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General Andrew Goodpaster on: Eisenhower's Civil Defense Program
General Andrew Goodpaster Q: From the mid 1950s on, what was the Eisenhower administration hoping to achieve with its civil defense program?

GAP: Early in the Eisenhower administration there had been a recognition that, if any kind of atomic attack were to occur, whatever we had done in the way of providing civil defense could result in saving millions of lives. And a great deal was done. For example, instruction was given in schools. New buildings in the government were dispersed out quite a number of miles. And a lot was done in studying the importance of civil defense.

But as time went on and you saw the scope of destruction that the thermonuclear weapon could carry out, it became quite apparent that many of these underground facilities and the dispersion of government buildings would really be -- would really accomplish only a very small part of the reduction, only to a small degree would reduce the devastation and the loss of life. [President] Eisenhower had a couple of studies made. He instituted something called the Net Evaluation Survey in which he called upon the military, senior military, to make a careful analysis of what the effects of an atomic exchange would be on the country we were attacking...and on ourselves from the country that attacked us. And the net of that was really staggering in terms of what the extent of loss could be.

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