Thursday, July 28, 2016

Reading Maps, Socially: Chicago, The Bomb, and the Automobile Suburb
Patrick McHaffie
Department of Geography
DePaul University
On August 8, 1945 something happened in a large American city that would change forever the way it served as a place for people to live, work, and move about.  It was on this day that the first representation of the hypothesized effects of an atomic bombing of Chicago was presented in map form to the residents of the city, creating a new genre of urban cartography – the “kill-zone” map, visualizing the effects of an attack that would occur in some unknowable future.  Over the next decade these maps were to change in their horribly descriptive detail, consuming larger and larger bites of the city, until finally swallowing it nearly whole in several calibrated but nevertheless apocalyptic, imagined conflagrations.  Less than two months after the end of WWII, congressman Leslie C. Arends (Republican-IL), (who had access to classified defense documents) stated that “at this very moment it is possible to drop or to propel atomic charges into our large cities so as conveniently to kill millions of inhabitants in one operation…” leading to the inevitable conclusion “that the most dangerous spots on earth are Washington D.C., New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Los Angeles, and other large urban centers in this nation.”  He went on to suggest that the only logical solution was to decentralize large cities and production centers.  (Burd 1945).
Over the next decade U.S. civil defense policies and planning at local, state, and federal levels shifted from “duck and cover” and “stay and fight” to “dig, flee, or die” in a public debate that was to influence industrial location strategies, housing and public transportation policies, and private decisions regarding residential choice, lifestyle, uncertainty, and risk.  At the public-policy root of these processes was the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, conducted during and after WWII in an attempt to understand the industrial structure of Germany and Japan through a massive Operations Analysis (OA) program, in order to destroy their capability of making war.  Immediately following the war the bombsite of this analysis was turned back on American cities, thus revealing vulnerabilities to the weapons used during Allied air campaigns, up to and including the atomic attacks in Japan (Galison 2001; Collier and Lakoff 2008).  These analyses, conducted in urban-scale programs during the decade after WWII, drove the U.S. to enter into an official policy of urban decentralization first articulated in the Truman administration.
Although these policies served to “decenter” the American city, other more general social forces and anxieties were at work in the public psyche.  These included the initiation of the “cold war” between the U.S. and Soviet Union fraught with danger and uncertainty for all mankind, the creation in the U.S. of a permanent linkage between American scientists, Pentagon military strategists, and their political sponsors, and the creation and maintenance of a social superstructure of fear fed by propagandists, politicians, and demagogues. The terror bombings of Hiroshima (6 August, 1945) and later Nagasaki (9 August, 1945) were to spawn several chains of events through the postwar world.  The “cartographic imaginaries” of this global anxiety began for Chicago residents even before the “Fat Man” bound for Nagasaki was loaded into the B-29 on Tinian Island.
The Postwar American City
Perhaps the most striking spatial process working in the U.S. during the years after WWII that permanently reshaped the structural linkage between residential neighborhoods and commercial/industrial employment districts was the explosive growth of automobile suburbs on the edges of large cities.  Across the metropolitan triangle in the northeastern U.S. (Boston – Washington – Chicago) and several other large cities of the south and west, the expansion of residential suburbs into former “greenfield” sites in the years immediately after the war reshaped the social geographies that were in part the product of previous transportation and communication technologies.  The stereotypical new suburban residents were middle-class white families, typically young and headed by a father who remained employed in an urban office (in the CBD) or factory (in the industrial frame) with a mother who served as the principal caregiver to a young and growing brood.  Within a short generation in the typical American industrial city this process created monocultures of conservative suburban communities, demographically distinct from the cities that spawned them but similar to their adjacent neighbors on the urban fringe.  The term “white flight” has become an accepted trope across the social disciplines describing the process - labeling the identities while referring obliquely to the motives of the participants in this short but massive migration.
In most textbook accounts this process was fueled by some combination of demographic change (the “baby boom”), disinvestment and modal shift in public transportation (in particular the sudden and stunning demise of the surface lines between 1945-55), federally subsidized home mortgages (FHA and GI Bill home mortgage programs), postwar prosperity and high employment following a short postwar recession (the recession due to demobilization and prosperity fueled partially by shift to permanent war economy), the collapse of inner-city real estate markets vis-à-vis more profitable suburban locales and the subsequent failure of urban property taxation to support adequate infrastructural and social investment there, and state and federal subsidization of automobile ownership through the funded construction of expressways and superhighways.
Layered onto this is our received understanding of the shift referred to above, racially-motivted residential relocation of white middle-class urban residents to newly developed suburban bedroom communities on the urban periphery.  This was made more catastrophic for the remaining urban residents by inner-city redlining, other forms of housing discrimination within the city, and racially restrictive covenants in many of the new suburban communities.  These combined factors, some “push” and some “pull” (and perhaps some more closely analogical to barriers of various kinds), worked together to create the sprawling postwar American city, differentiated along racial/ethnic and class lines, sharply wrenched into an emerging infrastructural hegemony by a new layer of automobile edge-development and wide swaths of urban renewal condemnations.
