Duck and Cover: The 1950s Film That Taught Millions of Schoolchildren How to Survive a Nuclear Bomb

After the Sovi­et Union test­ed its first atom­ic bomb in August, 1949, Amer­i­can anx­i­ety lev­els ran high­er. The fear of nuclear war was in the air. And a young gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­cans soon got its intro­duc­tion to Duck and Cov­er, the lit­tle tech­nique that would save lives if the U.S. ever endured a Hiroshi­ma-style bomb­ing. Or so it was believed.

In 1951, the US gov­ern­ment, work­ing with Archer Pro­duc­tions and stu­dents from Queens, NY, pro­duced a short instruc­tion­al film giv­en the no-frills title Duck and Cov­er. Shown to mil­lions of chil­dren nation­wide over many years, the film became a cen­ter­piece of the gov­ern­men­t’s emer­gency pre­pared­ness pro­gram. Since then, the film has been entered into the Nation­al Film Reg­istry (2004) and has inspired var­i­ous par­o­dies, includ­ing this recent goof from the “Aus­tralian Board of Civ­il Defence.” Hope you get some­thing from this nos­tal­gia-induc­ing piece of film.…

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

63 Haunt­ing Videos of U.S. Nuclear Tests Now Declas­si­fied and Put Online

Kurt Von­negut Gives a Ser­mon on the Fool­ish­ness of Nuclear Arms: It’s Time­ly Again (Cathe­dral of St. John the Divine, 1982)

Haunt­ing Unedit­ed Footage of the Bomb­ing of Nagasa­ki (1945)

53 Years of Nuclear Test­ing in 14 Min­utes: A Time Lapse Film by Japan­ese Artist Isao Hashimo­to

How a Clean, Tidy Home Can Help You Sur­vive the Atom­ic Bomb: A Cold War Film from 1954


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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.