One Nation Underground: The Fallout Shelter in American Culture
Rose’s entertaining tract surveys the Cold War debate on the survivability of thermonuclear war, adducing provocative quotes from the press, movies, novels, and TV series of the 1950s. One late-’50s civil defense bureaucrat swore that ditches covered with tar paper would suffice to protect the citizenry from radioactive fallout. Religious leaders pondered the morality of backyard fallout shelters: Should you let the neighbors in, or shoot them on sight? Until 1992, Congress had its own top secret shelter (members only, families excluded) in West Virginia. The Soviet elite had theirs under a Moscow suburb, complete with movie theaters. Rose draws only one encouraging conclusion: Americans rejected the fallout shelter way of life as demeaning, divisive, and just plain cuckoo. Or, as Bob Dylan sang in 1962, ”Let Me Die in My Footsteps.” Glad he didn’t have to.