Perhaps the “type location” of this geographical-historical pattern was Chicagoland, the extended city first referred to by Robert McCormick publisher of the Chicago Tribune in the 1920’s, that today includes over 10 million residents and stretches to far-flung communities such as DeKalb and Rockford, nearly 100 miles from the city proper. It was in McCormick’s rabidly pro-business/anti-labor/ anti-communist Tribune, two days after Hiroshima, that the first of many “kill-zone” maps of Chicago were published.  This was to be followed over the next decade by numerous similar maps published in this and other newspapers; maps that reflected the exponentially expanding power of newer and more terrible weapons and delivery systems, calibrated through studies performed around nuclear tests in the south Pacific and the American southwest.  These maps were a cartographic subtext to the terrifying urban rhetoric of early cold war civil defense, and graphical evidence of “science writing” a growing genre of postwar journalism (Lewenstein 1995).  The context of daily life in the U.S. at this time included the massively organized cold war version of WWII neighborhood air raid wardens - the Ground Observer Corps (GOC), a test of the 95 city sirens every Tuesday morning at 10 (still being occasionally performed in 2011), and simulated annual nuclear attacks with massive and regimented public participation and morbid post-attack estimates that in a real attack 500,000 or more would die instantly. In some ways these images define the standoff of the early cold war – the U.S. targets the U.S.S.R. and the Soviets target the U.S. – placing Chicago, with its north-central U.S. location squarely on the frontline of polar first-strike scenarios.  The culture of mass terror – it really can be called nothing else – created in this period, lasted for decades, easing after 1989, only to be echoed after 9-11.  It must be said, however, that somehow in the standard explanations of the transformation of the city during this period that detailed discussion of this facet of urban historical geography is curiously missing.
This paper stitches together a narrative around the intersections of public knowledge, science and weapons development, geopolitics and war strategy, urban change, and media representations of these things during the decade after the end of the war.  My goal here is not to replace the accepted dogma but to enrich it with another, seemingly ignored, mechanism that helped drive this process – a rational fear of nuclear apocalypse, paying particular attention to how mass-consumed, newspaper cartography informed this terror.
Reading Maps, Socially
Reading codified texts of any kind is a complicated, human activity involving physical and intellectual labor.  One of the principal tasks for scholars is to try to understand the possible ways that others have read texts, drawn meaning from them and then acted on that knowledge. One must assume that this reading wherever it occurs is contingent and individualized, producing meanings for the readers that fall outside either standard prescriptions or assumptions the makers of these texts may have had.  Geographers are often and perhaps most centrally concerned with a particular and special type of text, the map, and many have written on the various ontologies involved in their reading (Dodge, Kitchen, and Perkins editors 2011; MacEachren 2004; Wood 1992, 2010 ).
A very useful method for understanding the ways that texts of all kinds are read can be found in the writings of Roland Barthes (1957, pp. 109-159; 1982, pp. 21-40).  His approach, grounded in semiotic theory, has been taken up across many disciplines – in geography perhaps most notably by Wood (1992; 2010).  Barthes’ understanding of language is best thought of as a two level structure that produces two complete semiological systems, the first producing formal language characterized by relatively direct denotative meanings.   The second layer takes the product of the first (the sign, the mapped city – filled with denotative meaning, as prescribed in the symbology and rules of cartography) and recycles it as the starting point, the signifier of a second system.  This layer, built on the relations of the first, seen as a form of speech termed myth, richer in context than the first and more personalized and written into the biography of the reader – in short contextualized with connotative meanings not available in the first, literal reading.  When one considers in the abstract their own process of encountering and engaging with a text, either briefly or in depth; reading, digesting, and incorporating the decoded symbols into one’s own life-world, the view presented by Barthes is a strong method for understanding how we read.
Using this system as a way of thinking about maps one can explore various approaches to understanding possible readings of their social contents and contexts.  To suggest other mechanisms that drove the urban-suburban migration in postwar America than those mentioned above there must be strong evidence to support the claim.  What will be seen is that maps and diagrams, considered as socially active texts, grounded in calibrated studies of nuclear tests and representations made about these by public narrators, and presented through various media were important mechanisms motivating some urban residents to flee the city.  The argument that these representations were particularly important is made stronger when considered in the context of the ideologically-charged discourse around nuclear weapons, their use, and urban civil defense at this time – most properly labeled as mass hysteria.  The effects of these representations found their way into many political, social, and economic processes and drove public policy at all levels of government, private decision making, economic calculation by powerful actors, and strategic decisions that were global in scope and scale.
By sorting and considering the denotative (obvious, direct, intended) meanings of maps first, a literal context is established for moving to the second level, now contextualized by the reader and open to social and psychological interpretation.  In effect the map is emptied of its obvious meanings and then refilled with the contextualized meanings that can be associated with it when situated in a particular historical/geographical setting.  This allows us to use place, a somewhat magical analytical object, as a site for revealing the traces of processes acting through time and space that shape the actions of individuals to produce human-scale material effects which linger in the landscape.  Since these representations/maps are (more or less) grounded in a scientific discourse; knowledge produced in weapons labs, distant test sites, and government agencies and then communicated in a language that is meant to be understandable by “the public” then reflections regarding their authority and credibility are necessary and appropriate.
