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Watch a Cold War Era Video That Advises You How to Survive a Nuclear Attack

You are the target.

The threat of nuclear attack loomed large for Americans in the 1950s. In an effort to prepare for such a scenario, President Truman formed the Federal Civil Defense Administration, and commissioned dozens of instructional videos about what to expect in the event of an attack, and how to protect one’s family and home. 

“You are the target,” the video above ominously begins, “of those who would trample the liberties of free men.” Black-and-white graphics showing explosions and fighter jets in a V-formation flash by. No matter whether you live in an industrial city, a “farming area with fertile fields,” or a “mining region rich with vital ores and minerals,” you have to be prepared for the worst, the video advises.   

In a deep voice, the narrator sets you on a clear path to survival, even providing a handy checklist. Some of the suggestions are quite useful: storing canned food, and learning first aid could help you survive in a number of scenarios. Others, however, make you doubt whether you should ever follow government emergency plans. After all, it’s unlikely that closing your blinds will make much of a difference in a nuclear apocalypse.

But if the video fails at actually preparing people for a nuclear attack, it is very effective in doing two other things: striking fear into the hearts of Americans, and igniting passionate feelings of patriotism.

Every day we track down a Video Wonder: an audiovisual offering that delights, inspires, and entertains. Have you encountered a video we should feature? Email ella@atlasobscura.com.