The Cleveland Story (Operation Alert, 1955)


For the first time online (as far as I can tell), The Cleveland Story: A City Responds outlines Operation Alert, the Federal Civil Defense Administration’s (FCDA) civil defense program, which involved civilian preparedness drills in U.S. cities in 1955. The Cleveland Story reports FCDA findings after the “Red Alert that signaled the dropping of the theoretical bomb” (p.8). Other items of note in The Cleveland Story:

  • estimated dead in the case of an actual was approximated at 200,00 people (p.10).
  • 240,000 people injured (p.10).
  • the role of the media in civil defense “public relations,” which is really a “state of mind” (p.11).

The print version of The Cleveland Story is at SuDoc FCD 1.2:C 59; a companion doc titled Lessons Learned from Operations Alert 1955-57 was placed on the Web by the National Defense University Library as part of its digital collection Lectures At the Industrial College of the Armed Forces 1924-42, 1946-65. Lessons Learned, while it doesn’t specifically mention Cleveland, is a robust history of war mobilization planning in the U.S. by none other than Innis D. Harris, Deputy Assistant Director for Plans and Readiness, Office of Defense Mobilization. The Q & A section of the doc is fascinating.

More on Operation Alert, including details on the evacuation of Eisenhower cabinet members and federal workers, is discussed in Betsy Hartman’s Making Threats: Biofears and Environmental Anxieties (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005).