Consider the map of Chicago from August 8, 1945 (figure 2).  The first reading presents a signified (the city) and signifier (the map).  It is at this level that the direct meaning of the map (a graphic representation of the city) produces denotative understanding of a city in time/space - a relatively unproblematic proposal.   Obvious and ordinary features (the lakeshore, city boundary, a familiar grid of streets, and comforting annotation) orient the local – this is my city or a city that I know.  At its heart a black mark, black as charred flesh, in a strangely Cartesian square, illustrates for all to see the area consumed by the Hiroshima weapon were it transported to Chicago.  This first reading produces a language object (a sign, the city mapped with thematic content) that then becomes available to the second system (of meaning).  “The signifier of myth presents itself in an ambiguous way: it is at the same time meaning, and form, full on one side, and empty on the other.” (Barthes 1957, p. 117)
The second level of reading can be rich in connotative meanings and all of the possible associations that a mapped city or a city mapped can be filled with (e.g. social/political/cultural/psychological).  These might include all of the possible thematic cartographies one could recall or even imagine, in this instance, cartographies of the postwar city, its rich demographies, sharp historically inscribed boundaries of difference in class, race, language, gender, etc., and even imagined landscapes of terror, horror, and apocalypse.  The reader also is invited to associate this map with other maps of the city they may have seen or even with mental maps traced from their own personal biographies (Where is my neighborhood? Would we survive?  Are we safe?).  They may question the location of the attack (Why there? Why not in the industrial zone of the south side?).  The sign of the first system becomes the signifier of a multivalent signified – one that can be associated with a set of possible connotations shaped by the imagination, intellect, and ideological frame of the map reader.  In this sense then the social-spatial identity of the reader is everything and membership in one class, race, gender or ethnicity and most importantly location in the mosaic of city neighborhoods would predispose particular interpretations of the map.
Just five years later, again in McCormick’s Tribune, another map appeared, also speculative, this time considering the possible effects of a weapon not yet built – the hydrogen bomb (figure 3).   Again the map presents several familiar features in a larger regional context (lakeshore, city and surrounding county boundaries, several surrounding railroad suburbs) to orient the reader, then covers an immense area (over 300 times the size of the Hiroshima square) with a badly smeared screen inscribing a circular area that would be incinerated were the imagined weapon to be exploded here – this result confirmed by the blunt and horrific title.  The footprint of the weapon has been moved southwest of the 1945 “attack” to proximity of present-day Countryside, a leafy first-tier, postwar suburb – apparently to maximize the area of devastation on land while insuring that the city boundaries of Chicago were completely within the devastated area, and spreading imagined devastation into the farms of DuPage and Will Counties.  The caption hammers home the serious threat that this map illustrates in the chance there was any doubt to the way all would die should an attack occur..  A literal reading of this map opens many possible paths to connotative interpretations by the reader venturing past the obvious meanings.  For residents within Chicago proper the options are very limited – where can I find safety?  If/when the attack comes I want my family outside the “Death Area”.  Can we afford to move from the city to the suburbs?  How far out do we need to be?  What if the attack comes during the day?  What if it comes at night?  Those residents in residential suburbs suddenly found themselves at risk of incineration or perhaps worse lingering death due to radiation sickness.  Is our community safe?  Is it sensible to consider a home bomb shelter?  Perhaps we should move further out.  Will we be overwhelmed by fleeing city residents?  Can we trust the military/ scientists to protect us?
The sign produced at this level completes the second reading – what Barthes termed “myth”. And it is as myth that these newspaper maps should be considered - not as artifacts per se but as mass-consumed notions of an imagined city, a city brimming with immigrants, a precious city made so by technoscience and our belief and reliance on it, an industrial city - the arsenal of democracy, squarely in the cross-hairs, represented and exposed, suddenly made vulnerable, compromised, threatened, terrorized, and doomed.
Uncertainty, Risk, and Public Science
Much of what urban residents were experiencing at this time revolved around the categories of uncertainty, risk, and public science.  The sudden and horrible reality of the early Cold War, following on the depredations of WWII, left one with a sick feeling of endless conflict between superpowers.  The technoscience that had dominated strategic planning in the war culminating with the shocking denouement of the Japanese bombings and the gradual realization of the hazards associated with the new weapons (for example the postwar revelations related to fallout and radiation sickness) enhanced feelings of uncertainty in the U.S.  This was magnified by the initiation of an aggressive and widely publicized nuclear testing program by the U.S. in the South Pacific.  International tension at mid-century created a treacherous terrain for U.S. policy-makers working within the framework of the newly established Truman Doctrine.  The Soviet Union, a recent ally, was publicly demonized in the U.S. (beginning before the end of the Pacific war) establishing the terms of conflict that were to define geopolitics for the next half century, and news of the Soviet bomb in 1949 fulfilled the expectations of many in the U.S. administration.  This followed closely the humiliation of Soviet politicians with the failure of the Berlin Blockade (1948-9), the partition of Germany, and the Czechoslovak coup d'état of 1948.  The outbreak of hostilities in Korea (June 1950) following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 heightened distrust of the USSR among the American public, and provided ample fodder for demagoguery in the American media while the Hiss and Rosenburg show trials fanned fears of “fifth-columnists” and Soviet espionage.  Americans generally were in a dyspeptic mood and a heightened state of uncertainty regarding the future. (Walker 1993)
