the early 1970’s, when it’s oversight began to be dismantled, and its functions dispersed out to other agencies. Everything from food, water storage, tools and medications (even a 200-bed emergency hospital) were available from the Civil Defense system, direct to homeowners and small communities, at either no or little cost…But that wouldn’t last. There were, of course, problems and failures, but at least the government was trying.
Then end finally came on April 1, 1979, with the formal establishment of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA is a “reactive” agency – aside from providing some free information on their website, there is no longer any systematized response to any sort of disaster, be that a hurricane, earthquake or nuclear war. “Proactive measures” are not in the wheelhouse of any US government agency, when it comes to protecting the civilian population. While there are certainly “survivalists” and “preppers” out there, those people are frequently ridiculed and shoved into the category of “kooks” and “weirdos” for trying to coherently prepare for any sort of catastrophe – after all, if something should ever happen, the government will help you far better than you can on your own, right?
You might want to ask the survivors of Hurricane Sandy about that.
Today, with the proverbial “wars and rumors of wars,” as well as economic and energy chaos around the world, civilians (and even some military’s troops) are increasingly worried, because the governments of the world offer little in the way of assurance, let alone practical solutions, and quite literally seem to be attempting to make things worse. There have been too many years between serious, practical planning, done by actual specialists, to prepare people for “Disaster X”.
The bottom line is this: You are on your own. The government is not going to be there to help you..in fact, the government may very well decide that whatever you have, what you have spent your own money to stockpile for your family, is not actually yours, and that they will take it from you, by force, if they deem it necessary. If you doubt this, read it in their own words, HERE – the language is intentionally broad, and it can be changed on a whim.
Again: You are on your own. If you don’t have a plan, you’d better get started. Rice and beans are cheap…for the moment.
For more information, visit the website of the Civil Defense Museum HERE