Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Day They Nuked Buffalo

On September 27th, 1952 downtown Buffalo, New York was incinerated in a nuclear blast.

No, you haven't jumped over to an alternate timeline.  The bombing was part of a civil defense awareness exercise.  As part of the effort the Buffalo News printed a special post-apocalypse edition.   Conjecturally, the bomb wiped out most of their staff and they were forced to use a still intact printing press in the suburbs.  As far as I know this is the only prop newspaper ever officially sanctioned by the US government.


Ironically, much of the destruction described in the story would actually take place years later. All those factories and industrial facilities would indeed disappear, but it would be foreign competition and not a nuclear fireball that claimed them.

I stumbled across the Buffalo exercise while researching a similar effort held in Utica, NY, just down the road from where I live.  It was the largest civil defense exercise in US history, using thousands of volunteers from a wide radius around the city to simulate a full blown nuclear attack and its aftermath.


The area in the newsreel where white suited teams are checking for radioactive contamination was, until recently, one of the most contaminated industrial sites in the entire nation.  The soil was so saturated with coal gas waste that it would puddle up in your footprints if you walked across the grass. 

2 comments:

CoastConFan said...

I’m glad they marked the newspaper to show it was part of an exercise. We know how some people went wild with Orson Welles War of the Worlds, Halloween broadcast of 30 October 1938 if they tuned in partway through the broadcast. When we had exercises in the military, announcements over the base-wide PA system were always prefaced as an exercise and again at the end of the announcement. Printed documents used in scenarios were also marked as exercise. Everybody was always careful to let people know it was exercise only to avoid panic, but still hearing the alarm sirens go off for (exercise) attack eminent or (exercise) attack in progress were still chilling, especially in the Cold War era. What brings this back was being on a local AFB last week when an exercise kicked off and the alarms went off for attack in progress, e.g. (exercise) Code Black. Yeah I know it was an exercise and was long retired, but for a microsecond, I glanced over for my gas mask.

As for pollution disasters such Propnomicon mentioned, people of a certain age can remember Love Canal of Niagara Falls, NY debacle of the 1970s. In a sense, it was contamination as bad as one from persistent fallout from an atomic weapon and many of the post evacuation photos and films of the area look like a 1960s nuke zone movie.

Download the original Orson Welles WotW 1938 broadcast https://archive.org/details/OrsonWellesMrBruns

An interesting article debunking some of the period hysteria hype (mostly created by the print media), nonetheless RPGs and LARPs use similar prop techniques with audio and physical props to support and suspend disbelief in games http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/history/2013/10/orson_welles_war_of_the_worlds_panic_myth_the_infamous_radio_broadcast_did.html

A view of the broadcast from a concern over censorship issues (thank heaven we don’t have that now) http://cbldf.org/2012/10/a-history-of-censorship-halloween-edition-my-ears-could-hear-the-war-but-the-censors-wouldnt-let-me-read-it/

gndn said...

As 'destructive' as this event was, it's not nearly as bad as The Cockroach That Ate Cincinnati.