Following the war many have argued somewhat convincingly that there was a marked and permanent shift in the ways science and society speak to one another, in effect arguing for a more reflexive relation between the two (Nowotny et al 2001).  Society, long viewed by historians as the context in which science takes place, began to “speak back” more forcefully and effectively to science (as a social activity) and the policy-makers who more and more governed the production of scientific knowledge in the period following the Second World War.  Evidence of this shift can be seen in the ways that public information regarding the effects of possible nuclear attack on U.S. cities presented in the mass media shifted from relatively coarse representations of “death zones” or “zones of devastation” to graduated systems for assessing relative risk in proximity to a bomb detonation, a risk assessment that would be more useful to city residents.  The calibrations of methodologies for producing accurate body counts in bombed cities was taken to a morbid extreme in the “isomorbic” contours of casualty levels used in “Civil Defense Urban Analysis”, a Civil Defense training manual published in 1953 intended for local jurisdiction CD use (Federal Civil Defense Administration 1953).   Early mappings of fission bombs’ effects on the city in 1945 (see above figure 2) were refined by 1947 into a zonal map with varying levels of destruction: total destruction, partial destruction, and radiation (figure 4).  This map was derived from comments made by Major General Henry Aurand at a luncheon meeting of the Union League club in Chicago (Chicago Daily Tribune 1947).  Aurand, a key supporter of the creation of the NSF and government support for basic science during the postwar years argued that civilian science should be seen as a dispassionate ally of the military – a position supported by the influential Chicago club.  A similar shift can be seen in the way that information regarding the hydrogen bomb and its expected effects (first communicated widely in 1950, see above) was moved into the realm of risk management with similar (but much more devastating) zonal mappings (figure 5).  This quick shift from uncertainty to graduated and calculable risk communicated by the “mechanically objective” discourse of cartography provided more useful information regarding relative safety, degrees of risk, and possible strategies for those of means who were able to relocate to what were perceived as safer suburban locales.

Urban Civil Defense I: “Our Cities Must Fight”
At the outset of the Cold War the initiation of civil defense (CD) activities and practices were made more easily acceptable after the recent experience of urban residents during WWII.  These included blackouts and civilian plane spotters mobilized in large numbers, anti-sabotage campaigns, and many other activities meant to boost morale organized through national, state, and local organizations.  These activities were all supported and publicized through print, broadcast, and motion picture media channels keeping the sense of urgency front and center for all.  In Chicago CD activities were directed from several overlapping authorities.  The city government had an office of civil defense in city hall spending a considerable budget on these activities by the early 1950’s.  The Cook County civil defense office was in the county highway department and they actively coordinated with the Chicago organization and surrounding counties on questions such as possible evacuation and shelter of city residents, rail traffic control and routing, siren and warning tests, and large-scale simulated attack drills.  The state CD office operated out of the capitol in Springfield.  Over all these were the evolving Federal agencies responsible for CD.
Drills began around 1950 and after starting as “paper” exercises they quickly became quite elaborate with substantial acting out of particular roles meant to fit specified scenarios (Davis 2007).  These simulations were normally coordinated with or mandated by state and federal officials and different parts of each exercise were intended to simulate the conditions expected during a nuclear attack – presumed to be delivered by strategic bombers, normally in the middle of the day.  Eventually hundreds of thousands participated in some way – school children, firefighters, police, government officials, military personnel, industries, etc.  By 1954 these exercises were organized on a national basis (termed “Operation Alert”) and normally were conducted as simultaneous attacks on numerous U.S. cities widely publicized in the print and broadcast media.  The stated intent was to test public response to calibrated emergencies (typically presented as daylight surprise attacks – the memory of Pearl Harbor lingered) and to look for problems that might occur in the event of real attacks. In many cities (although never Chicago) massive actual evacuations were attempted, particularly beginning in 1953.
During the Truman administration official federal policy recommended against evacuation of civilians from large American cities in the event of nuclear attack.  This policy was publicized through such productions as the propaganda film “Our Cities Must Fight” (figure 6; Federal Civil Defense Administration 1951) where fleeing atomic attack was equated with treason – those fleeing the city were labeled the “take to the hills gang”.   Urban residents were urged to stay and continue to operate and rebuild industries needed in the war effort.  This was released at about the same time as a short partially-animated film starring a folksy animated turtle aimed at the children of office and factory workers recommending they “Duck and Cover” when the flash of a nuclear blast occurs close by (Federal Civil Defense Administration 1951).
This Civil Defense dictum to stay and fight contradicted the postwar policy of urban industrial dispersion championed at an early stage in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Marshak, Teller, and Klein 1946).  The National Security Resources Board (NSRB) was created by the National Security Act of 1947 that created the National Security Council, a brainchild of visionary WWII planner Ferdinand Eberstadt (Cuff 1985).  This group created a policy on industrial dispersion, approved by Truman in 1947.  NSRB immediately recognized and began recommending the dispersal of industry (and “naturally” with that population) to make cities less inviting targets. Seattle was a case study used as a template for how a city could disperse its vulnerable industry (of particular concern was Boeing, a major defense contractor, and its coastal location).  In 1951 an NSRB dispersion policy statement included these components:
  1. Designed to disperse new industry, not move established industry
  2. No region to be built up at the expense of another
  3. Industrial dispersion to be confined to local marketing areas
  4. Encouragement of dispersion to take place at all levels of government
Although the NSRB has been seen by many largely as a failure, it was supplanted by the Office of Defense Mobilization (ODM) in 1950 which in the context of the Korean and Cold  Wars became extremely powerful in reshaping defense procurement, incorporating the dispersal policies almost without change, policies which have had profound spatial consequences and which remain largely in place (Cuff 1985).  At the same time there was no effective way to enforce the 2nd and 3rd components of the dispersal policy above, and the long term result shifted defense industries from the West, Midwest and Northeast to the South and Southeast (Markusen et al 1991) perhaps more secure and certainly less friendly climes for organized labor.  This resulted in opposition of the policies in the late 1950’s by John Dingell, (Democrat-MI), a Detroit congressman (New York Times 1958).
