News: Steuart Pittman, designer of fallout-shelter program at peak of Cold War, dies at 93

Steuart Pittman, designer of fallout-shelter program at peak of Cold War, dies at 93  (via

By Published: February 14[br]

Steuart L. Pittman, the chief of President John F. Kennedy’s civil defense program who marshaled a national effort at the height of the Cold War to organize the massive — and now largely forgotten — system of nuclear fallout shelters across the country, died Feb. 10 at his farm in Davidsonville. He was 93.  He had a stroke, said his daughter Romey Pittman.[br]

Mr. Pittman spent nearly his entire career as a lawyer with the Washington firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge. A veteran of government commissions, he rose to national attention in 1961 when Kennedy named him assistant secretary of defense in charge of civil defense.[br]

Civil defense essentially encompassed all nonmilitary measures to protect the nation in the event of disaster. It had long been regarded, at best, as second fiddle to the military. Mr. Pittman became the first official to operate the program from the Defense Department after Kennedy moved it from a smaller office in the White House.[br]

Shortly before Mr. Pittman took office, a Cold War showdown in Berlin intensified, and the Soviets began to erect the wall that would divide the city for decades. In response, Congress approved more than $200 million in supplementary civil defense funds. Most of the money was intended for the survey of nuclear shelter space in factories, offices, churches and other locations across the United States, ordered by Kennedy.[br]

At the peak of U.S. preparedness, Mr. Pittman said, national and local governments were ready to offer shelter to two-thirds of the U.S. population in case of nuclear attack. Shelters were marked with what became iconic yellow and black signs.[br]

Mr. Pittman found that public interest in civil defense in general and the shelter program in particular came and went with emergencies such as the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.[br]

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Updated: March 17, 2013 — 12:58 pm

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Rich Fleetwood

Rich is the founder of SurvivalRing, now in it's 24th year, author of multimedia CDs and DVDs, loves the outdoors, his family, his geeky skill-set, and lives in rural southern Wyoming, just below the continental divide (long story, that...). Always ready to help others, he shares what he learns on multiple blogs, many social sites, and more. With a background in preparedness and survival skills, training with county, state, and national organizations, and skills in all areas of media and on air experience in live radio and television, Rich is always thinking about the "big picture", when it comes to helping individuals and families prepare for life's little surprises.

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