Oct 6, 1961:
President John F. Kennedy, speaking on civil defense, advises American families to build bomb shelters to protect them from atomic fallout in the event of a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union. Kennedy also assured the public that the U.S. civil defense program would soon begin providing such protection for every American. Only one year later, true to Kennedy's fears, the world hovered on the brink of full-scale nuclear war when the Cuban Missile Crisis erupted over the USSR's placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba. During the tense 13-day crisis, some Americans prepared for nuclear war by buying up canned goods and completing last-minute work on their backyard bomb shelters.
On this day in 1961, President John F. Kennedy advised U.S. families to build bomb shelters to protect themselves from atomic fallout in the event of a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union. In a speech on civil defense issues, Kennedy assured the public that the government would soon begin providing such protection for every American.
Kennedy told Congress on May 25, on the eve of his Vienna meeting with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, that his “administration has been looking hard at exactly what civil defense can and cannot do. It cannot be obtained cheaply. It cannot give an assurance of blast protection that will be proof against surprise attack or guaranteed against obsolescence or destruction. And it cannot deter a nuclear attack.”
Then, on July 25, after the Soviets imposed a blockade on West Berlin, JFK said in a nationwide televised speech that “in the event of an attack, the lives of those families which are not hit in a nuclear blast and fire can still be saved if they can be warned to take shelter and if that shelter is available.”
The president went on say: “We owe that kind of insurance to our families and to our country. ... The time to start is now. In the coming months, I hope to let every citizen know what steps he can take without delay to protect his family in case of attack. I know you would not want to do less.”
In the aftermath of Kennedy’s speech, Congress voted for $169 million to locate, mark and stock fallout shelters in existing public and private buildings. A year later, with the advent of the 13-day Cuban Missile Crisis, some Americans prepared for nuclear war by hoarding canned goods and completing last-minute work on their backyard bomb shelters.
Visitors to the California State Fair in Sacramento, Sept. 8, 1961, took a close look at this 3,000 demonstration fallout shelter.
This is what we were supposed to be sheltered from...
Thanks to Politico.com