You and the Atomic Bomb

Wednesday, October 10, 1951

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

38th in the series

Bill Leonard introduces the series, he reminds listeners that the Civil Defense Radio Network links virtually every radio station in New York state and operates almost entirely by air and will operate even if other forms of communication are destroyed. He goes on to talk about the varied types of people working for Civil Defense.

Skitch Henderson and Faye Emerson talk about the threat of the atomic bomb. They remind listeners that you must be responsible for your own safety in the event of an attack. Self-reliance helps rescue workers get to those in need.

They interview two survivors of London blitz: Roland Sir William "Bill" Gillette and Margarette "Midge" Day. Midge describes how the bombing started when she was still a school girl. She was a volunteer fire watcher, she stood on the roofs of buildings, keeping an eye out and sounding alarms. Emerson describes Day's life since then, losing her husband to complications from injuries suffered during the war, and her arrival in the United States. Day describes her motivation for joining the Civil Defense effort - she wants to avoid complacency and wants to be able to help the older people who live in her apartment building.

Henderson introduces Bill Gillette. Gillette warns against the attitude of "it can never happen to me." He discusses the goals of aerial bombing - to destroy military installations and factories, to spread panic, death, and destruction among civilians, and finally, to create disorganization among civilians so that the war effort cannot continue. Gillette compares the bombing of London to some of the smaller towns. He recounts the story of a lorry driver who had been mortally wounded during an attack, though he was about to die he asked the doctor to hurry things along so that he might pick up his fairs.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 2494
Municipal archives id: LT1846

Hosted by:

Bill Leonard


Faye Emerson and Skitch Henderson


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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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