Thomas Grove’s October 25, 2016, Wall Street Journal article “Russians Conduct Nuclear-Bomb Survival Drills as Cold War Heats Up: Bomb shelters are upgraded, gas masks tested amid strained relations between Putin and U.S.” announced a topic with which I am quite familiar.
The article begins:
MOSCOW—Russian authorities have stepped up nuclear-war survival measures amid a showdown with Washington, dusting off Soviet-era civil-defense plans and upgrading bomb shelters in the biggest cities.
At the Kremlin’s Ministry of Emergency Situations, the Cold War is back.
The country recently held its biggest civil defense drills since the collapse of the U.S.S.R., with what officials said were 40 million people rehearsing a response to chemical and nuclear threats.
From September 1970 to May 1972 my husband and I were stationed with the U.S. Army in Munich where we lived under the threat of the Russians marching into West Germany. To explain what this meant in those days (and possibly again now for U.S. troops in Germany), below is a September 30, 1970, excerpt from my Cold War memoir TALES OF AN AMERICAN OCCUPYING GERMANY:
“You can be assured that US military commanders have plans to protect the safety of US civilians overseas during any emergency just as we have civil defense plans for the safety of our friends and relatives back home.” Noncombatant Evacuation Order (NEO) issued 14 July 1970, Support District Sud Bayern [South Bavaria]
I sat in a classroom at McGraw Kaserne with other women whose husbands — both officers and enlisted men — had recently joined the 66th Military Intelligence Group or the 18th Military Intelligence Battalion.
As dependents we were being given an NEO — Noncombatant Evacuation Order — briefing on what to do in case the Russians march into West Germany or set off a nuclear bomb in West Germany.
The sergeant conducting the briefing passed out booklets for each of us. Then he said, “This information is passed out on a need to know basis. You must remember that disclosures of the plans for evacuation to unauthorized persons could jeopardize your safety and the safety of others in the event of an emergency. This information is not classified, but it is not a matter for discussion with your maid, the children, in letters to the folks back home, or at social gatherings.”
I listened in amazement as the sergeant continued: “Also, it would be wise to keep these instructions and all other documents relating to the evacuation in a secure place where they will not be readily accessible to the children or some unauthorized person. A small box with a lock would serve admirably.”
Now the sergeant detailed various aspects of the evacuation plan. He said, “You should in any event dress for comfort and warmth. For women, slacks and low-heeled shoes are recommended.”
The sergeant smiled as he said this. Did he really think women being evacuated would dress as if going to a party?
“At all times your car should be ready, in good repair, with sound tires, and at least one-half tank of gasoline.”
The sergeant told us that each person was allowed 45 pounds of luggage. I envisioned each one of us with her 45 pounds of luggage trying to get to safety while our German neighbors poured out of their homes to see what was going on.
The sergeant described the following documents that we would need:
1. Automobile title document (AE Form 89)
2. Emergency allotment authorization form (DD1337)
3. Two ID tags (dog tags) per person
4. One passport for each person
5. Seven USA Control Cards (AE Form 388) per person
In addition, we would need:
1. Enough food to last each person for two days &dquo; and don’t forget the younger children and infants.
2. Two blankets per person.
3. Water purification tablets.
And there was more:
1. Toilet and facial tissue.
2. Flashlight and extra batteries.
3. First aid kit
4. Thermos jug.
5. Small transistor radio with extra batteries.
The sergeant continued:
The Soviets and Soviet Bloc countries have an army of undercover agents here in Germany and in other NATO countries. Some of these people are real professionals, but most of them are not. All of them are making money by selling information to the Communist nations. One target for espionage agents is the American housewife. You would be surprised how much information of a military nature can be pieced together from what most people would consider to be just harmless gossip.
You can help your country by being security conscious. Do not talk to anybody, especially strangers, about your husband’s job, his unit, when he is going to the field, what he thought of a maneuver he has been on, or, in short, anything at all about military matters. Communist agents have long ears and they are extremely interested in listening to you talk.