The cluster of physicists based at the University of Chicago who were intimately involved with the Manhattan Project were early supporters of industrial dispersion as a defense policy aimed at making American cities less vulnerable to nuclear attack.  The first articulation of this position in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, co-authored by Edward Teller and two others in 1946, proposed nothing less than the reconfiguration of the American urban system:
“The ideal situation would be to have our population dispersed evenly over the 3 million square miles of our inhabitable area.  In this case, each of our 40 million or so dwelling units (including some shops) would be placed in a separate square of 3 million square miles / 40 million = 1/13 square mile approximately; there would be a distance of about ¼ mile between any two neighbors.  Such complete dispersal is, however, not feasible.”  (Marshak, Teller and Klein 1946; p. 13)
The authors went on to recommend linear cities (harder to eliminate with bombs producing circular “death zones”) along ribbons spaced approximately 25 miles apart, with 15,000 persons spaced on each 25 mile stretch between intersections.  The entire program (to be completed by 1955) was estimated to cost around $130 billion (more than $1.4 trillion, 2010 dollars), hard to imagine when federal outlays were just over $55 billion in 1946.   This fascination with and advocacy of urban dispersal among the nuclear science community went on for nearly ten years with the publication of numerous articles contributed by notable urban planners and political figures in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists through at least 1954.

Urban Civil Defense II: “Run, Dig, or Die”
In 1953 the change in presidential administrations ushered in a new federal philosophy in civil defense planning as regards large American cities.  Under Truman the general directive was for civilians to stay put and “hunker down”, however this changed with the inauguration of Eisenhower.  One of his first appointments was Val Peterson, former governor of Nebraska, to head the newly created Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA).  Peterson brought a new philosophy to his job – for him the only feasible defense against nuclear weapons was “to not be there when the bomb goes off”.  Peterson was famously quoted in 1954 (in a letter to the mayor of San Francisco) that:
“In the face of the increased destructive capacity of hydrogen bombs, planned evacuation of our cities becomes an urgent necessity… If I may oversimplify the problem the choices that confront us are [1] get out, [2] dig, [3] or die.”  The Tribune simplified the message with its’ page 30 headline, “Lists Choices in H-Bomb Raid: Run, Dig, or Die.” (Hearst 1954)
Noting that shelters were untested and a mass construction program to protect the American people was not economically viable he went on to claim “no American by choice will deliberately stay in his city to die.”  His reliance on planned, practiced evacuations depended on the promise of two to six hour warnings to be given by an expedited “plane detection system” – what was to become the Distant Early Warning (DEW) line, completed in spring 1957 (Farish 2006).  Earlier (in September 1953) Peterson stated that Russia “…has enough atomic bombs to drop one or more on every major American city at the same time… we could have 8 or 9 million to 20 to 22 million casualties in the United States from one Russian attack… We must decrease our urban vulnerability.  When we tear down slums in the middle of a city, we don’t want to put up big apartment buildings in the same place.  These buildings should go up on the outskirts of the city.” (Chicago Daily Tribune 1953c)  Peterson made these comments to the annual convention of the National Association of Insurance Agents in Chicago.
Chicago’s experience with and planning for evacuation drills at this point (1953-4) was rather thin and over the next few years a lively public dialogue emerged between proponents and advocates on various sides of the question including those supporting planned and mandatory evacuation, urban dispersion, publicly-funded shelter construction, express highway construction, mass transit expansion, and several other related schemes.  There was also a fair amount of public resignation that little could be done to move the 3-5 million people in most direct danger from their homes and workplaces as quickly as necessary and that some combination of early warning and air defense would be the wisest investment.  An incipient anti-war movement also became more vocal at this time, particularly as civil defense drills became more frequent and regimented through the mid-1950’s.
