The A-bomb and its effect

Saturday, January 13, 1951

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

Second in the series. Bill Leonard hosts, with guest Martin Caden, technical specialist of the New York State Civil Defense Commission. Four years earlier, Caden traveled to Japan to view the impact of the atom bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Caden describes the first experience of the bomb blast as a shock of light, the light precedes the sound. At this point, destruction has already begun. The first indication of a sneak attack is the bright flash - brighter than 100 suns. In the case of Hiroshima, according to Caden, most casualties were the result of fires. He estimates at least 20,000 people were killed due to panic alone. 50,000 deaths are blamed on a lack of civil defense training. Leonard and Caden also discuss the role of radar and plane spotters in preventing and preparing for attacks. Caden denies the commonly held belief that anyone within a half mile of the site of the bomb blast will be doomed. He points out that 400 people in Nagasaki took shelter in underground tunnels only 100 yards from ground zero and survived unhurt.

Caden believes that the impact of the bomb in Manhattan will very depending on where it is dropped. Lower Manhattan's buildings are built more solidly than in other regions.

Regarding radiation, Caden states that there are many misconceptions. He says that in the case of an atomic air burst (the type of attack that took place at Nagasaki) there will be no danger of atomic radiation 90 seconds after the initial blast. Contamination is only the result of a water burst or a very low altitude blast. He says radioactivity is not always dangerous or fatal. He concedes that in Hiroshima and Nagasaki there were some cases of sterility among both sexes, but these individuals were all within a mile of ground zero.
These effects were temporary, only lasting a few months. Also, there were cases of miscarriages among women. There were also cases of cataracts among 40 individuals.

He goes into some detail about the radius of different sized bombs.

Leonard reinforces the importance of listeners registering to work in civil defense.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 71788
Municipal archives id: LT1871


Martin Caden

Hosted by:

Bill Leonard


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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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