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‘Animated cartoon and live action, shows young children what to do in case of an atomic attack.’
Originally a public domain film from the Library of Congress Prelinger Archives, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and one-pass brightness-contrast-color correction & mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).
Duck and Cover is a civil defense social guidance film that is often popularly mischaracterized as propaganda. With similar themes to the more adult oriented civil defense training films, the film was widely distributed to United States schoolchildren in the 1950s. It instructionally teaches students on what to do in the event of a nuclear explosion.
The film was funded by the US Federal Civil Defense Administration and released in January 1952. At the time, the Soviet Union was engaged in nuclear testing and the US was in the midst of the Korean War.
The film was written by Raymond J. Mauer, directed by Anthony Rizzo of Archer Productions, narrated by actor Robert Middleton, and made with the help of schoolchildren from New York City and Astoria, New York.
The film is now in the public domain, and is widely available through Internet sources such as YouTube, as well as on DVD. It was selected by the National Film Registry for preservation in 2004…
The film starts with an animated sequence, showing an anthropomorphic turtle walking down a road, while picking up a flower and smelling it. A chorus sings the Duck and Cover theme:
There was a turtle by the name of Bert
and Bert the turtle was very alert;
when danger threatened him he never got hurt
he knew just what to do …
He’d duck! [gasp]
(male) He did what we all must learn to do
(male) You (female) And you (male) And you (deeper male) And you!
[bang, gasp] Duck, and cover!
Under the theme, Bert is shown being attacked by a monkey holding a lit firecracker or stick of dynamite on the end of a string. Bert ducks into his shell in the nick of time, as the charge goes off and destroys both the monkey and the tree in which he is sitting. Bert, however, is shown perfectly safe, because he ducked and covered.
The film then switches to live footage, as narrator Middleton explains what children should do “when you see the flash” of an atomic bomb. The movie goes on to suggest that by ducking down low in the event of a nuclear explosion, (crawling under desks and covering their necks with clasped hands) the children would be safer than they would be standing, and explains some basic survival tactics for nuclear war (facing any wall that might lend protection).
The last scene of the film returns to animation in which Bert the Turtle (voiced by Carl Ritchie) summarily asks what everybody should do in the event of an atomic bomb flash and is given the correct answer by a group of unseen children.
After nuclear weapons were developed (the first having been developed during the Manhattan Project during World War II), it was realized what kind of danger they posed. The United States held a nuclear monopoly from the end of World War II until 1949, when the Soviets detonated their first nuclear device.
This signaled the beginning of the nuclear stage of the Cold War, and as a result, strategies for survival were thought out. Fallout shelters, both private and public, were built, but the government still viewed it as necessary to explain to citizens both the danger of the atomic (and later, hydrogen) bombs, and to give them some sort of training so that they would be prepared to act in the event of a nuclear strike.
The solution was the duck and cover campaign, of which Duck and Cover was an integral part…