Monday, March 19, 2012

How would Delaware respond to a nuclear attack?

Last summer I wrote about some college textbooks that Elbert Nostrand Carvel -- who went on to serve two terms as the governor of Delaware -- personally used in the early 1930s. But that post didn't generate much interest or commentary.1

So I thought I would spice things up with a nuclear attack.

In 1967, two years after the end of his second term as Delaware's governor and less than five years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Elbert received a 2½-inch-thick, six-pound blue binder from the state's Office of Emergency Planning. The cover letter is dated April 28, 1967,2 and is signed by J.A. Sullivan, director of the Department of Civil Defense. The letter states:
Dear Governor Carvel:

The State of Delaware has developed a plan for the assessment and management of its resources in the event of an emergency caused by a nuclear attack on this country. This plan was approved by the Office of Emergency Planning, Executive Office
of the President and adopted by the Governor as the Emergency Resource Management Plan for the State.

It is the Governor's desire that all State and local government officials and agencies, organizations of our private sector and individuals concerned become thoroughly familiar with the scheduled participation in the program. A copy of the complete plan is hereby submitted for your review and retention in event its implementation is necessary.

Periodically, this plan will be reviewed and updated. Any changes noted or recommended should be submitted at that time.

Kindly acknowledge receipt of your numbered copy by signing and returning the enclosed postcard for record purposes.
The binder includes a preface, a letter than from then-Governor Charles Layman "Charlie" Terry, Jr., a small section labeled "Part A: Resource Management" and a larger section -- taking up the bulk of the binder -- labeled "Part B: Resource Programs."

Here's an excerpt from the preface:
"In the event of a nuclear emergency, with the isolation of areas and the probability of disruption of national government, the resultant effect upon our industrial and economic system would have a devastating effect upon the State and its people. Despite all Federal efforts and deterrents planned to prevent such an occurrence -- if it should happen -- national survival would be impaired if the individual State was not prepared and capable of survival through its own efforts."
"Part B: Resource Programs" is split into nine tabbed sections:
  • Construction and Housing
  • Economic Stabilization
  • Food
  • Health and Water
  • Industrial Production
  • Manpower
  • Petroleum, Gas and Solid Fuels
  • Transportation
  • Electric Power
Here are some items that struck me as interesting from the thick tome, which is written entirely in dry government language that in no way differentiates between the urgency surrounding The End of All Things and, say, legislation to designate an Official State Macroinvertebrate:3

Everyone freeze!
Included are copies of executive orders that would institute price, wage and rent freezes, per the Federal General Freeze Order.

Also, consumers would not be allowed to purchase and hoard necessities: "All retail sales except perishable foods or any health end items, shall be prohibited for a period of five (5) days from the effective date of this order, except that this period may be extended if exigencies of the emergency require such an extension."

After that period, a controlled and orderly rationing system would be put into place (if such a thing would even be possible in the chaos of a nuclear aftermath).

Make a list
There is a 12-page list of "Essential Survival Items" broken into seven major groups -- (1) Health Supplies and Equipment, (2) Food, (3) Body Protection and Household Operations, (4) Electric Power and Fuels, (5) Sanitation and Water Supply, (6) Emergency Housing and Construction Materials and Equipment, and (7) General Use Items.

All of the obvious medical supplies, foodstuffs, tools and construction materials make the list. Here's a sampling of some of the non-obvious items that also appear on there:
  • "Coffee, tea and cocoa are important for morale support"
  • DDT, water dispersible powder
  • Translucent window coverings
  • Corsets and all bed garments
  • Diatomaceous earth

Time to register
One of the first priorities in the aftermath of a nuclear attack would be the "registration of the populace of the State of Delaware" through use of the existing school districts. They even calculated how much time this would take:
"The population of the State of Delaware is approximately 500,000 persons.4 Assuming two (2) adults and three (3) children to the average family and establishing a procedure whereby one person registers an entire family, a requirement would exist to accomplish approximately 100,000 registrations. That is, one person would register for approximately five people.

"Allowing twelve (12) minutes per registration, one registration team at a Local Board site could accomplish five (5) registrations an hour. One team could accomplish forty (40) registrations in an eight-hour day. Five teams could accomplish two hundred (200) registrations in one eight-hour day. With five teams assigned to each of approximately one hundred (100) schools located within fifty-seven (57) districts, twenty thousand (20,000) registrations could be accomplished per day or the entire population of the State could be registered in five (5) eight-hour days."
What an example of an attempt to impose mathematics, bureacracy and order to a situation that would be incalculably chaotic and uncontrollable!

Finding manpower
Of course, one reason to get all the survivors of the nuclear attack registered as quickly as possible is ... to start putting them to work. The "Manpower" section of this 1967 emergency resource management defines "manpower" as "any person capable of performing work or other services needed for the survival of the community, state or nation."

Some further details regarding manpower:
  • "Many factors will govern assignments of manpower, including intensity of fallout, travel distances, shortages of regular occupational skills, and personal capabilities of physically able workers."
  • "The Delaware manpower agency (Employment Security Commission) will coordinate its activities through the Bureau of Employment Security of the U.S. Department of Labor. The Bureau's regional office, (Region III), Chambersburg, Pennsylvania will be the Delaware Agency's direct link with the Federal government5, which will continue to establish policy and guidance in the development and implementation of pre-attack plans and procedures and in the management of civilian manpower after a nuclear attack."
  • "During a nuclear emergency, The Selective Service System will screen its file and refer to The Employment Security Commission individuals not required by the military."

1. I should have known better. While the first Carvel post certainly held some historical interest, textbooks with titles like "Handbook of Equity Jurisprudence" and "Handbook of the Law of Municipal Corporations" don't exactly make for sexy blog topics.
2. Also on April 28, 1967, Muhammad Ali refused to serve in the U.S. military. From Wikipedia: "Appearing shortly thereafter for his scheduled induction into the U.S. Armed Forces on April 28, 1967 in Houston, he refused three times to step forward at the call of his name. An officer warned him he was committing a felony punishable by five years in prison and a fine of $10,000. Once more, Ali refused to budge when his name was called. As a result, he was arrested and on the same day the New York State Athletic Commission suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his title. Other boxing commissions followed suit. Ali would not be able to obtain a license to box in any state for over three years."
3. From Delaware's official website: "On May 4, 2005, the Stonefly (Order Plecoptera) was designated as Delaware's State macroinvertebrate, because it is an indicator of the excellent water quality in the State. ... By designating the stonefly as its State macroinvertebrate, Delaware once again demonstrated its leadership as the First State, because currently, no other state in the United States has designated an official State macroinvertebrate to accompany their State symbols..."
4. The population of Delaware is now more than 900,000 people.
5. I guess they're expecting the national telephone system to be just fine?

No comments:

Post a Comment