Questions on health in the event of atomic attack

Wednesday, March 21, 1951

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Bill Leonard talks to Herman E. Hillebeau (?), Commissioner of Health for the state of New York, about listeners' concerns about health in the event of an atomic attack: a farmer wonders how long the ground will be contaminated after an attack (there is no concern), signs of radiation sickness, measuring radiation in the air, recommendations for foods to be stored in shelters, whether or not to take a bath after an air burst atomic attack, concerns over how much money the city is spending on medical supplies.

Bill Leonard then talks to Dr. John F. Mahoney, Commissioner of Health for New York City, who answers questions concerning New York City specifically: will contamination affect canned foods, caring for the elderly after an atomic explosion, arrangements for transportation of food, the possibility of women going in to labor after the bomb, and medical supply preparations.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 71804
Municipal archives id: LT1810

Hosted by:

Bill Leonard


John F. Mahoney


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About Plan For Survival

"Maybe you, maybe me.  Death and destruction ... Panic in the streets ..." Not a program for pre-bedtime listening, these recordings examine the impossibility of sufficiently preparing for nuclear winter.

With surprisingly calm moderators, the Plan for Survival series (1950-1951) goes beyond the usual "duck and cover" advisement and into the details of an A-bomb attack, fallout shelters, the Soviet threat, first aid, radiation sickness, and food and water supplies following a nuclear attack. Guests include civilians recounting their survival experiences in wartime, like the missile blitzes in England.

The show was transcribed for the Civil Defense Network, which "linked virtually every radio station in New York State and operates entirely by air. It can function even if regular radio lines are destroyed." Bill Leonard hosts with expert panelists, and most programs consist of a balance of speculation and civil information for New York State in general and New York City in particular.  Intended to be a public service announcement for a new nuclear age, the record of these programs now serves to add perspective to 21st century fears —from suffocating due to sinus congestion to bags left in the subway. It's clear -- death comes from above.


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