A year before
Cuban crisis, JFK urged protection from fallout
In September 1961, three
months after his failed summit with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and
just weeks after the construction of the Berlin Wall, U.S. President John
F. Kennedy had a letter published in LIFE magazine.
In that message, Kennedy
told Americans "there is much you can do to protect yourself" against the
threat of nuclear fallout.
The message appeared
in the September 15 issue of LIFE. The headline on the cover read, "How
You Can Survive Fallout." Inside the magazine, readers were told they could
be "among the 97 percent to survive if you follow the advice on these pages."
Information was given on how to build fallout shelters, where to hide in
cities, and what to do during a nuclear attack.
Kennedy's message in
LIFE came a full year before what many consider his greatest challenge
as president, the Cuban Missile Crisis -- an event that brought the world
to the brink of nuclear war.
A message to you from the president
The White House
September 7, 1961
My Fellow Americans:
Nuclear weapons and the
possibility of nuclear war are facts of life we cannot ignore today. I
do not believe that war can solve any of the problems facing the world
today. But the decision is not ours alone.
The government is moving
to improve the protection afforded you in your communities through civil
defense. We have begun, and will be continuing throughout the next year
and a half, a survey of all public buildings with fallout shelter potential,
and the marking of those with adequate shelter for 50 persons or more.
We are providing fallout shelter in new and in some existing federal buildings.
We are stocking these shelters with one week's food and medical supplies
and two weeks' water supply for the shelter occupants. In addition, I have
recommended to the Congress the establishment of food reserves in centers
around the country where they might be needed following an attack. Finally,
we are developing improved warning systems which will make it possible
to sound attack warning on buzzers right in your homes and places of business.
More comprehensive measures
than these lie ahead, but they cannot be brought to completion in the immediate
future. In the meantime there is much that you can do to protect yourself
-- and in doing so strengthen your nation.
I urge you to read and consider
seriously the contents in this issue of LIFE. The security of our country
and the peace of the world are the objectives of our policy. But in these
dangerous days when both these objectives are threatened we must prepare
for all eventualities. The ability to survive coupled with the will to
do so therefore are essential to our country.
John F. Kennedy