Steuart Pittman, head of the U.S. fallout shelter program, died earlier this month at age 93. As a reminder of just how frightening the Cold War was, check out these old family-style bunkers from the pages of Popular Science.
"You cannot escape an atomic bomb, but there is something practical and patriotic you can do to prepare for atomic attack. A millionaire could not construct a complete A-bomb-proof shelter, but the average house-holder can make a worthwhile refuge room in the average basement. By building your family foxhole, you will also be building the state of mind that can resist the pressures of agression as well as the shocks of actual atomic war." Read the rest of the story in the March 1951 issue of Popular Science. Popular Science archives
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.