Watch the U.S. Government Test Biological Warfare Masks on Kids - Atlas Obscura
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Watch the U.S. Government Test Biological Warfare Masks on Kids

A must have back-to-school item for 1960.

In 1960, the Cold War was going strong and the enemies of the United States were both manifold and secret. The threat of global destruction loomed large just beyond the horizon. There was a feeling that death could come in nearly any form, which was reinforced by the U.S. government in the form of films from the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization.

The government felt the need to prepare for any kind of attack. This included a theoretical bioweapon, which might take the form of an airborne pathogen that would spread quickly and cause unimaginable chaos.

The U.S. Army Chemical Corps set about making protective masks that would suit every civilian man, woman, and child. These required models and tests, and, as this 1960 video pulled from the National Archives shows, who better to test on than actual children? 

Luckily, there was never any need to use these masks. But if there had been, they probably would have worked. Now, in our post-Cold War world, the images of American schoolchildren in identical gas masks make for quite the jarring visual.

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