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Armageddon InsuranceCivil Defense in the United States and Soviet Union, 1945-1991$
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Edward M. Geist

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781469645254

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469645254.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 28 September 2021

The “Oh My God!” Phase

The “Oh My God!” Phase

(p.97) 3 The “Oh My God!” Phase
Armageddon Insurance

Edward M. Geist

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter examines the way in which the discovery of the fallout effects of thermonuclear weapons effected the development of American and Soviet civil defense during the mid-late 1950s. The realization that the fallout from large hydrogen bombs could produce potentially lethal radiation hazards over areas hundreds or thousands or miles away from the detonations undermined the assumptions that underpinned civil defense planning a few years prior. American and Soviet civil defense officials attempted to use fallout as an argument for more extensive civil defense programs. This gambit backfired in both superpowers as sceptical political leaders curtailed civil defense rather than expanding it. In the United States, Dwight Eisenhower sidestepped pressure from civil defense advocates in Congress via institutional reforms whose practical effect was to increase the institutional responsibilities of civil defense while significantly reducing federal funding for them. In the USSR, civil defense skeptics convinced the mercurial Nikita Khrushchev to shutter the Soviet civil defense program altogether at the end of 1959.

Keywords:   civil defense, thermonuclear weapons, radioactive fallout, tactical evacuation, Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization (OCDM)

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