Q: Were you involved at all or aware of discussions inside the
Administration about the civil defense issues?
HY: When I finally got to Washington and got to a position in the Pentagon --
the White House first, the Pentagon afterwards, where I had access essentially
to everything about the Soviet Union that related to technology and military
preparedness and so forth, I saw what other people didn't see. I mean, I saw
that it's a bad situation but it's nothing like what we've been hearing from
the press or from the Congress or elsewhere. It's nowhere near that bad...So,
on the basis of what I knew myself, as well as what I saw as being Eisenhower's
views, I came to the view very soon that...that the Soviet threat had been
greatly exaggerated and it was still being greatly exaggerated. And it looked
like it was going to continue to be greatly exaggerated. That's a position
I've held ever since 1958. It never was as bad as people said it was. It was
bad, but it never was anywhere near as bad as people said.
Q: Of the specific measures that were debated about civil defense, the
evacuation plans and bomb shelters and things like that, did these programs
seem plausible to you?
HY: Well, at first I thought civil defense made sense. But what turned me
against civil defense was -- I remember quite sharply -- and that is when I
finally got dealing with people at the White House level, that included [New
York Governor] Nelson Rockefeller who was one of the big promoters of civil
defense, what I discovered is it wasn't civil defense per se. They wanted
civil defense in order to make sure that the American people would not be too
frightened. And specifically I remember talking with Nelson Rockefeller about
it. He said, what we need to do is stiffen the backbone of the American
people, that's why we need civil defense. Not to save lives, but to make
people believe that they can survive a nuclear war. So they won't be so soft
on Communism or so concerned about war. I said that's a dumb idea for having
civil defense. It's not merely dumb, it's wrong.
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