The first large-scale, Chicago simulation (in summer 1950) was a paper exercise and had no actual evacuation drills.  Hundreds of city, county, and state employees participated in what was a rather forced role-playing exercise, with a theoretical attack “problem” presented by the NSRB.  Three Hiroshima-size fission bombs were dropped on the city (two air-burst and one ground-burst) in mid-September and government agencies and volunteer organizations developed responses to the attacks based on estimates of the damages around each “ground zero”.   A five-day conference was held in late September 1950 (attended by over 1000 CD officials from various jurisdictions around the country) to present the results of the exercise and critique the response of the parties involved.  The results of the exercise were published in a massive volume with detailed descriptions of the responses and critiques – the principal response was to treat each bombing as a separate problem – for example this map shows water mains to be cut-off in the central bomb area (a ground-burst).  From this and other mapped responses it is clear that the plan was to “duck and cover” and provide aid to casualties within the city, in this exercise estimated at over 130,000 dead and a similar number with non-fatal injuries. (Chicago Civil Defense Corps 1951) 
These simulations continued through the early and mid-1950’s in the city, and as they were conducted debates around evacuation, dispersion, and sheltering roiled.  Local officials and city residents often found themselves on the receiving end of confusing and contradictory instructions from different parts of the federeral and state bureacracies, in particular during 1953-4 as the shift in policy attendant on the changing administrations occurred.  For example, in early 1953 a report from Brookhaven National Laboratory sponsored by the NSRB challenged gloomy assertions by military planners that there was little hope to avoid devastating losses from a Soviet atomic assault on the nation’s cities.  After suggesting changes to our preparation for an expected attack such as industrial dispersion, shelter construction, and improved defense capabilities, the report seemingly contradicts itself.  “The enemy’s stockpile of atomic bombs and other weapons, together with the means to deliver them on targets, will reach a total at some not too distant date which will permit the lauching of what could be a knockout, saturation attack on the United States.” (Chicago Daily Tribune 1953a)
In late April, 1953 the Chicago Civil Defense Corps held its first full-scale atomic simulation with over 1 million participants, including 700,000 school children who filed to their in-school shelter areas.  Emergency personnel were dispersed to areas close-in to the attack site at the corner of Belmont and Kedzie Avenues – the headquarters was at Belmont and Cicero 2 miles west of ground zero where dozens of police and fire vehicles gathered during the test so they could move quickly into the devastated area.  (Chicago Daily Tribune 1953b)  Less than 4 months later the Soviets tested their first thermonuclear device resulting in immediate calls for urban decentralization and relocation of industrial production centers and government offices outside the expected death zones of hydrogen bombs.  By March 1954 the Chicago Civil Defense Corps released an “evacuation plan” for the city prepared at the direction of the FCDA, advising residents to take cover during the attack, then evacuate by rail and road in an orderly fashion.   This recommendation was accompanied by a map that showed collection and staging centers far outside the city boundaries (figure 11).  City residents were left to wonder whether and how they would survive the impending attack, whether to evacuate, or leave the city altogether.

Bombs and Highways
As the hysteria around the nuclear peril built through the mid 1950’s, long-standing initiatives to accelerate ongoing and planned construction of “superhighways” laid over the existing grid of city streets and arterials gained momentum, spurred by many advocates in the public and private sectors.  The Chicago Tribune had long supported the construction of an expressway system for the city, beginning in the 1920’s.  Transportation planning in the metropolitan area had evolved as a mix of city, county, and state initiatives, somewhat coordinated with minimal input from the federal government in the pre- and postwar period.  In 1940 the Cook County Highway Department published a framework for the expressway system that would become the hallmark of postwar highway construction in the city, laying out the several routes radiating from the Loop and ring roads to bypass the congested core.  The plan included estimates of traffic flow when the system was complete, as well as rather sketchy recommendations for the cooperative financing of the system working with city, state, and federal authorities.  The construction of parts of this system was initiated through various authorities in the immediate postwar years after wartime restrictions on road building were lifted, and it was not long before suggestions were made by city officials of the defense benefits and the necessity of express highways to remobilization in the Chicago industrial complex.
Transportation planning in Chicago during the 20th century was a politically-charged process characterized by controversy, corruption, and media boosterism.  McCormick’s Tribune was the chief proponent of express highways in the city and they regularly gave voice to industry and government officials with open or vested interests.  In 1927 Walter Chrysler, hardly an objective observer, wrote “In cities we shall see further condemnation of property to make way for arterial highways.  We shall see the construction of more elevated motorways such as Chicago has recently completed,” referring to early projects in the Loop and on the northwest side (Chrysler, W. 1927).  Master plans for a Chicago expressway system were created in a negotiated process between county and city politicians with each producing competing “superhighway” plans.  These were augmented by minor contributions from state and federal highway authorities.  The city plan was first vetted in 1937 (Chicago Daily Tribune 1937) with a county plan floated in 1940 (Chicago Daily Tribune 1940).  Substantive moves toward the creation of express highways began prior to WWII with the first stages of construction of Lakeshore Drive and a number of West Side express highways, followed by the prewar planning of a new Skokie Road (what was to become the Edens Expressway).  The Skokie project was almost immediately caught up in controversy involving land purchases from a sitting Cook County board member, Robert Bobrytzke a “professional Polish politician” and Milwaukee Avenue banker who was considered a tool of Mayor Edward Kelly’s political machine in Chicago (Chicago Daily Tribune 1941).  This project was put on hold until after WWII and was finally completed in 1951.
All of this occurred as the public transit system in Chicago was cathartically socialized during the 1940’s with the final public takeover of several bankrupt private surface lines in 1947 (Chicago Daily Tribune 1947a) and the formation of the public Chicago Transit Authority (CTA).  This new agency became a huge patronage tool of the Chicago Democratic machine in postwar years, greatly expanding the public sector workforce.  The near immediate action of the new CTA was to begin decommissioning the old “rattler” streetcars and replace them with modern buses operating in the normal automobile rights of way while investing in new equipment for the city’s aging “L” trains.  By 1954 more than 3200 electric streetcars had been retired and replaced by buses on all but four of the city’s lines – once the largest in the world (Chicago Daily Tribune 1954).  The last electric city streetcar clanged its bell in June 1958.  The reconfiguration of the public transit system left urban commuters uncertain about its reliability and convenience in the postwar auto age.
