The Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950: Crafting Domestic Reponse in the Early Years of the Cold War

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Citation

Benton, Rosemary, “The Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950: Crafting Domestic Reponse in the Early Years of the Cold War,” Scholar@Simmons, accessed April 4, 2020, https://beatleyweb.simmons.edu/scholar/items/show/341.

Title

The Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950: Crafting Domestic Reponse in the Early Years of the Cold War

Creator

Benton, Rosemary

Date

2012

Description

The focus of this paper will be the study of the Civil Defense Act and its agency, the Federal Civil Defense Agency (FCDA), between 1950 and 1958. It was during this span of time that the FCDA came into being, attempted to urge the nation to prepare for the potential use of hostile nuclear weapons and subsequently perished. Within the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950 - or as it would be known upon its January 1951 approval from Congress, Public Law 920 - there exists a tangible connection between scientific research in America, the imagined concept of American identity, and the power balance of leadership within the nation’s civil defense program, all of which coalesced within the educational outreach of domestic defense. On a larger scale the civil defense program formed part of America’s deterrence policy by creating a united civilian population that could not easily by intimidated or derailed by the threat or execution of a direct enemy attack. That being the case, the success of the FCDA’s efforts to create this home front defense would rely on the agency’s ability to mold the nation into a state of constant readiness. This public disposition of American civil preparedness was believed to discourage any enemies from considering an attack, although it likewise trained the American people to accept the event of direct physical aggression.

By looking at the transcripts of Senate hearings specifically addressing the progress and legitimacy of the Civil Defense Act and its program of civilian mobilization, it becomes clear that the FCDA’s success or failure as a component of American deterrence policy hung on its ability to compile the various resources at its disposal and convince the public to act using relevant survival information and methods as a guide. If this could not be achieved, then not only would the FCDA have failed, but the aspect of a civilian defensive in the nation’s two-front deterrence policy would have proved insufficient as well. Throughout this paper I have examined the ways in which the Civil Defense Act of 1950 and its acting agency, the FCDA, were perceived to have failed and where the program was a success, leading up to 1958 whereupon the FCDA was replaced with the Office of Civil Defense Mobilization (OCDM).

Publisher

Simmons College (Boston, Mass.)

Format

1 PDF (58 Pages)

Language

English

Type

Masters Theses

Collection