In a new book historian Garrett Graff shows how nuclear disaster preparation shaped the modern world

Historians in the News
tags: nuclear war, Garrett Graff

In a new book exploring United States officials' detailed doomsday plans during the Cold War, writer and historian Garrett Graff presents a look at how nuclear disaster preparation shaped the modern world.

Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan to Save Itself—While the Rest of Us Die, released May 2, recounts the history of "how nuclear war would have actually worked — the nuts and bolts of war plans, communication networks, weapons, and bunkers — and how imagining and planning for the impact of nuclear war actually changed." Raven Rock is the name of the military installation built in the late 1940s near Camp David, in case of disaster during the Cold War. As Graff's subtitle indicates, not everyone was invited to take shelter.

Through his research, Graff reveals how ineffective plans for nuclear disasteractually are when put into action. The problem with org charts and instructions? Humans. Take Graff's example of then Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren: when the judge was told he would have access to a secure facility in an emergency, he refused, saying, "I don't see a pass for Mrs. Warren."

Policies put into place in case of nuclear disaster also changed throughout the years, as different presidents took leadership and the scale of the Cold War grew to the point that officials realized only a certain number of Americans could survive a nuclear attack.

"During the Truman, Eisenhower and the Kennedy years, there was a much better push with the idea that the civil population could be protected," Graff said. "The scale of nuclear war grew to the point that that was no longer feasible." ...

Read entire article at Time Magazine

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