steuart pittman

Obit of the Day: Fallout Man

In 1961 the threat of nuclear war was real. So real, in fact, that President John F. Kennedy made it an administration priority to build fallout shelters so that every U.S. citizen would have a place to survive the inevitable blast and the radioactive fallout that would result.

He appointed Steuart Pittman, the assistant secretary of defense of civil defense, to implement the program. Mr. Pittman took to role with vigor. Unfortunately he did not meet with the same level of enthusiasm that he had. 

It would cost $6 billion dollars to fully implement the fallout shelter program. Both Congress and local governments, who would share the costs, balked at the price tag. Even more disappointing to Mr. Pittman was the fact that most individuals were so depressed by the idea of living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland that they would rather die in the nuclear blast.

Steuart Pittman would resign three years after he took the job. Following his resignation he decided to build a shelter of his own with his wife: “We started it, anyway. But after half a day’s digging we gave it up." 

Note: There are estimates that families built approximately 200,000 shelters by 1965. And thousands of schools, hospitals, and other large buildings were designated as shelters for public use. 

He died on February 10, 2013 at the age of 93.

Source: Full NY Times obituary

(Image of a fallout shelter designed by Mr. Pittman’s Office of Civil Defense in 1961. For $280 you could built it yourself. From Popular Mechanics via Invisiblethemepark.com)