Plans for Chicago-area expressways were given a strong push through the mid 1950’s by Eisenhower’s plans to create a system of defense interstate highways.  In Chicago and Illinois this came as a largely welcome move – a 1954 study showed that even though the state had 933 miles of “so-called” freeways (under a 1943 state law) only 22 miles of these roads were classed as “expressways” with limited access.  The Chicago media regularly wrung their hands over the construction of “superhighways” in New York and the slow action of area jurisdictions to keep up.  Defense highways were not a new idea – there had been several initiatives for defense highway construction after WWI and in the late 1930’s and 1940’s these were taken up anew.  Immediately after Pearl Harbor the War Department took control of all highway construction projects and directed them towards the war effort.  After the war, with the explosion of car ownership and increased traffic, there was widespread public support for express highways, strongly supported by the automobile and construction industries.  The Eisenhower plan did not come without political controversy – metropolitan area politicians (and urban residents) felt that resources directed to create “highways to nowhere” in rural areas would be better directed to urban areas where there was much greater traffic pressure and need for relief (Chicago Daily Tribune 1955).  More importantly large cities were recognized as prime targets for Soviet nuclear weapons and the prime method for evacuation was logically seen as the private automobile.  In 1955 the FCDA pamphlet “4 Wheels to Survival – Your Car and Civil Defense” recommended keeping your gas tank more than half full at all times – and a carton with 7-days food supply handy to toss in the trunk (FCDA 1955).
In Chicago the sense of emergency was almost palpable, spawning schemes for one-way mass transit as the sirens wailed.  In 1950 the National Defense Transportation Association called for deepening the Illinois and Michigan Canal from 9 to 12 feet in order to accommodate larger barges to be used in the mass evacuation of residents in a bomb attack – the industry claimed 500,000 evacuees could be carried in a single trip using available vessels on rivers, canals, and Lake Michigan.  Later a prominent architect proposed the construction of “an 11.5 mile double deck bridge and causeway over Lake Michigan from Oak St. to Evanston for automobile and mono-rail traffic” with an additional span to Indiana.  The lower deck was to be used as a bomb shelter in the event of nuclear attack.  Not insignificantly the Cook County Civil Defense director Joseph Downey was housed in the Highway Department.  The Department’s monthly newsletter normally contained a column penned by Downey.  Writing in June 1953 he said:
“Despite recent emanations from Moscow of what may be interpreted as feelers for world peace, the American people must continue to regard Civil Defense as vitally important.  Nowhere is the need of vigilance greater than in Cook County, heart of the ‘arsenal of democracy.’  To relax now would be to risk the lives of nearly five million persons and our great volume of production as well.” (Downey 1953)
Such comments on international affairs were common in these writings, obviously intended for local consumption.
As some of these plans (and actual construction on express highways) went forward between the end of the war and the mid 1950’s, so did developments in nuclear weapons and their delivery systems, early warning systems and other defensive technologies like the Nike missiles bases ringing the city, and the public perceptions of these things.  This dynamic changed calculations made by civil defense planners for any planned or anticipated evacuations and local civilian agency responses to an expected nuclear attack.  This also affected decisions that urban residents were making regarding preferred locations that would remove them a sufficient distance from likely target zones for these weapons – and in the 1950’s Chicagoans and residents of other large U.S. metropolitan areas reacted in a massively rational way to these perceptions.  The spatial problem presented by fission-type weapons for urban residents, considered in light of what was to rapidly follow in the early 1950’s, seems relatively benign.  The “kill-zone” radii of these weapons, established through postwar studies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and early tests in the Pacific and the American southwest and represented in the 1950 “Chicago Alerts” exercise, ranged from 1.41 miles for the ground burst to 1.875 miles for the air burst (Chicago Civil Defense Corps 1951, p. 12).  These would create a circular “death zone” of 6.25 to 11 square miles – requiring 10 – 20 bombs to blanket the city.  Assuming the kill-zone represented in media maps of a single fission bomb attack (cribbed from the “Chicago Alerts” maps by the Chicago Tribune) a resident might consider a low risk (5-10% likelihood) of instant incineration.  As thermonuclear weapons were developed and tested, first by the U.S. and then the Soviets (late 1952 and August 1953 respectively) these weapons and their much larger kill-zones (over 1,250 square miles in the 1950 pre-test map, later maps calibrated this to zones of varying damage) made it very difficult to imagine survival in a hydrogen-bombed city.
Delivery systems and early-warning defensive measures also affected decision making.  Until the late 1950’s the most likely attacks were seen as long-range Soviet bombers approaching from the north or northwest either using a polar or oceanic route.  Early in the decade before the advent of the three-tier radar system across Canada, the Department of Defense could only ensure a 15-30 minute warning of an impending attack through early radar systems augmented by vigilant GOC volunteers.  This short time combined with lower yield fission weapons made the early emphasis on “duck and cover” tactics in the Truman administration more logical.  The Nike defense missile system (first deployed in the Chicago region in 1954) was intended to stop squadrons of high-flying bombers.  By the mid 50’s the construction of the DEW line promised increased warning times to 2-6 hours.  This raised the possibility of at least partial urban evacuation favored by the Eisenhower administration and championed by Peterson, and spawned a flurry of evacuation planning, drills, and politicized critique.  By the mid 1950’s speculation on Soviet missile capabilities and submarine missile systems (matching U.S. programs in these areas) added to hysteria regarding security and vulnerability, and projected warning times were again dropped to minutes rather than hours since there were no surveillance systems in place to warn against the launch of Soviet missiles.  The Ballistic Missile Early Warning System, completed in the late 1950’s, promised only 25-30 minute warning of north polar Soviet ICBM’s (after Sputnik I in October 1957 speculation turned to more certainty of this capability).

