President John F. Kennedy appointed America's first civil defense chief for nuclear war preparedness in 1961, during the height of the Berlin Crisis. Steuart Pittman, a lawyer, was tasked with building enough fallout shelters to protect everyone in the U.S. in the event of an atomic attack. Three years later, Pittman resigned the position--which he described as one of the most “unappetizing, unappealing and unpopular” jobs ever created--after bitter debates over the ethics, feasibility, and cost of the program. As the New York Times reports, he died earlier this month at his family farm in Davidsonville, Md., at the age of 93.
The era of family fallout shelters is well-documented in Popular Science; between 1950 and 1990, we published dozens of stories, diagrams, and instructions for readers who wanted to build the best bunker on the block. Check out the gallery for seven of the most disturbing fallout-shelter photos and illustrations.