Comic Books #15: The H Bomb and You

In the 1950's, every American man, woman and child was constantly reminded of the fact that they were  just a few seconds away from being vaporized by a nuclear fireball.  At any moment, you would see the pulse of light and feel the blast-wave rip the flesh from your bones. Maybe, if you were lucky, you'd escape with just flash blindness, some thermal burns and permanent sterility. Either way, the mushroom cloud was always looming on the horizon.

Today, we have our own scares; however, the threat of nuclear annihilation was perhaps more pervasive in the 1950's than terrorist scares today.  Schools across the country taught children the "duck and cover" technique to withstand falling H-Bombs, and many a family had a fallout shelter or at least some canned goods in reserve to survive the nuclear winter.  In 1954, the Dept. of Civil Defense passed out the comic book The H-Bomb and You to schools. It wasn't exactly consoling to kids already anticipating a global nuclear holocaust. Let's take a look.

It begins with teach explaning in graphic detail their inevitable deaths what to expect in the event of a nuclear blast. In the picture above, the childrens' faces are turned away from us - I wonder what their expressions looked like. Sheer terror, maybe?

The teacher invites a guest from the Office of Civil Defense to speak to the class about their impending doom the specifics regarding a nuclear attack. He assures the kids, "In addition to damage near the point of explosion, an unseen, unheard, odorless 'fallout' of radioactive material might endanger people at some distance from the blast!"..... How'd you like to hear that before recess?

Just in case you had any hope left at all, our friend from the Office of Civil Defense quickly squashes it. 

Take home message: Start smoking, drink heavily and eat lots of red meat.  We're all going out in a blaze of glory.


  1. I wasn't around in the 50's, but I sure do remember watching the TV premier of "The Day After" in 1983 as a teenager. It scared the hell out of me! It showed what life would be like after a nuclear attack from Russia. Jason Robards and Jobeth Williams were in it. Those images are forever burned in my memory - the panic knowing missiles are on the way, the incredibly destructive explosions, the fallout afterwards. I didn't remember at the time, but no one bought commercial airtime after the attack on the U.S., so there were no commercial breaks for the last half of the movie. Carl Sagan and William F. Buckley even had a debate on national TV after the movie finished. Amazing! My Air Force ROTC college instructor actually showed this movie to our class in 1987 so I got to relive the experience.
    In grad school I had the privilege of hearing one of the physicists that worked on the original atomic bombs. I remember him describing the miles and miles of glass they had to drive over to visit the blast site. The heat from the blast had melted the sand in the Arizona desert. Now that is powerful!

  2. I'm probably punching my ticket to the Gitmo Bay Hotel, but "it is not our choice" is the biggest load of hooey and Cold War BS I've read today! I wonder where that Atom Bomb came from? And any time someone says it's your "duty" to do something, it's because they have an agenda and they want you to toe the line. First, there was religion, then that was replaced by nationalism, now what is it? Technology worship? Science worship? Man, people always want to get corraled into thinking what "The Man" wants them to think! Allen Ginsberg had a great quote about America and its hydrogen bomb, but I'll leave you to look it up.

    And why, why, why would anyone *want* to survive a nuclear holocaust???

    Oh, thanks for the excellent post, Gilligan. :) Nothing against you or your readers.

  3. I do remember the '50s (and this stuff carried into the early '60s) as well. Thank God I had my mighty school desk to protect me. Yes, we did practice air drills by hiding under our desks. Did it scar me mentally? I don't know, but 50 years later I still have the occasional nightmare where a nuclear fireball goes off outside my window.

  4. I have an original copy of this comic, any clue of the value?