Pop Culture

1951 – Elementary School Bomb Drills

A look at nuclear drills in mid-century schools.

Our look at the mid-century would not be complete without a discussion of bomb drills and the cold war. This article from the June 1951 edition of Today’s Woman magazine gives us real-time insight into how children were negatively impacted by the practice of bomb drills in 1950’s American schools.

The article by Andre Fontaine described how his son was uneasy while visiting New York City to see a rodeo for his birthday and couldn’t wait to go home. After questioning his son, the author determined that the son was consumed by the fears of an “a-bomb” hitting New York City. His fear was the result of the bomb drills at his elementary school.

Mark had been having A-bomb drills in his school and we decided to find out whether those drills were giving our kids the jitters.

The article suggested that schools revise their approach to bomb drills. Most important, it suggested that parents talk to their children about nuclear concerns.

The idea of bombing, in itself, doesn’t frighten most children and neither do bomb drills, if they’re properly run. What really scares them is that bombing may rob them of the security and love of their parents.

The article is available for download below.

Those of us in the 21st century looking back 70 years likely have a different take on the subject at hand. I have yet to understand the purpose of the bomb drills. A duck and cover is not going to protect someone from the dangers of radiation. However, proponents of the practice explain that duck and cover bomb drills MIGHT help and that it helped folks deal with their fears. I have listed a few resources below for more information.

More Information


Bert the Turtle Cartoon – Used by schools to help children understand bomb drills.

Bert the Turtle Video – 1951

Civil Defense at School video.

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