June 15, 1955
There are moments where historical/geographical processes working over longer temporal and spatial extents are crystallized.  One of these occurred in Chicago around the middle of June, 1955.  June 15th stands out particularly as an important day as this was the day of the first simulation of a hydrogen bomb attack on the city – a pleasant, sunny day with a light wind off the lake, yet the culmination of several years of ugly hysteria, fear and loathing, and real and imagined warfare.  This was the largest test yet performed in the series of major CD exercises in the city, part of a national exercise (Operation Alert 1955) on this day where 58 cities were subjected to a hypothetical nuclear sneak attack.  The hypothetical bomb (a 5-megaton hydrogen bomb likely dropped from a Soviet Tupolev 4 – the aircraft silhouettes shown in figure 13) detonated at ground level at the intersection of Jackson and Ashland at 2.20 pm following warning sirens at 11:07am and 1:50pm.  The newly elected mayor Richard J. Daley, key CD personnel, and members of the city council were evacuated to the western suburb of LaGrange (a second-tier suburb about 15 miles southwest of the Loop) via a special air-conditioned train to establish a temporary city hall for a few hours.  Other CD sections were sent to Elgin and Aurora while the main body of the staff huddled in their headquarters under the Soldier Field stands.  There was no massive evauation of city residents, although 500,000 elementary school children were sent home for lunch – high schoolers conducted in-school “duck-and-cover” shelter exercises.  Across the nation relatively small-scale evacuation tests were planned in 12 cities (New York Times 1955).  The Cook County coroner, one of the few republicans in city or county government, was not informed of the exercise and charged that it was “nothing more than a gimmick for democratic officials to get their names in the paper.”   Even without his help the post-mortem analysis of the paper exercise was as precise as it was chilling: as a direct result of the detonation the city would suffer “513,225 dead and 422,270 injured in the first 24 hours.”  The suburbs would lose 10,000 dead and another 30,000 injured. (Thompson 1955)  These numbers were based on several unlikely assumptions, including a 3 hour warning, successful evacuation of 1.6 million residents, and “adequate underground shelter” for those unable to leave.
What makes this moment doubly interesting is what was happening downstate in Springfield on June 15.  The Illinois House of Representatives, having broken a filibuster by two Democrats on June 14, busily got about pushing legislation through on voice votes (Kanady 1955).  One of the bills passed permitted the issuance of $245 million in bonds without referendum (nearly $2 billion in 2010 dollars) that would allow the accelerated completion (in 3 rather than 20 to 30 years) of the four main spokes in the Chicago expressway system, planned since the 1930’s and under construction since immediately after the war.   These arterial freeways would connect with the completed Edens and Kingery Expressways and ultimately into the planned toll roads system that would spread across the prairies of DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane, and Will Counties.  While intended to open the clogged arteries of the city relieving the auto congestion of the postwar boom, this system was to also valorize farmlands within commuting distance of the Loop without easy access to mass transit.  Successful city real estate developers like Arthur Rubloff were poised to cash in on the postwar suburban land boom,  benefiting from the effective subsidization of taxpayer-funded express highway construction in the postwar era.
Summary and Conclusion
The combined action of these forces in postwar America contributed to a perfect storm of suburban residential development in virtually every large city.  In the Chicago metropolis the results were stunning – explosive population growth in dozens of existing and new bedroom communities created in the context of massive fordist consumerism, accelerated construction of publically subsidized private auto transportation infrastructures, and hysterical fear-mongering on a grand scale.  This growth was largely made up of former Chicago residents, people who left the city for a complex web of reasons.  We can never know how many were driven to relocate in fear of nuclear holocaust but the evidence is strong that a large proportion of new suburban residents in the decades after WWII felt safer in the far periphery of the city – on the edge of what they perceived as a likely target of Soviet sneak attack.  Suburbs that were located in proximity to new or planned expressways were most affected, and growth in unincorporated areas of Cook and surrounding counties was also accelerated.
The role of the media, in particular print media and the graphical representations presented in this milieu, in fostering the conditions which led to the reconfiguration of U.S. cities in the postwar world was complex.  There certainly were many factors that contributed to this process, in particular that described as “white flight”, a reflection of a deeply-rooted social pathology that has been a feature of human history and geography for millenia.  Early cold war anxiety regarding the possibility of nuclear annihilation and the public policies, posturing, and imagined civil defense scenarios (particularly as presented in maps of hypothetical kill-zones) were another strong motivator for urban residents to relocate to peripheral suburbs during the period following 1945.  In Chicago (and other large U.S. cities) print mass-media, in particular newspapers, served as the principal channel for these representations of possible holocaust in the decade following WWII, heightening the worst fears of urban residents, motivating local, state, and federal officials to action (including massive investments in transportation and communication infrastructures), and molding the social geography of the postwar American city.

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