The state of civil defense in New York State

Wednesday, September 19, 1951

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

35th in series.

Bill Leonard introduces the series. He speaks with Milton V. O'Connell, deputy director for public information of the New York State Civil Defense Commission about the state of Civil Defense in New York.

O'Connell states there is no change in the public's attitude toward the need for civil defense in the state, despite all efforts by the commission. Leonard wonders if this is because there hasn't been an attack. O'Connell agrees that this is why, but says that this is no reason to believe there is not a threat. He believes that the chances of an attack are even greater. The enemy has had more of a chance to prepare and plan an attack.

He acknowledges that Americans are optimists and it is difficult to maintain a level of fear and caution until something happens. O'Connell is confidant that Americans will overcome any adversity, but believes preparation is required. He speaks of the many diversions that keep citizens from focusing on a plan for survival. He emphasizes the responsibilities of the individual. The organized Civil Defense actions can only be carried out if able citizens can help themselves.

Leonard and O'Connell discuss drills that have taken place upstate. They also discuss defense planning in other states around the country, such as Chicago.

He reiterates the importance of vigilance.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 71575
Municipal archives id: LT1843

Hosted by:

Bill Leonard


Milton V. O'Connell


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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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