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The Long Shadow of the Cold War: Milwaukee’s Civil Defense Program: Kenneth Smith

May. 11, 2021
Category: Performance

During the Cold War, state governments were tasked with responding to the threat of nuclear war by planning for evacuation, shelter, and defense should the need arise. In Milwaukee, Mayor Frank Zeidler was a major force in determining Wisconsin’s civil defense, and from 1952 to 1957, Operation Alert (or OPAL) exercises became the testing ground for this early emergency response system. Against the backdrop of the Cold War, author Kenneth A. Smith tells the story of one day in July 1957 when the city dropped everything to duck, cover, and run, allowing the policymakers and the public a glimpse into an all too possible future. His article appears in the Wisconsin Historical Society’s spring issue of Wisconsin Magazine of History.

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