This chapter examines the development of civil defense in the United States and Soviet Union up until the early 1950s. The predecessors of civil defense first appeared during the 19th century, but it only fully blossomed with the introduction of strategic bombing. Both the United States and Soviet Union possessed large civil defense organizations during the Second World War, but these proved ill-adapted to the requirements of the nuclear age in the postwar period. This chapter argues that the failure of the United States and the Soviet Union to pursue civil defense against nuclear weapons during the late 1940s can be attributed to domestic political factors as opposed to technical obstacles or strategic considerations. This tardy start left both superpowers ill-prepared when they decided to develop passive defenses to protect their populations form nuclear attack in the following decade.
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