An attack on the United States with an atomic or hydrogen bomb would make it necessary for many survivors to rely on their own food and water reserves — for up to two weeks following attack.

An H-bomb explosion can blanket an area many miles from the target area with dangerous fallout. If you and your family survive the explosion, you may have difficulty obtaining food and water from regular sources without over-exposure to fallout radiation. Essential services, such as gas, electricity and water, may be disrupted.

Safeguard your family’s survival by planning your food-and-water stockpile now. Start building it up in your home or fallout shelter. Maintain it. Doing this is an individual and family responsibility.

This responsibility is placed directly on the individual and family by the National Plan for Civil Defense and Defense Mobilization.

— “Family Food Stockpile for Survival,” Home and Garden Bulletin, No. 77, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Aug. 28, 1961

And you thought we’ve got problems. In the early 1960s, our families were preparing for an atomic holocaust. I was reminded of this by President Barack Obama’s move to re-establish relations with Cuba, partially lifting the embargo established after the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962.


I was only 14 years old at the time, but I remember the crisis very clearly, partly because, as a 4-H Club member, I was on the front lines of our nation’s defense. Or so it seemed.

Cleaning out Dad’s house over the last few months, I discovered an entire packet of booklets and guides to help us survive the atomic attack. The Club Leaders Guide, titled “4-H In Rural Defense,” was delivered to all 4-H leaders and county extension agents by the Cooperative Extensive Service, which, according to the guide, was “given primary responsibility for initiating and operating the Rural Civil Defense and Rural Information and Education Program.”

The guide instructed, “The job is to make every rural person aware of what the danger is, what shelter is needed, and to motivate them to provide adequate protection for themselves and their livestock.” I wonder what the city folks were doing? Maybe Maine didn’t have city folks in the early ’60s? Or perhaps we just didn’t care about them.

The Maine Civil Defense Youth Program was “based on the first law of nature — self preservation … Nothing you do could have a more positive influence on world events — because through Civil Defense you become a personal and vital part of national security. You help deter war, because an enemy would not attack if our people are prepared to survive; and you help assure personal as well as national survival if nuclear war should come.” Really?

From the Department of Defense, we have Family Shelter Designs. I especially liked the Outside Semimounded Plywood Box. Looks like it could double as a deer-hunting blind. Would deer be contaminated by the nuclear fallout? If not, we could survive on venison for quite a long time out here in Mount Vernon.

And speaking of food, the USDA’s “Family Food Stockpile for Survival” contains sample meal plans, tips on storing and replacing foods, cooking instructions if you don’t have a stove and a chart showing how much food to stockpile for each family member. We are alerted that, “Teenagers are likely to need more than the amount in the table.” Now they tell me.


A separate set of instructions, tucked inside the food guide, explains how to prepare Survival Crackers. “Government approved fallout shelters plan to allow one tin of survival wheat crackers per person, which will total 780 calories daily.” It is good to know our government was right on top of this. “Nutritional content (is) the result of (a) three-year study by (the) U.S. Department of Agriculture, concurred by (the) Food and Nutrition Board of (the) National Academy of Sciences.”

What a dream assignment: studying wheat crackers for three years. I just wonder if they were allowed cheese — and maybe a cold beer — as they studied. The handout reported that “Crackers may be ordered direct or through Nabisco salesmen.” An order form is included.

Linda will want to pore over another USDA brochure, “Soil, Crops and Fallout from Nuclear Attack.” Frankly, the information in this brochure is scary. But it was good to learn that, if your soil is contaminated at a level unsafe for some crops, you can still grow potatoes, “because they would absorb very little radioactive strontium compared to leafy vegetables.”

One of the booklets contains a tear-out checklist of what you should know and what you should have. The latter includes “a covered pail for bathroom purposes,” and “toilet tissue, paper towels, sanitary napkins, disposable diapers and soap.” Like, people wouldn’t know this?

Oh yea, and a wrench, screwdriver and shovel — presumably to dig your grave.

George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at


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