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This Day In History: President John F. Kennedy Urges Americans To Build Bomb Shelters

October 06, 2016

This day in history, President John F. Kennedy advised U.S. families to build bomb shelters to protect themselves from atomic fallout in the event of a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union

In a speech on civil defense issues, President Kennedy assured the public that the government would soon begin providing protection for all Americans.

On July 25, after the Soviets imposed a blockade on West Berlin, JFK said in a nationwide televised speech that “in the event of an attack, the lives of those families which are not hit in a nuclear blast and fire can still be saved if they can be warned to take shelter and if that shelter is available.”

“We owe that kind of insurance to our families and to our country. … The time to start is now. In the coming months, I hope to let every citizen know what steps he can take without delay to protect his family in case of attack. I know you would not want to do less, Kennedy later added.

Congress voted for $169 million to locate, mark and stock fallout shelters in existing public and private buildings after Kennedy gave his speech.

Only one year later, the world was on the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The USSR placed nuclear missiles inside of Cuba, which would become to be known as the 13 day Cuban Missile Crisis.

Americans prepared for nuclear war by stocking up on canned goods and finishing work on their backyard bomb shelters.