There is even a chance you might be approached by some of these agents posing as salesmen, census personnel, or even government agents. Always require identification from anyone who approaches you. If anyone refuses, you should immediately notify your husband. If he is not home or at his unit, then call the Military Police.
The sergeant gave us each a sheet titled “IF YOU STRAY ACROSS INTO COMMUNIST TERRITORY” and read from it:
In peacetime USAREUR [United State Army Europe] personnel who are lost, detained, or otherwise isolated in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic, East Germany, the Soviet section of Berlin, or satellite countries should do the following:
1. If you are ever lost or otherwise isolated, you should first attempt to avoid apprehension and set out without resorting to action that could be interpreted as being suspicious or illegal.
2. If you are apprehended, then give them only your name, ID card number, and date of birth; then inform them that you desire to be returned to U.S. Military control and your entry into the area was inadvertent.
3. Always remember you are not allowed to cross borders, except for sanctioned travel. Also you should try, by all means, to avoid apprehension and get home.”
Stray into Communist territory? How was that suppose to happen? I wondered.
Since Mitch had a security clearance and was an Military Intelligence officer, Mitch and I weren’t even allowed to take leave in Eastern European Communist countries or go into East Berlin as other American soldiers could do wearing their uniforms.
Mitch and I also couldn’t take the duty train to West Berlin and instead had to fly so as not to possibly be kidnapped. And in Berlin we could only take the West Berlin subway and not the East Berlin subway that ran through West Berlin in case the subway should not let us off in West Berlin but carry us across into East Berlin.
At least we didn’t have to put all the personal mail sent to us in “burn” bags as did Military Intelligence officers stationed in Berlin. Here in Munich we were allowed to throw into the trash our letters from home. On the other hand, Mitch and I jokingly told each other to “speak into the chandelier” hanging over our dining room table. We were sure the Russians had a listening device in the chandelier in every army housing unit.
The sergeant also handed out a sheet titled “AIR RAID WARNING SIGNAL SYSTEM” that included information on three types of warnings, their meanings, signals and actions. The first type was an “air raid warning” for “air raids, nuclear” — the signal “a rising and falling (warbling) one minute in duration.” We were to “proceed in an orderly manner down the stairs. Walk, do not run, to the basement and disperse in one of the side rooms. Be sure you take your overcoat or other outer garments with you.”
The second warning was a “CBR warning” for “radioactive fallout or employment of biological and/or chemical agents” — the signal “a twice interrupted rising and falling (warbling) siren signal of one minute’s duration.” We were to “proceed in an orderly manner down the stairs. Walk, do not run, to the basement and disperse in one of the side rooms. Be sure you take your overcoat or other outer garments with you. Remain in basement room until physically contacted by a member of an Atomic survey team or CBR team and follow their instructions.”
The third was the “all clear signal” at the “end of imminent danger” — “a continuous siren signal one minute duration.” And of this we were to “REMAIN CALM: Dependents return to apartments, personnel return to duty station and await further instructions.”
Now the sergeant smiled. Apparently the NEO briefing was over. “Remember now,” he said, “you must do your part, both in being ready yourself, and insuring that you are provided for by the authorities. If an emergency should arise, your cheerful cooperation will make everyone’s job easier, and insure success with a minimum of trouble.”
I stared at the sergeant. Did he truly believe was he was saying? He must know that, in case of an attack by the Russians, all hell would break out — the chances of survival slim with all Munich stampeding to join the Americans in getting out of town.
© 2016 Miller Mosaic LLC
Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the author of fiction and nonfiction books/ebooks. Phyllis is available by skype for book group discussions and may be reached at email@example.com
Her Kindle fiction ebooks may be read for free with a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription — see www.amazon.com/author/phylliszimblermiller — and her Kindle nonfiction ebooks may also be read for free with a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription — see www.amazon.com/author/phylliszmiller